LOS ANGELES — It’s well documented that quality acting roles for women of a certain age and maturity are hard to find. But it’s not impossible. Just ask Annie Potts. Not only does she get to play one of the best-written characters on network TV in the new CBS hit “Young Sheldon,” she can also be seen portraying another fun and complicated character in the family comedy film “Humor Me.”
At 65, the conventional thinking was Potts was just too old to find the same kind of success she had with “Designing Women,” which launched more than three decades ago. Since “Designing Women,” Potts has been in a long list of TV shows, including “Love & War,” “Over the Top,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Any Day Now,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “Men in Trees” and “GCB.” She also found time for movies, like the three “Toy Story” productions.
Potts ignored conventional thinking to look for one more quality acting job.
“I always felt I had one more shot at the rodeo,” Potts says during an interview on the set of “Young Sheldon.” “But, I was having a hard time finding my horse. I feel like with this show, I have a very good horse.”
The cast has just returned from a long hiatus, happy the show has already been renewed for a second season and to be able to see each other again. The spinoff series from “The Big Bang Theory” looks at the life of genius Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) when he was 9 years old (played by Iain Armitage) and growing up in Texas.
Potts isn’t just playing a quiet grandmother — or as Sheldon refers to her, his “Meemaw” — who spends her days handing out hard candy and advice. She’s getting to play a senior citizen who is living life in the fast lane. In a household ruled by order and logic, Meemaw has never met a rule she couldn’t break. And, just like the unfettered way Sheldon talks on “The Big Bang Theory,” Potts gets to say lines that should make her the villain, but her character ends up being a lovable real-world guide for the young Sheldon.
“She’s his creature in that way,” Potts says. “The key is that the producers and writers have an infallible comic rhythm which is personal to each character. Being born a Southerner (Nashville, Tenn.), and these producers and writers not known for writing Southern characters, I kept wondering if they were going to get the rhythm right.
“Silly me. You bet they got it right. I think she’s just a classic grandmother who’s permissive and amused by the children. She usually doesn’t really bear much responsibility except for whatever success they have. Then she would take responsibility for that. I don’t have grandchildren yet, myself, but it looks fun from the character’s point of view.”
Along with landing the role on “Young Sheldon,” the latest film project for Potts is “Humor Me” a comedy about a struggling playwright forced to move in with his joke-telling dad in a New Jersey retirement community and learns. The film opened in New York Jan. 12 and gets a wider release in the United States Friday.
In the film, Potts was surrounded by a cast of veteran actors, a big contrast from “Young Sheldon,” where she’s often working not only with Armitage, but also teenager Montana Jordan and Raegan Revord (who takes on the role of Sheldon’s twin sister), the actors playing her other two grandchildren.
Going back to the idea of rejecting conventional thinking, Potts eagerly signed on despite the adage that it isn’t wise to work with children or animals. And these are children who are starring in one of the top network series, which means not only dealing with making the show, but handling the massive interest from fans. There’s been no problem for Potts working with the young cast members either on the set or away from work.
“These kids are especially smart. They are very in the moment,” Potts says. “The kids are so grounded. They have fantastic parents. And the show itself and our creators and everybody grounds everybody in such a way that I think that they’re well prepared to accept the recognition that comes. I mean, I think we’re just starting.
“I think it’s going to be like a tsunami soon and that will be something new. But they all got their feet on the ground.”
As for the championship “horse” she has managed to saddle, Potts adds, “These days for a woman to be working in this field at 65, I feel like I have landed into a honey pot.”