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The Big Bang Theory's Stuart Actor Almost Played A Different Character

When fans think of "The Big Bang Theory," they may think of one of its main characters — specifically, Howard Wolowitz, the would-be womanizer turned family man played throughout the series by Simon Helberg. They may also be shocked to learn that the role was actually written for an entirely different actor.

In the wrong hands, the character of Howard could have been uniquely awful; he often treated women terribly, and even after settling down with Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz (Melissa Rauch), he still definitely has his incredibly difficult moments. According to an oral history of the series — "The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series" by Jessica Radloff — the role of Howard was intended for Kevin Sussman.

As co-creator Bill Prady told Radloff, "The part of Wolowitz was written for Kevin. We loved him, especially after he first came in and auditioned for Leonard [Hofstadter, eventually played by Johnny Galecki] in the first pilot." However, there was a problem — Sussman was wrapping up an arc on America Ferrera's beloved workplace sitcom "Ugly Betty," and ABC refused to let Sussman leave his contract behind for a starring spot on a rival network. 

"ABC had an option on Kevin and wouldn't release him," said casting director Ken Miller. "And then the sad part is, he was never on 'Ugly Betty' after that again. They kept him from getting that role on 'Big Bang.'"

Kevin Sussman ended up playing a pivotal supporting role on The Big Bang Theory

So who did Kevin Sussman ultimately play on "The Big Bang Theory?" After playing the main role of Walter on "Ugly Betty," he eventually joined "The Big Bang Theory" as comic book store owner Stuart Bloom in Season 2. A talented artist in his own right, Stuart runs the Comic Center of Pasadena near where all of the main characters reside, and though some, like Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) seem irritated by Stuart's quirks, he becomes a part of the group in his own right. 

In Season 6, when Howard goes to space, Stuart ends up befriending and comforting Howard's best friend Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) in his absence, and he even goes on dates with Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Amy Farrah-Fowler (Mayim Bialik) before they end up with Leonard and Sheldon, respectively. At the end of the series, Stuart finds happiness with Denise, who begins working at the store as Stuart's assistant manager and is also an artist; he also basically becomes part of Howard's family, appropriately. Before Howard's mother (the unseen Mrs. Wolowitz, voiced by Carol Ann Susi) dies, Stuart ends up moving in with her and helping her with day to day responsibilities, and after she passes away, Stuart joins Bernadette and Howard's household to help take care of their children.

Since The Big Bang Theory, Kevin Sussman has remained busy

Since "The Big Bang Theory" ended in 2019, Kevin Sussman has stayed fairly busy, booking supporting roles in a handful of buzzy shows. In 2022, Sussman appeared in the Hulu original series "The Dropout," where he plays recurring character Mark Roessler, a whistleblower at Elizabeth Holmes' "innovative" company Theranos (with the fraudulent woman herself played by Amanda Seyfried in an Emmy-winning turn). That same year, he appeared in both "Call Me Kat" (with "The Big Bang Theory" star Mayim Bialik) and the beloved "Breaking Bad" spin-off "Better Call Saul" before scoring an incredible role in 2023.

In the AppleTV+ original series "Lessons in Chemistry," based on the book of the same name by Bonnie Garmus, Sussman plays downtrodden television executive Walter Pine, who unexpectedly comes face to face with brilliant scientist Elizabeth Zott (Brie Larson) after she reveals his daughter is stealing her daughter's beautifully made lunches. Struck by her strong passion and presence, Walter asks if she'd consider doing a cooking show ... which, inexplicably, leads to a close friendship and incredible professional bond between the two. Sussman is clearly a talented performer with range, so it's excellent that "The Big Bang Theory" eventually found a perfect role for him.