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Tragic True Life Stories Of The Young Sheldon Cast

"Young Sheldon" has done what very few spin-offs have been able to do; it's surpassed in many ways its successful predecessor, "The Big Bang Theory." The prequel dramedy expands the "Big Bang Theory" universe by venturing back to Sheldon Cooper's childhood in Texas, chronicling his young life from 1989 to 1994. Sheldon, who is played by Jim Parsons in "The Big Bang Theory," is portrayed by Iain Armitage as a young man. Raegan Revord stars as his twin sister Missy, Montana Jordan as their older brother Georgie, and Zoe Perry and Lance Barber as their parents, Mary and George. Annie Potts rounds out the show's original central cast as Sheldon's Meemaw Connie, and in later seasons Emily Osment joins the main cast as Georgie's wife, Mandy McAllister.

The show enjoys the continuity of Parsons in a voiceover capacity as he reflects on events in his childhood, while also revealing details about his adult life with Amy (Mayim Bialik) post-"Big Bang." Bialik even joined Parsons for one of his voiceovers. The show has also welcomed a number of impressive guest stars over its seven seasons. Fans will no doubt recall actors such as Mckenna Grace, Ed Begley Jr., Ming-Na Wen, Bob Newhart, and Ray Liotta gracing the small screen at one time or another.

The actors who bring their collective A-game to "Young Sheldon" worked to make the prequel series a smash success, but many of them have endured struggles and hardships off the screen. From near-death experiences to devastating illnesses, these are the tragic true life stories of the "Young Sheldon" cast.

Annie Potts almost lost her life in a car crash when she was 21 years old

Annie Potts brings her fair share of chaos to the Cooper family as Sheldon, Missy, and Georgie's Meemaw Connie, and fans wouldn't have it any other way. Potts' impressive career almost never happened though, as the "Ghostbusters" star nearly lost her life before her acting career took off.

Potts was involved in a terrifying near-fatal car crash when she was just 21 years old. "Drunk drivers, three carloads of teenagers in the middle of the day were drag-racing down the wrong side of a two-lane highway and ran head-on into the car I was in," she recalled to The Guardian. Virtually every bone in the lower half of her body was broken, she said, and she had multiple operations over the years to help her heal.

Happily, Potts was able to regain her mobility, but the tragic crash has had lifelong effects on the "Young Sheldon" star. "It took a very long time to recover," she said. "I'm still trying to recover." On an emotional level, though it was one of the hardest things she's ever had to face, Potts said she felt the crash taught her about never taking anything for granted, and it's been a stark reminder over the years.

Zoe Perry's role in Young Sheldon leaves her in physical pain

Zoe Perry had some big shoes to fill when she took over the role of Mary Cooper for "Young Sheldon." And those shoes were those of her mom, Laurie Metcalf. It was a total coincidence that Perry landed the role, but "Young Sheldon" fans will agree that she's the perfect choice to play the younger version of Mary, and the physical similarities help the performances gel. After Perry broke the news about the role to her mom, she told Backstage, "It's been a cool experience getting to share this with her."

Unfortunately for Perry, though, not every part of playing Mary has been pleasurable. During an interview with Mashable India, Perry was asked to reveal her favorite and least favorite things about her character. She admitted that she really dislikes one particular aspect of Mary's character because it leaves her in physical pain. "Least favorite is probably her rigidity, because it is not only metaphorical but literal! I find that I am constantly tense when I am playing her. So at the end of the day, I'm a little sore!" Perry admitted. She has to perform this role that makes her physically sore in not just a few episodes, though, but in 141 episodes of the series — as many as Iain Armitage. Hopefully, her body has acclimated to the role by now.

Raegan Revord struggled with panic attacks and PTSD after a terrifying car crash

Raegan Revord plays Sheldon's sassy twin sister, Missy. The character has been through plenty of ups and downs throughout the show, but for the most part Revord has loved getting to act them out and admitted she's heartbroken to see "Young Sheldon" come to an end after Season 7. However, the actor has revealed that filming one episode in Season 6 was incredibly distressing for her because of a scary ordeal she'd been through in real life.

Before Episode 16, "A Stolen Truck and Going on the Lam," aired, Revord took to Instagram to explain how she and her mom had been in a shocking car accident one day while she was on her way to work. They were hit by someone who was driving under the influence. The accident definitely scared Revord, and she said she was hesitant to get behind the wheel for the episode in which Missy steals and drives George's truck. "I had full blown panic attacks and PTSD for weeks after the accident," Revord revealed. "The only way I was able to get through it was because of the most loving and supporting cast and crew. They checked in with me along the way and never made me feel like finishing filming was a priority, that my well being came first," she explained. Revord also credited her scene partner, Mckenna Grace, with supporting her through a panic attack. "She was in my trailer, holding me, and I was sobbing my heart out," Revord told Entertainment Tonight.

Mckenna Grace suffers from social anxiety

Actor and musician Mckenna Grace has appeared on "Young Sheldon" many times as Sheldon and Missy's good friend Paige Swanson. Paige is another child genius, but unlike Sheldon, she struggles to cope with the pressures of advancing through life at an accelerated rate. She feels especially anxious as a pre-teen in a college environment and ultimately decides to drop out.

Grace has opened up about her own experiences with anxiety and how she's used her songs "Post Party Trauma" and "do all my friends hate me?" to convey her mental health journey. She told The Honey Pop, "I have anxiety, and I feel like most of us do after being locked inside for two years. I think that it's scary to have always been a positive person, and continue to be one, but then coming out with 'hey uh, I think that all my friends hate me. Also, I'm terrified of parties and public settings.'"

Grace turned to music at the times she was struggling with her mental health the most. Both of her songs act as a window into her experiences with anxiety, and she said she hopes that by opening up and sharing her music with the world, other people might be able to take comfort in it as she did.

Mckenna Grace had to have surgery after she was diagnosed with a spinal condition

Mckenna Grace again — playing Paige on "Young Sheldon" is just one of many roles the accomplished actor has had in her young life. Between critically acclaimed turns in "I, Tonya" and "Gifted," the actor also headlined multimillion-dollar blockbusters like "Annabelle Comes Home" and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." However, Grace's journey to movie stardom hasn't always been easy, as she's had to contend with some serious health issues along the way.

She told The Hollywood Reporter that she'd been diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 12 after her dad, who is a surgeon, felt something wasn't right with her spine when he hugged her. This caused her a lot of stress as she tried to balance her career with her diagnosis. "Even though it's not the type of thing that is a liability, I didn't want productions to overthink and think that I was a liability," she said.

Grace just kept her head down and got on with things. Even when she had to wear a brace on the set of 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," she still tried to keep her diagnosis private. But a year later, in 2022, she realized she couldn't go on as she was and took a break from her various acting projects to have spinal surgery. Her mobility was affected after the surgery, but ultimately it was successful. "I'm starting to get back to my regular activities," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I want to get in shape now that I've fixed my spine because I didn't realize just how much my spine was hindering me."

Jim Parsons has been profoundly affected by the death of his father

"The Big Bang Theory" universe would not be what it is today without the original Sheldon Cooper actor, Jim Parsons. He was still relatively unknown when he signed on to play the genius scientist in 2006, but Parsons has since enjoyed a busy film, TV, and stage career. Throughout his meteoric success, Parsons has been weighed down by family trauma. His father, Chris, died in 2001, and this loss affected him for years to come.

Chris' death at age 52 ultimately factored into Parsons' decision to quit "The Big Bang Theory" after 12 seasons. The then-46-year-old explained to David Tennant on the actor's podcast, "David Tennant Does a Podcast With...," "This is what I said to Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro when I talked to them when I went back to work next year. I said, 'If you told me that, like my father, I had six years left to live, I think there's other things I need to try and do.'"

Parsons had already started doing those other things and was performing a play in New York when he suffered more personal tragedies: His dog of 14 years died, and Parsons broke his foot while rehearsing. He was also struggling with his mental health and knew something had to give. "It was the scariest moment for the next couple of days because I felt like I was at the edge of a cliff. I was teetering, and I saw something really dark," he recalled. Parsons then chose to close the door on "The Big Bang Theory."

Ed Begley Jr.'s younger life was 'turmoil'

Ed Begley Jr. has made several appearances on "Young Sheldon" as Sheldon's mentor, Dr. Grant Linkletter. He often appears alongside Dr. John Sturgis (Wallace Shawn) and is portrayed as a positive, calming influence on the young genius. However, Begley Jr. would not describe the first few decades of his own life as calm. In fact, he told Rolling Stone that for much of his young life he was living in "turmoil."

After his father Ed Begley Sr. died from a heart attack in 1970, the actor's life was plunged into chaos. In 1972, he was stabbed in a gang attack while he was waiting for the bus in L.A. The attack resulted in a collapsed lung, but he eventually recovered. However, that was hardly the end of his troubles. Begley was arrested for impersonating a police officer after stepping outside of a venue where he'd performed a stand-up act wearing a police costume. He was also involved in a horrific car accident that left him in a cast from the chest down and which has caused lifelong back problems. As though that wasn't dramatic enough, Begley also discovered human remains in the trash in an alley behind his Studio City apartment. During this time in his life, he was also a self-described alcoholic.

Reflecting on these shocking events years later, Begley observed, "I obviously wanted to live in turmoil, so I lived in turmoil. I know this now because none of these things happen to me anymore."

Mayim Bialik often dealt with anxiety on the set of The Big Bang Theory

Mayim Bialik is best known for playing Sheldon's girlfriend and later wife, Amy Farrah Fowler, in "The Big Bang Theory," though she's popped up from time to time on "Young Sheldon," too. She joined "The Big Bang Theory" in 2010 and filmed 203 episodes of the sitcom, but throughout her time on the show, she struggled a lot with anxiety.

On her podcast, "Mayim Bialik's Breakdown," the actor explained, "With acting stuff, my level of anxiety surrounding performing is very, very high. ... And when I've tried to do things like improv, you know — things that are very freeform — I freeze. I literally freeze. It's like an instant knot in your throat. ... There are tears there. Like, I want to cry."

She recalled a number of times working on the show where she was given specific feedback and tried to follow through on it. However, she said it was anxiety-inducing when she would do take after take but couldn't quite hit her mark right. "I do it, but it's still not right," Bialik explained. "And sometimes it's like the audience isn't laughing, you know it's not funny."

A sudden nosebleed led to a serious health diagnosis for Bob Newhart

Another character to appear on both "The Big Bang Theory" and "Young Sheldon" is Sheldon's favorite TV scientist, Professor Proton (Bob Newhart). Newhart hasn't been without his share of tragedy, either. The actor lost his wife, Ginnie, in 2023, shortly after the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. "We lost our beloved Ginnie Quinn Newhart – Wife, Mother and Grandmother after a long battle with illness. She was our rock and we miss her terribly," Bob wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter (via People).

Newhart has his own health struggles, as he's been living with a serious health condition for decades, too. The actor was diagnosed with secondary polycythaemia in 1985 after suffering from a nosebleed that wouldn't end. The disease, which he believes was caused by smoking, causes the overproduction of red blood cells, which leads to the blood thickening inside the body, making it more difficult for blood to travel through small blood vessels and between organs. This can lead to health issues like blood clots and even strokes. Fortunately, Newhart managed to keep his symptoms at bay by quickly giving up smoking and focusing on his health following his diagnosis.

Ming-Na Wen has been discriminated against in the entertainment industry

Ming-Na Wen rose to fame in the late 1990s when she voiced Disney's Chinese warrior princess, Mulan. From there, she's enjoyed parts in some of the biggest movie and TV franchises of all time, with her roles as Melinda May in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and Fennec Shand in "The Mandalorian" and "The Book of Boba Fett" being two very notable feathers in her cap, along with her guest appearance as university professor Dr. Carol Lee in "Young Sheldon." However, Wen's success in Hollywood hasn't been without its struggles. "Living in America with a name like mine, trust me, it wasn't easy — in fact, it sucked," she told The Los Angeles Times in 2023.

In another interview with China Central Television (via NBC News), Wen said that navigating her way through society and then Hollywood as a person of color hasn't been easy and that she's faced a lot of discrimination along the way. "There were a lot of times where you feel isolated or out of place as an Asian," she explained. Wen also noted that those feelings of isolation spurred her acting career, but she often had to fight harder for her career success than her white counterparts.

Ray Liotta died while filming Dangerous Waters

Ray Liotta was one of the most famous faces to appear in "Young Sheldon." He cameoed once as Connie's bookie in "A Solar Calculator, a Game Ball, and a Cheerleader's Bosom," the fifth episode of Season 1. Although his appearance was brief, since Connie's gambling room became a major storyline in the later seasons of "Young Sheldon," Liotta's character could have returned. But unfortunately, Liotta's life was tragically cut short.

The actor, who's best known for starring in "Goodfellas," died from heart failure in his sleep in 2022. Liotta was abroad in the Dominican Republic filming "Dangerous Waters" at the time. He played the Captain in the thriller, which was released posthumously in 2023. His performances in Elizabeth Banks' comedy horror film "Cocaine Bear" and the true crime drama "Black Bird" were also released after his death.

Liotta's death came as a total shock, but his "Black Bird" co-star and on-screen son, Taron Egerton, recalled him looking frail on set. "I thought I'd leave him to it, give him his space, and across the room he sort of caught my eye and just stood up, walked towards me in a sort of frail way," Egerton said to Entertainment Weekly, adding that Liotta's stance mirrored his character's ill health in the miniseries. Liotta is survived by his daughter, Karsen, and his fiancée, Jacy Nittolo.