By Ariana Bacle
July 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM EDT
Michael Yarish/CBS

Jim Parsons usually advises other potential Emmy nominees to sleep in the morning of the announcement. “It’s the only way to do it,” he told EW. Except he couldn’t follow his own advice this morning—he had a 6:30 a.m. appointment, so he was up anyway.

While Parsons was reading about the Houston Rockets and drinking his coffee, he found out he that he had been nominated not only for his role as Sheldon Cooper in CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theoryhis sixth time being recognized for that role—but also for his role as Tommy Boatwright in HBO film The Normal Heart. Parsons claims he wasn’t too worried about the announcement, though: “If it doesn’t happen, it’s fine,” he said. “But if it does happen, it’s so much fun too.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were you doing when you found out?

JIM PARSONS: I was trying to ignore the fact that Emmys were being announced. I had a 6:30 appointment this morning, which was stupidly early, so I was already up and I had told anybody who would listen, “If you can sleep through the morning of, that’s the way to do it.” It’s the only way to do it. But I couldn’t because I had to get up and get ready. So I was literally having coffee and reading all about who is going to land where for the Houston Rockets for the NBA and all the trade deadlines and stuff, anything to keep my mind off of that. And again, not because I was obsessed with it, it’s just because it’s this elephant in the room that you don’t want to make too much of. Around 5:40 or whatever, the phone rang. That’s either obviously very good news or very bad news at that time in the morning, and I saw it was my agent’s phone number so I knew it was some sort of good news. And sure enough, it was.

You’ve talked about your work in The Normal Heart and how much it would mean to be considered for an award, and look, now you’re nominated. How does that feel?

I’m a little floored, I’ll be honest. The very first thing that hit me, and it took a while to sink in was, how lucky am I that I was a part of two different projects that have both been deemed mentionable, if you will, by the peers for this year. That fact alone I need to make sure I really let sink in and enjoy while it’s happening. Because it doesn’t seem to be a thing that probably is going to happen a lot. The odds are against it, no matter how good the work is.

Singularly though, the project was so important to me. The chance to play that part, a character I just love. A character who was so blessedly different than the one that I play on TV every day. You know, to be recognized for my work in that, it means the world to me. I can’t overstate it enough. I’m very grateful that anybody liked it. [Laughs]

I loved how delightfully sassy your character was—but you also had these heartbreaking scenes with the eulogy, and the Rolodex.

It was what I enjoyed about getting to play him so much. All the characters are very well-drawn in that one, but I was specifically attracted to [Tommy]. He had that whole… the way to get through life a lot of times is to laugh at it, and yet he was allowed those very human moments of when there was really nothing good to say. [Laughs] And it was just so real to me. I always say, I’m better off trying not making judgmental statements about a character I’m playing while I’m playing it, but now that this one’s finished with, I will say, I loved him. I just loved his look on life, I loved the way he deals with people. He was such a good bridge between warring factions within his own community, he just knew how to diffuse the tension in a room. Just some traits that I really admire and it was such a joy to pretend to walk in those shoes for a while.

And we ended up caring so much for that character.

I think that’s what’s so important about that movie in particular, and any movie like that in general where you’re talking about a real, major, tragic issue as this was. It’s so important to put those real faces on it and have people that you feel like you know them, or that you’d want to know them. It really allows you to feel empathy for situations that may or may not be foreign to you.

You’ve played this role before in the play version of The Normal Heart.

I did, I was in the Broadway production in 2011. What was funny was that—I think it had something to do with the fact that it had been two years, basically, since I had done it. I didn’t have a lot of things fresh in my mind, like patterns or ways of speaking that really stuck with me. It felt like coming home again to be this guy again. So that was a very unique experience, and I don’t know if that would be for everybody. But I enjoyed it more than I could have ever imagined. It was a joy to get to play that same character in slightly different surroundings again.

On a different note, you also were nominated for The Big Bang Theory, which has such a huge following. Everywhere I go, I see catchphrases from it. My mom even has “Bazinga!” as her text message tone.

Does she really? [Laughs] I tell you, the ride with this show has been unimaginably blessed, if you will. It’s just been such a wonderful thing. And it’s just really shown the power of television. The reach of TV, it’s kind of unbelievable. And I agree with you, I see T-shirts with sayings on it, and mugs, and just everything. Bobbleheads. I’m like, “What the hell is going on?” We’re very fortunate that that’s the boat we’re in, that that’s what happened to this show and even more fortunate on top of that is that we all enjoy getting to work on this show. It’s a joy, and so the success is really just such a cherry on top.

What show—old or new, on or off the air—would you give an Emmy to just because you love it so much?

The first show I think of is something that was well-awarded in its time, so I don’t know that it should count, but I have never grown tired of seeing—I’ve watched literally decades of this show now in reruns—Mary Tyler Moore. I could watch that on reruns every night, and through periods of time, I do watch reruns of it every night. I don’t think I’ve ever declared that as my favorite show of all time, but I think in my heart of hearts, it might be.

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