The Real Reason Mayim Bialik Returned To Acting

Mayim Bialik already made her mark on television history by the time of the series wrap of '90s sitcom Blossom, in which the actress played the titular, floppy-hatted lead. Her character's iconic look — paired with Bialik's acting chops — earned Blossom Russo a place in the annals of 20th-century pop culture. References to the show and its protagonist pop up everywhere from Saturday Night Live skits to Simpsons episodes to Blossom-themed easter eggs on The Big Bang Theory, the latter of which harkened Bialik's return to acting full-time (and finally wrapped its 12-season run in 2019).

Despite the name recognition and reputation as a comic actor that Blossom afforded Bialik, it seemed that, for a time, she had no plans to continue with her thespian aspirations. With the exception of a few TV guest stints from the mid-'90s to the late aughts, Bialik traded in the arts for sciences post-Blossom, earning a degree in neuroscience from UCLA in 2000 and a doctorate from the same institution in 2007. 

Bialik's life as an academic and researcher in matters of the mind seemed to be set in stone. So, what made her decide that returning to acting, as a matter of the heart, was more important than what she originally intended for her future?

Mayim Bialik returned to acting for two very important people

For Mayim Bialik, the choice to resume her acting career boiled down to a simple equation: Compared to the overwhelming workload of a neuroscientist, working in the entertainment industry would let her spend more time with her children. "I figured actors never work, so it's the perfect job to have," Bialik joked to Yahoo News in 2012.

Speaking more candidly, the four-time-Emmy nominee confessed that despite being proud of her scholastic achievements, the life of a researcher would've left her little time to spend with her two sons, the oldest of whom was barely out of pre-school when she made her Big Bang debut as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler.

"I'm very proud of [my Ph.D.], but the life of a research professor would not have suited my needs in terms of what kind of parenting I wanted to do," said Bialik, a noted proponent of attachment parenting and author of Beyond the Sling, which she penned on the subject.

The fact that Bialik, an actual neuroscientist, was able to play one on TV was a sort of kismet she found deeply meaningful — especially to young audiences with STEM aspirations. "I'm really proud that I'm working a show that highlights women in this way," Bialik told the Observer in 2016. "I know a lot of female scientists from my time in college and grad school who were respected for their brain... and I like that a lot in this character."

Just like the rest of us, Mayim Bialik needed health insurance

There's another reason Mayim Bialik decided to forego academia for acting, and it's a decision made for a reason many of us have probably also encountered: health insurance.

According to an interview Bialik gave with ABC News' Popcorn with Peter Travers in 2017, the Big Bang actor found that despite her illustrious credentials and secure research gig, her options for family health coverage were extremely limited — and while a career in the arts doesn't necessarily scream "great benefits" to most, it was better than the options at hand at the time.

"I was running out of health insurance and figured if I could even get a couple of acting jobs here and there, and if it's enough to get you your Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA health insurance, we would at least have insurance," Bialik told Travers. Adding pressure to the situation was that her ex-husband Michael Stone — who she divorced in 2012 — was also working on a graduate degree, making Bialik the sole breadwinner of the family.

"My then-husband was still working on his master's degree." Bialik continued. "I was teaching neuroscience for about five years. And I was not expecting to be a full-time actor. But this show called The Big Bang Theory brought me on."

Mayim Bialik originally thought 'The Big Bang Theory' was a game show

What makes Mayim Bialik scoring the role of Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler even better was her basic unawareness of the show's premise. That lack of knowledge, paired with only a basic development of her character (on the part of the show's creators at the time of her audition), were a huge part of why the former Blossom star's character was ultimately tailored specifically for her.

As Bialik relayed during a Q&A as a keynote speaker during the #BlogHer2016 Experts Among Us Conference in Los Angeles, Bialik had no idea that The Big Bang Theory was a sitcom — let alone one of the most popular sitcoms on network television during its heyday. In fact, she had no idea it was a scripted show at all.

"I had never seen it," Bialik told panel host and SheKnows Media President Samantha Skey at the time (via The Daily Mail). "I had heard about it and thought it was a game show, 'cause someone told me I was mentioned on it, I think in the first season."

Due to her prior experience in neuroscience, Bialik helped Big Bang co-creator Bill Prady flesh out her character, noting during her panel interview that he "was quoted somewhere as saying, 'We made her a neurobiologist so Mayim could fix things if they're wrong."' And the rest, like the original Big Bang itself, was history.