The Big Bang Theory has paid tribute to voice actress Carol Ann Susi, who played Howard Wolowitz’s unseen mother Debbie in the hit US sitcom (warning: contains series 8 spoilers. The episode will air in the UK later this year).
The episode, which aired on CBS in America on Thursday night, saw the show say goodbye to Susi, who passed away aged 62 in November last year after a brief battle with cancer.
During the instalment, titled The Comic Book Store Regeneration, Howard learns that his mother has died while on vacation with friends in Florida.
“It was a very difficult scene to write,” showrunner Steve Molaro said, explaining why they decided to write Mrs Wolowitz out of the show.
“We had to come up with a plan and I don’t think we could bring ourselves to replace the actor. The thought of it felt awful to us. That left us with two options: We send the character away — which seemed false and fake — or we go right into it and write it into the show, so that’s what we chose to do,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“The silver lining, creatively for the show, is it’s just another chance for Wolowitz to grow as a person. Creatively for the show, things happen to people and one of the things that happens is parents pass away. I think it was for the best that we wrote it in.”
Of how Howard reacts to the news, Molaro says: “At first, he’s just stunned. We’re going to work our way through it with the characters and ourselves. For now, the best word I can use is stunned.
“It can’t help but affect his life in ways that I don’t think he even expects,” he continued. “I find it interesting that the ways it creeps back up and affects him are ways that he wasn’t even thinking about when it happened.
“We’re talking about an actual person we cared about very much. We were feeling pressure to pay tribute to her in a way that she deserved – and I hope we did that,” he added.
Carol Ann Susi appeared in 39 episodes of the hit American sitcom, making her debut in the first season back in 2007. Though Susi was never seen on screen, she was a beloved – if mysterious – presence in the show, bringing Howard’s crude, rude and incredibly screechy mother to life.
The episode will air on E4 in the UK later this year