Mayim Bialik was the star of NBC’s “Blossom” and played Amy Farrah Fowler on the just-concluded hit CBS series “The Big Bang Theory.” For her role, Bialik won the Critic’s Choice Award for best supporting actress in a comedy series and was nominated four times for a Primetime Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. She holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA, authored several books on parenting and founded Grok Nation, an online community for people of all backgrounds to discuss important issues. Bialik spoke with The Jewish Week by phone from Los Angeles about “Big Bang,” defending Israel and parenting.
Jewish Week: What’s the funniest thing that happened while making the show?
Bialik: Oh my gosh. There were plenty of funny things that happened off camera that people didn’t see. Simon Helbert, who plays Wolowitz, was the funniest person on our set. He would often crack all of us up in group scenes. We often had to be reprimanded for laughing and not focusing enough cause of Simon.
Did you feel more pressure as an actress in “Blossom” or “Big Bang Theory”?
Different kind of pressure. Being a teenager and growing up in the public eye is a very specific kind of pressure because you’re also just a teenager and trying to find your place in the world. I think that as an adult being in “The Big Bang Theory” and being a mom of two kids, there’s nothing like the pressure of being a parent, so everything else pales in comparison.
You’re a big advocate for Israel and science. Is it harder to make science seem cool, or Israel?
That’s a really funny question! It’s definitely harder to make God seem cool than science. I would say right now it’s hard to make Israel seem cool, just in terms of people’s perception. I think it’s very cool.
You’ve said you would be “happy to take a public bullet” for supporting Israel. Why do you think other Jewish celebrities aren’t following suit to speak publicly in support of Israel?
I think that speaking up publicly in support of the existence of the state of Israel is in and of itself problematic for people who do not think Israel should exist. You come under a lot of public scrutiny and get threats and horrible things posted on your social media, and it’s something that people don’t necessarily want to get involved in.
In terms of a woman’s role in the Modern Orthodox service, are there any changes that you would like to see?
I don’t know specifically. I think that the rise of female clergy in Orthodoxy is incredibly important. It’s something that was missing especially during my marriage and during my divorce. I was really in need of a woman schooled in issues of halacha. Now that women have that available to them, I think it’s incredibly important. There’s a tremendous amount of complexity surrounding counting women and women reading Torah, which I think varies by community. I daven at a variety of different places.
What’s the best advice for parents regarding their children’s eating habits especially with the problem of obesity?
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I wrote a book on parenting called “Beyond the Sling.” I was raised kosher and we happened to be vegan. What I do hear a lot is parents who want their kids not to be mad at them, whether it’s about diet or restricting screen time or the way they speak, or cursing. In general, if your children like you all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong. I say that with a smile but it’s absolutely a parent’s job to enforce, lovingly, boundaries that are healthy for children. But I also think we have a tremendous food crisis in this country where the food that is most reasonable is also typically the least healthy, and that has to do with government lobbies and who run the FDA and stuff.
Are you going to take some time to relax or are you already working on something?
I have nothing I’m working on that I can talk about. I did write a screenplay that I plan to direct this year. I’m spending a lot of time with my kids, napping, cleaning my house. I took up formally learning, studying Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers) with a couple of people and getting back to taekwondo three times a week.