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Behind The Big Bang Theory Bullying Scene That Left Johnny Galecki In Tears

Many sitcoms with an ensemble cast often include a character who occupies the comparatively still center of the swirling comedy storm unfolding around the other characters in any given episode. On "The Big Bang Theory," this role is filled by Johnny Galecki's Leonard Hofstadter. Like Jerry on "Seinfeld" or Ed O'Neill's Jay Pritchett on "Modern Family," Galecki's thoughtful, even-tempered physicist is positioned as a calming influence. In Galecki's case, this means he spends much of his screen time counteracting the eccentricities of roomie Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) or the impending interpersonal missteps about to be taken by socially inept pals Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar).

And then there's Penny (Kaley Cuoco), initially the unattainable woman of Leonard's dreams occupying the apartment across the hall, eventually his I-can't-believe-she's-with-me girlfriend, and finally his OMG-we're-married wife. In this pivotal relationship on the show, Galecki's character is again the everyman in the romantic narrative that offers fans the ideal character to understand and empathize with within the show's universe.

One of the primary reasons the character so perfectly filled the role of touchstone for viewers lies in Galecki's approachable, utterly believable performance as Leonard. And as revealed in a just-published book taking fans behind the scenes of the iconic show, one surprising moment on the series left the actor in tears after it was shot but ended up being a vital key to his relatable portrayal of Leonard.

A scene in Season 1 of The Big Bang Theory sparked emotional childhood memories for Galecki

In Season 1, Episode 6 of "The Big Bang Theory," "The Middle Earth Paradigm," Penny throws a big Halloween party in her apartment. Leonard shows up as a pointy-eared Hobbit, hoping to show cat-costumed Penny he can fit into her circle of friends. But things take a disappointing turn when Penny's beefy ex-squeeze Kurt (Brian Patrick Wade) shows up, decked out in a skimpy, physique-baring fur loincloth. And when Leonard manages to insult Kurt's marginal intelligence, the angered muscleman hoists Leonard off his hairy Hobbit feet.

As Johnny Galecki says in author Jessica Radloff's "The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series," the scene took him back to his youth. "Him picking me up as Leonard really affected me to the point where I think I cried after we shot the episode. ... it really dug up some old schoolyard stuff for me," he admitted. However, Galecki walked away ultimately feeling good about it. "I had a way into Leonard and really began to understand him," he shared. So while the evocation of childhood bullying in the scene may have been intense for the actor, it also opened a window into the character Galecki would play for over 270 more episodes of "The Big Bang Theory."