Jersey-born comedic actress/writer Melissa Rauch, who rocketed to notoriety playing Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on TV’s no. 1 comedy, The Big Bang Theory, really doesn’t have that high-pitched, whiney voice, although she is a tiny dynamo in real life.
Rauch, who did stand-up comedy on the streets of Manhattan, packs a punch in her new flick, The Bronze, co-written with husband and writing partner Winston. She stars as a once-darling Olympic gymnast, now a foul-mouthed has-been, who is somehow enlisted to help a younger gymnastics prodigy. Cue the double flips, hijinks, pratfalls and laughs.
Before settling in with Speakeasy host Russell Peters, Melissa huddled up with us.
“I’ve seen some Bernadettes at Comic Con, but they were all taller than me and it makes me wish I was them.”
With your show and movies about Zuckerberg and Jobs, how did geeks get to rule?
I’m thrilled that geek culture has exploded. When I was growing up, you sort of had to hide your geekiness. Now, people wave their geek flags with pride, which makes me happy, so I no longer have to stay in hiding. I was definitely a geek, not a comic book geek as much or a stereotypical one. But I was certainly kind of shy and nerdy. I don’t know what the explosion is due to, maybe TV shows like The Big Bang Theory helps as do movies that appeal to the audience—but it’s all fantastic.
What geek movies did you glom onto growing up?
I wasn’t necessarily drawn to the typical big geek movies like Star Trek or Star Wars, but what was a crazy cool movie for me was Teen Witch, with Robyn Lively, about a nerdy girl and then she became a witch with cool powers. She made herself be popular, and as you would have it, found out that that wasn’t everything. I watched it over and over again, a fish out of water character that I could relate to.
Comic-Con has grown into a media juggernaut—tell us some cosplay stories and about the fans.
It’s so fun, such a great way to meet your audience directly, get feedback and connect with the people who essentially give you a job. Their viewership, their watching every week keeps you on the air, so it’s such a great way to thank the people who essentially employ you. I’m always amazed how authentic the outfits are, it’s unbelievable and that’s also what I love doing, just walking around checking them out. Maybe one day I will go in disguise and be anonymous—like Justin Timberlake and others have done. I’ve seen some Bernadettes, but they were all taller than me and it makes me wish I was them.
How did you get around doing those incredible stunts and that ridiculously funny sex scene with Sebastian Stan in The Bronze?
I didn’t do my own stunts for the most part. I had a phenomenal Cirque du Soleil performer who doubled for me, including a very funny sex scene which I’m very proud of. Yes, there will be an unedited, extended version of that on the DVD special features. And you’ll get to see how the scene was choreographed, which is very interesting and funny. Both of us had Cirque du Soleil stunt doubles. Although, Sebastian does a lot of his own stunts, he was a real trooper, and people get to see quite a lot of Sebastian. And we had some phenomenal gymnasts who came in and lent their talents. Plus we had some gold-medal-winning Olympic gymnasts like Dominique Dawes and Olga Korbut who make cameos in the movie.
So you weren’t much of a gymnast in school?
I was a very unathletic child. I faked to get out of the Presidents Challenge, those youth fitness tests. I stole my mother’s inhaler, going, “Oh, I can’t do it!” I had no gymnastic abilities whatsoever. I took some lessons for the movie but mostly for getting that gymnastic stance just right. And the rest of it was the body doubles helping me out!
How’d you come up with that unique high-pitched voice that Bernadette has in The Big Bang Theory?
Thank goodness it’s nothing like that in real life. But it’s based on my mom who speaks with a very high-pitched voice. But she also has that Jersey accent, so I took that out because Bernadette’s not from there. If she was, it would be like [does a full on Jersey accent] “Howard, let me talllllk to you about that!”
What was it like when you and Mayim Bialik became TBBT regulars?
We came into such a massive hit, those guys had created a huge hit, and I was such a fan of the show before I became a regular, so coming in as a guest star initially was a dream come true. The fact that my role blossomed into something regular was super icing on an already iced cake for me.