One of the most original sitcoms to hit the world of television, The Big Bang Theory has always done things a bit different. Really though, who would have thought a show about socially awkward physicists would gain such a following? The brilliant, but dismally charismatic team of Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard have become an unlikely set of heroes in the world of prime-time TV.
Joined by their character foil and eye-candy, the street smart but uneducated Penny, the show seemed complete. The third season brought two new female cast members to the show: Amy Farrah Fowler, and Bernadette Rostenkowski. Both scientists (one with a PhD and the other working toward her PhD), they immediately took up their respective places within the show and have been regulars since.
While Kaley Cuoco‘s Penny is still beloved by the audience and rocks the “eye candy” role brilliantly, she has plenty of help now from Melissa Rauch‘s Bernadette, whose quirky personality, intelligence, but also beauty and occasional aggression make her one of the most interesting and unpredictable on the show. While we weren’t anticipating her becoming a regular, she’s grown on us since her first appearance on this show. Here are fifteen things you didn’t know about Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz.
15. Bernadette And Melissa Rauch Had The Same First Job
When we all met Bernadette for the first time, she had yet to start her cushy, high-earning job with the pharmaceutical company and she was working with Penny at the Cheesecake Factory to put herself through graduate school. This is one way in which Bernadette’s life mirrors that of the actress who plays her. Melissa Rauch, like many in her field, worked as a waitress before she made it big as an entertainer. Because acting careers generally start out slowly and can be difficult to accommodate with a 9-5 gig, waiting tables offers a decent wage and in many cases a somewhat flexible schedule. Rauch worked for a couple of restaurants in her early adulthood, including an unnamed sports bar and a Johnny Rockets in New Jersey.
14. Her Place Of Birth
The main characters on the show come from all over the United States and of course, one foreigner. Raj is that foreigner, hailing from New Delhi, India. Leonard is from New Jersey, Penny is from Nebraska, and Sheldon is from Texas. The homes of these characters add to the comedic potential of the show, with Penny telling stories from back home from time to time, Raj and his family having hilarious arguments via Skype and of course, Sheldon and his ongoing complaints against the creationists and religious people in his hometown, including his own mother.
Among main cast members, Bernadette is one of only three from California, despite the show taking place there. The other two are Amy and Howard. Bernadette comes from Yorba Linda, a beautiful suburb in Orange County in southern California.
13. Her Age Is Unknown
In the case of many of the characters, we know exactly how old they are. Leonard is currently 36, born on May 17th, 1980 and Sheldon is the same age, but a few months older, having been born in January. Raj and Howard were both born in 1981, but nobody is sure what exact day Howard was born. Penny is widely believed to have been born on December 2nd, 1985 (although we still don’t know Penny’s maiden name), but with regard to Bernadette, no birthday has been determined. The closest we can come up with is that she was born sometime in the mid 1980s: not before 1984 though, and likely not born after 1987.
12. Her Mother Has No Name
We learn early on in Bernadette’s time on the show that she is not on particularly good terms with her mother. It is in fact, one of the first things that she and future husband Howard bond over. He lives with his mother, who causes him no shortage of distress, and when the two meet, Bernadette is in the same metaphorical boat, still living at home, but one-upping Howard because her mother still picked out her clothes.
We met Bernadette’s father in the fifth season of the show, and while we know his name is Mike, and he is a rugged outdoorsman and former police officer, we never actually learn his wife’s name. She will likely forever be known as Mrs. Rostenkowski.
11. She’s Catholic And Melissa Rauch Is Jewish
One of the interesting things about Melissa Rauch, Bernadette and their respective stories is the fact that Bernadette was raised Catholic and married Howard, a Jewish man, while Melissa Rauch is herself Jewish. When asked about how she prepped to try out for the role of Bernadette, Rauch indicated that outside of making her voice a little higher (more on that later) she also tried to wear a large crucifix to the audition. In what was a possibly offensive joke, Howard once referred to Bernadette’s parents as Adolf and Eva (obviously referring to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his partner/wife Eva Braun).
10. The Pregnancy Storyline Was Spur Of The Moment
In one of the biggest events of the series so far, Howard and Bernadette recently had a kid! They are the first members of the main character cast to procreate, which is interesting because it seemed unlikely at the outset of the show that Howard would ever get married or have a girlfriend, let alone become a father.
During a writing session, Steve Molaro suggested that Bernadette mention her pregnancy in passing to a rabbit around the end of the episode they were writing (The Valentino Submergence). Molaro just threw the idea out there, but the entire roomful of writers and staff loved it, as did creator Chuck Lorre, so they went ahead with it.
9. Melissa Rauch Liked The Show Before She Was Cast
This should kind of go without saying, nobody is going to try out to be on a show that they hate. With that said however, Rauch has been a fan of comedy all her life and has worked as a stand-up before as well. During the first two seasons of The Big Bang Theory, she was a regular viewer and when she found out that she had been accepted for an audition she was understandably overjoyed. She said that she identified with the character and that when she received an email saying that she had been invited to audition she “let out a little scream”. She has said of The Big Bang Theory that “there’s not a ton of stuff [television shows] that he loves, and it was a show that he absolutely loved”.
8. Her Size
No, there is no intricate camera work and lighting effects to make Bernadette seem smaller. Melissa Rauch is a very petite girl, much like the character she plays on the show; they are both under five feet tall. Bernadette has made several self-deprecating jokes throughout the series referring to her tiny stature, including comments about her mother smoking while she was pregnant with her. In real life though, Rauch also deals with her small size through humor, even Tweeting something like what we posted in the image above every now and again. We have to admit that we love her for that.
7. A Few Things She Doesn’t Like
There are some very interesting things that Bernadette can’t stand. Three of the most notable are children, puppies and most science fiction.
She has said that part of why she isn’t a big fan of babies and kids is because her mother ran an illegal daycare from their home during her youth and she was stuck looking after those kids more often than she would have liked.
She was bitten on the face by a puppy as a small child so that explains not liking dogs.
Finally, she isn’t a fan of magic (the tricks or the card game), dislikes most science fiction and RPGs. There are very few times that she geeks out with the main four guys, but one of the most notorious was when she joined them for a weekend of playing the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic, which unfortunately sucked in comparison to the two Knights of the Old Republic games.
6. We Only Know One Of Her Siblings Names (She Has Five)
There are a few characters whose names are mysteries. Penny’s last name was never announced (although now she goes by Hofstadter) and we already mentioned that Bernadette’s mother has no name at all. The same can be said for most of Bernadette’s siblings. Mike and Mrs. Rostenkowski had a total of six children. Only two of them are named: Bernadette and Joey. Bernadette only mentioned this brother because when she had to take care of her siblings throughout her youth, one of her major problems was that Joey would not stop spitting in the other kids’ mouths. While a family reunion with all of these people could make for an interesting episode or two, there is no indication that we’ll meet any more of Bernadette’s family anytime soon.
5. Her Voice
One of the most distinctive things about Bernadette is her voice. Sure the first thing anyone notices is that she’s small and pretty, but when she opens her mouth, the voice sounds small even compared to the girl it is coming out of. Almost squeaky and adorable, it sounds as though it must be painful to reach such a high pitch for any extended period of time (for instance, shooting an episode). Melissa Rauch’s natural speaking tone is still somewhat high but much closer to the normal range of a woman’s voice.
She has said that the inspiration for her voice on the show was her own mother, who is not that high pitched but does have a sweet and innocent tone. Bernadette’s voice was originally Rauch’s choice and not that of the producers of the show.
Of course, while Bernadette’s normal voice is incredibly cute and sweet, we’ve all heard those times when she gets angry and starts to shout. It is a credit to Melissa Rauch’s acting ability that she can take a smiling, pleasant character and turn her into a feisty whirlwind of fury so quickly. Her shout sounds impressively similar to Howard’s mother, enough to terrify him, anyway. Much like Bernadette’s normal speaking voice was inspired by her mother, the tone Rauch uses when her character is yelling at Howard (or another member of the gang) is inspired by her father’s more harsh, gravelly method of speaking.
4. Her Pharmaceutical Company
While the name is never spoken, the company for which Bernadette works is called Zangen. Not a whole lot is known about this company, but they do provide Bernadette with a great salary for her services; in her own words, it is a “buttload”.
Given that the name is never explicitly said, the only way the name has been determined is through her lab coat and promotional items throughout her home and Penny’s apartment after Penny got a job at the same company. While Penny works as a sales representative, it is unclear what Bernadette actually does with the company. She works on the science side of the business, but beyond that, one can only speculate as to her exact role.
3. The Character Was Rewritten
Many do not remember the first few times Bernadette was on the show, but she was very different than she is now. The voice never changed and the hair and glasses were always there, but her personality has come a long way since her early appearances. Back in season three we knew that she was in school and taking microbiology, but she seemed kind of clueless, not understanding simple jokes (as bad as Howard’s were) and being awkward and virtually unable to hold a conversation. The character was tweaked significantly by the writers and now she is sharp as a tack and far more likable. This isn’t to say she wasn’t likable early on, but the character didn’t work nearly as well with the rest of them in her early days.
2. She Wasn’t Intended To Be On The Main Cast
Originally, the characters Amy and Bernadette, who both appeared for the first time in season three, were not intended to be permanent cast fixtures. It is unclear whether they would have been one-timers or temporary recurring characters, but they were certainly not thought up to take the roles that they have in the show. Writer and producer Steve Molaro, who is one of the brains behind the brains on the show, shed some light on what happened with the two characters, and essentially, when Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch showed up to audition, the producers loved their characters so much, they gave them larger parts. Eventually, when they were accepted and beloved by the audience, they became permanent members of the show.
1. Bernadette Is Likely The Highest Earning Character On The Show
We had to include the “likely” in that subtitle because the creators of the show have never addressed this issue. Of all the scientists on the show, Sheldon likely makes the most, as the salary for a professor as CalTech is around $140,000. Leonard, Howard and Raj likely make a bit less but still probably come in just short of the $100,000 range. Penny works as a pharma rep for Zangen and the salary for such a job in California could be anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000, but it has been implied that she is above average for her job so we could guess she could be approaching the $100,000 mark.
Bernadette’s job is never made clear, and neither is her salary, but according to her, the job is “high up” and pays her, as we said earlier “a butt-load”. The way in which she pleasantly mocks Howard’s very respectable engineer salary and talks about her job and the money she makes, we can safely say that she is the highest earning member of the group.