it all started with a big bang

About ten years ago, I was stuck, professionally, and doing my best not to freak out every day about where the next mortgage payment would come from. I was doing moderately well as a writer, but I wasn’t earning enough to sustain myself and my family, and my acting career was … well, if it were a patient in a coma, we would have been having serious discussions about pulling the plug to end the suffering.

Everything changed when Bill Prady called me, and pitched me on playing a version of myself on his series, The Big Bang Theory. Believe it or not, I didn’t instantly say yes. I felt like playing myself meant I would only get to do one episode, nobody would care, and the industry wouldn’t respect me for it because I wasn’t playing a role. So I called my friend John Rogers and asked him what I should do.

“YOU SAY YES YOU DUMMY WHY ARE YOU EVEN CONSIDERING NOT DOING THIS?!” He hollered at me, throwing much-needed cold water on the doubts and fears I had unnecessarily created in my fucked up head.

So I thanked John for his advice and guidance, called Bill back, and accepted the gig. A few days later, Bill called me back and carefully told me that the character had changed. Now, the version of Wil Wheaton I would be playing was, and I quote, “Delightfully evil.”

Now I said YES without hesitation. I was playing a character, just like I wanted to, but I was the only person in the world who could play him, because he was literally a version of me.

That week on the set was the best week of my life. I was already a huge fan of the show, but by the time I was wrapped, I was an even bigger fan of the cast and crew. Everyone treated me with kindness and respect. They made me feel so welcome, like I deserved to be there, like I was a valued member of the show. One of the producers told me “I hope you had a good time here, because we are definitely bringing you back for more episodes.”

That was awesome, but I’ve worked in film and television long enough to know that people say things like that all the time, and nothing ever comes of it.

Only this time, it did! A little while later, they brought me back for another episode, and then another and another and then it was ten years later and I’ve done like seventeen episodes. Along the way, I became good friends with the entire cast and most of the writers and producers. Along the way, they welcomed me into their family, and made me feel like I was as important to the production as anyone else who works there. They accepted me and always made me feel like I deserved to be there, like I was valued, like I was not someone who had done under twenty episodes, but who had been there for every moment of every day. It has been a remarkable experience, and the greatest joy of my professional life. Personally, it ranks second, behind my marriage and partnership with the best person on the planet, Anne Wheaton.

Last night, I took what is probably my final curtain call in front of an audience at Stage 25. There are only 9 episodes left, and the math of it makes it unlikely there will be another space in any of the stories they have left for my version of Wil Wheaton.

And while that breaks my heart, it’s really okay. Things end, and I’m always grateful to be sad at the end of something, because it means I am grateful that it happened.

When I was a kid on Star Trek, I never had the emotional maturity to appreciate it. I loved my cast mates, and we were a family, but I was just too young and immature to fully appreciate what we had, until it was gone. For years, when I thought about TNG and my space family, I felt shame and regret. But I finally got to publicly express my love and gratitude to them at a big TNG reunion panel in Calgary. I got a second chance that I never thought I would get, and I made the most of it. Since then, I can look back on TNG with fondness and pride, instead of sadness and regret.

I wasn’t going to let 25 years go by before I got to share my gratitude with the cast and crew of Big Bang Theory, so yesterday during a break in camera blocking, I stood in the middle of the set, and I took a minute to tell them all how grateful I am for the years of love and kindness they have all given me. I thanked them for making me feel like I’m part of their family, and for being my friends. I did my best not to cry, and I mostly succeeded.

We went back to work, and over the next hour or so, pretty much everyone from the cast and crew came up to me and made sure I knew that I didn’t just feel like part of their family, I was part of their family. Every single person who talked to me told me they will miss me as much as I will miss them.

Over the course of the day and night (we tape in the evening after rehearsing and camera blocking all day), I was able to share meaningful and joyful (and tearful) moments with everyone in the cast, and most of the producers and crew. I was able to directly express my gratitude to all of the people who have been such an important and wonderful part of my life since we shot my first episode, way back in 2008.

I’m so sad that the show is ending. I’m so sad that, in just a few short weeks, they’ll start tearing down the sets and preparing Stage 25 for whoever is going to move into after we leave.

But I am so grateful that I’ve had the privilege and honor to spend nearly a quarter of my life working with and becoming friends with these amazing humans.

The episode we shot last night will probably air in 3 to 4 weeks, and it’s likely to be the last time we see Formerly Evil Wil Wheaton in his natural habitat, but as you probably saw from the pictures I posted from the set, I could not have asked for a better and more wonderful way to bring this incredible chapter in my life to a close.

My life and career are in a much better place now than they were ten years ago. I feel happier (recent kick in the face by my damn Depression notwithstanding) and I feel better about my career choices and opportunities than I have in a long, long time. Being part of this show, and forming friendships with my cow-orkers there has been a very big part of that.

Thank you, Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, for giving me the opportunity to be part of your creation. Thank you, Steve Molaro and Steve Holland, and all the writers, for always giving me the funniest stuff to perform, and letting me play a version of myself who is so much cooler than I am. Thank you, Mark Cendrowski, for always directing me toward my best possible work, and for making me a better actor. Thank you, Anthony Rich, and everyone on the crew, for creating such an amazing and joyful and supportive working environment.

And thank you most of all to the cast for allowing me to be part of the family. I don’t know what’s next for any of us (I hope you all take a deserved vacation) but I want you all to know that I love you, and being part of your stories has been a gift, an honor, and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Out my window there’s nothin’ where a city used to be.

I feel like I should be doing more, making more — hell, making anything — and generally being more productive.

But I just have nothing. No motivation. No ideas. No compulsion to create. I keep feeling like I’m just wasting time, just keeping my head down and hoping that today will be better than the day before and that this string of days will come to an end in a spectacular rebuke of Depression and Anxiety.

But that doesn’t seem to be how this is going. I’m not really living right now. I’m just existing and the frustrating thing is that I know it doesn’t have to be this way, while also knowing that my brain is wired a little sideways and it’s going to be like this until it isn’t, and there’s not a lot I can do about that except realize that this isn’t forever, that I’ll heal the grief that opened up a few months ago, and the fresh pain and grief that recently opened up will eventually join it.

I sit here at my desk and stare are a blinking cursor for what seems like hours. I type a few words and delete them. I get up and walk around the house and up and down the block, trying to shake loose whatever is blocking up my ability to be creative, to feel like it’s worth the effort, and it just doesn’t seem to be working.

I’m doing my best to give myself permission to accept that my brain isn’t really on Team Wil right now, and not beat myself up about it. I’m clinically Depressed at the moment, but I’m still grateful that I can afford to have a string of days (stretching into months, now) that feel sort of debilitating and I don’t have to worry about not making a mortgage payment or feeding myself. All I have to do is take care of myself, take my meds, talk to my therapist, and work on proactive things like meditation and exercise that are usually good and helpful for my wonky brain.

Today, I feel marginally better than I did yesterday, and yesterday I felt marginally better than the day before that. If that’s how it’s going to go, I’m happy to accept marginal and steady improvement, however long it takes.

Can I admit something?

I’m scared. I’m terrified that being unproductive and not creating anything new for weeks or months at a time will catch up with me, the world will move on, and my fifteen minutes will be up before I realize it. I’m feeling my age, and though I pretty regularly feel like my best days and best work is behind me, I know that isn’t true. Now, if I could just convince my brain to accept that and stop trying to make me feel like there’s no reason I should even try to be creative.

I realize that’s irrational, but the Super Happy Funtimes of my particular version of mental illness is really good at making the case for it being correct and inevitable.

And the thing that’s so dumb? Tomorrow, I start work on something awesome that I love, that I deserve, that I get to do because I earned it with my hard work and ability as an actor. I know all of that, but I don’t feel a bit of it … and yet I will go to the studio in the morning and I’ll love that I get to be there, I’ll know that I deserve it, everyone there will be happy to see me, and I’ll feel like a total fraud.

Well, maybe writing about those fears and putting them here will help me trick my brain into giving me a break so I can just enjoy the experience and feel proud of myself, instead of the overwhelming sadness and hopelessness that’s currently filling up my life.

And on that happy note, please allow me to share Riley’s latest creation for our Roll Model campaign, because even in these incredibly dark days, Riley’s creations have brought me some very real and much-needed happiness.

We’re considering extending this T-shirt, because we’re hearing from lots of folks that they want one, but can’t get it until the end of the week. Let us know in comments if you’re interested, and we’ll make a decision later tonight or tomorrow.

The Roll Model T is in its final days.

We are in the final days of my Roll Model T-shirt with Stands, and I felt like this was a good opportunity to post all the amazing graphics Riley at Stands has made for me to use during the campaign.

These are all based on original AD&D books, and I love them so much I kind of wish we could make them into prints.

I’ve been busy with work, and struggling with my mental health, for months, now. I’ve learned that a big part of my self care routine is to be grateful for good things, even if they seem very small, because those little bits of light in the darkness can come together to help guide me out of a painful place. These images have reminded me of the decades of joy I’ve had playing D&D, and have reminded me that there have been incredibly good times in my life, even at a time like this when all I can seem to feel is sadness and despair.

So I guess I’m tying to say thank you to Riley and everyone at Stands for not just giving me the opportunity to put something fun into the world (when I was on the Star Trek cruise earlier this month, I saw some people wearing Owl Bear shirts and it made me so happy, like we were fellow travelers who were sharing an inside joke), but also for indirectly granting me a strong connection to happy and joyful memories.

Aren’t they great?! Now I want to go into the game room, pull out my D&D books, and plan a retro campaign for some friends.