Iain Armitage’s face was plastered on every bus, cab, and billboard in the lead-up to the CBS premiere of Young Sheldon in September 2017. The Big Bang Theory prequel is the origin story of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the lovable yet socially inept genius famously portrayed by actor Jim Parsons for more than a decade on the hit sitcom. Nearly 17 million tuned in to the highly anticipated pilot, making it the biggest comedy premiere in four years.
Amid the show’s success, Armitage has scored multiple accolades for his performance, including earning a nomination for choice breakout TV star at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards and winning best performance in a TV series — leading young actor at the 2018 Young Artist Awards. The child star also received a well-earned pay bump when the series was renewed for a second season, which could reportedly turn him into a millionaire.
While you may not know Iain Armitage by name, you know you’ve seen him before, right? Let’s find out why the star of Young Sheldon looks so familiar.
He became a theatre critic…at age 4
Iain Armitage’s first foray into the public sphere came at just 4 years old with his surprising turn as a theatre critic. With the help of his parents — theatre producer mom Lee Armitage and Scottish stage actor dad Euan Morton — the little man runs the vlog Iain Loves Theatre. It began in 2011 when he shared his thoughts on a regional production of Hairspray. "I just loved it," he told Show Tickets in 2017. "Then I just started my reviews. I said, I’m going to keep on doing this for every show."
The young critic’s reviews are typically positive, and he’s covered some of the biggest Broadway shows, including Dear Evan Hansen, Fun Home, and, of course, Hamilton. As the resident sweetheart of the theatre community, the YouTube star has even rubbed shoulders with Broadway royalty, from Chita Rivera to Lin-Manuel Miranda. "You get so lost in [live theatre], you actually think it’s a reality," Armitage told The New York Times. "And it’s much better, in my opinion, than television or movies because they’re actually right in front of you."
He’s a red carpet regular
Strange as it may seem, Iain Loves Theatre didn’t just score this young talent an agent, it also attracted the attention of celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. In 2015, Hilton hired Armitage to cover the Tony Awards’ red carpet—a role he reprised in 2016 and 2017.
"I saw the reaction he would get from people, and the reaction he would get from the Broadway community," Hilton told the New York Post. "He loves the shows, and they love him. I feel like a proud uncle watching him flourish now." Okay, we admit it, that’s really sweet.
The gig allowed the young correspondent to meet legends of music, film, and the stage, including the likes of Gloria Estefan, Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. By June 2017, Armitage proved himself to be an old pro on the job when he tweeted a photo of himself from the red carpet, proudly captioned "Ready!"
He upstaged Steve Harvey
By May 2016, Armitage’s vlog became so popular he was invited to appear on Little Big Shots. The NBC variety series showcases the world’s most talented kids, and this lad’s charming interview went viral, collecting more than 2 million views on YouTube.
"I’m a theatre critic, yes sir," the 7-year-old told host Steve Harvey. "I’ve been a theatre critic for about four years." Harvey confessed to not totally understanding the allure of musical theatre: "You’re going along and then some dude just busts out singing. I just don’t know how to handle that!" Armitage responded by breaking out into a tap dance routine. Hey, why not?
As the hilariously adorable appearance went on, Armitage requested to switch roles with Harvey. Watching a kid out-interview a veteran in the entertainment industry is seriously a must-see—if you think you can handle the cute, that is.
He was kidnapped (on Law & Order)
In January 2017, Armitage made his television acting debut on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (like nearly every other actor). Appearing in the Season 18 episode called "Chasing Theo," he played the titular character Theo Lachere, a 6-year-old who comes from a dysfunctional family. According to TV Guide‘s episode synopsis, Theo "vanishes in the middle of a wild party his mother was hosting, and the search for the child prompts Detective Olivia Benson to reflect on her own role as a parent."
Interestingly enough, this appearance wasn’t Armitage’s first time on the SVU set. He previously visited Broadway veteran Raúl Esparza, who starred as Rafael Barba in the series, and hung out with headliner Mariska Hargitay — no big deal. Esparza actually starred in the first Broadway show Armitage saw, Alan Menken’s ill-fated 2012 musical Leap of Faith. "I was about four," the celeb kid told Show Tickets. "Raúl Esparza is actually my godfather. I thought the show was amazing." (Before you check, Armitage didn’t review it.)
His Young Sheldon audition wowed Jim Parsons
Young Sheldon producers Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro, and Jim Parsons were absolutely floored by Armitage’s audition tape. "His mother taped him at his grandmother’s house over Christmas," Parsons told Entertainment Tonight in August 2017. "Chuck and Steve wrote this ridiculously long, complicated monologue," which Armitage apparently aced. "[Steven] and I sent the video to Jim," Lorre explained (via the New York Post). "And we went, ‘I think we just got extremely lucky.’" Parsons told Entertainment Tonight that they saw "so many tapes" that "were all good in different ways," but "Iain’s was mind-blowing in some ways. It’s true. There was a naturalness with it and a spirit with it, and an understanding of what…"
"Now you’re just being kind," Armitage interrupted, to which Parsons insisted, "I am not kind. I’m a nice person but I’m not kind when it comes to those things. I would just not say anything if I didn’t like it." Well, "old" Sheldon has spoken.
He dazzled in Big Little Lies
Months before landing his Big Bang Theory spin-off gig, Armitage won over millions on HBO’s Emmy-winning mini-series Big Little Lies in early 2017. He played Ziggy Chapman, the first grade outcast son of Jane Chapman, portrayed by Shailene Woodley. Led by a brilliant ensemble cast, including stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, Armitage’s emotionally nuanced performance made him a stand-out among big league talents.
"I wasn’t prepared for Iain’s ability to behave so truthfully while saying lines that were scripted for a character," casting director David Rubin told the New York Post. "He’s a natural born actor, with the bonus of being influenced by all those great performances he’s been lucky enough to witness on the New York stage." While discussing his preparation process for the complex role with The New York Times, Armitage said, "My main tool is my imagination. I love playing."
The Emmy-winning drama has since been renewed for a second season, in which Armitage will reprise his role. At the time of this writing, HBO has yet to announce its premiere date. However, Kidman, whose character’s mother-in-law will be played by the legendary Meryl Streep, has already teased the possibility of a third season.
He’s hitting the big screen in style
With a prosperous television career already under his belt by age 9, Armitage made his big screen debut in 2017—three times over.
The child star portrayed Youngest Brian in the Brie Larson-led family drama The Glass Castle. The film boasts an all-star cast that includes Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts. Armitage also appears in I’m Not Here, starring J.K. Simmons and Sebastian Stan. But the young thespian was most excited about his work on Our Souls at Night, a Netflix film produced by and starring Jane Fonda, who plays his grandmother. "I get so happy just saying her name," Armitage told The New York Times. The movie also stars Robert Redford. Armitage told the Los Angeles Times that working with these Oscar-winning legends was an "incredible experience."
When Entertainment Tonight jokingly asked, "Is that in your contracts? ‘I only work with Oscar winners and big time actors?,’" Armitage quipped, "Yeah, it’s actually on page 29, section B. No, I’m just kidding. I’ve just gotten really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really lucky."