Meet Melanie Lynskey, the Actress Playing Professor Ericson in 'Young Sheldon'

Melanie Lynskey portrays the free-spirited philosophy teacher on 'Young Sheldon.' The talented actress made her debut in Season 3 of the show.

Leila Kozma - Author

Apr. 8 2021, Updated 1:25 p.m. ET

'Young Sheldon' actress Melanie Lynskey
Source: Getty

As a Season 12 episode of The Big Bang Theory reveals, Sheldon Cooper's thinking was likely influenced by the work of certain philosophers, including the pioneer of metaphysics, René Descartes. 

In "The VCR Illumination," Sheldon talks about the driving force of Descartes's philosophical inquiries: doubt. As a recent episode of Young Sheldon reveals, however, Sheldon's early encounters with philosophy were mixed. So, who was his first philosophy teacher? Why didn't they get on?

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Actress Melanie Lynskey plays Sheldon's philosophy teacher in 'Young Sheldon.'

As a recent episode of Young Sheldon, titled "A Philosophy Class and Worms That Can Chase You" reveals, one of the first classes Sheldon (Iain Armitage) attended at East Texas Tech was philosophy. 

As a child prodigy with a voracious interest in everything science-related, he struggled to see value in the subject at first — which created some friction between him and his free-spirited philosophy teacher, Professor Ericson (Melanie Lynskey). 

philosophy teacher on young sheldon
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In a crucial scene of the episode, Professor Ericson presses Sheldon to engage in a key question that has long divided empiricists and rationalists — the role sensory data plays in a philosophical inquiry. 

Professor Ericson begins the class by talking about Sun Tzu, a Chinese philosopher who thought that it was possible that he was just a butterfly dreaming that he exists.

Flabbergasted by the proposition, Sheldon immediately latches onto the subject, countering the professor's claims by arguing that she has already referred to Sun Tzu as a philosopher — therefore he couldn't have been a butterfly. 

In response, Professor Ericson shares her past experiences with watching the drummer of The Grateful Dead turn into a tap-dancing walrus and float away, indicating that her altered state of mind allowed her to see things that weren't necessarily there. 

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Before 'Young Sheldon,' Melanie appeared in shows like 'Two and a Half Men.'

"A Philosophy Class and Worms That Can Chase You" marked Melanie's first appearance on Young Sheldon. She is also credited on another episode, "An Existential Crisis and a Bear That Makes Bubbles." An experienced Chuck Lorre collaborator, she previously played Rose, Charlie's not-so-secret admirer, on Two and a Half Men.  

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Melanie also appeared in hit movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, where she played Aunt Helen, and Up in the Air, where she was cast in Julie Bingham's role. She also starred in TV shows like House and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 

philosophy teacher on young sheldon
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Melanie and her fiancé, Jason Ritter, welcomed their first daughter in December 2018.

Melanie and her fiancé, Jason Ritter, welcomed their first child, a baby girl, in December 2018.

A notoriously private person, Melanie tends to avoid referring to her daughter with her first name. She did, however, briefly talk about the ups and downs of continuing to work as an actress while tending to a baby in a recent interview with The A.V. Club.

Catch new episodes of Young Sheldon every Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. 

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