Exclusive: 'The Big Bang Theory' star Kaley Cuoco goes to dark places with 'The Flight Attendant'

'The Flight Attendant' is new territory for the serial sitcom star as it explores a woman who is ultimately a functioning alcoholic. Photos: HBO Asia

It’s clear actress Kaley Cuoco – best known for playing Penny in sitcom The Big Bang Theory for 12 seasons – is excited about her new role, that of a producer. She doubles as the lead star and an executive producer in the series The Flight Attendant.

“As an actor, I do my job, then I see the product six months or a year later... But all that in between, is where the magic is, you know, ” the 35-year-old American star informs StarLifestyle during a video conference with a group of Asian journalists.

“All the editing, the producing, and putting stuff together, that’s really where the hard work is. I have such a deep appreciation for everything that goes on from wrap to air.

“It was really great to be able to have an opinion and to kind of form this character into what I wanted it to be. I had such a vision for it and I had a team that really helped me bring that to life.”

In 2017, Cuoco founded the production company Yes, Norman Productions, and the same year she optioned the rights to the novel The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian.

On Nov 26,2020, an eight-episode series based on that bestseller premiered on HBO GO with its first three episodes.

But getting from point A to point B was made even harder as the production was shut down in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic, after the series had filmed five of its eight episodes.

And Cuoco – as the person in charge – had a lot of conversations with various parties to figure out how the production could resume with the safety protocols in place.

“We were actually one of the first shows in New York to return. So, we kind of wrote the rule book (on safety protocols and shooting with lesser people) and other shows took our book and what we did, which was amazing and very complimentary.

“Things looked quite different from March to August... we had only a handful of extras, so we just kept redressing them, putting new wigs on them, mixing and matching... and hope nobody knows, ” she elaborates with a laugh.

“We did all in trying to really do the right thing, and we ended up with a healthy end to our show, so we’re very proud of that.”

Kaley Cuoco (left) and Michiel Huisman in a scene from 'The Flight Attendant'. Kaley Cuoco (left) and Michiel Huisman in a scene from 'The Flight Attendant'.

The Flight Attendant centres on Cuoco’s character, a flight attendant named Cassie Bowden who wakes up at a hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand, with a dead man next to her.

Worse, she has no idea how she ended up in that situation as her memory is fuzzy from too much drinking. As Cassie tries to figure out what happened, she discovers a couple of things about herself.

A narrative device used in the series shows Cassie piecing the night she forgot by mentally going back to the crime scene and conversing with the dead guy (a delightful Michiel Huisman), which is both dramatic and quite funny.

In that sense, The Flight Attendant is perhaps best described as a dark thriller with comedic overtones and something that is of a challenge to maintain as an actress and a producer.

Cuoco admits with a laugh: “You would think (for) my first project post-Big Bang, I would have chosen a clearer tone project. But no, I decided to find one that the tone was all over the place.

“As an actor, knowing now the behind the scenes and knowing how difficult the tone was, it definitely made me rethink a lot of how I was doing things.

“Because we were so unsure (of how) we were going to edit it, I would give five different reads: we’re doing the funny thing, this is the loud crazy Cassie, like every time I would do it 10 different ways.

“So, by the time we got to the editing floor, we would kind of mix and match. Because the tone is not so clear, I wanted to make sure we had a bunch of options. But it was not easy.”

Kaley Cuoco and Rosie Perez play flight attendants in the show. Kaley Cuoco and Rosie Perez play flight attendants in the show.

Fortunately, Cuoco has years of experience in showbiz to counter any new hurdles in her field.

She practically grew up on TV and film sets, having debuted in the 1995 film Virtuosity. She had many minor gigs before getting her breakthrough role in the series 8 Simple Rules in her teens.

She has also starred in the final season of Charmed (2005) before tackling the role of Penny in The Big Bang Theory. In between, she worked on a number of films.

Cuoco says she truly loves acting and the fact that she’s living the dream, and she feels lucky.

“I just want to keep telling these stories and showing different ranges and different sides of my acting, ” she shares.

At the same time, she states that her company is looking into a few projects where she just works from behind the scene as a producer.

“I want to kind of take over the producing world and tell stories that maybe people haven’t told, from all the different backgrounds, diversities.

“It’s important that we represent awesome and complicated women with true life issues. That’s kind of what our company is about. And it actually started with The Flight Attendant.

“This, obviously isn’t based on a real woman, but these are the type of stories I want to bring to television.

“I have an opportunity to do that so I’m very excited, ” mentions Cuoco, smiling.

The Flight Attendant is available on HBO GO today.

Watch Kayley Cuoco in the brand new HBO GO drama on the latest in Smart TV at discounted prices using Lazada Voucher

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