“Big Bang”, “Harley Quinn” star Kaley Cuoco has more to prove

Kaley Cuoco started her last birthday in a rooftop pool with Michiel Huisman, surrounded by floating candles, champagne flutes and an expansive view of Bangkok, Thailand. She was there for the pilot of “The Flight Attendant,” her first live-action role since the end of “The Big Bang Theory” and the project their production company launched.

This year it celebrates its 35th birthday as an ambitious limited series – and that’s only Finished a few weeks agoAfter a month-long hiatus from COVID-19, the first three episodes will premiere on November 26th on HBO Max.

“To be honest, this is the best present ever. I said to the crew as we were packing up, “I love you guys, and I really hope it won’t take you a year to do eight episodes ever again!” She laughed to The Times.

“Some people will love it, others will hate it – I know this will happen. My whole career has prepared me for it. But I love TV, I grew up watching TV. And I can go to bed because I know I did the best show possible, and that excites me. ”

Rosie Perez is part of the cast of Kaley Cuoco’s “The Flight Attendant”.

(HBO Max)

“The Flight Attendant” combines the premise of Chris Bohjalian’s bestseller – in which Cassie (Cuoco), a thirty-year-old stewardess who loves alcohol and adventure and wakes up next to a bloody corpse and has no idea how it got there – with Slick , Retro aesthetic and fast-paced dark comedy.

By juxtaposing glamorous international backdrops with naturalistic dialogue, “The Flight Attendant” succeeds in escaping in an entertaining way as well as being refreshingly comprehensible. That goes even for his most novel imagination, in which Cassie pieces together what happened by asking the dead himself (a deliciously dead Huisman to say the least).

“Huge chunks of the book are set in Cassie’s head as she wonders: What happened? What have I done? How am I the type of person that can make this happen? Said co-showrunner and headwriter Steve Yockey, a playwright and former Supernatural writer-producer.

“But it’s not fun to see someone think on the screen. So we got the idea that whenever she mentally returns to that moment of sheer panic and horror to try to make sense of it, [Huisman] acts pretty much as their conscience. She doesn’t enjoy it very much, but the humor makes her fun to see. ”

This narrative device requires some lifting of disbelief, but “it makes the audience understand their point of view, as unfortunately female characters get a lot more judgment than males when it comes to the thriller genre,” said Susanna Fogel, who directed The first two episodes.

“A big part of Kaley’s magic has always been that she really looks like the girl next door,” she continued. “That’s why it’s important for Cassie to feel like a normal person who just happens to be in this extreme situation. And instead of just copying them off, you still like them and take root for them, even if their character doesn’t take responsibility for some things or do the right thing, or be completely honest with themselves and other people. ”

Michiel Huisman plays Kaley Cuoco’s unfortunate date on “The Flight Attendant”.

(HBO Max)

On and off the screen, “The Flight Attendant” is new territory for the serial sitcom star. As Cassie continues to question her memory of that fateful night, she discovers trauma she’s been repressing under layers of alcohol for years. It’s a long-awaited opportunity for Cuoco, whose career calls for a hiatus for the live audience, to laugh at CBS ‘”Big Bang” and ABC’s “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter” – to show off her dramatic skills to demonstrate.

“It was an amazing experience to go from 12 years of such goofy, funny comedy to something like this,” she explained. “In the later episodes, I’m very raw, crying with no makeup on, and completely collapsing. I didn’t think anyone would give me this opportunity so I felt like I had to do the project myself and prove that this is actually the kind of work I want to do. ”

Cuoco launched Yes, Norman Productions, named after their first rescue dogin recent years from “Big Bang” at the insistence of Warner Bros. Television. Trying to do this on a project that would require filming in multiple countries was apparently very trademarked for the actress.

“I told them, ‘Guys, I know it’s massive, but we have to do it that way. We can’t shoot this on a sound stage. I mean, it’s called ‘The Flight Attendant’, for God’s sake, you know? “She remembered the pitching show that was produced with Greg Berlantis Schindel Berlanti Productions. “You weren’t surprised. You already knew: when I do something, I am all or nothing. ”

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise to take the episodes out of action as the cast and crew wrapped up in Bangkok and Rome prior to the advent of COVID-19 resulted in government-mandated shutdowns. Cuoco spent those first few months settling in their new home in Hidden Hills with her husband, rider Karl Cook, their seven rescue dogs, and numerous goats, pigs, rabbits, and horses. (And yes, she found herself again enjoy alcohol more often: “Anything but champagne; it gives me a headache. ”)

Filmed Koch
Cuoco filmed “The Flight Attendant” on location in Bangkok (picture) and Rome before COVID-19 was switched off.

(HBO Max)

But Cuoco, who has been on the set since she was 5, also got to know the newly discovered art of remote post-production. Her favorite part: the conversations (“I honestly can’t tell you how many”) about the special tone of the show, the brisk pace and even the placement of the opening credits.

“I bow to everyone who does something because it’s the hardest part,” she said. “Actors, we just do our thing and watch it many months later. But as a producer, I learn so much and I really love it. I love to have a voice and an opinion about things that I love so much about TV but that I’ve never been able to share. ”

As one of the first productions to resume with pandemic safety precautions – face masks and shields tested several times a week – the series reduced the number of extras and crew and ended the remaining four weeks of shooting in New York. (Many of these scenes were eventually filmed on a clay stage, on which interiors for bars and apartments were built to reduce filming.)

Cuoco was both at the helm of the call sheet and as producer, prevailing with her signature sunny mood and a palpable sense of trust regarding her pandemic protocols. “We really felt that since we were one of the first shows we had a lot of eyes on us and we wanted to make sure we got every step right,” she said. “I knew I had to show leadership because everyone who came back – I mean, that sounds dramatic, but really – was risking their life to work.”

Kaley Cuoco amid the cast of the hit CBS sitcom
Kaley Cuoco, center, in the cast of the hit CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”.

(Michael Yarish / Associated Press)

Cuoco is already working on her next project with “The Flight Attendant”: an Apple TV + comedy series with live action called “America’s Sweetheart”. It is from the makers of the Warner Bros. animated series “Harley Quinn,” which she will continue to pronounce in the coming third season.

She and Chuck Lorre Productions, senior vice president of her production company, Chuck Lorre Productions alum Suzanne McCormick, also actively read from writers from all backgrounds. A model they have reinforced as systemic racism in numerous industries, including entertainment, has always been under the microscope. Protests over racial injustice erupted this spring. . “I have had many opportunities in my life and career, and my goal is to give someone else from every area of ​​life the same opportunity,” said Cuoco.

As The Flight Attendant’s Thanksgiving premiere approaches, Cuoco is curious to see if audiences will welcome her new roles as both a dramatic actress and a practical producer. Will enough of this record viewership “Big Bang” migrate to this premium streaming service and tune in, especially as Cuoco is hoping for a renewal of the second season?

“That experience – the cast, the time spent together, the pay, the ratings – was insane, it was unheard of,” she said as she played Penny on “Big Bang.” “It was special and will be part of my heart for the rest of my life. Nothing will ever compare to it, and I think knowing that it helps me separate what I am doing now, which is so different and new.

“I’m a little nervous, because how can I not be a little nervous of course? People have seen me in a certain way for a very long time, ”she continued. “But I’m excited for people to see this because I mean we ended this thing in the middle of a pandemic. That alone deserves a cheer right there. ”

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