The actress and producing executive, 34, said she waited for the right project to inject herself into. Although she didn’t want to stray too far from her role as Penny on the wildly popular CBS sitcom, her patience persisted because soon after she was hard at work getting the ball rolling on “The Flight Attendant.”
The dark drama, which is based on the 2018 novel by Chris Bohjalian, also stars Rosie Perez and Zosia Mamet alongside Cuoco. It went on hiatus at the beginning of March when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Hollywood for months and is set to resume production at the end of August and will make its mark on HBO Max this fall.
Cuoco told a group of reporters on a video call that she had been searching for the perfect book to adapt into an on-screen project “over the past few years.”
“I've been looking at books and stuff to maybe produce or different stories that kind of were interesting to me but nothing excited me,” she said during a virtual Television Critics Association panel on Wednesday. “And honestly, I read one little snippet, a line of the book on Amazon – it just was one sentence and I got this weird chill and I called my team and said, 'Hey, I've got to look at the rights for this book.’ And I was like, 'Oh yeah, I totally read the book.' I had not read the book, but something had told me to jump on this.”
The actress quipped that her team still didn’t know that she hadn’t read the book at the time but said once things got into motion she "read it really fast and thank God I loved it as much as I thought.”
In “The Flight Attendant,” Cuoco plays Cassie Bowden, a heavy-drinking flight attendant who finds herself waking up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed with a dead man and no bearings about what happened.
She said after she won the rights to the book through a bidding war, she brought it to Warner Bros. and pitched the idea.
“I said, ‘I think this is a great character. I think this could be a really great show,” she explained. “And they brought me to [executive producer] Steve [Yockey] and then they brought us to [writer] Greg Berlanti and [producer] Sarah Shechter and it just kept rolling...And I still can't believe we're sitting here talking about it at the TCA.”
While Cuoco maintained she adored her time on “The Big Bang Theory,” her foray into a different genre piqued her interest in a way that she felt she could grow as not just a performer but also a producer.
“I love making people laugh. I've always loved comedy. I love sitcom. I grew up on it. You know, even the 'I Love Lucy's' and obviously starting out on my first series with John Ritter. I just love the art of making someone laugh and not taking yourself too seriously,” she said. “And obviously, I did that for years on the show and loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The Critics Choice Award-winner continued: “This was a great kind of a new path, but it wasn't so far off the path that people are like, 'What is she doing?' There's still that levity and that side of me that got to come out finding Steve and our creative team who really got to learn my voice, my personality over the past few years and putting those Kaley-isms, that I think that was really important.
“But I've loved it. I've loved the drama. I've loved being scared. I've loved running. It's been completely new and different. I've really never done anything like it before, and I completely enjoyed it. But I love sitcoms, too. That's what got me to this point. And it's totally cherished but it's this has been a new ride.”
And while “The Flight Attendant” is a means for Cuoco to test her chops in a genre other than comedy, she raved about her role as the voice of Harley Quinn on the animated DC Universe cartoon of the same name.
"I wasn’t looking for Harley Quinn – that’s been a lovely surprise,” she said. “Peter Rock called me from Warner Bros. and said, ‘We're making this raunchy Harley Quinn animated show – are you interested in it?' And I was like, ‘Yeah, that could be kind of fun.’ And this small little thing and the writers were hilarious. I fell in love with them.”
She pressed: “I had no idea it was going to be as insane and raunchy as it has become. I'm even shocked half the time at the stuff I say, but that has been this enjoyable (experience) that started as a little side gig and turned into something more.”