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The Flight Attendant's Kaley Cuoco Is Enjoying the Season 2 Rollercoaster as Much as Fans Are

She reveals the secret to playing multiple Cassies

Scott Huver

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the second season of The Flight Attendant. Read at your own risk!]

Turns out Kaley Cuoco was just as unsure as you if she and her creative team could concoct a second season of her surprise hit HBO Max series The Flight Attendant from scratch, especially without the benefit of any additional novels featuring Cassie Bowden to draw from – and she was just as surprised when they pulled it off.

"No one is as shocked as I am," Cuoco told TV Guide. "Dude, I was so freaking nervous! I feel like I can finally take a breath after these months of being so paranoid about how this was going to go down. I'm like, 'How can we do it better?' But I think we did."

That audiences have responded so enthusiastically to both seasons of the fast-paced mystery/dramedy feels like a major victory for the actress – who despite having enjoyed phenomenal success and popular during her 12-year run on The Big Bang Theory – largely because she handpicked the project herself and as a fledging executive producer has exerted a strong degree of creative control over the material's tone, storytelling style, and sense of humor.

As the second season takes surprising turns at its midpoint and further secrets are exposed, Cuoco joined TV Guide to dig into the series' second act success with both critics and audiences, following her own instincts to keep the show true to her vision while still pushing her into unexpected challenges, and how, even after nearly two decades of prosperity in Hollywood, she feels like the best days are still ahead of her.

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant


You were nervous when it came to figuring out the second season. When did you feel that you and the showrunners were on the right track in coming up with a story that was going to be right in the same creative strike zone as Season 1?
Kaley Cuoco: We really shot even bigger. I mean, this season is bigger and better. and Season 1 was huge, but this was even bigger. And so, we were taking so many big swings and all that stuff in the Mind Palace and the multiple Cassies. I was so busy with that sort of stuff that I didn't have a lot of time to think what it was actually going to look like. If I had a moment to breathe, I would think, "Oh, God, what the hell are we doing? Are we insane?" Like, "We've gone too far."

And then I just kept believing. I'm like, "No – we have this core audience, they're going to love this. They're going to love this!" And I was so hopeful that ... I'm human and I was definitely nervous to not do it as well as we did Season 1, so to see this reaction from the fans and the reviews, I can't believe it – I really truly mean that. I cannot believe it.

Tell me about out wrapping your head around the whole splintered personalities aspect and expressing that through multiple Cassies, and figuring out how each Cassie was going to be. Take me into the process of working all that out.
Cuoco: I went into it thinking, "Oh, this is going to be so easy and so simple", and like, "Yeah, no problem." It wasn't about playing the five Cassies, it was really about the technicality of shooting it. It was so intense. And even our director, Silver [Tree], kept saying, "I mean, this is rocket science!" And it really was.

And the hardest part for me – I'm such an in-the-moment actor. I'm very reactive, I'm not a big preparer. I don't do anything twice the same. And this makes you have to repeat yourself. I had to mimic my moves, and then when we would commit to one of the Cassies and I'd become a different Cassie, I had to mimic the moves that my stunt double did. So it was very hard to be authentic. It was very different for me because I'm always doing such different takes. So it was very, very hard for me to kind of wrap my brain around that type of shooting. It's definitely not my style, and I definitely don't want to do it again!

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Along with the technical challenge of doing it all, was there a Cassie that was maybe more fun to play, and one that was maybe the bigger challenge to figure out?
Cuoco: I mean, Gold Dress Cassie is always fun...I loved playing all of them. It was important to remember, it's not a woman with multiple personalities, it's just these different aspects of her personality that she hates. And so they're all coming back to haunt her, and I'm like, "Okay, you need to make this as interesting as impossible. I need to find something specific about each of these personalities and make sure they're clear and interesting and fun to watch."

You obviously know comedy backwards and forwards, and you get to do a lot of that, but you also always keep your eyes on the prize for the dramatic stakes. Tell me about figuring out your approach and knowing when you can kind of do the light touch, and when you need to bear down on the drama?
Cuoco: Well, it's interesting: obviously finding that tone Season 1 was the biggest challenge of our show, because it was just that tightrope of comedy, drama, what are we doing? Am I crying? Am I laughing? I want to do all the things, all the feels in one show. And it was hard. It was a challenge.

So once we kind of created our own tone, this season, these episodes got so dark that I was the producer that kept saying, "Find the comedy take. We need the comedy." We were losing a lot of comedy. And when we went back and we were putting these episodes together – because I would give so many different takes: I'd give 10 comedic takes;10 dramatic takes; 10 psycho takes; 10 calm takes – I wanted to sure we had everything because, again, we're not clear in how we're going to kind of fit this puzzle together.

But by the end, it started to get pretty dark. And I kept having to remind myself and our team, this is still a comedy. And so, we started sprinkling in some of my funnier takes with this quicker path, and it just works. It was so good, and it still got across the anxiety and the fear. And then you'd kind of twinkle in a little joke here and there, because you're still on that adventure and you're still clutching your seat. Like, it is a ride. It doesn't stop. It's so fast. And that was my other thing: I want this show to be fast and quick-moving and the music to keep you on the edge of your seat. And so, that enabled us to sprinkle in those comedic moments, which mean the world to me. Because at the end of the day, it is a comedy.

What's also interesting is, when you're playing her not in her head, we're seeing very quickly that she's not the Cassie that we meet at the beginning of the show. There's a lot more going on. Tell me about doling that out, that further breakdown of who Cassie really is at the core right now.
Cuoco: We open this season on we call it "the pink cloud," and she looks so happy and she looks so good. And she's got this great relationship and a new home and all these wonderful things, and life looks really good, but I was very aware of certain scenes and certain takes to give a little, tiny twinge, for the fans to see, "Uh-oh, did they notice it? Did they see that little twinkle in her eye? Did they see that ounce of guilt? Is she lying? What's going on?" Obviously, we didn't want to give anything away about that, but it's a little too good to be true out the gate.

And so there were moments, I don't know if you would pick up on them, but even when people would comment on her sobriety or congratulate her, there's an ounce of twinge that you see, almost a blink of an eye of like, "She can't really accept it because she knows she's lying to herself." And it's only about time, and the struggle gets more real as the episodes go on. And of course, by Episode 5, which is my favorite episode, that is the time where she literally hits rock bottom. And she relaxes and she admits to that she has not been clean and she's been lying to herself. And it's heartbreaking, and then she has to face her family.

And then I love Episode 6, with her brother and Sharon Stone. It's so beautiful and so heart-wrenching, because sobriety is a lifelong process and Cassie just wants it to be, "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good", and trying to tell the world and herself that she's fixed. You're never fixed. You choose every day not to drink. You choose every day to make these decisions, and she's still learning that. And it's so heartbreaking, but we earn that moment. Because I think I pushed for the comedy early in these episodes, we earned that downfall and that tragedy that we see in five and six, which are my favorite episodes.

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant

Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant


Once you guys realized how big a hit this was and that there was going to be more life to Cassie, what got you excited about being this character's custodian for at least one more season, and then possibly even a longer future after that?
Cuoco: Yeah, it always was such a single season to me, and when it did as well as it did – which, again, was so shocking and just amazing; I was hoping it would do okay, and it ended up doing so well – it was like, people love these characters. And I'm not even talking about me. We've got such an unbelievable cast, and people love the Max and Ani, and the Rosie Perez storyline and all these different characters that have come in.

And this year we've even upped the ante and we have so many more people, I felt like we could do another one. And once I started hearing the storylines and what the writers were coming up with, I was very cautious; I didn't want this to become a CIA show. That's not the show I want to do. And I said, "Look. She's not all of a sudden an agent. She's not all of a sudden doing this and that. As long as we keep the authenticity of what this show is, which is really about heart, and this woman just literally trying to find and live her life, and you want to add in some of that stuff on the side, I'd be down for that."

And they really put some great stuff together. Then obviously, the backdrops of Berlin and Iceland, we went huge. And it's so beautiful to look at. And it's entertaining. At the end of the day, that's all I want to do. I want to entertain people for an hour and I hope they enjoy it, and that's why I do what I do.

Tell me what it's meant to have such a big amount of your own creative fingerprints on this project, not just as number one on the call sheet, but as a producer and having that kind of creative input and to use your instincts for the big picture, not just your performance.
Cuoco: Yeah. It's been amazing, I've been able to spread my wings in such a different way. Almost, there's a sad part. I feel sad because I feel like I came so late to the game with this whole producing thing. And the other side of it is, I feel good that it started with The Flight Attendant and I learned so much. To be able to put my spin on it and realize that ... And then when I watch the show and I go, "Oh, that was my pitch!" Like, "That was my idea". You feel so: Oh! My! God! You're actually helping literally produce this project alongside an incredible group of people. But you feel so accomplished in that it's like my baby. I mean, I found this, I think it's been five years now, and it's been like my baby this whole time.

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I think you and I have been having these conversations since you were about 18 years old. Throughout, you've obviously seen a lot of success, but how do you feel right now at this point in your career, as you're able to take a step back for a minute and look at the landscape and consider what's still ahead for you? Tell me where you are right now.
Cuoco: I feel unbelievable. To go from Big Bang for 12 years, I mean, an unbelievable chunk of my life, and be kind of known for that, which I was thrilled about – I loved my experience there. And then to find Flight Attendant and to create it from the ground up, and for it to be a success, Big Bang Theory is almost a distant memory, which is unheard of for that to happen. And I mean that in the nicest way! It's just, people are not talking about Big Bang anymore, they're talking about Flight Attendant.

Last year, during award season, they said I was a newcomer. And it was such a funny, incredible thing to hear, because in their eyes I was. Like, I was reborn in this business, and I'm on a totally new path, and all of my peers and all of these people have welcomed me with open arms. And there is no stopping me now.

I'll close with my silliest question: did ever try, in your own life, adopting Cassie's signature ringtone?
Cuoco: No, I'm so sick of that ringtone! I do not want to hear it anymore. I hate it! Also, the reason why I like it is because I hate it so much. And when it rings at the most inopportune times, you want to just slap Cassie and be like, "Change your freaking ring tone!" That's why I ended up leaving it, because I said, "Oh, it annoys me and it's going to annoy everyone", and I love that.

The Flight Attendant Season 2 episodes premiere every Thursday.