In Los Angeles, from a bright room, Kaley Cuoco answers questions via Zoom from a group of international journalists. Attentive and friendly, the actress transmits security and confidence in what she tells about the second season of The Flight Attendantthe HBO Max series with which he tried the impossible: get a new role that was as memorable and emblematic as his Penny from The Big Bang Theory. Something that, against the prognosis of many, she more than achieved by playing the multifaceted Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant with many personal problems and one especially urgent: solving the mystery behind that man who was found murdered in her bed.
The conscious effort of the Californian actress to lovingly distance herself from Penny and take charge of her career by adding the title of producer to that of the performer worked so well that seeing The Flight Attendant it is possible to forget that for more than ten years she played the blonde weakness of the nerds. And yet, to the delight of her fans, it can be said that Penny is still out there and every once in a while Cuoco takes her out to play. Or she runs away. Thus, when in the middle of a thoughtful response to a specific scene of the new episodes, the sound of a cell phone is heard and it turns out that it is hers, the actress blinks, smiles nervously and somewhat irritated as well.
“I got a text,” he breaks off and continues. “But it shouldn’t have come to me. I am silenced. Every time I try it doesn’t work. Does anyone feel the same? All set to ‘Do Not Disturb’ and yet… Ping! I don’t understand it”, she stammers, looking to the side as if looking for Leonard -her husband in fiction-, always patient to explain this kind of thing to her. The situation is not particularly funny, but the reactions of Cuoco, an actress since childhood, reconfirm what the screen always shows about her: is a natural comedian with a remarkable ability to generate laughter and empathy alike. She knows it and that is why, when choosing her first role, post The Big Bang Theory It was clear to him that he had to take risks and get out of his comfort zone.
“A few years ago I found this book [se refiere a la novela de Chris A. Bohjalian en la que está basada la serie] that I was interested in producing and starring and I knew that if it didn’t work out it would be my fault, my absolute responsibility. And that feeling continues in this second season. This is my baby and if he goes down, I go down with him”, Says the actress and, although it sounds somewhat exaggerated, the truth is that she is right. The history of American TV is full of performers who participated in a successful series and then could not detach themselves from that popularity for the rest of their career.
In his case, that fate seems to have been avoided thanks to the good public and critical reception that the first season of The Flight Attendant a comedy with police intrigue and flashes of family drama that came right at the beginning of the pandemic, when getting on a plane to some exotic destination without sanitary protocols was something that could only happen in fiction and that the public embraced with aspirational delight.
The combination of a gripping story, a compelling character, and a nimble, fresh staging has resulted in nine Emmy nominations – including Best Comedy and Best Actress in a Comedy for Cuoco – and an eight-episode second season available weekly on HBOMax. “I was one of the few people who suggested that it would be better not to do a second season. Better not touch what went so well on the first try and move on. The truth is that I was nervous because I didn’t know how we would improve the first one. But they convinced me that it was worth a try and here we are”, says the actress.
That “here” that Cuoco refers to is Cassie living in Los Angeles, with a year of sobriety, a new boyfriend and mixing her job as a flight attendant with that of a part-time CIA agent. Of course, not everything is what it seems in the life of the woman that some of her colleagues describe as “an artist of lies.”
“Cassie had a drinking problem in season one and she still has it in season two. She though she acts like she has a new life in California, going to Alcoholics Anonymous and having turned the page. But the truth is that she soon realizes that she is lying to everyone and, especially, to herself and that those lies have short legs. She believed that leaving her conflicts behind would be easy, like turning the light on and off, and what we will see in this season is that her life will have to turn upside down for that real and profound change to occur.”, Details the actress who, together with Steve Yockey, creator of the program, and his team of writers wondered how they would do to replicate the memorable narrative resource of the first episodes that allowed Cassie to return again and again to the fateful room in Bangkok and had long conversations with her murdered lover.
The solution they found, although ideal for the development of the plot, Cuoco explains, I would not recommend it to any colleague. “We didn’t want to lose that tool, but we didn’t want to do the same thing over again, and we came to the conclusion that this time Cassie had to face herself, take charge of who she is and the parts of herself that she hates and loves, but it just can’t be. What I didn’t realize was that it would be up to me to play all those versions of the character. Those scenes involved a lot of preparation and rehearsal and that’s not my style. I usually improvise and change from take to take, but in this case it was not possible. It was a different and good experience, but very difficult. Some days I had to play five different Cassies.. My doubles and even my sister helped me for some of the most complicated sequences where they talked to each other, ”says Cuoco, who unknowingly applied the same recipe as Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight, where his brother helped him by embodying one of the multiple personalities of his character.
Of course, beyond the technical challenges of the new episodes, from the beginning of the series one of the concerns of the actress and producer was the tone of the story they wanted to tell. A story that began as a black comedy and little by little hinted that behind the escapes of the main character was hiding a world of pain that he had spent years trying to numb with any drink and substance he had at hand. In the second season, the task of interpreting that dramatic arc at times heartbreaking and finding the right balance between humor and tragedy continues to be a tightrope walk that Cuoco goes through without a net and with extraordinary results..
“I always knew what the show needed to be. I knew it would include my kind of humor, but also more dramatic scenes. In the two seasons, every sequence I did was testing between two extremes: either super comedic in the Lucille Ball style and in the next take I tried to give it another tone and I cried nonstop. I didn’t know which of the two was going to work better in the puzzle of the plot. In fact, I think if we put our mind to it we could release a version of The Flight Attendant completely comical and another very dramatic. Specific, what we got was fiction that makes you laugh and very quickly it can go to a darker side and before you dive into that it jumps into something funny or quirky. I think that’s what makes it so special. For me, in particular, it allows me to try new things and experience all facets of what it means to be an actor.Cuoco enthuses.
Immediately, as if she had heard herself being too serious or pretentious, she laughs a little at her and even plays with the possibility that this year she has enough material to compete in the Emmys in both the comedy and drama categories. “And in documentaries too”, she risks. We will have to see the new episodes of the entertaining The Flight Attendant to find out exactly what you mean.
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Kaley Cuoco: the enormous challenge behind The Flight Attendant and why Penny, her character in The Big Bang Theory, does not abandon her completely