WHEN Kaley Cuoco first read early reviews of her new TV thriller, The Flight Attendant — shooting down the series for its lightness of being — the Big Bang Theory favourite had to laugh.
Making her first series since spending 12 seasons years as good girl Penny in the nerd central sitcom, Cuoco easily finds her feet again on screen as a shambolic air hostess, who gets drunk, sleeps with a passenger … then wakes up with a dead body on her hands.
With an ensemble cast including veteran actor Rosie Perez and Girls star Sosia Mamet, this was always going to tap into the comedic talents of its female leads.
So when one US critic tried to dismiss the drama for its lack of intensity — a deliberate production style — Cuoco claims the joke was on him.
“That’s why we loved it,” she tells News Corp Australia. “We laughed at that [review] because I’m like, ‘that’s what it is.’”
Indeed, if it’s dark Scandi noir you’re expecting, this fast-paced sassy sex thriller will have missed the mark.
But as Cuoco explains, producers deliberately pitched the series with a lighter tone — perfect in the time of a pandemic, she says.
“We’re literally living those dark times,” she explains. “That’s why I love the show. Yes, we obviously have some dark things happen, but there is levity. We’re not trying to, like, change the world. We’re just trying to entertain you.
“There are great episodes (that) just let you have a little bit of fun and maybe laugh a little bit, dare I say, laugh a little bit at a drama. That’s all I want to do. I just want to entertain.”
In her first outing as executive producer, Cuoco snapped up screen rights to the Chris Bohjalian book three years ago; but argues The Flight Attendant’s balance between drama and comedy makes it perfect for today’s audience.
Even the unusual release schedule is somehow entirely 2020, the year of binge-watching — the first three episodes drop together as a triple-episode premiere on BINGE today, to be followed by double episodes weekly until the season finale on 17 December.
However despite Cuoco’s very apparent urge to keep people entertained during the time of coronavirus, she’s certainly not trying to play down the dramatic elements of The Flight Attendant.
“You know, I think I feel like if we start thinking that way, we might really start going a little bit crazy. At the end of the day, audiences still love the same TV they loved before. We’re just watching a lot more of it now and there’s more opportunity to make more content.”
She adds: “Of course, I have to do what’s right for me and kind of what feels right. And, you know, after Big Bang, I wasn’t specifically looking for anything that was the opposite of Big Bang or going to a drama or whatever. This project just spoke to me. It felt right. And the character felt right.
“And the best part about it, I got to play so many different emotions with it. It was like almost an audition for the world to be like, ‘I can do more than make you laugh, you know?’ So it was great. It felt so good.
“And to be part of it from the beginning,” she says, “this has been really blood, sweat and tears. So nothing anyone can say can get me down because we finished it and we are like damn proud of that.”
* The Flight Attendant is streaming now on BINGE.