The Big Bang Theory ran for 12 seasons and became a genuine pop culture sensation. Because of this, many fans think they know all about popular characters such as Penny.
But what about the actor behind your favorite character? As it turns out, Kaley Cuoco is much more than a pretty face, and she has had an absolute rollercoaster ride when it comes to everything from her career to her love life.
Don’t believe it? Keep reading to discover the unknown truth about Kaley Cuoco.
It’s an open secret that acting is a tough industry. Most would-be actors give up and eventually have to snag a day job.
Perhaps that’s what Kaley Cuoco’s mother was worried about. Cuoco knew she wanted to be an actor from a young age, so her mom gave her a simple rule. And as Cuoco told Cosmopolitan, this was the rule: “If you want to do [acting], you have to pick something else, too.”
She ended up choosing tennis, and she was a natural talent. Cuoco regularly played in competitions and even became a regionally ranked amateur!
Eventually, she was a victim of her own success. Tennis was eating up too much of her time and energy, so she left it behind at the age of 16. From this point on, she would focus entirely on acting.
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Kaley’s big break
Cuoco achieved major fame on The Big Bang Theory when she was 22 years old. But the truth is that she had been trying to break out as an actor since she was a child.
She started out in various commercials and then landed a TV role at age seven. In the 1992 movie Quicksand: No Escape, she played the character of Connie Reinhardt. She also had a small role in the 1997 film Picture Perfect. Although her one line ended up cut from the film, she was excited about getting to work with Jennifer Aniston for the part.
Cuoco didn’t have trouble finding work, but nothing served as a “big break” until she was cast in 8 Simple Rules in 2002. The show was originally entitled 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, and Cuoco played the titular daughter Bridget Hennessy. Her parents were played by TV legends John Ritter and Katey Segal.
This show and the role helped Cuoco get some street cred as a good actor with some comedic chops. But the show was canceled after only three seasons due to a combination of low ratings and the tragic passing of John Ritter.
Cuoco took his passing very seriously. She recalls their last interaction, before Ritter even knew he was sick. She told Entertainment Tonight that he told her how much he loved her, gave her a hug, and walked away. Because of this memory, she said that whenever someone mentions Ritter’s name, “I get this chill because I love him so much.”
She got an entirely different kind of chill, though, when she was cast in her next big role.
Becoming a household name
8 Simple Rules was canceled in 2005. There was a chance that Cuoco would fade into obscurity along with that show. But in 2007, she was cast in The Big Bang Theory.
And she ended up being a perfect fit. While some actors worry about peaking early, Cuoco is quite candid about how much she enjoyed this show. In an Entertainment Weekly interview, she said that Penny was “the greatest character I’ll ever play in my whole life, and I’ll never be the same.” After all, it’s the role that helped land her on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
In addition to her personal enjoyment of the role, this series made Kaley Cuoco into a household name. The Big Bang Theory ran for a staggering 12 seasons, and Cuoco (along with her co-stars) made the most out of the show’s increasing success. Starting in the eighth season, she was earning a cool $1 million per episode.
Cuoco is convinced she will never play a role as good as Penny again. While that is debatable, it is entirely possible she will never be on a TV show this successful (and financially rewarding) ever again.
Part of what made Cuoco so famous is her great beauty and charming personality. You might think this would translate to a smooth love life for her. Unfortunately, her road to romantic happiness has been anything but smooth!
At the age of 25, Cuoco was dating former Danzig bassist Josh “Lazie” Resnik. He proposed to her in October 2011. It looked like the two were quite happy, and they soon began preparing a big wedding.
However, when Entertainment Tonight asked about those wedding plans in March 2012, they got a shocking response from Cuoco: “I’m not engaged anymore.”
Cuoco and Resnik broke up, but she soon found love with tennis player Ryan Sweeting. They got engaged after only three months of dating in September 2013. They had an elaborate secret wedding on December 31, 2013, but ended up divorcing two years later. The reason? Cuoco told Cosmpolitan, “The person I ended up with was not the person I originally met.”
Fortunately for Cuoco, the third time is the charm. She met Karl Cook at a horse show in 2016. Hilariously, Cook had no idea she was a famous actor when he asked her out to dinner.
Once more, Cuoco moved very fast when it came to romance. The two got engaged in November 2017 on Cuoco’s 32nd birthday and got married seven months later. The two had an extravagant wedding and even a honeymoon to the Swiss Alps. But their first few years of married life were quite unconventional.
As Cuoco told Access Hollywood, they didn’t actually move in together until 2020. This may seem odd, but Cuoco’s life and career have been anything but ordinary after The Big Bang Theory.
Life after Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory ended its run in May 2019. So, what has life after the series looked like for Kaley Cuoco? On one hand, she hasn’t yet landed a role quite as successful as Penny. On the other hand, she’s been doing a little bit of everything!
Aside from The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco is memorable for her appearances in commercials for Priceline (some of which were filmed alongside Star Trek legend William Shatner). She has also taken to voice acting, with roles in everything from Bratz to Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. But her biggest voice acting gig is the titular role of the Harley Quinn animated series on HBO Max.
Cuoco also blended entertainment and activism with her YouTube show The Great Travel Hack. This was an unconventional travel competition in which two teams raced from Los Angeles to New York. The catch? The winner was not who arrived first but who arrived with the fewest carbon emissions.
Finally, Cuoco has leveraged her success as an actor into a new career in production. She started her own production company in 2017. Her first production, The Flight Attendant (which she also stars in), began airing on HBO Max in 2020.
Cuoco may not believe she’ll ever play a role better than Penny on The Big Bang Theory. But it seems she has found the solution: to create the kinds of roles she wants to play and the kinds of shows she wants to see from the ground up.