Kaley Cuoco explains why The Big Bang Theory ending freaked her out. The actress played the character Penny for 12 years in the sitcom until it wrapped its run in 2019.
Before Amy and Bernie dated Sheldon and Howard and became mainstays of the show, Penny was the only female main character in the sitcom. An aspiring actress who moved to Los Angeles to followed her dreams, her arc in the show was a roller coaster ride — both personally and professionally. In the end, she gave up acting and became a pharmaceutical representative, and married Leonard. At the end of The Big Bang Theory, she was revealed to be pregnant despite initially insisting that she didn’t want to have kids. As a primary member of the cast of one of the most popular shows ever, Cuoco and her co-stars had a lucrative pay packet for doing the CBS sitcom. That was part of the reason why she started to worry when it really started to sink in that the series was ending.
Recently appearing on The One Show (via Digital Spy), Cuoco opened up about this realization and candidly revealed how The Big Bang Theory ending made her worried about leaving the show behind. That not only included her $1 million per episode salary, but also the experience of working with the same cast and crew that she’s known for over a decade.
“Look, the show is so popular. When I started freaking out about the comparisons there would be or what my next project would be, I realized you can’t compare anything to Big Bang.”
“As its own entity, I will never have that again. I won’t have that cast again, the money, the schedule, 12 years… I mean, all of it was insane.
“I was like, OK, if I can accept that nothing will compare to that – I can’t control what other people are gonna say about me – I knew my next project was gonna be for me and I was gonna leave that in its own place, if that makes sense.”
Despite massive ratings, CBS had to cancel The Big Bang Theory when Jim Parsons decided to exit the series. The actor came to the decision when he realized that not only did he want to do other things outside of playing Sheldon, they’d also done everything they could with the character. By the end of its run, the socially-inept genius was married to Amy and had just won the Nobel Prize in Physics. In a separate interview, Cuoco recalled how she learned that The Big Bang Theory was wrapping up, and admitted that at first, she couldn’t believe what Parsons wanted to do. It turns out, she and Johnny Galecki had decided that they still really wanted to return for season 13 but without Sheldon, that’s just not possible.
As difficult as leaving The Big Bang Theory was for Cuoco, she’s thriving with her new endeavor, producing and starring in HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant which was received great reviews capped off by a Golden Globe nomination. The show has been greenlit for a second season, meaning that while the actress may not have the same high pay grade she had with her old job, she’ll continue to be occupied for the next couple of years.