Actress Kaley Cuoco is best known for her role as Penny on the hit CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. What has Kaley been up to since the show ended in 2019?
Cuoco was born on November 30th, 1985 to parents Gary Carmine Cuoco, a realtor, and Layne Ann Cuoco, a homemaker. She was raised in Camarillo, California alongside her younger sister Briana, who is most well known for her singing and songwriting career and appearance on season 5 of The Voice, as well as her part-time acting career.
In her younger years, Cuoco was an aspiring and talented tennis player. She took up the sport when she was just 3 years old, but stopped playing to pursue a career in acting.
Cuoco was home-schooled where she completed her years of schooling and received her high school degree at just 16 years old.
Cuoco started her acting career early, with her first role as Connie Reinhardt in the 1992 thriller Quicksand: No Escape. She then booked some small roles on shows like My So-Called Life and Northern Exposure.
In 1995 she appeared in the sci-fi film Virtuosity. She continued booking smaller roles in shows and movies like Ladies Man, Can’t be Heaven, Crimes of Fashion, and even voice acting in two of the Bratz movies of the early 2000’s.
Her big breakout role was that of Bridget Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules. Some of her other more memorable roles were her voice acting as Brandy Harrington on the animated Disney Channel series Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, the role of Billie Jenkins on the television series Charmed, and of course, Penny on The Big Bang Theory.
The Big Bang Theory
Her most widely recognized role is that of Penny on The Big Bang Theory, a Cheesecake Factory employee and aspiring actress who lives across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard.
While her character is seen as significantly less intelligent than her male counterparts, she makes up for it with an extremely outgoing and social attitude.
Cuoco’s character has a vibrant personality on the show, which sets her apart from the rest of her male co stars, who are all known for their high levels of intelligence.
The character’s contrast to the rest of the group creates a sort of balance within. Her lack of knowledge or organizational skills are made up for in pop culture references, street smarts, and social skills.
As the series continued, it was noticeable that Penny began assimilating with the rest of the gang, showing more “nerdy” traits and comments.
Penny is the primary love interest of Leonard in the show, and the two end up engaged and married towards the end of the series. However, before this, Penny is known to have been in quite a few relationships throughout the series.
In one episode, Sheldon calculates that she has had a little under 200 romantic partners, and Amy even asks Penny if she considers herself a slut.
Behind the Role of Penny
While it may seem hard picturing anyone else but Cuoco playing the role of Penny on the show, she wasn’t the original choice for the role.
In the original, unaired pilot of the show the female lead character was depicted very differently than the Penny we all know and love. She was called Katie, and the writers pictured her as a tough, resilient woman with a more vulnerable side once she opened up.
Test audiences did not appreciate this concept for the female lead and reacted negatively, stating that the character was too ‘mean.’
The writers shifted gears and aimed towards a softer, much more Cuoco suited character, which eventually came to be Penny.
Cuoco received a Satellite Award, a Critics’ Choice Award, and two People’s Choice Awards for her portrayal of the character Penny.
What is Kaley Cuoco up to now?
Today, Cuoco can still be found acting in both television and film, voice acting, and even making guest appearances on a variety of different shows.
Most recently Kaley Cuoco stars in a new Peacock crime-comedy series titled “Based on a True Story.” In the series, Cuoco plays Ava, a real estate agent who is obsessed with true crime and starts a podcast with a serial killer. During the filming of the series, Cuoco was pregnant, and this was incorporated into the show’s storyline.
Cuoco revealed that she used a body double for her character’s intimate scenes in the series. The body double, equipped with a prosthetic belly, performed Ava’s sexual fantasies. Cuoco stated, “I don’t roll that way. I need someone else to do that stuff. I’m past that. I’m not doing that anymore.” She further explained that she prefers to let someone else handle such scenes and that the magic of movies allows for this kind of substitution.
In 2017, she founded the production company Yes, Norman Productions, which entered a production deal with Warner Bros. Her first major project through the company was producing the television series adaptation of the book The Flight Attendant, which she also starred in.
Cuoco also went on to voice the role of Harley Quinn in the DC Universe adult animation series Harley Quinn. The series is on its 3rd season and has been praised by audiences and critics.
Cuoco dated co-star Johnny Galecki from the Big Bang Theory for roughly two years, until December 2009. She later told CBS Watch that they have remained on good terms since the end of their relationship.
She was engaged to Josh Resnin, an addiction specialist, in 2011 but their engagement ended somewhat quickly, by March of 2012. Cuoco then married tennis player Ryan Sweeting right before the start of 2014 new year.
In late 2015, it was announced that she and Sweeting had decided to divorce, which wasn’t finalized until May of 2016.
Following this, Cuoco began dating equestrian Karl Cook in late 2016. They became engaged on Cuoco’s 32nd birthday, and were married on June 30, 2018.
In September 2021, the couple announced their separation, stating "we have realized that our current paths have taken us in opposite directions". In June 2022, their divorce was finalized.
In May 2022 and has recently given birth to her first child, a daughter named Matilda, with her boyfriend Tom Pelphrey. The couple seems to be enjoying their new roles as parents, with Cuoco revealing that her daughter is already a fan of the Jonas Brothers, as their music seems to calm Matilda’s meltdowns.