For any Kaley Cuoco fans out there who have spent the better part of two decades mostly following her sitcom-centric career on The Big Bang Theory and 8 Simple Rules, her full breadth as an actress might not be so obvious. But I think I can safely say that her titular role on Harley Quinn offered up a performance unlike any we'd ever seen (or heard) from her. She'll continue to shine in her thriller streaming series The Flight Attendant, which Cuoco thinks is the kind of show that can't be found on TV very often.
Joined by her costars Rosie Perez (Birds of Prey) and Zosia Mamet (Girls), as well as The Flight Attendant's showrunner Steve Yockey, Kaley Cuoco shared some of the first details about the show during its informative panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The show's first full trailer, which has yet to go public, centers on a mysterious murder and the hectic, fingernail-gnawing aftermath, and the preview inspired as many laughs as it did gasps. Since The Flight Attendant is partly billed as a comedy, I posed a question about the balance between the laughs and the dark thrills, and Cuoco said that multi-toned approach is what makes the show unique.
I think the tone has been a fascinating challenge in that we really have ridden a fine line, because dark stuff happens, but there is levity, and we have so many funny actors that can make those quirky moments be a little lighter. It’s a very specific tone. I don’t think we've seen much of this on TV, so I’m excited.
In terms of it being a high-profile streaming series with a former sitcom star in a leading role, surrounded by comedically proven actors, The Flight Attendant is perhaps most comparable (at face value) to Netflix's Dead to Me, as fronted by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. But in bringing Chris Bohjalian's 2018 novel to life, I don't think Kaley Cuoco & Co. will be focusing on themes like grief and dysfunctional friendships in quite the same way.
In The Flight Attendant, Cuoco stars as Cassie Bowden, who wakes up one morning in a Dubai hotel room with a giant hangover...and a dead body in the bed next to her. Not wanting to attract attention or authorities, Cassie goes about her business as usual and reconnects with her fellow flight crew members at the airport. But as the FBI gets involved and the situation starts to close in around her, Cassie starts to wonder if she actually IS the killer. The role seemingly gels perfectly with Cuoco's big, expressive eyes and her physical comedy chops, as she's playing someone whose insides are moving 100 mph faster than her outside is.
In answering my question, showrunner and EP Steve Yockey said this about the tonal balance between dark comedy and genuine thriller:
I’m a huge fan of genre-blending. I think it’s really a great way to tell stories. And what we're telling is a pretty dark thriller, so mixing in the dark comedy, it is woven throughout each episode. So it’s very, very present. And then we got lucky in the fact that [we have] not only Kaley, who’s exceptional at balancing that tone, but we have a cast of actors and actresses that all kind of have knocked it out of the park. So it’s very present in the series and I think it’s a really important part of the storytelling.
Beyond Kaley Cuoco, The Flight Attendant also co-stars the aforementioned Rosie Perez, Zosia Mamet, Michiel Huisman, Michelle Gomez, Colin Woodell, Merle Dandridge, Griffin Matthews, T.R. Knight and Nolan Gerard Funk. Cuoco also serves as a producer through her company Yes, Norman Productions, with mega-producers Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter also executive producing. Just about everyone involved has been known for delivering performances in comedic, dramatic and thrilling projects, so it'll be awesome to see them all come together in a series that taps into various heightened genres all at once.
The Flight Attendant Season 1 will be debuting on HBO Max hopefully at some point in the near future, and showrunner Steve Yockey also talked about trying to get production started again as soon as possible, so that the release details could all fall into place. While waiting on updates, though, please head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what shows are confirmed to be starting up between now and the end of the year.