Kaley Cuoco is known for playing the role of hottie on TV, most notably as John Ritter’s spunky daughter on 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter, and currently as Penny, the blonde with a heart of gold on The Big Bang Theory. We sat with Kaley deep inside the BBT set at Warner Brothers Studios, in a dressing room that can only be described as shabby chic, surrounded by photos and cute frilly things. She talked to us about the evolution of her character from mean girl to nice, nerd-befriending one, getting into music fights with co-star Johnny Galecki, the one time she cried during a particularly funky date and where she was when she heard that her co-star John Ritter had passed away.
What is on heavy rotation on your Ipod?
Ooh. Oh my God, I have so many different things. I love classical. I have a lot of like Bach and Mozart and stuff. Then you flip on over and I’ve got like Kanye West and you know, just a bunch of – I am very eclectic. I love every sort of music. Johnny and I have – I mean it’s a constant weekly fight in the makeup room whose ipod is going on because he hates my music and I hate his. So whenever we leave, we sneak each other’s ipods. I tried to hide his once and we get into big arguments about the whole ipod thing.
What is the difference in music between your Ipod and his?
Well his should come with a rope! Well he says mine should come with a rope. He says my music is depressing and I think his music is depressing. We must have totally different ideas of what depressing is. Mine is beautiful music. Like very indie. His is like dark and – yeah. And then some of it is old rock, you know, and I call him old and he gets mad. It’s never right. It never works out.
Who normally wins?
I do always. I always win. Because I always get the majority of the vote in the makeup room.
So you have got the most popular music.
Yes, I have the most popular music, because it’s enjoyable for everybody, not just Johnny.
What’s one thing that your fans would be surprised to know about you?
Oh my goodness. Well, I just went to the dermatologist to have a pimple popped. I had this huge zit on my chin, I’m not kidding, I went on over there and he popped it. I don’t think anyone would really want to share that, but I will, you know.
Ouch. Was it painful?
No. It’s awesome. It took like 5 seconds and it was gone. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing ever. And he’s laughing at me the whole time. I’m like doctor why are you laughing at me? He’s like because you came in to get your zit popped. I’m like well, I’m shooting. These are important issues. I’m doing this for the show.
What’s a typical day like for you when you have to come into the set?
Oh my gosh, we barely even work here. We just mess around, we’re laughing. We all have lunch together every day. It’s very cute. Everyone is very close. We just mess around. We already know these characters so well. It’s just a lot of fun. It’s very easy.
Is there any real life person you base your character on the show on? And how did you prepare for your character?
You know, Penny is so – I love this character because they’ve written her – originally she was kind of a mean girl. Not mean, but just not very friendly to these guys. And she’s been rewritten to be so sweet and warm and I have a girlfriend that reminds me – there’s parts of me that are in Penny, but I have a girlfriend that reminds me of Penny and I’m always thinking of her because like things that she does reminds me of my girlfriend, but you know, you bring yourself into these characters and it’s kind of – it’s not really a stretch for me. You know, it’s the girl next door, so it’s easy and fun and you have to be careful though, you want to be liked by men and women. You don’t want to be bitchy or mean. It’s a fine line.
Why do you think they rewrote the character?
Well, I think that you fall so in love with these guys, you don’t realize how much you love them. And if anyone is mean to them in any sort of way you just hate them right off the bat. Like the audience did not like that very much. So they’ve written it now where she just is so entertained by them, and takes – he is very motherly towards them. It just turned out to be so sweet. And teaching them things.
Do you think you would be friends with her in real life?
Yeah, I like Penny. She’s cool. Yeah, she dates some idiots, but although so have I. So yeah, I would be friends with her. We’d have a lot to talk about.
Have you ever dated a nerdy guy?
Yeah, I did. Yeah, absolutely. I guess I’ve dated smart guys, I’ve dated dumb guys, hot guys. There’s been a Ray. I really don’t have a type. I never had a type. If I could put them all together it’s like the most different grouping. So I love when guys are funny. I love guys that are funny and goofy and over the top. And you know, I really like personality. I do.
What’s the weirdest date or the goofiest date that you’ve ever done?
I have a sad date. I went on a blind date once and we had had a couple of drinks and I had this thing about veal, and I don’t – I’m like totally against eating it. And I was on this date with this guy and he ordered veal, and I never met him and I felt like, you know, this is – I shouldn’t say anything, but of course, my mouth I did. So like you know what they do to veal, right? And he said to me, I don’t care if it’s dead and bleeding on my plate I’ll eat it, and I started crying at the table. I cried at the table and I never heard from him again. It was the worst experience ever. He was a total geek.
Oh no! What a weird response for him to give you!
Yeah. He was like a business guy. I know, it was so sad. He was very defensive. He totally bit my head off, yeah. He was awful. Never again. No. He sounds like a winner, doesn’t he? Poor guy.
Your first acting gig, was I think at 6?
Yes, I did a movie called Quicksand No Escape with Donald Sutherland and Tim Matheson. I think I was maybe 5. I was really little. Yeah, it was fun. And actually Felicity Huffman played my mom.
That’s very cool. Have you gotten in touch with any of your costars?
No. But I ran into Felicity at my – not chiropractor? Who is the other one? Needle person. Acupuncturist. I was like, should I say something? I didn’t though. I didn’t. She probably would have been fine. I mean, like she never would remember me, but it would have been funny. But no, other than that no.
I don’t know why I felt weird about it. We were at acupuncture and we both – maybe that was why. Who is this crazy person, leave me alone.
What’s it like being the only girl on set?
It’s fantastic. It’s the greatest job ever. It is so fun. They treat me like a little princess. They’re so good to me. I don’t know if you’ve seen our game room, but it’s very cute. We have a game room and Johnny put a big pink princess chair for me. Yeah, they are very – it’s great. And I get all the time in the makeup room. No one steals my chair. It couldn’t be better.
It’s like having a bunch of brothers.
It is. T hey totally give me a hard time though. They are constantly making fun of me. Johnny and I have a joke. Because whenever he asks me a question my response is always why, are you going to make fun of me? Because anything, whether they’re like what time it is. What, are you going to make fun of me? He’s always got – yeah, why? You are going to do something, you know. It’s very cute. They’re very sweet with me.
What is the nerdiest thing about some of them – about your cast mates?
They study so hard. And maybe because I’ve never been that girl. I’ve been so lucky and blessed because words and stuff come so easy to me. I have a good memory. And they just will read those scripts and highlight their lines and half the time I don’t even know what color script we’re on. Like I’m down there and like does anyone have a script? I don’t bring mine to work. Like they’ve got all their stuff mapped out. Johnny has a binder which I can’t get over, cracks me up. Jim has note cards. He has a full on binder, yes. Jim has note cards that he writes on constantly. I mean, it cracks me up. And they all write – when we’re doing our speed read right before the show they’re all oh, oh, uh, uh, and I’m like what? They make these crazy sounds for our boys. I’m like oh my God, they’re so serious. At least someone is, because I could care less. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time.
You worked with John Ritter?
What was that like?
Indescribable. Fantastic. Another father figure. Hilarious. I was just the other day – I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I was watching our gag reel for the first season of Eight Simple Rules. We just did not stop laughing. Every take we were laughing. And you see me like my cheek starts going because I’m laughing the whole time. It’s his face. He was so funny, and so loving, and there’s not a person that has a bad thing to say about him, that’s what shows what a great man he was. Everybody loved him. He made, you know, the mailman feel as important as the executive producer of our show. That’s what I loved about him. I watched him actually do that, you know.
What was it like on the set?
Unbelievable. I mean, it was – shows – the reason why shows do well, it always comes from the top and John – it came from him. The goodness and the happiness came from him. So, you know, it calls all – it happens here too with Johnny and Jim, you know, it sprinkles onto all the other people and when he passed away it was like we got so even closer. But he had left that for us. And he showed me what it’s like to be part of a show, to take care of a show, to you have to be – if you’re at the top, you have to treat people with just as much respect as you want to be treated. He did that to everybody and that’s why the show probably would still be on today. We would probably be shooting our 6th season of that show, I totally believe that. I mean, there’s a reason why we’re not, you know. But he made it what it was.
Where were you when you heard the bad news?
I was at home. I was in my parent’s house, yeah. Well we had just heard he got really sick and we were going to be off the next day for work, and then it happened. It was a matter of – it was the weirdest thing, yeah. It was awful.
Particularly being a father figure to you, it probably felt like you were losing like somebody super close.
Well, I remember having a conversation with my dad, because I had spent weeks and weeks just feeling like I had lost just the most amazing person. And I finally told my dad, this is going to make me cry because it was such a sad – I go, dad, you know, I feel like I’ve almost made it sound like I lost my dad, because it really felt that way. But I wanted my dad to know how much I loved him too. It was a really weird thing. Because they were the exact same age. It’s weird. So I remember telling my dad, I’m like, you know, I love you so much. It felt like I lost you, like that’s how bad it was. He just was so good to all of us. I mean, my God. I cannot tell you how I think about it every day. And I laugh. I mean, there are moments where I’m by myself laughing and I know he’s like laughing or he’s doing something to make me laugh. He would be loving this right now.
And do you still keep in touch with your castmates from that show?
Every one of them. Yeah. I had lunch with Amy the other day. Her and Martin came to the show. We took Jim Garner to lunch about 6 months ago. We’ve got to do it again. Katy Segal, yeah, I still talk to all of them as much as I can.
Who will you be voting for?
Oh, I can’t talk about that. Johnny would make fun of me. [laughing]. If Johnny thought I was trying to talk about the elections he would kick my ass. He would make some fun of me. He would! He’ll ask, what did she say, what did she say about it?
Okay we’ll end the interview here then.