Kaley Cuoco knew very quickly that she wanted to play “The Flight Attendant” — a seriously messed up young woman who wakes up next to a dead man.
How quickly? All it took was reading “one little snippet” about the book on Amazon and the former “Big Bang Theory” star was hooked.
“It just was one sentence and I got, like, this weird chill,” Cuoco said. “And I called my team and said, ‘Hey, I’d love to look at the rights to this book.’”
Not surprisingly, her team asked if she’d read the Chris Bohjalian’s novel. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I totally read the book,’” Cuoco said. “I had not read the book, but something told me, ‘Jump on this.’”
(By the way, Cuoco’s team found out she’d lied to them when she made this admission to TV critics in an online news conference.)
She did end up reading the novel “really fast, and thank God I loved it as much as I thought.” She won the bidding war for the rights to the book, which she then took to Warner Bros. execs. They introduced her to producer Steve Yockey and hooked her up with uberproducer Greg Berlanti’s company.
The result is the HBO Max series “The Flight Attendant,” which starts streaming Thursday, Nov. 26. Cuoco stars as Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant who seems to be pretty good at her job, but her personal life is a mess. She drinks a lot — so much that she has blackouts and, in the opening moments of the series, discovers she brought home a guy she doesn’t even remember.
That sort of thing, it seems, happens to Cassie a lot.
Things take a turn on a flight to Bangkok. She meets and flirts with a passenger, Alex (Michiel Huisman), and ends up going back to his hotel with him for a wild night of alcohol and sex. When Cassie wakes up the next morning, she’s lying next to Alex’s corpse — he’s been brutally murdered, and there is blood everywhere. And she runs.
Cassie is sure she didn’t do it … although she’s fuzzy on what happened because she blacked out. And soon she’s having conversations with Alex, who’s less a ghost than a figment of her subconscious.
When Dead Alex questions whether Cassie is his murderer, she adamantly denies it. “I did not kill you, OK?” she says. “I am not that kind of drunk. I am public-nudity, yelling-on-the-subway kind of drunk.”
“The Flight Attendant” is an unusual mix of thriller, murder mystery and dark comedy. It’s not a sitcom — it’s an obviously expensive drama shot on location around the world; a sometimes violent series with R-rated language and flashes of humor.
“We really have ridden a fine line because dark stuff happens,” Cuoco said, “but there is levity and we have so many funny actors that can make those quirky moments be a little lighter.”
The cast includes Rosie Perez and Griffin Matthews as fellow flight attendants; Zosia Mamet as Cassie’s lawyer friend; Merle Dandridge and Nolan Gerard Funk as FBI agents; and T.R. Knight as Cassie’s older brother.
And it works, largely because Cuoco and the character she plays are likable and relatable, even in the midst of the worst insanity Cassie encounters.
“Cassie is extremely, perfectly flawed,” she said. “It was kind of an actor’s dream to play someone like her. She’s got a rollercoaster of issues, but a heart of gold and she’s strong. It’s just a great female character to play.”
We’re promised a conclusion to the story at the end of the eight-episode season, but there could be more “Flight Attendant” to come after that.
“Oh, we have plans for another season,” Cuoco said. Stay tuned.