It’s been a half-year of frightening downs and invigorating ups for Kaley Cuoco. Last September, she was injured in a horseback riding accident that left her with a leg so broken it took 18 pins to repair. But then, after amazingly missing just two episodes of The Big Bang Theory, she resumed work on a season of the CBS hit comedy that has been one of her richest ones yet, as Penny’s social circle expanded beyond those rather square guys to fold in gal pals Bernadette and Amy.
On the eve of her big-screen comedy Hop bounding into theaters, Cuoco spoke with TVLine about rebounding from her September setback, her Big Bang character’s evolution (and remarkably lousy sex life!), and the surprising someone who shakes his “groove thing” in this Thursday’s episode.
TVLINE | How are you feeling now, some six months after your riding accident?
I’m feeling great. I was at the gym the other day and I cannot remember what leg it is, that’s how good I’m feeling. About a month or two ago it took a turn for the better, and I’ve had no issues. I’m very grateful.
TVLINE | Was that a scary few weeks for you in September, though?
Oh my god, yeah. I broke two bones in my leg, one came out of my leg…. I was in the hospital for almost three weeks, I had two surgeries …. No one believes how bad the accident was because I healed so fast, but [Big Bang cocreator] Chuck Lorre pulled some strings to get me in with one of the best doctors at Cedar’s in L.A. I was so lucky.
TVLINE | Yeah, Chuck told me that seeing you go through that was far more frightening for him than Big Bang‘s move to Thursday.
Awww, that’s makes me sad, I want to cry! Chuck was amazing. I definitely scared a lot of people, and I’ve never felt s—tier about myself. Not that it was my fault, but you feel like you’ve let so many people down. What’s amazing is I only missed two weeks of work. I’m eternally grateful that [the producers] made it work for me.
TVLINE | I joked with the show rep at the time that they should temporarily swap in Sarah Chalke, work a little Roseanne recast wink-wink there with Johnny Galecki and all….
What?! I can’t believe you would do that to me! Just throw another actress in there, just grab another blonde. You don’t even care, Matt. I mean nothing to you.
TVLINE | I imagine this season has been very different for you, now that Penny has these gal pals – and they’re played by no slouches, either.
It’s true, it has been like a whole other show for me this season. I felt almost a little separated from the boys, which is kind of sad but at the same time really fun. I’m working with Mayim [Bialik] and Melissa Rauch, who is absolutely hysterical…. It’s definitely, definitely been different. But it’s Season 4, so it was time for a change.
TVLINE | And how do you think Penny has changed in those four years?
Tremendously. In the beginning, people would think, “Oh, she’s the dumb cute girl next door, so she’ll say dumb things and wear cute outfits. Whatever! ” But as we’ve seen that is so not the case. Every season she has gotten more and more sarcastic. I mean, she has gotten so dry!
TVLINE | Yeah, sometimes she really cuts them off at the knees with a real zinger.
It’s funny, you’d think she would be the one judging them but it’s turned around these days, because they are constantly judging her. She has become a really cool character.
TVLINE | What’s going through Penny’s mind these days regarding Leonard and Priya, and by extension Howard/Bernadette and “Shamy”?
Yeah, there are a lot of relationships going on. I was laughing, “How did we end up in Season 4 where Penny is the only one not getting laid? Seriously, how does that happen?!” But I think it’s cool they have Leonard in a relationship. I don’t know how it’s going to end – we have two more [episodes] left [to shoot], so I don’t know if it’ll go any further than it has — but it has given me and others on the show new things to do.
TVLINE | In this week’s episode, Penny gossips with the girls about Priya….
Yes, now it’s a thing where she and the girls go out for drinks, and Sheldon ends up wanting to come along. Priya has a problem with Sheldon, so we invite him out and it ends up being hilarious. He shakes his groove thing. There are some dancing moments and it is very, very funny.
TVLINE | Do you think we’ll ever see Penny land an acting job? Or any job that gets her out of that ruffled denim “Cheescake Factory” skirt?
I agree! She’s obviously not the best actress, which cracks me up. But I don’t know what they’re going to do with her career. We’ve seen that she’s pretty terrible [at acting].
TVLINE | What is your movie Hop about? The Easter Bunny gets hit by a car or something…?
Hugh Laurie (House) voices the actual Easter Bunny while Russell Brand is his son, E.B. — but he doesn’t want to be the heir, he wants to be a drummer and a rock star, as all rabbits do. James Marsden (X-Men) plays Fred, who hits E.B. with his car. He’s a bit of a slacker who lives at home with his parents, so the two of them get along, and I play Fred’s supporting, loving sister. It’s very much a kids’ movie but there is some edge, especially with Russell voicing E.B. It’s very, very fun.
TVLINE | What were you looking at in the scenes with the CG-animated E.B.? Like, a tennis ball on a string?
No, it was actually a sand-filled bag, the size of a small square. It was very bizarre but it was one of my favorite costars I’ve ever worked with.
TVLINE | Tell me about the song you recorded with your boyfriend (Christopher French of the indie band Annie Automatic). What was the catalyst for that?
When I was in the hospital I was very depressed, and Chris would play his music and sing to me. I don’t know what came over me because I am not a singer, but I was like, “Let’s record a song!” So when I got home we ended up recording “Over the Rainbow,” and when we put it on iTunes, 100 percent of the proceeds went to the Humane Society. It’s really sweet, it was a fun little thing to do with Chris, and it helped a good cause.
TVLINE | Any plans for the summer?
Honestly? Absolutely nothing. I’ve made no plans. I don’t want to wear makeup, I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to go the gym…. I just bought my dream house, with a pool and everything I’ve always wanted, so I just want to hang out here with the dogs and enjoy my time off!