Kaley Cuoco can boast being one of television’s highest paid actors after appearing on The Big Bang Theory for more than a decade. Her role as the surname-less Penny helped her make bank big time when she began earning a whopping $1 million per episode — but her rise to fame began with Barbie commercials, not a big bang.
Cuoco was born on Nov. 30, 1985 in Camarillo, Calif. Her parents were supportive of her various pursuits, which included acting. “There was no lightbulb moment where I moved to California and wanted to be an actress,” Cuoco said during a 2017 New York Post interview. “It happened as if I was born to do it.”
Cuoco appeared alongside Denzel Washington in the 1995 movie Virtuosity, and she played a younger version of Ellen DeGeneres’ character on the sitcom Ellen in 1996 (via IMDb). The following year, Cuoco got to tell Jennifer Aniston how much she loved her while working on the romantic comedy Picture Perfect. And now, Cuoco has since transformed into a star equally as huge as Aniston thanks to her big break, as she landed her first major TV role just a few years later.
Tragedy struck after Kaley Cuoco’s big break
From 2002 to 2005, Kaley Cuoco played Bridget Hennessy on the ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules. The character was the popular teen girl stereotype: pretty, ditzy, and obsessed with boys. Bridget also had a habit of baring her midriff and a tendency to butt heads with her overprotective dad.
Bridget’s father was played by Three’s Company star John Ritter, who tragically died at age 54 after suddenly falling ill on the set of 8 Simple Rules in 2003. Cuoco remembers her time with her TV father fondly, recalling how Ritter won her over when he brought his dad act to their first table read. During a September 2018 appearance on the REELZ series Behind Closed Doors, Cuoco said she was dressed like her character when Ritter walked in and saw her skimpy ensemble. He sternly told her to “put a sweater on” before removing a sweater from someone in the room for her to cover up with. “And he goes, ‘Dress like that from now on,'” she recalled (via Today). “That was my introduction to him. I was in love from that moment on.”
Wearing a fat suit had a profound effect on Kaley Cuoco
After 8 Simple Rules was canceled, Kaley Cuoco went on to play a witch on the popular CW series Charmed. Her multi-episode arc nearly helped her score her own supernatural spinoff series, but instead she found herself undergoing a dramatic transformation for the 2007 Lifetime movie To Be Fat Like Me. Cuoco’s character was a thin high school student who conducted a social experiment: She wore a fat suit while attending summer school. She discovered that fat shaming is a real issue after being treated cruelly by her judgmental peers.
Cuoco told ABC News in February 2008 that people were also rude to her in real life when she was in costume. “I was afraid to go to the set in the fat suit,” Cuoco said. “It made me never want to eat again.” Cuoco made other comments suggesting that she learned the wrong lesson from her experience when she told the Quad-City Times in January 2007 that she had taped a picture of herself wearing the fat suit on her fridge. “We’re all afraid of something like that happening to us,” she said.
Kaley Cuoco went under the knife and doesn’t regret it
During an April 2014 interview with Cosmopolitan, Kaley Cuoco revealed that she got breast implants when she was 18 years old. While some celebrities live to regret their plastic surgery procedures, Cuoco described going under the knife as the “best decision I ever made.”
Cuoco elaborated on why she decided to get a breast augmentation while speaking to Redbook in December 2014. She explained that it was all about feeling more comfortable in her own skin. “I had no boobs! And it really was the best thing ever! I always felt ill-proportioned,” she said. “My implants made me feel more confident in my body.” Plastic surgery comes with plenty of risks and can be a real career killer, but after giving her self-confidence and her bra size a boost, Cuoco went on to land the role of a lifetime on The Big Bang Theory.
Kaley Cuoco dated her co-star and had to film numerous sex scenes with him after their breakup
One of Kaley Cuoco’s biggest romances was one that she kept secret for years. During a November 2020 episode of Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, she recalled how she fell head over heels for Johnny Galecki, the man who played her smitten scientist love interest Leonard Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory. “When we did the pilot, I was crushing so hard on Galecki, but he had a girlfriend,” she said. Once Galecki was available, he and Cuoco dated for two years beginning in 2007.
In 2010, Cuoco told CBS! Watch that she and Galecki ultimately realized that they “weren’t destined to be together” (via Entertainment Tonight). Incredibly, the co-stars’ friendship remained intact after their split, but it was soon tested. Cuoco recalled how The Big Bang Theory co-creator Chuck Lorre penned a number of post-breakup episodes that had Penny and Leonard “sleeping together every other second.” She had a theory about the scenes. “Johnny and I talk about it, and I think [Lorre] did that on purpose just to f**k with us,” Cuoco said.
Kaley Cuoco blamed ‘Superman’ for the paparazzi’s interest in her
During her 2014 Cosmopolitan interview, Kaley Cuoco got candid about a relationship that would surely make her a legend in the eyes of the geeky guys on The Big Bang Theory: her 2013 summer fling with Superman actor Henry Cavill. As reported by E! Online, their romance lasted just 10 days, but Cuoco revealed that it had a lingerng impact on her life.
Some fans speculated that the romance was a publicity stunt, but Cuoco seemed annoyed by the attention it received. “I had no one following me until I met Superman. I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and my whole life, I could go anywhere, do anything,” she said. Cuoco even claimed that no paparazzo had bothered taking a photo of her until she dated Cavill.
Mere weeks after she and Cavill called it quits, she jumped into another headline-making relationship with professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting. The couple wed a few months later on New Year’s Eve and divorced after only 21 months of marriage.
Kaley Cuoco met her perfect match in a cute way
Kaley Cuoco got another shot at love in 2016. She’s an avid equestrian who participates in show jumping competitions, and she was spending her Valentine’s Day at one of the events. During a 2017 New York Post interview, Cuoco recalled literally bumping into professional equestrian Karl Cook at the competition. She described their meet cute as “very awkward,” but it seemingly left an impression on Cook. Later on, he approached Cuoco on a motorized bike with a bottle of champagne in hand and asked her to dinner.
By November 2017, Cuoco and Cook were engaged. They fittingly held their June 30, 2018 wedding ceremony at a horse barn. In addition to sharing their love for horses, the couple adores their pack of rescue dogs. Cuoco told Us Weekly in September 2017 that Cook’s fondness for canines helped him seal the deal. “‘Must love dogs’ is number one and he checked that off quite quickly and I fell very hard,” she said.
Kaley Cuoco wants to use her position in Hollywood to empower women
Kaley Cuoco has grown quite a bit in the industry, and her opinions on feminism and female empowerment have grown, too. In a 2014 interview with Redbook, Cuoco admitted that she was “never that feminist girl demanding equality,” though she also admitted that “she never really faced inequality.” After facing backlash for her comments on the issue, Cuoco posted an apology on Instagram, saying that she’s “completely blessed and grateful that strong women have paved the way for my success along with many others.”
Over the years, it seems that Cuoco has transformed her opinions about the issue. While speaking with Cosmopolitan in 2016, Cuoco clarified that “of course” she’s a feminist, and that she “bleed[s] feminism.” During an interview with the same magazine just a couple years later, Cuoco doubled down and talked about wanting to be a “full-on girl boss.” “I want to show girls out there that you can be cool, wear yoga clothes, and run your own f***ing company,” she explained, referring to her own company, Yes, Norman Productions. She also added that “you don’t have to be a guy in a suit” to accomplish such goals, and that she was “excited” to keep working and see how things would pan out over the years.