|Famous For: The Big Bang Theory||Currently Known For: Actress|
Currently Known For Actress
“Holy crap on a cracker!” Born on November 30, 1985 in Camarillo, California, Kaley Christina Cuoco was well on her way to becoming a star tennis player after picking up a racket and hitting the court for the first time at only three years old. Although she was ranked as a regional amateur on the court, Cuoco’s parents taught her the importance of finding balance early on and encouraged her to pursue both sports and the arts. “It’s a fine line of doing what’s good for your life and what your parents want you to do, but also following your dreams,” she says. “With my parents, when I was younger, I always had to do two things. If I was acting, I always had to do a sport or something on the arts side of things along with that.”
Luckily Cuoco discovered her love of acting outranked her passion for tennis and, in 1995, she made her feature film debut in the action thriller, Virtuosity. She followed up the film with a small part on the CBS sitcom Ladies Man from 2000 to 2001 and added in credits in Growing Up Brady, Can’t Be Heaven, 7th Heaven, First Monday, The Ellen Show, The Nightmare Room and Alley Cats. Then, in 2002, she finally caught her first big break when she was cast as Bridget Hennessey alongside her television parents Katey Sagal and John Ritter on 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
Wrapping up 8 Simple Rules three years later in 2005, Cuoco spent the next two years hopping between projects like 10.5, Crimes of Fashion, The Hollow, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers, Bratz, and Loonatics Unleashed. Then, in 2007, she returned to primetime television as Penny, a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory and an aspiring actress on The Big Bang Theory. The series, which is still on the air today, skyrocketed Cuoco to stardom and put her on the map in Hollywood as she earned around $60,000 per episode. As ratings increased, the network rewarded Cuoco’s and her costars’ hard work with raises to the tune of $200,000 per episode. Today, Cuoco and costars Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons each earn around $1 million per episode! So, who exactly is Penny—a character who’s earned Cuoco a small fortune and a handful of awards?
All About Penny: The Cheesecake Factory Employee and Aspiring Waitress
While it’s undeniable that Cuoco has her life together with a stellar career and a net worth of $55 million and climbing, that’s certainly not the case with her character on The Big Bang Theory. Hailing from a small town just outside of Omaha, Nebraska, Penny is an aspiring actress who, after a terrible breakup, leaves her hometown behind to pursue her dreams of hitting it big in Hollywood. Taking a job at The Cheesecake Factory, Penny is first introduced moving into the apartment across the hall from physicists Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons).
As physicists at Caltech, Leonard and Sheldon are both highly intelligent but lack common sense and social skills, which is exactly where Penny fits in as her outgoing and vibrant personality creates the perfect foil to her uptight neighbors. In fact, the awkward nerds often poke fun of Penny especially when it comes to her complete confidence in things like horoscopes and psychics. Yet, even though she’s the least educated of the group, Penny is insightful, street smart, and has her own share of nerdy qualities like her ability to quote sci-fi flicks and television series like Star Wars and Star Trek.
Initially giving off a Friends vibe with neighbors becoming fast friends and potential lovers, many critics cringed at the idea of Penny as a character but Cuoco pleasantly surprised even her harshest critics as she took Penny’s character development to new levels. “Her character had the potential to be a bimbo, but Cuoco has developed it into a fully fleshed-out woman, who isn’t as book-smart as the other characters but is wiser in so many ways,” one television critic wrote. “She’s also a great straight person who can get off zingers of her own.”
Messy and disorganized but perfectly content with her life as long as there’s plenty of wine and she isn’t woken from a peaceful sleep, Penny’s undeniable charm and insightfulness are exactly why Leonard not so secretly develops a crush in the first two seasons. Luckily, that crush unfolds by the show’s third season when Leonard and Penny finally agree to date after he returns from his North Pole expedition. Their relationship isn’t without its own share of troubles and, after a series of breakups, makeups, and hook ups, Leonard and Penny get engaged in the seventh season just as Penny realizes that any amount of Hollywood stardom pales in comparison to the happiness she feels with Leonard. However, the couple aren’t in any rush to set their wedding date and, after realizing their attempts to sabotage their relationship, they tie the knot in the ninth season. By the 10th and 11th seasons, Sheldon moves into Penny’s old apartment as Leonard and Penny navigate their new life together as husband and wife.
The Dish on Dating and Relationships
Fans went wild when Leonard and Penny finally started dating on The Big Bang Theory, but the news just got better when fans learned that Johnny Galecki and Cuoco actually dated in real life. Although the two kept their relationship a secret from 2007 to 2009, Cuoco eventually confirmed the rumors and reassured fans that, despite breaking up, she and Galecki remained the best of friends.
Two years after breaking up with Galecki, Cuoco dated addiction specialist Jason Resnick and, after a whirlwind romance, announced their engagement in late 2011. The nuptials were called off in March 2012 as Cuoco found love again a year later when she met professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting. Engaged after only three months, they tied the knot in a private ceremony in Santa Susana, California on December 31, 2013. Sadly, the honeymoon didn’t last long as Cuoco and Sweeting announced their separation in September 2015. Their divorce was finalized in May 2016.
Over the last two years, Cuoco has repaired her broken heart thanks to equestrian Karl Cook who, on Cuoco’s 32nd birthday on November 30, 2017, popped the question. Still happily planning their nuptials, Cuoco hopes to keep the ceremony as low key as possible. “I actually would just like to meet our guests there on the date,” she says. “I really don’t want to do anything.” Coincidentally, Cuoco will have plenty of wedding planning experience under her belt since her Big Bang Theory costars Jim Parsons and Mayim Bialik are scheduled to walk down the aisle as Sheldon and Amy on the 11th season finale!
As for what’s next for Cuoco’s career, Cuoco continues to make appearances in television and film with credits in Killer Movie, The Penthouse, Hop, and The Last Ride. She also frequently joins William Shatner on Pricline.com commercials and, in 2017, took her career in a new direction when she founded Yes, Norman Productions, which is a television and film production company that recently signed a first look deal with Warner Bros. Television. Of course, Cuoco doesn’t plan on straying too far from her roots and plans to stick with comedy as long as there’s work available. “I’m a Bridesmaids type of girl,” she says. “I love silliness. That’s who I am at heart and I know I can do it. If my career path takes me elsewhere, that’s great, but comedy is my forte.”