Although she’s been on two long-running sitcoms like “The Big Bang Theory” in her brief 29 years, Kaley Cuoco says film roles are still somewhat elusive for her. So when she had the opportunity to audition for the role of a troubled twentysomething in independent drama “Burning Bodhi,” she was eager to prove herself.
“I got to show a completely different side of me,” Cuoco says. “No one really wants to take a chance on me like that, but I’m a very emotional person so it comes easier to me than you would think.”
Surprising audiences might be what Cuoco does best. She demonstrated as a teenager that she was more than a flash in the pan on ABC’s “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” learning a few comedic tricks from her late co-star John Ritter, and has since become the comedic, maternal heart of CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” And on Oct. 29 the recently married actress will get her star on the Walk of Fame, close to that of mentor Ritter.
“She has incredible skill as a comic actress that really can’t be taught,” says “Big Bang” creator Chuck Lorre. “Her intuitive nature as to how to play a scene, plus all the experience she garnered on ‘8 Simple Rules,’ has made her very rich. She can do just about anything you ask of her as a writer, which is quite a gift.”
The coveted film audition did land her the role, of course, but not because the director liked her work on “Big Bang.” In fact, Matthew McDuffie, who wrote and directed Cuoco’s dramatic debut in “Burning Bodhi,” says he had no idea who she was when she was reading, but she made a lasting impression.
“She was just so raw and beautiful. I knew from the audition that she was a fine actor, but range is an accessibility to your emotions, and she can get there,” says McDuffie, who’s just finishing up the film and prepping to submit it on the festival circuit. “The coolest part in working with her is that she’s a really good storyteller as an actor.” Things didn’t always come so easy to Cuoco, though she admits that her tenure in the business has been fairly charmed.
“I have been so lucky,” she says. “I remember going to my agent (at age 14), and she said, ‘I don’t think you’re going to work until you’re 16, until you have your GED, and you’re done with school.’
“And she was right. I did not work from 14 to 16. Then that’s when ‘8 Simple Rules’ came around and, knock on wood, I was able to work consistently ever since then and play my age and kind of grow up a little bit in the business.”
While working on “8 Simple Rules,” she says what she watched and learned from Ritter was invaluable. “When I would do scenes with him, he would do every single take completely different,” she says. “And the audience was just roaring because it was almost like a different scene every time. And I thought, ‘I’ve got to continue to do that if I do another show.’ I like to change it up and keep the audience excited and give the editor something to play with.
“I just love an audience,” she continues. “They tell you if you’re funny right then or not.”
Lorre points to her ability to work with the audience’s reactions as a coveted skill in her repertoire.
“There’s a tempo that happens in front of an audience that an actor has to listen for,” Lorre says.
“Kaley’s experience allows her very easily to ride those waves off the audience’s laughter and responses. It’s kind of second nature to her at this point.”
While Cuoco is locked into “Big Bang” until 2017, she says she’s eager to pursue film. In addition to “Burning Bodhi,” she has the comedy “The Wedding Ringer” with Kevin Hart and Josh Gad hitting theaters in January.
But that’s not to say she’s eager to end her tenure on a show that has lasted a good portion of her life.
“The show has done wonders for me, in a million ways. If I played something like this for the rest of my life, I would be absolutely thrilled. After the show, I don’t know if I’d want to do TV anymore. It’s extremely close to my heart, but I would love to move into movies.”
Nevertheless, the draw of TV remains strong. And doesn’t every actor really want to produce or direct?
“If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘No, I have so many other loves in my life,’” she says. “It looks more interesting to me now than it used to. But I think my place is in front of the camera not behind, and I don’t know if that will ever change.”