“The Flight Attendant,” Kaley Cuoco’s HBO Max dramedy-thriller, premiered to rave reviews on Thanksgiving — and the buzz for it built as episodes dropped through December. “It’s definitely been my baby,” Cuoco said during a recent interview with Variety for the magazine’s Feb. 24 cover. “I don’t mean to be cheesy, but this has definitely been the highlight of my entire career.”
The project was born out of Cuoco’s nighttime scroll through Amazon in July 2017, where she saw the listing for Chris Bohjalian’s upcoming novel. She then proceeded to get the rights to the book, resulting in the first live-action series produced by Cuoco’s Yes, Norman Productions. (The company also produces “Harley Quinn” for HBO Max, the delightfully filthy animated offering in which Cuoco voices the title role.) “The Flight Attendant” has now yielded Cuoco a Golden Globe nomination in the best actress in a comedy or musical category; the show has been nominated as well. Cuoco also got a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her performance as Cassie, an alcoholic flight attendant with a traumatic past, and the ensemble cast was nominated, too.
“The Flight Attendant” was announced as a limited series, but HBO Max renewed it for a second season in December. When asked about that, Berlanti Productions’ Sarah Schechter, one of the show’s executive producers, along with Greg Berlanti, said: “I really think you have to just make a great season of television, and then see what happens. But having it be closed-ended allowed us to really try and deliver a truly satisfying finale.”
Berlanti spoke of how we’re in a “great transformational moment in television, where who even knows what a show is anymore?”
“Is it two hours? Is it six hours? Is it 38 minutes? Is it 55 minutes?” Berlanti mused. “Is it four years, is it 10 years?”
With “The Flight Attendant” specifically, Berlanti said, “It just felt to all of us like there was more story there.”
According to Schechter, the writers’ room — overseen by showrunner Steve Yockey — should be assembling in March, with the aim of starting production again in September or October.
“We’ve spent the last months really working on what we think is an incredible second season that feels worth doing,” Schechter said. “We don’t want to rush it; we want to get it right.”
Cuoco said that initially she wasn’t sure she wanted to do more of “The Flight Attendant” because she was so nervous — “nauseous!” she exclaimed — about what the reception to it would be.
“If it’s bad, I started this whole thing — let’s rewind to getting that book,” she said. “I just started freaking out and going, they’re going to look at me like, ‘Who’s this frickin’ sitcom girl? What is she doing?’”
But then, when people loved “The Flight Attendant” and HBO Max was telling the producing team that its viewership was growing with every new episode, Cuoco changed her mind.
She talked about some of her ideas for Season 2 of “The Flight Attendant,” but first, some spoilers about how the first season ended: Cassie, having confronted her past, stopped drinking, and is in AA; her lawyer and best friend, Annie (Zosia Mamet), quit her job at her shady firm, and has declared her love for Max (Deniz Akdeniz); fellow flight attendant Shane (Griffin Matthews) turned out to work for the CIA; and Megan (Rosie Perez) was on the run after she’d funneled information to North Korea in exchange for cash. Buckley (Colin Woodell), the evil assassin, Miranda (Michelle Gomez), the nice assassin, and Enrico (Alberto Frezza), Cassie’s Rome hook-up, all made it out of the finale alive. And Shane, who was on Megan’s trail, told Cassie that his boss is interested in her for the CIA’s “human asset program.”
Cuoco wants to see what will happen with all of them.
At the end of the book, which contains no CIA twist, Cassie stops drinking because she is pregnant. Though the father could be any of the three men she’s had sex with, for some reason she assumes the baby is Alex’s, the one-night stand whose dead body she woke up next to that kicks off the plot. Cassie decides to keep the baby, and gets sober. But for the show, Cuoco said, “We were never doing the pregnant thing; it didn’t make sense.”
“The Flight Attendant” will continue to be a thriller, but, no, not even a sober Cassie would suddenly become some super spy. “She’s not coming in and now she’s CIA,” Cuoco said with a laugh. “But there will definitely be a little of that asset thing, because that’s how we ended — and that will keep her in all the hijinks.”
“I’m more focused on what I want for Cassie emotionally,” Cuoco said.
Specifically, she wants to tell the story of Cassie struggling in sobriety. “She thinks this is going to be quick and easy, and I’m nailing this!” Cuoco says. “And she’s going to learn really fast that this is a lifelong issue that will not be cured for her overnight.”
“She always had the excuse of alcohol. So no matter what situation she gets in, it’s like, ‘I was drunk! I’m fun Cass!’ And she kind of gets away with it,” Cuoco said. “So now what is her excuse for being shit? What is her excuse for fucking up?”
Production on Season 2 of “The Flight Attendant” will continue to be in New York. But with fingers crossed that she can also shoot closer to home, Cuoco also pitched Yockey “a couple of storylines in L.A.”
Why not? Cassie is a flight attendant, after all.
“Exactly,” Cuoco said. “She’s on a new route. ‘New route, new me.’ Didn’t she say that at some point?”