Variety Streaming Room: Television FYC
“The Flight Attendant” managed to create a protagonist to root for in Cassie Bowden, Kaley Cuoco’s alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up to her dead one-night stand with no memory of the…
“The Flight Attendant” managed to create a protagonist to root for in Cassie Bowden, Kaley Cuoco’s alcoholic flight attendant who wakes up to her dead one-night stand with no memory of the night before. Such success was due to an actualized physical environment of Cassie’s brain, known as the “mind palace,” which guided the audience through her memories of the ill-fated night, as well as shed light on deeper child trauma that explain Cassie’s broken nature.
“We always felt like it starts off with small, little dabs of weird that then grow as the season progresses,” co-showrunner Steve Yockey told senior editor Danielle Turchiano in the Variety Streaming Room presented by HBO Max. They were also joined by star and executive producer Kaley Cuoco; executive producer and director Susanna Fogel; composer Blake Neely; production designer Sara K. White and costume designer Cat Thomas.
“When we’re in the mind palace, we really dealt with the direct to camera immersing you in her experience,” Fogel added. “When we were out in the world, there’s a less claustrophobic sensibility.”
In the mind palace, Cassie is joined by a version of Alex (Michiel Huisman) that she manifests. Although the real Alex is dead, this version helps Cassie put together the fragmented pieces of their night together. Cassie is by no means a monster, but her tendency to black out from drinking makes it hard to trust herself. As a flight attendant who likes to party, she already lives life on the run, leaving her hardly any time to process the childhood trauma that continues to impact her as an adult. Fogel explained that Cuoco was “exuberant” and that part of working with her to find the performance was about channeling such denial.
It was hard to know while filming how effective the mind palace would be as a storytelling device, the team admitted. Cuoco described nights of uncertainty “where there might have been a few tears,” but she was up for the challenge of seeing how things worked as filming went along.
“We were all really doing this wild thing and going along for the ride and not knowing. As the episodes started getting cut together, we started seeing how things were to go,” Kaley said. “I was in the moment, which is how I am anyway. This sort of storytelling very much worked for me.”
Watch the full conversation above.