Wednesday, March 3
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Fly the Penny skies: Big Bang Theory fans find Flight Attendant Kaley Cuoco at 35,000 feet – USA TODAY

Since Kaley Cuoco plays the title character in HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” it seems fair to ask if she has any memorable flying stories.

She does. One even involves a flight attendant, which she plays in the eight-episode, darkly comedic thriller that centers on the harrowing adventures of a sweet, reckless young woman who wakes up after a romantic evening next to a corpse (Episodes 4 and 5 streaming Thursday). 

Both stories, not surprisingly, have connections to “The Big Bang Theory,” the CBS  megahit that made Cuoco and her co-stars very rich and very famous. She played Penny during the 12-season run of the ratings blockbuster, which remains ubiquitous in syndication and streaming on HBO Max. So, why shouldn’t it permeate our airspace, too?

During a Zoom interview from her home near Los Angeles, Cuoco tells USA TODAY about a couple of in-flight “Big Bang” tales. One is specific and scarily Sheldon-related, and the other symbolizes the Chuck Lorre sitcom’s pervasiveness in the popular culture.

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Kaley Cuoco, who plays the title character in HBO Max's "The Flight Attendant," has a couple of amusing flying stories of her own.

Here’s one with a “Big Bang” connection any fan will recognize, even if – and here’s the punchline – Cuoco didn’t. (Hint: Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.” Knock, knock, knock. “Penny.”)

“I was in my seat. I was really engrossed in this movie and out of nowhere –  and I know the flight attendant thought this was very funny and in hindsight, maybe she now regrets it – she came up and she went ‘Penny, Penny,’ and she started knocking at me,” Cuoco says, knocking on a wooden table in the style of Sheldon’s signature door-knocking protocol. (That triggered a barking bonanza by some of her seven dogs. “My dogs are going crazy now,” she tells USA TODAY. “Sorry. No one’s here,” she tells her dogs.)

“And it was, like, terrifying. And I could tell (from) her face, she goes, ‘I’m so sorry.’ I’m like, ‘That’s OK, (but) why are you knocking?’ It wasn’t registering. And she was so sorry and I said it was very OK.” 

Kaley Cuoco, left, seen with 'Big Bang Theory' co-star Johnny Galecki, has a new show, HBO Max's 'The Flight Attendant,' but her previous sitcom megahit still has a big presence in popular culture.

If the popularity of “Big Bang” weren’t already apparent to Cuoco, a stroll through the passenger section of an airliner underlines its prominence.

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“A lot of times, I’ll walk up and down the aisle, if I’m going to the bathroom, whatever, and I see a lot of screens with ‘Big Bang’ playing. Sometimes, I’ll wave (to fellow passengers) or give them a little nudge,” she say. “It’s very cute.” 

Even without any knocking.

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