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The Big Bang Theory's Chuck Lorre Quickly Realized He Needed To Showcase Penny's Own Brand Of Intelligence

The CBS series "The Big Bang Theory," created by Chuck Lorre, falls under the category of a friend group sitcom — such as "Friends," "How I Met Your Mother," "Living Single" and so on — meaning it has an ensemble at its center. Season 1 introduces five of its key characters: theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), experimental physicist Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), their aspiring actress neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco), aerospace engineer Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg), and particle astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar).

Looking at this lineup, where Penny is the only woman in the group, many would agree that the writers made a good choice bringing in two more leading female characters a few seasons later. Microbiologist Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Raunch) and neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) were introduced in Season 3 and made regulars in Season 4, becoming integral parts of the show.

While we aren't sure if the writers wished they had brought in Bernadette and Amy even sooner, we do know that Lorre has recently admitted to not fleshing out Penny in the earlier seasons as much as he should have — here's what the co-creator has to say about his regrets with the character.

Lorre realized that Penny needed to be more than the pretty girl next door

An oral history book of the series, "The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series" by Jessica Radloff, which was released in early October 2022, has revealed a lot of insider knowledge for fans to sink their teeth into. One of these details we learn is that co-creator Chuck Lorre has some regrets about Penny being underwritten in the series' first few seasons.

Lorre said, "One of the most underwritten characters in the show early on was Penny. It was really obvious immediately that we hadn't developed the character beyond the pretty girl next door, and Kaley was certainly capable of doing a great deal more than what was asked of her." He and the other writers then realized that they needed to develop the character further so that she was more fully realized for the rest of the show. From there, they could find Penny's brand of intelligence, one that was different from the other main characters. 

They soon settled on Penny having a kind of social intelligence. Lorre continued, "Penny had an intelligence about people, about relationships, and about sussing out a situation and understanding the dynamics of what's going on in a room."

Cuoco doesn't think Penny was ever a ditzy blonde

Back in 2012, during an interview with Oregon Live, Kaley Cuoco discussed portraying Penny — and how she approached playing the only character who isn't booksmart. Cuoco emphasized that, while Penny isn't intelligent in the same way as her friends, she was never made to be the stereotypical ditzy blonde. And because of her other attributes, viewers can relate to her.

Cuoco said, "She's obviously not booksmart, but she's street-smart and good-hearted and can make fun of herself. The producers never made her ditzy. Maybe she doesn't always get what the guys are talking about. But in that way, she represents most of the world."

However, she has also been outspoken about wanting to see her character evolve. For example, she admitted to W Magazine that she wanted to see her character in less revealing clothing as Penny grew up and matured. Cuoco said, "I started 'Big Bang' at 21 years old. I was the cute girl next door to the nerds. It was all about booty shorts and Juicy Couture zip-ups. And as the years went on – Penny grows up, Kaley grows up – all of a sudden, it's like, 'Can I have a long sleeve shirt? How about a slack? How about a loafer? I never wanna see that high heel again!'"