Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Who Plays Penny On Big Bang Theory And Where Is She Now?

"The Big Bang Theory," which ran for twelve seasons and nearly 300 episodes, kicked things off by asking an age-old question: can nerds talk to girls? The answer was "kind of, or sometimes, and depending on the nerd in question." In the pilot, roommates and best friends Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) and Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) are fascinated when their new neighbor, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), turns out to be... pretty, and they immediately try and get into her good graces. (Well, Leonard does. Sheldon has no interest.)

Alongside their other friends Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) and Raj Koothrappalli (Kunal Nayyar), Sheldon and Leonard eventually befriend Penny, who hangs out at their place pretty much all the time from that point forward — and that exact dynamic is the foundation upon which "The Big Bang Theory" stands. Penny might not have a PhD or be an astrophysicist, but she has social awareness and understands a completely different world than any of the guys. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj all form bonds with Penny in varying ways, from a romantic relationship to a close friendship to being really creepy towards her in the early seasons (that last one is Howard). So why is Penny so vital to the show, and what's Kaley Cuoco doing now?

Penny provides much-needed levity on The Big Bang Theory

It's safe to say that, without Penny, "The Big Bang Theory" would be a total slog. Penny is the voice of reason whenever the four guys want to do something completely boneheaded, but she also reminds them that there's a big world outside of their insular CalTech workplace and their research projects. Moreover, she's important to Leonard and Sheldon in very different ways.

Leonard and Penny eventually do get together, but it's not without strife; Penny overlooks Leonard for a pretty long time, and Leonard does his fair share of boneheaded things to get in his own way (kissing another woman while away on a remote research project comes to mind). The two ultimately get married, though, and close out the series as its longest-running couple, expecting a baby together. Perhaps more important, though, is Penny's bond with Sheldon. Even though the two are polar opposites, she understands Sheldon's strangeness in a way few others do; she and Leonard often act like his surrogate parents, and in one memorable moment between the two, Penny is able to comfort Sheldon in a moment of panic when nobody else can help him. Penny is essential to "The Big Bang Theory," and it's thanks to Cuoco's central performance that this character is so beloved.

Kaley Cuoco stars in and produces The Flight Attendant

After "The Big Bang Theory" ended, Cuoco had her pick of projects — so she decided to create her own. Under the umbrella of her production company Yes, Norman — named for her dog — Cuoco partnered with HBO to create the Max original "The Flight Attendant," which kicked off in 2020. Cuoco stars in the surreal dramatic series as Cassie, the titular flight attendant, who's the life of the party... to her own detriment, in that she has a pretty serious drinking problem. This comes to a head when she spends a night with a first-class passenger in Bangkok, only to wake up and find him dead the next morning.

The series is split between the real world and Cassie's mental "dream palace," which features the dead passenger Alex (Michiel Huisman) in Season 1 and various versions of Cassie in Season 2, at which point she's attending Alcoholics Anonymous and seeking help for her addiction. It's a trippy, darkly funny, entirely gripping series — which also features brilliant actors like Rosie Perez and Zosia Mamet in supporting roles — and it's clear that, thanks to the clout and money she earned from "The Big Bang Theory," Cuoco is able to pursue more challenging and difficult projects by helping to create them herself.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Harley Quinn is Kaley Cuoco's other major post-Big Bang Theory project

Everyone knows the Joker, but thankfully, his psychiatrist-turned-girlfriend Harley Quinn has gotten more play in recent years. Sure, Margot Robbie plays the character in projects like "Birds of Prey," but Cuoco is Robbie's animated counterpart, voicing the acid-tongued villainess in the Max original series "Harley Quinn." After she spent years on network television, which is highly sanitized, it's oddly refreshing to hear Cuoco spout out constant obscenities and watch her demolish her cartoon enemies in the most brutal, gory ways you can even imagine.

The best part of "Harley Quinn," though, is that it's an unabashedly feminist, queer story led by Harley and her now-girlfriend Poison Ivy, voiced by Lake Bell. The series kicks off with Harley finally leaving The Joker (Alan Tudyk, who provides a whole host of voices for the show) in her rearview mirror, realizing she's more powerful without him and trying to get into the Injustice League. Eventually, Harley and Ivy get together, and their love story isn't quite like anything else on television — and considering "Harley Quinn" is also produced by Yes, Norman, it's clear that Cuoco's creative control extends far beyond her voice talents, and she's working to provide more representation on television.

Kaley Cuoco has also worked on two major Peacock projects

Throughout 2022 and 2023, Cuoco also appeared in two big projects on Peacock. The first, "Meet Cute," is also a Yes, Norman production, and casts Cuoco alongside "Saturday Night Live" and "The King of Staten Island" star Pete Davidson in a fairly twisted romantic comedy. Cuoco plays Sheila, a woman who discovers a time machine in a nail salon's tanning bed and uses it to repeatedly go on the same date with a man who has no idea that he's being manipulated — though after she reveals her ruse, they're able to work things out and finally go on a real date.

2023 cast Cuoco in "Based on a True Story," where she stars alongside Chris Messina as his wife Ava. Nathan (Messina) and Ava are expecting their first child and can barely make ends meet, putting aside the fact that their marriage is seriously on the rocks — but when Nathan flirts with a bartender one night and she turns up dead the following day, Ava starts to think they might be able to solve the crime themselves. A clever spin on the pervasive true crime trend, "Based on a True Story" is yet another chance for Cuoco to show off just how funny she is — and in the years since "The Big Bang Theory" ended, the actress has remained in demand.

"The Big Bang Theory" is available to stream in its entirety on Max.