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How Rosie Perez Brought Her Flight Attendant Character To Life - Exclusive

The Flight Attendant on HBO Max is a thriller series loaded with plenty of mystery and intrigue. Aptly-placed darkly comedic moments are instrumental in breaking up that tension. Kaley Cuoco stars as Cassie, a free-spirited flight attendant with a penchant for partying. She tends to take it a little too far, making her late for work and affecting some of her personal relationships. She meets a cool character named Alex (Michiel Huisman) on a flight to Dubai and later ventures out with him for a night on the town. He's still there when she wakes up the next morning, only now he's dead and she can't recall what happened. From there, things begin to unravel as she tries to recall the previous evening and figure out who murdered Alex.

Rosie Perez, who has been turning in memorable performances since her screen debut in 1989's Do the Right Thing, plays Cassie's co-worker Megan. We see right away that the two are confidants and friends, with a closeness that paves the way for Megan to get caught up in this drama of Cassie's while she's dealing with her own personal dilemmas. Megan is hard to figure out — like every aspect of the storyline, she keeps you guessing.

As she told Looper during our exclusive interview, Perez had definite ideas about how she saw the character from the beginning. "Well, I had told the executive producers that I don't want Megan to be a punching bag, but I don't want her to be a really strong 'F-you' type of character either," she explains.

"I told them I would love to balance the two, where she feels like nobody sees her and she feels discontent with her actually great middle-class life. She looks at Cassie and it makes her wish she had her own youth back, wishing she had excitement like that, even though she knows that Cassie is a mess. Cassie frustrates her, yet she's charmed by her at the same time."

How Rosie Perez channeled her own anxieties to play Megan

Perez didn't see Megan the way the character was initially intended to be portrayed — she was scripted with more of an annoyed demeanor. She didn't think a wall of anger would allow her to develop the bond with Cassie that the two have, even with the story's complexities. She knew that we had to see some of Megan's desires and vulnerabilities, to give her depth.

"Initially, they wanted her to be very angry and very annoyed and I said, 'No, Megan wishes she could be late because she just got out of bed with a hot guy, like Cassie.' Or she wouldn't be mad because Cassie was late — she'd want to hear the juicy details. I told them about my own anxieties and insecurities and how I know how to hide them, that I've been doing it since I was a child and I wanted to bring that to Megan. There are a lot of layers — you wonder what is up with her."

Perez received plenty of support from her collaborators on The Flight Attendant when it came to shaping the character of Megan. "It's wonderfully written, and it drops a little gem each episode revealing more of what [Megan's] all about and what's she's up to," she says. "I told them, 'I know how to do this.' The tone of the show is so specific, and it took a minute to find that right spot to ease into. We have a great team and cast, especially the director, Susanna Fogel. After the first few scenes, I go, 'I got her, I got her — let's rock and roll!'"

The Flight Attendant is streaming now on HBO Max.