In season two of HBO Max's The Flight Attendant, Kaley Cuoco's Cassie Bowden hits rock bottom. Little did Cuoco know, however, that she'd be going through a similar season in her real life as well.
"It was one of the hardest years of my life. Not only personally, but doing this character that was so tormented," she told Variety. "It was the first time that I started therapy — I’ve been very open about that. I started at the beginning of Season 2, just because I was going through so much right before we started shooting. It was horrible. And I developed a stress rash that ran all the way down my body for three straight months that wouldn’t go away. I literally, like, had fire on my leg for three months. I could barely walk."
The 36-year-old had announced her separation from her husband of three years Karl Cook in September 2021. Their divorce was finalized in June 2022.
"It was really a super dark time," she said. "I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I was throwing myself into work to deny my depression, and how upset I was. Unfortunately, the character was so depressed that it wasn’t helping me! I was really, really, really struggling. A lot of tears."
At times, it helped Cuoco to portray the emotions she was meant to feel as the character. But she admits it was difficult to face the same emotions through multiple lenses.
"The trauma I was going through probably helped whatever I needed to do for this season. Did I mean for that to happen? Oh my God, no. Did I want that to happen? No. It was so life-imitating-art at certain moments that it was eerie," she explained. "I truly feel like the pain I was going through, a lot of that was real on camera. The scene where I break up with Marco — I mean, I could not breathe. I just went in the bathroom, and I literally thought I was going to have a panic attack. Not that what happened to them happened to us. That’s not what I’m saying. It was just the whole idea of the breakup, and saying the words."
Cuoco shared that she "couldn't even run the lines" for certain scenes because of the build-up of emotions. "I knew I was going through such emotional turmoil in my soul that a lot of these scenes the minute those words were going to come out of my mouth, I knew I was going to be a mess," she said specifically of filming an intense scene with Sharon Stone. "I would just be crying for hours. I was so connected to this, and obviously dealing with so much."
Co-star Zosia Mamet stepped in to bring Cuoco some solace.
"[She] moved in with me. I really needed someone with me. I was really losing my mind. And then so many of these scenes were so hard to do because they were so hateful, so sad, and so dark, and there wasn’t a lot of levity," Cuoco said. "Like, it was the loneliest I’ve ever felt, and I am not really someone to share that."
Despite being reluctant to ask for support, Cuoco ultimately had to get honest with herself and others about what she was facing and how it was impacting her. She felt that she didn't have any other option.
"I’ve been very open about it, because I think for the first time, I wanted people to know that things just aren’t always what they seem. And things aren’t always so perfect," she said. "One month in, I had an intervention on myself in my trailer — all my producers were in there. And I said, 'I need help.' It was interesting to say that out loud. And to have everyone be like, 'Yes, we want to help!' I’m a working woman, and so independent, and I really take pride in being able to do everything. Well, this time, I literally couldn’t."
Although the filming process was more painful as a result of what she was going through in her own life, Cuoco said she's "so much better now" and feeling more hopeful about the future.
"I came out of it a couple months ago, and life totally flipped upside down," she said of her depression. "Everyone kept saying there’s going to be a light at the end of this tunnel, and I didn’t believe it until it happened. And now I can tell other people that have the worst years of their life: It’s gonna get better."
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