Kaley Cuoco is famous for playing Penny on The Big Bang Theory, but the super successful 12-season show was just a highlight of the actress’ decades of hard work and career determination.Born on Nov. 30, 1985, Cuoco was an aspiring actress from her earliest days in Camarillo, Calif., making fond memories on the stage when she was just 5.
She landed several small roles before even hitting the double digits. Eventually, she would become a breakout star on a few popular television series, including 8 Simple Rules and Charmed, though she’s likely best known for her time on the popular CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
Winning admirers with her refreshing transparency and down-to-earth attitude, Cuoco is one fiercely independent female who is almost as anti-Hollywood as it gets while having still achieved the ultimate Tinseltown success story. Here’s a look at Kaley Cuoco’s stunning transformation over the years.
Kaley Cuoco discovered her love for tennis as a kid. Her parents wanted her to be well-rounded, so they encouraged her to have a hobby in addition to acting. Cuoco told Cosmopolitan, “My Mom made this rule: If you want to do [acting], you have to pick something else, too.” And tennis was an obvious choice for young Cuoco.
By the time she was almost a teenager, Cuoco was participating in tennis competitions. She even became a regionally ranked amateur, according to People Magazine! “As cheesy as it sounds, all my eggs were never in just one basket. I had a thousand baskets going on,” she explained to Cosmopolitan. But that all changed when she presumably realized she couldn’t divide her time and focus between acting and tennis and would have to choose between her two loves.
So at age 16, Cuoco made the decision to call game, set, match, and she stopped pursuing tennis professionally, instead focusing on performing.Kaley Cuoco’s earliest career successes were appearances in commercials, as noted by Business Insider. Those gigs were quickly followed by her first television role at age 7.
She played Connie Reinhardt in the 1992 television movie thriller Quicksand: No Escape. In an interview with Sidewalks, she shared that she remembers being on stage as a child and feeling no pressure from her parents. “My parents said, ‘Do it or don’t,'” she stated.
But being a darling on the small screen didn’t make her so well-liked with the kids at school. “I wouldn’t say I was bullied, but I was definitely a bit of an outcast,” she said in a Parade magazine interview. So she started getting homeschooled in the fifth grade by her mother. She claims this made her much happier, and it also put her on an accelerated path, with Cuoco earning her high school diploma at age 16.
Despite the fact that she never went to high school, she did manage to snag an invitation to prom. Actress Ashley Tisdale asked Cuoco to go to prom with her during her first year working on 8 Simple Rules (via Parade).
After appearing on episodes of various television shows from 1994 to 2002, Kaley Cuoco finally scored her first major television role. She was cast to play Bridget Hennessy, the eldest daughter of John Ritter and Katey Sagal’s characters on the sitcom 8 Simple Rules. But landing the role wasn’t easy.
She told Sidewalks that the casting director called her agent after her initial audition to tell her how rough it had gone and to encourage her to try again as they felt she was still right for the role. Cuoco did, and she then spent the next three seasons on the show until ABC canceled 8 Simple Rules in May 2005 due to low ratings.
Among other lessons, Cuoco told Cosmopolitan that her 8 Simple Rules experience taught her “not to get too caught up in a business where even success involves tons of scrutiny and rejection,” as the magazine explained. The acting job taught her about hard work and made her realize how much she loves sitcoms (via Sidewalks).
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