Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco co-starred as love interests from 2007 to 2019 for the 12 seasons of CBS’ sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” Galecki played experimental physicist Leonard Hofstadter, while Cuoco played his across-the-hall neighbor Penny, an aspiring actress. Leonard develops a crush on Penny right off the bat, but the two don’t start seriously dating until Season 3 — before breaking up at the end of the season when Penny fails to reciprocate saying “I love you” to Leonard. However, the pair eventually get back together in Season 5 and are engaged by Season 7. By the end of the series, Leonard and Penny are happily married with a baby on the way.
As the most ardent fans of “The Big Bang Theory” likely know, Galecki and Cuoco dated in real life for about two years toward the beginning of the time the series was on the air. After keeping the relationship on the down low, Cuoco revealed the real-life relationship in an interview with CBS Watch Magazine in September 2010 after the pair had broken up. At the time, Cuoco said, “It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it.”
Now, over a decade later, the co-stars have opened up in detail about what it was like to fall in love on set — and why they were convinced that the “Big Bang Theory” writers were messing with them.
Galecki and Cuoco thought the writers gave them more kissing scenes after their break up
Vanity Fair recently published an excerpt from “The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story” by Jessica Radloff, focusing on what Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco (alongside some of the other cast and crew) had to say about the real-life romantic relationship that came about on the set of the sitcom. When detailing what it was like for them on set post-breakup, Cuoco noted that she and Galecki started noticing an uptick in intimate scenes between their characters.
Cuoco said, “All of a sudden, we started noticing there were extra makeout scenes for our characters, and/or sex scenes. I was like, ‘I think [co-creator] Chuck [Lorre] is f****** with us!’ We were convinced. Convinced!” While noting that it made sense for the character, Galecki added that it did seem that these types of scenes were showing up a bit too often.
However, on his end, Lorre said that nothing of the sort occurred, citing there was no time for messing with his actors within the time restraints of making a sitcom. Lorre continued, “There’s no ‘Let’s mess with Kaley and Johnny’ … But I think that’s charming that they think we had the mental capacity to mess with them. Penny and Leonard having difficulty sustaining a relationship was one of the reasons to keep watching — to see if they could make it. You were rooting for them to find happiness.”
Galecki and Cuoco then lightheartedly admitted that it was probably a bit self-involved for them to think that over all this time. Galecki added that he can rest easy now, knowing the truth.
Cuoco thinks their real relationship benefitted the on-screen romance
In the Vanity Fair excerpt, Kaley Cuoco also revealed that she believes the relationship between Penny and Leonard worked so well, at least in part, because of her real-life relationship with Johnny Galecki — including the friendship they sustained after breaking up.
Cuoco said, “Johnny and I’s relationship, in a way, was mimicking Penny and Leonard. They were always giving each other s***, and Johnny and I have a similar relationship — which you do after years of being together. We’ve always had each other’s backs, and you can’t lose that. And I do think it happened on-screen. It made our relationship funny and endearing.”
Plus, there was the fact that all through Season 1, the romantic tension was building up between Penny and Leonard, just as it was between Galecki and Cuoco off-screen. Cuoco even revealed that she found it incredibly difficult to film the scene in Season 1’s “The Nerdvana Annihilation” in which Leonard daydreams about saving Penny in the elevator. While the elevator scene was an extreme example, Cuoco said that it was a familiar experience for most of their scenes together in the first season. She explained, “All the scenes up until we actually got together in real life, it was obvious there was always something there. There was chemistry and we were crushing on each other.”
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