“The Big Bang Theory” was one of the most popular sitcoms ever to air on CBS. It was a very brave creative endeavor that portrayed conventionally attractive people as nerds and made just enough geek culture references to garner a large, socially awkward audience. It lasted for 12 whole seasons, despite accusations of subversive misogyny and cultural appropriation. Love it or hate it, the show was a cultural phenomenon and will go down in history with similarly successful shows like “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
One of the main characters on the show is aspiring actress Penny. Her conventional, low-brow, midwestern upbringing is supposed to be a hilarious juxtaposition to her neighbor’s (and future husband’s) geeky ways. Surprisingly, the show broke from the traditional “everyone gets a happy ending” sitcom trope. Penny’s dreams of becoming a professional actress died a slow, painful death, but not before the audience discovered one of the deepest and most embarrassing secrets from her acting days.
She had a starring role (and a promising future) in the B-movie horror scene
When Penny first moved to LA, she played a topless, showering murder victim in “Serial Ape-ist,” the movie-within-a-show about a sex-crazed killer ape doing his best low-budget Norman Bates impressions. She assumed the movie was never released and didn’t feel like it was worth mentioning to Leonard and his friends. Little did she know, however, that the footage was leaked online and that everyone had already seen it, Sheldon included.
Within the canon of the show, “Serial Ape-ist” became a cult classic and Penny eventually got the opportunity to play a different part in the sequel “Serial Ape-ist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill.” She played “Ape Girl,” a human woman whose scientist/boyfriend (played by Wil Wheaton) spliced her DNA with that of an ape in order to save her life (somehow). The gene splicing went horribly wrong and gave her a bloodthirsty urge to kill.
The writers and creators of the show had a lot of fun with this secret running gag. Not only were bits of script surreptitiously leaked here and there, but they went as far as to release a faux trailer for the movie, too. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to save Penny’s acting career on the show, but the actor who plays her, Kaley Cuoco, is doing just fine.
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