Big Bang Theory Creator Chuck Lorre Has This Regret Over The Way The Character Of Penny Was Written

The Big Bang Theory was on the air for 12 seasons and won a ton of Emmy Awards. The sitcom starred talented actors like Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Mayim Bialik. The show also starred Kaley Cuoco, who played the role of Penny.

In the show’s earlier seasons, Penny was the only female character and was often the butt of many jokes. These jokes were often at her expense.

Given the problematic nature of this depiction today, co-creator Chuck Lorre has said he regrets the way that character was initially represented. However, the character of Penny went through quite the evolution as the series progressed.

There Was A Pilot That Was Shot For ‘The Big Bang Theory’ That Went Unseen

When sitcoms are being made, there is always a pilot episode. In fact, depending on how that pilot is received, more than one might be shot. Such was the case with The Big Bang Theory. In 2022, creators Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre spoke with Entertainment Weekly to celebrate the show’s 15th anniversary. During the chat, they spoke about the pilot episode that was never released.

Prady said the first pilot “didn’t work for a bunch of reasons.”

“In the first pilot, the female character (who, at that point, was named Katie) is kind of rough. She’s dangerous in a way and wasn’t very nice to the guys. I remember going to the test screening, the dial testing,” Prady began.

“Yeah, the audience hated her,” Lorre added.

“They hated her, but what was amazing was that they were defending Leonard and Sheldon so much,” Prady continued.

Lorre said, “Yeah, we didn’t realize early on that the audience viewed them as children. They were very naive and childlike, regardless of how intelligent they were. They were very vulnerable, and the audience didn’t want a toxic presence around them. That’s why we rewrote Katie to become Penny and made her much more charmed by the guys and kind to them, as opposed to a woman who would take advantage of them.”

Amanda Walsh was the actress who played the original Penny.

“She was terrific in the role, but the role was misconceived,” Lorre said. “It was our responsibility.”

“Yeah, she was actually a very sweet person, and it was a lot of work for her to become that rough character,” Prady said. “Afterward, she wanted to come back in for the new version of Penny, but she had been so identified as that first character that it wasn’t able to happen.”

Chuck Lorre Said The Early Portrayal Of Penny Wasn’t The Best

While Penny would eventually be joined by other main female characters later in the series, the first three seasons were quite different. She was the only female character in the early seasons and was often portrayed as a ditzy blonde. Penny was the subject of many jokes that would be viewed as problematic today.

big bang theory creator chuck lorre has this regret over the way the character of penny was written

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This is something Lorre said he now regrets. In the book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series, Lorre talks about the early incarnation of Penny and her development as a character.

“One of the most underwritten characters in the show early on was Penny,” he said. “It was really obvious immediately that we hadn’t developed the character beyond the pretty girl next door, and Kaley was certainly capable of doing a great deal more than what was asked of her. We had to make the character more fully realized. Not just for an episode, but always. [Over time] Penny had an intelligence about people, about relationships, and about sussing out a situation and understanding the dynamics of what’s going on in a room.”

Chuck Lorre Spoke About His Farewell To ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Lorre spoke to The Hollywood Reporter in 2019 as the series was coming to an end. He spoke about the show’s early incarnation and how important it was to him for it to end properly.

“It meant a lot — to be there from our very clumsy beginnings, to when we actually figured out how to do it and sustain it, to ending with what I think is a wonderful [episode],” he said referring to the finale. “I know what it’s like to leave too soon. I never want to do that again.”

Lorre said that he had no clue on how to “land the plane safely” and looked to showrunner Steve Holland for advice.

“Steve Holland, who’s been the showrunner for the last two years, suggested that rather than bringing the show to a hard stop — where everybody packs their bags and goes in different directions and the show is exploded in some final way — that we have an emotional finale,” Lorre explained. “I thought that was brilliant.”

big bang theory creator chuck lorre has this regret over the way the character of penny was written

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The series famously ended after Jim Parsons announced he no longer wanted to play the role of Sheldon.

“He wanted to move on,” Lorre said. “And I long ago decided that I didn’t want to do a series if any of the principal players were not in it. I didn’t want to explain away the absence of a major character. I didn’t want to do Archie’s Place. You don’t just pull it apart and put it back together again and expect the same results.”

When asked about his own hesitations about continuing, Lorre said those might have been his motivation.

“My hesitations might’ve been about my ability to keep going. But I never felt it was my place to get in the way of this show. Considering the extraordinary success and the economic nature, I didn’t want to step in front of it. It gets bigger than you and you’ve just got to get out of the way.”

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