Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki’s Big Bang Theory characters may have been together on the show, but the actors also secretly dated for two years off the screen. In a joint interview for the book, The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series, they are opening up about the rise and fall of their romance.
The duo, who starred as Penny and Leonard on the hit sitcom from 2007 to 2019, secretly dated from 2008 to 2010. While they didn’t get together until the end of the first season, Cuoco remembers having a “very big crush” on Galecki early on, per an excerpt from the book published in Vanity Fair.
“All the scenes up until we actually got together in real life, it was obvious there was always something there,” she recalled. “There was chemistry and we were crushing on each other. That was the whole first season until we actually got together for real.”
But there was one scene in particular where they both agreed was the moment they fell in love.
In the episode, “The Nerdvana Annihilation,” Leonard has a dream that he saves Penny in the elevator shaft. In the scene, they are intertwined and share a kiss before it flashes back to a sleeping Leonard. Cuoco, who found it hard at that point to hide her feelings, said it was “not an enjoyable experience” for her.
However, Galecki remembered it differently.
“Kaley didn’t look freaked out at all,” he said. “In fact, she looked extremely happy in those arms. That was certainly one of the moments that I think…”
Cuoco finished his sentence by saying, “I think we fell a little in love in that elevator shaft.”
Galecki echoed that they “felt something” and the scene was a “massive turning point” in their relationship to which Cuoco added, “I was like, ‘Uh‑oh.’ I was crushing so hard on him. So much so that I was like, ‘Get me out of here,’ because he had to hold me up and we had to do this really close thing. Even my cheeks were really red.”
They went on to secretly date for two years — even keeping it from their fellow castmates for months. In the end, Galecki said his “strict policies of privacy” was one of the main factors that created a rift between the two. While Cuoco was more open about her life, he wanted to be “protective of the audience’s acceptance of Penny and Leonard.”
But it didn’t stop them from remaining close. Cuoco said they still “adore” each other and revealed that Galecki sat front row at both of her weddings.
“Yes, there was some hurt there for a bit, but it didn’t take us that long to go back to what we were before we were dating and be friends,” she said.
You can stream The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max.