PLAYBOY: You were modeling by the age of six and acting on TV by seven. Given your personality and income, you probably challenged your parents a time or three.
CUOCO: I don’t think I made their lives too bad, but I always felt I had one up on them. Even at 15, if they said I couldn’t do something, I was like, “Well, I make my own money. I just did a movie. I just did a TV thing.” I knew I was going to get out soon, and I knew my career was happening.
PLAYBOY: On 8 Simple Rules you played a character described as “the hottest girl in high school” who toys with the love and lust of a bunch of boyfriends. Were you the hottest thing on your campus?
CUOCO: The minute I started getting a little popular in school, I didn’t like it. I hated school more than anything. I told my parents when I was 16, “I’m gonna be an actor for the rest of my life, and I want to homeschool, graduate early and do what I want,” which I did. Ashley Tisdale and I grew up together, and she asked me to be her date to her high school prom when I was on the show and had started to get some public attention. I picked the simplest black dress so I wouldn’t make a scene, and these mean girls kept coming at me: “Oh, you think you’re so classy you couldn’t wear a prom dress? Do you think you’re at the Academy Awards?” It was the worst night ever. I don’t think I missed anything being homeschooled.
PLAYBOY: How were you affected by the unexpected death in 2003 of John Ritter, your father on 8 Simple Rules?
CUOCO: It’s the biggest loss of my life and always will be. He touched me more deeply than anyone ever has. He was so insane, incredible and lovely. When I feel hotheaded or exhausted, I think about the time John, Katey Sagal, the rest of the cast and I wanted to go on the rides at Disneyland and it took us an hour to walk 10 feet because people wanted to meet John, hug him, get his autograph. He was always the same with everyone—never annoyed, with a giant smile.
PLAYBOY: When do you feel his influence the most?
CUOCO: Whenever there’s a dark joke in my head or I want to make fun of someone, I laugh because I know he’s sitting right there on my shoulder like a devil-angel egging me on.
PLAYBOY: How does your family handle your fame?
CUOCO: My parents are beyond awesome. They’ve been married more than 30 years and are totally outside of show business. When I told them I was hosting the Teen Choice Awards this year, my mom was like, “That’s nice. I miss you. When am I seeing you again?” To me, doing that show was a big deal, and I had a blast, like it was my own little concert. I really want to do Saturday Night Live. I’ve now said it publicly—I want to work with Kristen Wiig. Of course, if I do Saturday Night Live, my mom will probably say, “That’s nice. When are we seeing you again?”
PLAYBOY: Are you addicted to anything on TV the way fans are addicted to The Big Bang Theory?
CUOCO: My addictions are disturbing. After being on TV my whole life I can’t dive into sitcoms or anything else, because I’m always looking at hair, makeup, lighting, the timing, how the show works. I love Hoarders, which is so unbelievably gross, but I just cannot get enough.
PLAYBOY: Being someone audiences have watched grow up on TV, do you have eight simple rules for keeping yourself out of rehab and the tabloids, unlike so many other actors who started young?
CUOCO: I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, and I’ve learned that if you’re having lunch every day at the Ivy or any place where 8,000 or so paparazzi are out all the time, don’t bitch and complain, “Oh my God, no photos.” Another tip is to live in the San Fernando Valley, where it’s more private. Learn to like to stay home, enjoy your great friends and have a million rescue animals, like I do. Also, when you go out, always wear underwear. It helps when you’re doing things like getting out of a car.
PLAYBOY: Cuoco is Italian for “cook.” If the way to a guy’s heart is through his stomach, what’s your go-to recipe for seduction?
CUOCO: I’m not a very good cook, but I don’t think you can go wrong with strawberries and whipped cream. Whipped cream can go anywhere and end up anywhere. It’s extremely sensual.
PLAYBOY: What’s the craziest, most aggressive thing you’ve ever done for love?
CUOCO: I leave it to men to do the craziest things for me. Someone I’ve been dating recently traveled cross-country just to have dinner with me and then had to leave the next day. That was so nice and such a huge turn-on. I showed my love and appreciation in many ways. Let’s just say that he might be doing that again sometime soon.
PLAYBOY: What recharges your batteries, sensually speaking?
CUOCO: Getting into my incredible Jacuzzi with a glass of wine and listening to Sinatra or Etta James is very sexy. I also like to get into a man’s T-shirt, be with my animals and watch TV, again with a glass of wine. Then there’s my incredible shoe closet, which is just beyond words, where I can put on my sexy shoes and skinny jeans. That’s what I love about my job. I can be a mess all day and then get all dressed up for an event at night and look amazing.