The actress also tells PEOPLE how Starbucks coffee helps her get through early mornings on set
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Kaley Cuoco is expanding her acting abilities in her dramatic new series The Flight Attendant.

The actress, who starred as Penny for over a decade in The Big Bang Theory, is now the lead role and executive producer of HBO Max’s upcoming series The Flight Attendant, based on 2018 novel of the same name by Chris Bojalian.

Cuoco, 34, stars as flight attendant Cassandra Bowden, who wakes up after a wild night with a passenger to find them dead beside her.

As part of Starbucks’ “Shine From the Start” Spring Campaign, the actress tells PEOPLE how she feels about playing a very different role post-Big Bang and how coffee helps her survive early mornings on set.

“I wanted to try something different, especially more of a dramatic role, which I don’t think anyone thinks I can do, and I know that I can, so I’m really excited about that,” Cuoco says.

“It’s been a whole new experience experiencing a show not just as an actor,” she adds. “I feel like I used to kind of put my head in the sand and do my work and go home, and that’s not the case anymore. It’s like I go home and the work just begins and we’re like putting the show together and editing all this stuff.”

Kaley Cuoco pictured drinking vodka from a tiny bottle as she leans in front of a police car during a scene at "The Flight Attendant" set in Downtown, Manhattan
Kaley Cuoco
| Credit: Jose Perez /

Cuoco recalls that amid wrapping her 12-season run on Big Bang, she optioned Bojalian’s novel to Warner Brothers. Three years later, the actress is in awe of how far they’ve come.

“I walk on the set every day, I cannot believe it, I really can’t,” Cuoco admits. “A lot of people were curious what I was going to do after Big Bang. So there will be a lot of good and bad with it, but I’m super proud of it and I think it’s going to be really entertaining.”

The Flight Attendant brings some early mornings for the actress, who typically wakes up between 4 and 5 a.m. to film in New York City (she previously filmed scenes in Rome and Thailand).

But Cuoco manages to get by each day with a little help from Starbucks coffee, such as the new Blonde Sunrise Blend and the Caramel Crème K-Cup® flavored coffee.

“I’ve never had to have such early calls, this is new,” she explains. “So being up so early it really does help me. It’s just part of the … I’ve never forgotten to have my coffee. It’s like brushing my teeth. It’s all part of it.”

Kaley Cuoco
Kaley Cuoco
| Credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty/Starbucks

“I feel adjusted with the coffee,” Cuoco adds. “I’m don’t get excited to wake up early and start my day. So it takes a lot for me to kind of get going. But the coffee obviously works. But yeah, I’m working on this show, this has been a much newer experience of early, early work days.”

Cuoco says she is always down to indulge in a daily cup of coffee — no matter what time it is.

“There’s definitely not a cutoff for me,” the actress says. “I’ll have it at any point. But I do try in the afternoon, evening to do the decaf, which shows how much I like the flavor because I’ll still just have it.”

The Flight Attendant premieres on HBO Max, which launches in May.