"This has been the honor of my career," the actress says of her Emmy-nominated role in the HBO Max series

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For Kaley Cuoco, receiving an Emmy nomination for her role in The Flight Attendant was icing on the cake.

"This has been the honor of my career," Cuoco, who also produced the HBO Max hit, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "When the announcements came out, my heart swelled. But I feel like I've already won."

In the show, based on a 2018 novel, Cuoco plays the titular character, an unstable flight attendant entangled in a murder. Tackling the producing aspect was somewhat uncharted territory for the star.

"I had never made a show," says Cuoco, 35. "I was like, 'I don't even know how people do this!' And I didn't realize, until this show, how many people are involved in getting this thing off the ground."

For more on Kaley Cuoco and this year's Emmy portfolio, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

kaley cuoco
Credit: James Macari
The Flight Attendant
Credit: Colin Hutton/HBO

Cuoco recalls a key moment on set when she realized her vision was becoming a reality.

"I begged Rosie Perez to play Megan," she says of her costar. "And eventually, I got her on board. A few months later, we had our first scene together in the galley and I looked over at her and my eyes started to well up."

"She's like, 'What's the matter with you?' And I said, 'Do you understand this is like a child with her mood board?'" she continues. "I'd been involved in the whole thing, and it was a dream literally coming true in front of my eyes."

The Flight Attendant
Credit: Phil Caruso/HBO

She has also learned valuable lessons in the production process.

"I asked a lot of questions," she says. "You have to learn you're not the smartest person in the room. I was a little fish in a big sea! It was a really humbling experience, but it also gave me a sense of bravery."

Ultimately, "I trust my gut," says Cuoco. "It doesn't mean I'm always right. But in all aspects of myself, it's black and white, no gray. I go all or nothing!"

The 73rd Emmy Awards will air live on Sep. 19 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.