Billed as a miniseries, the eight-episode HBO Max thriller certainly left a lot of questions unanswered in the end, even as Cassie's (Kaley Cuoco) topsy-turvy, chaotic and incredibly messy journey seemed to wrap up on a bright note. After catching Alex Sokolov's real killer, Felix (ahem, Buckley Ware), with the help of an unlikely ally in Miranda (Michelle Gomez), Cassie turned over a new leaf, vowing to leave behind the demons of her past -- a troubled childhood, the excessive drinking, the never-ending spiral -- to break the cycle and start anew. Will she accomplish her goal of recovery and sobriety? Potentially. The open-endedness of that question left more intriguing with the possibility that Cassie may be recruited into the CIA's asset program. (Seriously, there is so much to digest!)
While Cassie faced her issues and dealt with the consequences, not everyone else was lucky enough. Case in point: Cassie's flight attendant friend, Megan (Rosie Perez), who ends up going on the lam after her double life of selling secrets to the North Korean government(!) reaches a dangerous boiling point. She leaves stacks of money and a note for her son and husband, promising to make things right, before going on the run to a destination unknown. Then there's Cassie's lawyer BFF, Annie (Zosia Mamet), newly unemployed and in a (maybe) serious relationship with her hacker boyfriend, Max (Deniz Akdeniz), after the unconventional couple exchange "I love you's" following his near-death accident.
Creator Steve Yockey, who brought Chris Bohjalian's 2018 novel to life with a heavy dose of twisted humor and tweaked plot points, revealed to ET that conversations are only just beginning with the powers that be about continuing the story. ("I hope so," Cuoco said on Tuesday's Watch What Happens Live when asked about a season 2.) And if there is another chapter in Cassie's story, Yockey hinted that it may revolve around a new mystery or dicey situation the Imperial Airlines flight attendant will undoubtedly find herself in the middle of somehow: "If we do another one of these, it will be more of that and probably along the lines of another Hitchcock-inspired adventure, where she sort of ends up embroiled in and she stumbles into another mystery."
With all eight episodes now out in the world, Yockey answered the biggest questions following the finale, including Cassie's relatively happy ending, what the heck is going on with Megan, what the next chapter of The Flight Attendant may look like, the decisions behind several big changes from the book and much more.
ET: What's been the most surprising reaction to the series?
Steve Yockey: I think for me, I'm not surprised but I'm thrilled that it's resonating with people. That they're getting on the ride and staying on. We always wanted to make a show that felt weird, and to the network and the studio's credit, they were very supportive of all the crazy stuff we wanted to do because it's all rooted in Cassie's journey through these eight episodes. And for us, it's gratifying that people are really responding to the show because it's like, "Oh, cool. We did that." But I'm surprised at the magnitude of the response because we all hoped that people would discover the show and be able to enjoy it, and it feels like it's done gangbusters, you know? Everyone's real excited.
The finale seems to wrap up Cassie's story very nicely, but also leaves a few questions unanswered. How are you viewing these eight episodes, and is this season, in your mind, the completion of her journey?
Yeah. I mean, look, it was important to us to tell a story in eight episodes that had a beginning, middle and an end. From the very beginning, we were like, we're going to get to the end of Cassie's emotional journey across these eight episodes and we're going to get the end of the mystery of Alex Sokolov. If we can wrap up those two things in a way that feels dramatically satisfying, then I feel like I've done my job. What that does though is there are these little floating things that are just fun that are out there, so if we decided to do another one, it would be like, what's the next adventure for The Flight Attendant? Like, what's the next thing that Cassie can stumble into and suddenly find herself in the middle of an intrigue or a mystery, and which of those things can we pick up and take with us? It'll be a fun thing to unpack should it come to that.
Cassie has an "aha" moment where she realizes she needs to break the cycle of her past if she wants to move forward with her life, and it seems like she's turned a leaf by the end. Is Cassie on the path to recovery? How are you viewing where she is at the end of the story?
It really feels like what we were trying to do is instead of she's magically stopped drinking at the end of the series, we were trying to take advantage of what is essentially two weeks of time passing in our eight episodes, or maybe a couple more days between the very end of [episode] 8 and where we see her with Annie, but it's a compressed period of time so we're watching her on a journey to recovery instead of a journey of recovery. She's getting to a place where she can start taking these tiny baby steps towards changing her life. And even she says, "It's hard," like it's really hard. It's not just magic and sunshine and all of a sudden you stop drinking and the world changes. We want people to feel hopeful for Cassie, that she's going to stick to it this time and that she's really trying for the first time to do something different. Hopeful is how I want people to feel at the end of it, when they watch the finale about her journey.
A lot of the characters aren't 100 percent truthful about who they are. Many lead double lives, triple lives even...
Except Cassie's brother, Davey. He seems to be the only decent person who is absolutely who he says he is. Even Alex isn't all that perfect of a person. What was interesting to you about exploring that theme across the board?
Yeah, it was this idea that we're going to make a show about a woman who isn't being honest with herself. And if we're going to do that, if we're going to make a show that's about personal fidelity, then let's make sure that that exists in every single storyline. So then it becomes, is Annie being honest about the work that she does? Is she being honest with herself? Is Megan being honest with herself about how dangerous this thing that she's doing is? Is Alex being honest with himself about not realizing, until Miranda explicitly said it, that he was involved in crime? Everyone's sort of lying to themselves in different ways and the eight episodes of the show make them face the truth of those things. That was definitely by design and I'm glad you picked up on that.
I kept thinking to myself, "Thank god Davey is a standup person."
I would say though that Miranda is pretty honest. She's very comfortable in her skin.
We find out Alex's killer is Felix, or Buckley, which is a major change from the book. Why mark him as the killer? What value did that tweak bring to the show?
I love that part of the book. I love the reveal that she's been dating a guy who is hunting her. It's so well done. For us, it became clear very early in the creative process we were going to -- because we added the stuff about Cassie's childhood, we added the mind palace -- that it felt like we're going to be spending the majority of our time in Cassie's point of view. That's how the show is going to work. That means that we don't get to have dual narrators like the book has. Elena is a narrator in the book. Once we'd made that decision, it was sort of like, OK, can we build this reveal in a certain way so that we can preserve Miranda as that villain that we fall in love with? And if she had killed Alex, then it wouldn't have worked. So we put it all on Felix and I feel like it worked out very well.
There were several memorable fights, such as the elevator standoff between Felix and Miranda and the hotel room fight between Felix and Cassie.
It's fun to have moments like that elevator fight because Cassie is not a spy. Cassie is not a spy or a detective. So, you're watching her fumble around and succeed on these things by accident, so it's great to have little moments like when Miranda gets attacked in the car in episode 6 or the Felix-Miranda fight in episode 8, because it's like, "Oh right, she's surrounded by people who actually know what they're doing." So, that's always fun. Plus, who doesn't love an elevator fight?
What's going on with Megan? She's now on the run, but she dropped one last clue to her family at the end. You mentioned keeping certain things open-ended. What's her next move?
We always felt like Megan has this great line in [episode] 8 that really sums up Megan's journey where Cassie says, "Megan, it's going to be OK," and Megan looks at her and is like, "Cassie, everybody doesn't get to be OK." I think it was important to us, that if everybody had a happy ending in the show, then it would feel too neat and it's a messy show, as you mentioned. It's meant to feel messy and chaotic. Not everybody gets a happy ending and Megan has work to do. She's going on the lam at the end with the intent of one day getting back to her family, but she's going to have to figure out how to connect those dots. She's got a whole journey in front of her coming out of the end of this, much like Cassie has a journey of recovery, Megan has a journey of repair, I guess. How does she do that? Maybe if we were lucky enough to have another one of these adventures with The Flight Attendant, we would get to find out what Megan's up to as well.
Do you have answers of Megan's backstory and of why she even got involved with these men in the first place?
I think she got involved with these men because she didn't realize that they worked for the North Korean government, and she was a middle-aged woman who is underappreciated at work, who people don't really listen to, who felt that her son was outgrowing her and ignoring her and she just wanted to feel special. These men gave her an opportunity to do something exciting and dangerous and let her feel special and successful. I think that is why she decided to do it, for the excitement and to be seen in a way. Because that was something she was struggling with, and then it all spiraled out of hand because she lied to herself and said it's not really that big of a deal. Then, the series shows her time and time again, oh, it's a huge, giant deal. So by the end, she's going to have to face the reality of that and try and fix it. I don't think we would go into Megan's backstory anymore because I think that is a pretty clean explanation, but I do think there's a lot of fun to be had in what she's up to now.
I want to know what is Megan like on the lam. What does that even look like?
She packed a bunch of hats and ponchos and then took off. I don't know, we'll find out.
Shane also revealed that he was an undercover CIA agent. He drops the hint that Cassie might be recruited to be in the CIA asset program. Is that potentially where Cassie ends up?
Yeah, it's really interesting. I'm kind of obsessed with this idea that intelligence agencies use flight attendants to keep an eye on people and being told, "This guy's going to be on this flight and staying at this hotel where you are, so just keep an eye on him," or things like that. There's something interesting there. Cassie's reaction is the audience's reaction in episode 8, which is like, "What are you talking about?" And then also, "Oh, that sounds interesting," you know what I mean? And Shane says, "Don't worry, they're not going to give you a gun." I think that could be a really fun thing to explore with Cassie, but the show's always going to be about her making not the best decisions. If we do another one of these, I think it will be more of that and probably along the lines of another Hitchcock-inspired adventure, where she sort of ends up embroiled in and she stumbles into another mystery.
There are so many twists and turns in the novel that were kept the same and some that were changed for the series. What was the biggest tweak from the book that you really fought for?
The two biggest things that we changed, other than the fact that to fill eight hours of television you have to create all of these little sub-adventures, are who killed Alex. We wanted to do something fun with Miranda and we didn't have the room to share a point of view with Miranda like the book does with Elena, so we couldn't build this world where she killed Alex and now she's trying to make up for it. So we just made her a bad-guy-you-love kind of a character, and it was much easier for us and more exciting for us to pin it all on the Buckley/Felix reveal. Then, the other thing that we've changed is at the end of the book, Cassie's pregnant and it's a big driver for why she decides to make some of the life changes. I felt from the very beginning and Kaley, I know agrees very strongly with this, that's lovely but the show we were making is about a woman who decides to change for herself, not for someone else. That was the other change we felt like for the TV show was the right thing to do.
What was the trickiest scene to get right?
The trickiest scene to get right was probably the car accident with Cassie's dad and the other couple, and the AA meeting. Those were the two things because it happened the same episode. But the AA meeting was logistically, we were post-COVID. The number of people in the room, the safety concerns, having to replace everyone with Alex, the VFX that was involved in it, that was difficult. At the same time, Kaley has to be portraying Cassie's panic attack being trapped in an AA meeting. Filming the breakdown in the hotel room in the first episode, Kaley does it beautifully, but that was very intense. The car accident was probably... Because that involved a lot of logistics and then some really heavy emotions from both young Cassie and from adult Cassie. I remember Marcos Siega, who directed episodes 7 and 8, he was like, "This is beautiful in the script, but this is a moment. We have to land with this moment." This is the turn, you know? I think it came out well.
What also was striking is all the women on the show are fearless and have a bit of a "screw you" attitude, which is refreshing to see. How much of that were the characters and the circumstances that they're in and how much of that was fueled by the actors?
We wanted to write a series that was a thriller with women in the roles that were traditionally given to men. We wrote a bunch of strong, complicated women who are making sometimes messy choices. Then, I think we cast actors who could really carry that. We have a cast of actors that all have comedic chops and can do comedy, but they can also all drop in and really be a force on screen, and our goal was to give everybody an opportunity to do that.
So there might be a chance for the story to continue?
Yeah. I mean, never say never. I think it's one of those things where we're just starting to have conversations about it now, and it would just need to be the right story. But, I think Cassie's a super fun character and Kaley just knocks her out of the park. So, I think there's always a way.