Kaley Cuoco doesn't just play a true-crime fan on TV — she's also adores stories of murder most foul in real life.
"I love true crime," the Harley Quinn star tells Yahoo Entertainment. "I always have for years and years and years. I watch all the shows: Dateline, 48 Hours, Forensic Files. I'm obsessed. And now I'm getting more into podcasts because of this show."
"This show" refers to Based on a True Story, a new Peacock series that stars Cuoco and Chris Messina as Ava and Nathan Bartlett, a married couple facing a slew of financial woes just as they're on the verge of becoming new parents. A lifeline arrives when they cross paths with a plumber who they come to suspect is actually L.A.'s most feared serial killer, the West Side Ripper. Rather than turn him over to the authorities, they decide to profit from their knowledge by making him the star of their own true crime podcast in the vein of a real audio serial like... well, Serial or a fictional one like Only Murders in the Building.
"It's like watching an accident happen before your eyes," Cuoco says of why she's drawn to true crime. "You're watching good people do really bad things, and you're like, 'How did you get stuck in this? How did this happen to you?' Watching good people lie, and you're screaming at the TV being like, 'Why didn't you just tell the truth!' People sometimes feel so pressured and scared that they make really, really bad decisions. We watch it, and it's fascinating."
Messina, on the other hand, admits that he's not on the true-crime train, much like his on-screen alter ego, who isn't thrilled with his wife's risky moneymaking scheme. "I don't know if I choose to go there," he says of the genre. "I like to watch it to kind of figure out, and think about if I'm ever in a bad situation how I might be able to get out of it. I can see the hook. And in the show, [Nathan] just wants his wife to love him and he just wants them to be back together, so he'll do anything that she wants to get them back to the way they were."
According to Cuoco, Ava wasn't pregnant in the initial version of the series, but the actress's real-life pregnancy necessitated a rewrite. She and her partner, actor Tom Pelphrey, announced they were expecting in October, when Based on a True Story production began, and welcomed their daughter, Matilda, in March.
"It was a great addition [to the show]," Cuoco says of acting while pregnant. "It made the stakes much higher, because they're getting in over their heads knowing there's a baby coming, it's causing a lot more stress." The actress says she felt considerably less stress off-camera. "Honestly, I lived at the craft service table — I had the best time."
Not for nothing, but she and Pelphrey also now have a professionally made "home movie" of her pregnancy that they can show their daughter when she's older. Asked whether Based on a True Story might be a family binge one day, Cuoco jokes that she's ready to watch it with three-month-old Matilda right away. "She would love it! She can kind of see now."
"I mean, she might be horrified," Cuoco adds. "I did some really ridiculous things in this that would really be embarrassing to a child. But I can't wait to show her and I'm gonna make sure that we watch it."
Based on a True Story is streaming now on Peacock.