In the first season of HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant, Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) is frequently pulled back into her mind—called the “mind palace” by those who work on the show—where she has conversations with the man she found dead in her bed in a Bangkok hotel (Michiel Huisman) as a way for her to work out her past trauma. When that mystery wrapped up at the end of the season, coshowrunners Steve Yockey and Natalie Chaidez had to figure out if the mind palace would return and in what form. They eventually came up with the idea that the person opposite Cassie in the mind palace this year should be…Cassie.
Chaidez says the idea came up after “watching Cassie go to the journey of admitting she was an addict, and then thinking about her character and thinking about, What do you do with that other piece of yourself, that dark part of yourself?” So they decided that in season two, Cassie, who was on her sobriety journey while also working as a flight attendant along with a side hustle as a CIA asset, would meet other versions of herself in the mind palace.
“I think it was just a really cool way for us to truly see inside her mind and what she’s going through,” says Cuoco, who was nominated for a lead-actress Emmy for her work on the first season. “Every person has multiple parts of their personality that they don’t want to show to the world. We hide a lot of things and we try to show the better sides of ourselves. But at the end of the day, we cannot escape who we truly are.”
In this scene from “Seeing Double,” the first episode of the second season, Cassie is dropped into the mind palace for one of her first confrontations with “gold-dress Cassie,” the version of herself who used to like to drink and party—clad in that very familiar ensemble from the first season. It’s a quick scene, but to pull it off, the Flight Attendant team along with star and executive producer Cuoco had to carefully choreograph every moment and use demanding technology to get it to look as seamless as it does onscreen.
For the first scene with both Cassies, the team chose to use a special-effects technique called motion control, which allowed them to film Cuoco as the different Cassies and then layer those into a single image. So Cuoco films one Cassie while a body double stands in for the other, and then she changes and films the other character. Cuoco assumed this would be like any other day on set, and so she was surprised at first when she was told there would be a day of rehearsal dedicated to just learning how to use this new technique. “So I go to the stages for this first day of rehearsal and I open the stage door, and—I’m not joking—I actually thought I was on the wrong stage,” she remembers. “I thought I’d walked into a Marvel movie. It was like this giant camera, which is a motion-capture camera, which I’d never seen in person before. It was the size of a T. rex. It was so big. And I saw like five blonde girls that were rehearsing these moves for me.”