Penny Hofstadter is a pharmaceutical sales rep for Zangen Pharmaceuticals, who formerly worked as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Penny moved to California with dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress. In 2007, she moved into the apartment across the hall from Sheldon and Leonard. In 2015, she and Leonard married and now live together in Apartment 4A.
Penny's lack of formal education sets her apart from the guys and her friends, Amy and Bernadette, although she has street smarts and social skills which many of the others lack. Penny has proved to be very handy as a result of growing up on a farm, where she rebuilt a tractor engine at the age of twelve. Penny has been called on by the guys to defeat spiders, online hackers and teach the guys about fishing. In 2012, Penny went back to school to take some history and psychology classes, although she initially kept it quiet from Leonard who she felt would make a big deal about it.
Penny has often had little interest in the guys' geeky hobbies, though she has tried to get on board with some of them for the sake of her relationship with Leonard. While outwardly showing little interest, she has made comments indicating that she subconciously knows far more of the guys hobbies than she cares to admit, much to her surprise. In some cases, Penny has actively shown an interest in their activities; once even becoming addicted to online gaming and, later, arguing with Amy and Bernadette over comic books.
During Penny's time as an actress, she was often short of money and came to rely on the guys. At various times, Penny has received help with her bills, rent and food, usually from Leonard. Her freeloading off their WiFi led to Sheldon repeatedly changing the password, usually with a reference to Penny not paying for her Internet service. At different times, the guys were called on to retrieve a television and money owed to Penny by her ex-boyfriend Kurt. Penny was aware of their support and, when she received a royalty check from her commercial, she paid Sheldon and Leonard back by buying them mint edition Spock collectibles.
While the last name of Penny's family is not known, several of her family members have been introduced. Her father, Wyatt, visited Pasadena once while Penny and Leonard were broken up. Penny pretended to still be dating Leonard, whom Wyatt approved of, in a bid to keep him off her back about her otherwise bad dating choices. Penny's brother, Randall, is a chemist - of sorts - in a meth lab, but seems to be turning his life around after showing an interest in a possible job with Penny’s company. Penny’s mother, Susan, is a bit neurotic, worrying about what others think about her and the family, and ashamed of Randall’s life of crime.
Relationship with Leonard
From the moment he first saw Penny, Leonard was smitten with her. It took almost a year of Leonard pining over Penny before he finally had the courage to asked her out, an offer which Penny accepted. After an "okay" date, Penny broke things off with Leonard as she was afraid she wasn't smart enough for him. The pair then started seeing other people again.
Penny's feelings for Leonard became clear when Leonard and the guys left for a three month expedition to the arctic. Penny couldn't work up the courage to tell Leonard not to go, although she did express a wish he wasn’t going after he had left. When the guys returned from the Arctic, Penny revealed her feelings by kissing Leonard, marking the start of their relationship.
They were together for nine months before Leonard told Penny he loved her. Penny realized she couldn’t say it back to him as she wasn't in the same place in the relationship as he was. As a result of this realization, Penny broke up with him. Following their break-up, despite things being awkward between them at first, Leonard and Penny worked to make sure they could still be friends. While they both went on to date other people, Penny, although hiding it, clearly still harbored feelings for Leonard. At one point, Leonard started a serious relationship with Priya, Raj's sister. This was difficult for Penny to watch and she broke down crying to Amy after meeting Priya. It was especially hard for Penny when Priya demanded Leonard no longer be friends with her.
When Priya moved back to India, the long-distance relationship with Leonard fell apart, and three months later, Leonard made the bold move of asking Penny out to dinner on a date, an invitation Penny accepted. Following what they called a relationship “Beta Test” after the date, Penny and Leonard got back together and have been in a relationship ever since. Over the next year, Leonard and Penny worked on fixing the problems in their relationship that became apparent when they were first together. One of the major problems, Penny’s inability to say "I love you" to Leonard, was overcome when she blurted it out after Leonard became jealous of a guy in her class. They were both shocked at her saying it, so she ran off to work before they both started crying.
When Leonard left for a four month scientific expedition to the North Sea, Penny supported his going away this time. After his return, there was a calm period in their relationship until Penny had a setback in her acting career. Feeling down and sad, Penny proposed to Leonard while she was drunk. Leonard, realizing Penny wasn't in the best frame of mind, hesitated, which angered Penny. Although Leonard worried it would end their relationship, Penny assured him he had done the right thing by not accepting the proposal and told him they were still together.
Penny's acting career took another hit when she was fired from a low-budget movie. Talking with Leonard, she vowed to start making better decisions, one of which was to propose to Leonard. Leonard again hesitated, wondering whether her career troubles were the only reason she wanted to get married. Penny was able to convinced Leonard that her career problems simply made her aware that he was what made her happy. At that point, Leonard pulled out a ring proposing to her, which she excitedly accepted.
After their engagement, the couple did not rush to set a date for their wedding, but did consider their monetary situation and worried whether they were doing the right thing. Leonard and Penny also considered living together, but Sheldon's reliance on Leonard made this difficult. Sheldon finally agreed to let Leonard stay with Penny one night a week - although this meant Sheldon sleeping over in Penny's apartment, too. When Sheldon pushed Leonard and Penny to set a date for the wedding, they started to consider what they wanted for their wedding, even though they said they weren't in a rush. After he told Penny it doesn't matter whether they get married in a day or in fifty years, Penny told Leonard she was free that night and that Vegas is not far away. After Leonard said he was in, the couple drove to Las Vegas.
On the way there, Leonard confessed to Penny that he kissed another woman while away on his North Sea expedition. Penny told Leonard she wasn't happy about the kiss but she could get past it, so the pair carried on driving to Vegas. In Vegas, Leonard and Penny had their wedding streamed over the Internet so their friends back home in Pasadena could watch. While Leonard had prepared his own vows, Penny improvised with some inspiration from Toy Story's You've Got a Friend in Me.
After the ceremony, in their hotel room, Penny again admitted it bothered her that Leonard had kissed another woman, and asked Leonard if he felt guilty about it. Leonard revealed he does, every time he sees her, as he still works with the woman he kissed. This angered Penny and they left their honeymoon suite and returned home to Pasadena to spend their wedding night in separate apartments. Sheldon suggested that if Penny met Mandy, the woman Leonard kissed, it might assuage her fears.
Leonard talked to Mandy to see if she'd be open to meeting Penny. Mandy, who didn't even remember kissing Leonard, posited that Leonard might have been trying to sabotage his relationship with Penny by telling her about the kiss. When Leonard and Penny talked about it, they realized they both may have been trying to sabotage their relationship as they each sometimes feel as if they aren’t good enough for the other. They vowed to stop being so scared of losing each other and just be together.
When Leonard and Penny told Sheldon they would like to live together now they're married, Sheldon had a minor emotional breakdown and reverted to his 2003 self - before he knew Leonard and Penny. They eventually agreed to take things slowly and instead continued to split their time between Apartment 4A and 4B. Following Howard and Bernadette's news that they're expecting a child, Penny admitted that she sometimes thinks about starting a family, although she is in no rush. On a weekend trip to a cabin in Big Bear, Sheldon revealed that Leonard keeps a secret bank account, even though Penny now makes more money than him. Leonard apologized for keeping a secret from Penny, and Penny said she was keeping a secret of her own, admitting she isn't happy with her job, though she plans to keep it as it's the grown-up thing to do.
Leonard’s mother, Beverly, told Penny she was upset by their decision to elope to Vegas and not invited her to the wedding. To make things right, Penny offered to have another small wedding ceremony while Beverly was still in town. This also allowed other members of Penny’s and Leonard’s family attend the ceremony, while their friends could attend after watching the first ceremony on the Internet. Those attending were Penny’s father (Wyatt), mother (Susan), and Penny’s brother (Randall), Leonard’s father (Alfred) and mother (Beverly), Sheldon’s mother (Mary), along with Sheldon, Howard, Raj, Amy and Stuart, with Bernadette officiating.
After Amy’s apartment suffered water damage, she and Sheldon moved into Penny’s apartment (4B), while Penny and Leonard took over Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment (4A). After Penny started changing the apartment by hiding various things of Leonard’s, Leonard allowed Penny to decorate their bedroom, while Leonard moved much of his stuff into Sheldon’s old room. Leonard and Penny later ran into a rough patch in their relationship, where each thought the other wasn't trying enough. They tried to fix their problem by having Sheldon draw up a relationship agreement for them.
After Raj, was forced to move out of his apartment due to a lack of money, Leonard and Penny offered him Sheldon’s old room. Leonard and Penny wondered, after Beverly pointed it out, that they may have a problem living on their own: between not leaving Sheldon, possibly having Randall move in with them and actually having Raj move in with them. Leonard also struggled with Raj living with him and Penny. After Raj and Penny bonded over shopping, wine, spa treatments, and clothes, while ignoring Leonard, he felt left out. When Penny received a job offer from her former boyfriend Zack Johnson, Leonard didn’t feel it was a good idea to work with her former boyfriend, but he reluctantly supported her. In the end, it turned out to be moot, as Zack’s girlfriend didn't like the idea of him working with his ex-girlfriend, and refused to allow him to offer Penny the job.
After Howard and Bernadette revealed their were expecting another child at the same time that Sheldon and Amy got engaged, Leonard decorated the apartment and surprised Penny with cake. He said he did not want her to feel left out by the progress being made in their friends' relationships, but Penny said she did not feel left out.
When Beverly phoned for Leonard when he was out one day, Penny and her mother-in-law chatted and soon struck up a friendship. After Penny revealed that Beverly even told her she was proud of her, Leonard decided to confront his mother about never saying she was proud of him. When he called Beverly, she admitted that she was proud of him for marrying well as Penny is the most impressive of her children's spouses.
As Leonard, Howard and Raj tried to locate Bitcoin they had mined years before, which were now more highly valued, they turned to Penny to find Leonard's old laptop that he gave to her. After Penny admitted that she had given it to Zack, the pair went to him to try retrieve the laptop and the digital fortune. Zack revealed that there was a video on the laptop in which a drunk Penny admitted her love for Leonard, despite having broken up with him. Leonard was moved by how much Penny loved him.
When Leonard received a braggy Christmas letter from his brother, he started to feel bad about how little he and Penny had achieved that year. Leonard started to wonder if, after being married for two years, they should start to think about the next step, like buying a house or having a baby. Penny told him she wanted to do all those things someday, but there's a bunch of stuff she would like to do first, like taking a trip together - even if it's just a day trip.
Apart from Leonard, Penny has only really had two other somewhat serious relationships that we know about. Penny moved in to her apartment following her break-up with Kurt, her hulking boyfriend. Penny asked Leonard and Sheldon to go get some of her stuff back from Kurt's apartment, leading them to get "pantsed". Leonard and Kurt would have other run-ins at Penny's Halloween party and when Kurt owed Penny money.
Penny's other serious relationship, eventually revealed to be more serious than either of them realized, was with Zack Johnson. Following her break-up with Leonard, Penny started dating Zack, a dim-witted guy who delivered the menus to the Cheesecake Factory. However, soon after meeting Zack, Penny left Zack at a party, blaming Leonard for ruining dumb guys for her. She and Zack later got back together, spending Thanksgiving in Las Vegas and New Years with the guys in a costume contest, although they evidently broke up soon after. In 2013, at Thanksgiving, Penny mentioned a "fake Vegas wedding" she and Zack had. Penny learned that it was actually a real wedding and she was married to Zack. Leonard helped Penny sort out the paperwork to have the marriage annulled.
Penny has a complicated friendship with Sheldon, who is very much her polar opposite. Though Penny is often the subject of Sheldon's derision, she has a soft spot for him and has often been like a big sister to him. Penny has cared for Sheldon when he was sick, let him stay in her apartment when he was locked out of his, taken him to Disneyland, and run all manner of errands for him. In return, Sheldon has lent Penny money when she needed it and cared for her when she dislocated her shoulder. During Sheldon's birthday party, Penny was the one to comfort him in the bathroom after the event got too much for him. Penny helped Sheldon feel comfortable enough to go enjoy the rest of his birthday party. Still, their relationship has been adversarial at times. Sheldon has tried to train her with chocolate, teach her as if she was a gorilla, and even banished her from the apartment for breaking his rules. Penny, in turn, has been sarcastic about his relationship with Amy, been unappreciative about how he treats Leonard, and she rolls her eyes at many of Sheldon's comments.
She has had an uncomfortable friendship with Howard, who for three years tried in vain to pick up her. Penny found Howard's advances disgusting, though over time she did start to feel compassion for the guy underneath the "creepy candy coating". Since Howard settled down with Bernadette, Penny is much more comfortable around Howard and has occasionally been surprised by how mature he is now.
From the beginning, Penny cared for Raj, even though he could not talk to her. In the early days, Penny would sometimes leave the room so Raj could speak. When Raj and Penny spent an evening drinking together, drowning their own respective sorrows over Leonard and Priya's relationship, they inadvertently ended up spending the night together. Penny feared she had ruined her friendship with Raj and her relationship with Leonard. Her concerns were allayed when Raj admitted they didn't actually have sex.
When Penny accompanied the guys to the comic book store, she met Stuart, who made a drawing of her and asked her out on a date. Stuart and Penny went on two dates, but their relationship ended when Penny accidentally said Leonard's name as they made out.
After Amy began dating Sheldon, she joined Penny and Bernadette for girls' night. Since then, Amy has made herself part of Penny's social network, and considers her and Penny "besties". Penny has helped Amy overcome some of her awkwardness and Amy is thankful to Penny for giving her the social life she always craved.
Penny met Bernadette when they both worked at the Cheesecake Factory together. When Howard called on a deal he had with Leonard, Penny set Howard up with Bernadette. As Howard and Bernadette started dating, Bernadette became a part of the group and began spending more time with Penny and later Amy. Penny was offended when Howard and Bernadette did not trust her to take care of Halley, but she proved them wrong and was delighted when Halley said her first word - "Momma" - while Penny was looking after her.
Penny moved to California to make it as an actress in Hollywood, though she struggled to break through and has only had a few paying jobs. Shortly after arriving in California, she was cast in a low-budget horror movie titled “Serial Ape-ist”, in which she had a nude scene.
While trying to find acting parts, Penny worked as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. Penny was already working at the Cheesecake Factory when she met Sheldon and Leonard and, as a result, the guys began to eat at the restaurant on Tuesday nights.
After meeting Sheldon and Leonard, her first acting gig was in a one night showcase production of “Rent”, which, after hearing Penny sing, Leonard and Sheldon avoided through a convoluted lie, although Leonard ended up watching a tape of the performance later.. Penny then starred in a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” above a bowling alley, and had a part in a nationwide commercial for hemorrhoid cream.
Following a stage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire", where Penny's performance even impressed Sheldon, Penny's big break was supposed to be a bit part on the CBS drama series "NCIS". Penny was disappointed that her part on the show was cut, and she decided, that to make it as an actress, she should concentrate on acting full time. As a result, Penny quit her job at the Cheesecake Factory in 2014 to focus on her acting career.
Penny was offered a part in the sequel to the film, "Serial Ape-ist II: Monkey See, Monkey Kill", and initially turned it down as she thought it would hurt her when trying for other parts. When the part became available again, Penny reluctantly took the job as she needed the money. After Penny was fired from the movie, she decided to take a break from acting, realizing she didn't need a Hollywood career to be happy.
With Penny unemployed, after quitting The Cheesecake Factory and deciding acting wasn’t making her happy, Bernadette got her an interview at her pharmaceutical company, Zangen, as a pharmaceutical sales rep. During her interview, Penny was worried she wasn't up for the job and knew she had made a bad impression with the interviewer. However, Penny and the interviewer bonded over their mutual fear of Bernadette, landing Penny the job. Penny has taken the job seriously since, even blowing off a night of Vegas fun so she could study up on her work material.
Penny's newfound success as a pharmaceutical sales rep has caused tension with Leonard. When Penny and Leonard were interview on Wil Wheaton's podcast, Kevin Smith offered Penny a movie part. Leonard was initially upset that Penny considered taking the part, rather than focusing on her high-paying pharma job. But, when he learned Penny was making twice as much money as he was, Leonard started to have feelings of jealousy at the role reversal in their relationship.
Penny decided to continue with her pharma job, but still audition for the part in the Kevin Smith movie. While at the audition, all the negative feelings she had felt when auditioning came rushing back. Penny read for the part anyway and, in her words, "stunk up the place". Penny came away with a new appreciation for her pharmaceutical job
While she has been very successful in her pharma job, Penny intensely dislikes the role. One reason is she doesn’t like to have to flirt to get sales. Penny admitted this to Leonard when she was considering taking a job at her ex-boyfriend's company. Although she continues to dislike the job, she is sticking with it as she believes it's the “adult” thing to do.
- Penny's surname has never been revealed on the show. She is the only main character whose last name hasn't been mentioned.
- Penny is the youngest member of the gang, having been 21 when she moved in across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon.
- Penny is a Sagittarius.
- Penny's birthday is December 2, 1985.
- In the pilot episode, Penny claimed to be a vegetarian who eats fish and the occasional steak.
- Penny believes in psychics, ghosts, astrology and voodoo, but not healing crystals.
- Penny has a tattoo of a Chinese symbol on her right buttock. She thought it was the symbol for "courage", but Sheldon said it was actually the symbol for soup.
- Penny also has a tattoo of the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street which she got while she and Leonard were broken up.
- Penny's pet pig, which lived on the family move until its untimely death at the hands of Wyatt's tractor, was called Moondance.
Penny: Sheldon, what did we say about being a nicer friend?
Leonard: Thank you.
Penny: Leonard, what did we say about being a gullible weeny?
Penny: What are you doing back?
Leonard: We got a flat and couldn't get the tire off.
Penny: Oh, I'm sorry.
Leonard: Thank you.
Penny: If it makes you feel any better, I pierced Amy's ears and her mom made her sit in my closet.
Sheldon: We blew up Feynman's van.
Penny: My dad killed my pig with his tractor.
Leonard: I spent the night in Mexico with Sheldon.
Penny: You win.
Raj: (To Amy) If you were having Sheldon's baby, would you really want him in the room?
Penny: Yeah, if he's in the room when they're making the baby, I'll give you $10.
Sheldon: Amy's mad at me, and I'm not clear why.
Penny: Okay, were you talking before she got upset?
Penny: That's probably it.
Penny: (To Raj's dog) Bark once if you need me to call PETA.