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January 03, 2019 at 03:13 PM EST

For our Winter TV Preview cover celebrating the final season of The Big Bang Theory, EW’s photo director Greg Garry wanted to do something a little different: “They’ve done a lot of superhero and comic book stuff, a lot of their shoots are themed that way, so I thought we should return to a space theme: the idea of the Big Bang.”

Justin Stephens for EW

And so two of the show’s stars — Kaley Cuoco (Penny) and Johnny Galecki (Leonard) — harnessed up in order to make it look as though they are flying through space on this week’s Entertainment Weekly cover. “We had to cut holes in the clothes, put a belt around them, and then hook them on,” says Garry. “We opened seams in the dress and the sides of his pants.” But don’t worry, no garments were harmed in the making of this cover. “We had a seamstress on site and she sewed them right back up!”

Parsons preferred being on the ground, so he called on his acting talents to replicate zero gravity during the shoot.

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Justin Stephens for EW
Justin Stephens for EW

With only 30 minutes allotted for the entire photo shoot, Cuoco and Galecki had about two minutes of harness time each. “[Galecki] got into it the most. He was doing flips and going crazy,” reveals Garry.

Justin Stephens for EW

Behind the camera was Justin Stephens, a photographer who happened to have also shot The Big Bang Theory cast the last time they appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly back in 2012.

For the other setup, the team recreated the surface of the moon using cement dust, Styrofoam rocks, and a dry ice machine blowing fog. “Kaley wanted to hear ’90s hip-hop, so we were playing Missy Elliot, and all of us were dancing with her,” says Garry. Another reason it was easy for Cuoco to smile? It was her birthday! Though the shoot took place first thing in the morning and was “timed like a military operation,” Garry says, “Kaley was in a great mood. She loved the clothes, and she was super sweet.”

Justin Stephens for EW

For more on The Big Bang Theory and some of TV’s most exciting midseason offerings, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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