Streaming is the future and the future belongs to Joey King. The actress, who began as a child star in roles, big and small dating back to 2006, has finally had her breakout year. She drew critical acclaim for her role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard in “The Act,” Hulu’s latest hit. Based on the Michelle Dean article “Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered,” King had to portray a young woman growing up with a mother who lived with Munchausen’s by proxy. The effects of her abusive upbringing leads Gypsy to be a key orchestrater in the murder of her mother, Dee Dee (played by Patricia Arquette). By next month, King could find herself an Emmy nominee for her tremendous work on the show.
“The Act” wasn’t King’s only success this past year. Netflix’s hit film “The Kissing Booth” made King a household name among teen audiences. The film follows Elle Evans (King), a late bloomer who signs up for the kissing booth at her school’s carnival. This puts her face-to-face with her crush, Noah (Jacob Elordi), who just so happens to be the brother of her best friend, Lee (Joel Courtney). For our interview, King talked to us from South Africa, where she is currently filming a sequel to “The Kissing Booth,” which is slated for release in 2020.
Christopher James (CJ): Hi Joey.
Joey King (JK): Hi. How are you?
CJ: I’m doing so well. Thank you so much for talking to me and the Awards Circuit audience. 2018 and 2019 have been pretty big years for you so far, haven’t they?
JK: They have been crazy.
CJ: Between both “The Act” and “The Kissing Booth,” which were [both] huge streaming hits, have you felt that your day-to-day life has drastically changed? Has anything shifted in your career since [those projects]?
JK: Definitely. I think that my day-to-day life is a bit busier now. I’m out filming “The Kissing Booth” sequel in South Africa right now. Between filming “The Act,” I had a little less than a month off in between [projects]. I was promoting “The Act” and then I came straight here. So it’s been a bit busy, but I like it that way.
CJ: Amazing. For many, this was your breakout year. I know that you’ve been acting for quite some time, even dating back to “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” episodes in 2006. How has… the craft of acting grown for you as you’ve gotten older? … How [is] it different being an adult star, compared to being a child star and how did you navigate that transition?
JK: I was really lucky to have a really good family surrounding me and to be able to find those great friends who are super supportive and just nothing but kind people. I think that when making a transition from a child actor, to an adult actor, it’s … about … the work that you put in and the skill level that you have and the work that you put in to have that skill level. I think it is really a lot about … your mental health state. Surrounding yourself with people who uplift you, make you feel better and make you a better person is really important in any career choice, [especially] when you choose [a career] that has a lot of attention on you.
CJ: Absolutely. So very true. Shifting over specifically to your role in “The Act” where you play at Gypsy Rose Blanchard. The miniseries was based upon a Buzzfeed article, “Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered” [by Michelle Dean, co-creator of “The Act”]. Were you familiar with this story before signing onto the project? What initially attracted you or connected you to this project?
JK: I was initially familiar with the project, but I wasn’t insanely well educated on it. I had heard of the article. I hadn’t read it, but I had heard of the story. When I got the audition, of course I read the script for the first episode and I was so impressed with it … and so amazed by how well it was written. Then of course I kind of went into a bit of a deep dive on the Internet. [I] read the article, watched the documentary and found all the information I could. It blew my mind, all the information out there.
I think the way such a horrifying story was written so well is what attracted me to the project because it’s a really hard story to tell. It’s disturbing content and it’s [a] hard subject matter for people to watch you take in. But it was told in a way where it didn’t romanticize it. …. It was telling a story more than telling the tale of a murder. It was telling the story of two people’s lives.
CJ: What was that audition process like? Did they just throw you into the deep end of this really challenging character? How did you navigate [the character of Gypsy Rose] from square one?
JK: I was asked to come in and I was so nervous. But it was just a standard audition. I met with the show runner, Michelle [Dean] who wrote the article, our director of the first two episodes of episodes, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and, and the casting director, Sharon [Bialy]. … When you go in for a role like Gypsy and for a character like that, I feel like there’s no right way to do it and there’s no wrong way to do it. It’s one of those things where it was nerve wracking for me because there were so many different ways to go and there are so many different choices that you could make to try and tell this person’s story.
But I remember specifically being told to not do her voice… for the audition. I thought to myself, “Well that makes it a bit difficult, because I think that’s such a huge part of who Gypsy is.” But I didn’t do the voice and I left the audition the first time feeling like, “I don’t know how it went. Hopefully it went all right.” I couldn’t really get a read on them.
Then they asked me to come back and I was like, “Oh, that’s good!” This time we, it was less about the audition process. We just had a conversation. I mean, we did do the scenes. But, we [also] just had a really broad conversation about the story. It wasn’t really meant to be that. It was meant to be just reading the scenes. But I kinda got into it with everybody and we just talked and talked and talked and I left there feeling really excited about the conversation we had.
But again, I hadn’t done the voice for them yet. They offered me the role and I accepted, of course. I was so excited [because] I had wanted it so badly. I told them [that] I really think, as an actor, … it’s important that I do the voice. They were ecstatic that I had thought of doing that, because they just didn’t want people to come and audition with [the voice] and have it sound like everyone was making fun of Gypsy or everyone was trying to, you know, put on the voice. I told them I would work really hard to make it sound as real as possible, and that’s exactly what I did.
CJ: I think that one of the most impressive things that your performance was having [the] affectations of this person. Especially if you’ve been inundated with the story that you know so well. But [you] still [found] the humanity behind [her affectations]. Once you started [putting] on the voice and the feeding tubes and all of the things around this story while on set, did you find it easier or harder to display that added layer of complexity that you were talking about in your audition?
JK: I found it to be definitely an aid to the performance. … [being] in that wheelchair or when, you know, I shaved my head, I put in the fake teeth, I did the voice. And that, Along with studying the research I did on Gypsy and being around such talented directors, such talented actors, such as loving crew, I’m so thankful for all those people and all the things that made my performance what it was because every little thing helps a performance. Every little thing makes a performance what it is. I couldn’t have done it without any one of the people there. … Yeah, I think all those things together, they definitely helped me performance for sure.
CJ: One of the other things that makes the performance is your incredible chemistry with Patricia Arquette, who plays your mother Dee Dee. What was it like working with Patricia? Did you have to do a lot of rehearsal with her to kind of build this fraught, complex mother-daughter relationship?
JK: Well, what’s crazy is that we really did not have a lot of rehearsal time. Our rehearsal time really consisted of just reading through our scenes a lot for each episode. We just kind of read through them. We didn’t really get into the dynamics of exactly how we wanted to do them. Initially, I think Patricia [Arquette] and I knew that we were very compatible and were going to get along just fine.
I think when we got on set, and I always think this is true, [that’s] where our best and most spontaneous work came and where our relationship truly blossomed as well. I think that it was just such vulnerable performances we were giving. So much of the time, [we] thought of new things in the moment. We really grasped and got a hold of our characters while in the middle of scenes. It was amazing to watch and amazing to be part of. It was so fun and so educational to be able to bounce off ideas with her and our directors. I felt like every day was a learning experience and I felt everyday was a bonding experience. I’m really grateful for that.
CJ: Were there any days or scenes that you knew were coming up and you were scared or dreading? Was there a particular moment that you were particularly proud to see completed because you weren’t quite sure how it would land?
JK: Oh my gosh, absolutely. There’s tons of moments that, I wouldn’t even say [scared or dreading]. I would just say anticipating a lot of these moments. … I would see something in the script and … mentally hype myself up for that [part]. The reason why it was such a magical experience for me was because it really scared me. … But there were plenty of scenes [and] plenty of times where I was like, “I’m really nervous for that or I’m really excited for that.” There was a lot of times where, after I would shoot something, I’d be super excited about how it went, but then I would get that actor-y, nervous minds and be like, “but I really hope it came off okay. And I really hope that it turns out the way I thought it did.” Just seeing all the episodes be put together and seeing everything come together the way it did,
I’m so happy that this show is resonating with people. I really have to say I enjoyed the show a lot myself. Getting to watch Patricia and Calum [Worthy]’s performances come to life and AnnaSophia [Robb], Chloe [Sevigny] and Juliette [Lewis], it was so incredible to see what I had been part of. All that hard work, all those long hours, all those scary moments that you’re anticipating paid off.
CJ: Obviously, you had to do a lot of mental prep in order to get inside Gypsy’s headspace. Did you feel like you were taking part of Gypsy home with you while shooting? … What was your process of switching in and out of Gypsy?
JK: … I have to be able to go in and out of something in order to stay sane, you know what I mean? But there were days where sometimes, yeah, shaking Gypsy off would be a little bit of a challenge. I would have to go home, watch some “House Hunters International” with just some chips in my hand and just have to decompress a little bit. I was so thankful for the amazing crew that we had, because I became so close with them. [We would] have some fun in between set-ups on set and just, you know, kind of let my mind go for a little bit. …
Every time I did a scene, there would just be a couple of moments where I would take to breathe to myself and just get in the mindset of Gypsy. My favorite moments in life, for me, my happiest moments are between “Action” actually “Cut.” That’s where I feel my most comfortable and that’s where I feel I can become another person very comfortably and happily.
CJ: That’s amazing. Switching complete gears, just like you had to do while shooting, “The Kissing Booth” is this wonderful, delightful Netflix movie that was a huge hit for the streaming service. You’re currently in South Africa doing “The Kissing Booth 2.” How do you approach projects like “The Kissing Booth” and “The Act?” Do you find that it’s a different process to get into these characters because they’re different genres and tones, or are there just similar though-lines to your process?
JK: Yeah, for me, I find I do have a different approach. But I also find that … I don’t treat any project the same [because] I want everything to have a unique feel. I never want myself to get too caught up in the way I think I do things or just get too comfortable with my own ways and my own process. Each character and each project is completely different for me. I definitely think that playing Gypsy was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do. Being able to play Elle Evans is one of the most fun things I’ve ever gotten to do. I’m so excited that I get to play her again, because she means so much to me.
The fact that she resonated so well with fans around the world really touches my heart. [I love] being able to come back and revisit this character and have the whole gang back, all the cast members and all the people that I miss, all the people on this side of the sea. It’s just really, really cool. … We had no idea how [the movie would] perform. We had no idea if people would watch it. [Now] we’re the most rewatched film on Netflix in 2018 and now we’re making a sequel. It’s just mind blowing.
CJ: Wonderful! … Especially since all the cast was coming back for the sequel, [did you feel] that it was really easy to snap back into Elle Evans’ world, or did you feel that the vibe on set was different because now you’re coming in as a big successful sequel?
JK: Um, no. I feel like the vibe is very much the same. … Our script for the sequel is so awesome and so much fun. … I don’t think any of us are too worried about the pressure of like making a sequel. I think that if we did feel that pressure, the sequel wouldn’t work. The fact that we are all so excited and we’re all having such a blast is why I hope and think the sequel will work. I hope people love it as much as I already do.
CJ: That’s great. Obviously both these projects, while being used successes, are also huge screaming successes. How has the rise of streaming affected you as an actress? Do you think that there are certain projects … that work really well on these types of services? Have you been thinking about that as you choose your projects?
JK: Streaming services have completely changed the way my career has gone. I’m so, so thankful for that because I personally love streaming services and I love going to the movies and I love watching TV. I think it’s just another element into a world, into the industry, that’s already quite beautiful. I think that it’s just so incredible how it has affected the way people enjoy content, enjoy cinema and enjoy television. And you can do it right from your room. It’s amazing.
I love the way it’s broadened the world. You know what I mean? … I love meeting people who are from Turkey and they’re in their thirties who have seen “The Kissing Booth” and they’re like, “This is amazing.” You know what I mean? Then I come here to America and I meet a 14 year old girl who’s also like, “I love ‘The Kissing Booth’ so much.” And you’re like, “Wow! What a broad audience.” That’s something that is unique about streaming services. It’s just so accessible and it’s so easy for people to throw on things. A lot more people get to see things. I just think that’s a beautiful thing.
CJ: I know coming up for you is “The In Between,” which you are also set to produce. What made you decide to get into producing and how has that presented its own interesting rewards and challenges for you so far, compared to acting?
JK: It is something that I kind of always thought about doing. I’ve always wanted to do [it] because I feel like, as an actress, we get sent so many cool scripts. We get sent so many fun projects to look at and review and either pass on or take. But a lot of times, you feel like something’s missing or sometimes you feel like you could be doing more to make yourself a better actor or you could be creating that role for yourself that you really want. So that’s why I really wanted to get into producing. [I wanted] to see what that world was like and to be able to create roles, not just for myself, but for fellow actors that mean a lot me. … [These project are one’s that] I’m really passionate about and I’m behind from the beginning.
I’ve always kind of wanted to learn and see what it is like to get a film made from the beginning. It is super hard and those challenges have been in insane to see [the process of] getting a script off the ground, getting it written, giving your notes and all these different elements that go into making a film. It’s so enlightening and I’m learning so much and I think that’s the most valuable part of [producing].
Whether I make a lot of films in the future, whether they’re amazing or they’re learning spaces, it’s just so incredible to see all the work that’s being put into it. I am so excited about [producing] and I think “The In Between” is going to be such a great story. It made me really emotional when I first heard the pitch of it. I really hope that people will like it, because I’m so invested in it. I’m so excited to try and bring it to big screens around the world.
CJ: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for talking to me and the Award Circuit audience. Joey, I wish you the best of luck, especially as Emmy season kicks off. Thank you once again.
JK: Thank you so much.