After blazing an unforgettable trail two years ago in Hulu’s true-crime drama The Act, Joey King is back in The Kissing Booth 2, a lighthearted new romantic comedy on Netflix. Previously known for romantic comedies and teen movies, her performance as real-life Gypsy Rose Blanchard in The Act solidified her standing as a highly talented, and versatile actress. She had to transform herself both physically and mentally to play a teenage girl whose mother controlled completely by claiming that she was very ill (an instance of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome). King’s harrowing performance also led to her first Golden Globe nomination.
You’ve shown an impressive range as an actress. What attracted you to these lighthearted movies and are they more fun to make?
I would not say that they are more fun or less fun or one way or the other. The preparation for The Act is much different from the preparation for The Kissing Booth. The mental preparation for The Act is so much more elaborate and for The Kissing Booth, I had a lot of dance preparation and I had to spend weeks learning new dance routines. So playing Elle Evans and being back for the sequel is such a joy and it is so much fun. Iam really grateful that I got to go and do something like The Act and show people what I also can do and make the choice to come back and do something like The Kissing Booth.
In The Kissing Booth, Elle has a crush on Noah since she was a little girl. Have you experienced something similar?
In your life, you have many little crushes. When I was a little girl and also a teenager, I was absolutely in love with Freddie Highmore. Oh my goodness, I was in love with him!
What was your reaction when you found out you’d been nominated for a Golden Globe.
It was an indescribable moment. I was just so elated and excited. I was in Japan on vacation when the nominations were announced. I was in the most beautiful place, in this great country and all of a sudden this incredible news came. I celebrated with this incredible sushi and sake and it was just the greatest thing in the world!
Patricia Arquette, who played your mother Dee Dee Blanchard in The Act was also nominated for her performance, which she won. What was it like sharing the evening of the Golden Globes with her?
It was so surreal and I am so happy that I had Patricia by my side throughout the night. When I walked into the ballroom where the ceremony was taking place, I had my mother with me as my date and I took her arm and said: ‘it looks just like it does on TV’. It was so insanely exciting. Patricia has been there a million times because she is amazing and I was like ‘Patricia, I am so nervous’ and she was like ‘don’t be nervous, babe. It is all so exciting and you deserve it’. I could not have been there with better people or a better project and it was the most stunning ceremony. I felt really honored to be there.
What did you learn about your job from playing Gypsy in The Act?
So much. I have to say that it was one of the most intense jobs I have ever worked on. At the same time, it was truly the most fun I have ever had on set. I cannot stress that enough. I got to dive so deep into a character and into the mind of someone who was so complex and had dealt with so many things that I will never know in my life. Diving into that headspace and doing it with people that I admire and love was like a dream come true. I learned to trust myself a lot more as an actor. You have to put in the work in order to be spontaneous and one of the things about the show is that a lot of the moments you see in the final cut were things that happened in the moment while we were shooting. Although they were very ‘spontaneous’ moments, proper work and research need to be done in advance to allow yourself to be responding.
How did your life change after you had the nomination?
When I booked the show, I never thought that it could lead to such extraordinary things like the award ceremony and afterward, I felt so genuinely proud of myself and everyone involved in the show and that was such a good feeling. It is not often that I can genuinely say that I am proud of myself and this was such a moment. As far as doors opening in the industry – yes and no. There were certain opportunities that presented themselves, but you still have to work as hard as ever. I am determined to keep working hard and keep proving myself no matter what so all I can do is just to keep going and hope that over time, I will prove myself.
You are still a young woman but you have had many years of experience in acting. What is it about acting that appeals to you so much?
For me, there are so many elements of it that just makes it a dream job and something that I am grateful that I get to do. One element is that I get to dive into another person’s headspace and become another person. It is very special and very therapeutic for me. When I am working and when I am in the middle of a scene or when I am on set, there is not much else in my mind than the job at hand. It really feels good. It is very meditative. The amazing upside to that is that I have met the most incredible people along the way, people who are my best friends, my peers, my mentors, my confidantes throughout the years. I would never have had the chance to become part of the lives of so many people that I adore now if I had not been in this field of work. I am so grateful for that.
You turn 21 on the 30th of July. You are very young and have your life in front of you. What are your dreams for the future?
I just want to continue to do work that makes me happy. That is all I really intend to do. I have been doing this for 17 years and the only thing I want to keep doing is projects that fill my soul with happiness. That’s my plan and whatever else happens along the way, I am ready for it. I hope that I get to just keep playing complex roles and that I am able to dive into certain things that are really dramatic and funny and musical. I just want to continue to surprise people and surprise myself.