Joey King was on her way to the set of “The Kissing Booth 2” in South Africa when the 2019 Emmy nominations were announced on Tuesday. She was eager to learn if she’d been nominated for her role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard in the Hulu limited series “The Act,” so she activated her hotspot, whipped out her “literally 100-year-old” computer and began watching the very pixelated livestream.
“At one point, my computer froze, and I was like, ‘No! No, no, no, no, no!’ But it came back just in time,” King told HuffPost over the phone shortly after she learned she’d been nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series category.
The 19-year-old actress, who has appeared in everything from cereal commercials to “Ramona and Beezus” and “The Conjuring,” caught a slew of attention for her riveting on-screen portrayal of Gypsy, whose real-life story made national headlines when a BuzzFeed article by Michelle Dean detailed the twisted relationship between her and her mother, Dee Dee, played by Patricia Arquette. Dee Dee had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental health disorder in which a caregiver causes illness or injury to a person in order to seek attention. She was seemingly drugging wheelchair user Gypsy ― who believed she was a very sick child with leukemia, epilepsy and muscular dystrophy, among other ailments ― for self-gratification and financial gain. After realizing she could walk and think for herself, however, Gypsy concocted a plan with her online boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn (Calum Worthy), to kill her mother and try to live a normal life. Gypsy and Nicholas went through with the murder but were eventually caught, and sentenced to 10 years and life in prison, respectively.
Taking on a role of this magnitude was understandably nerve-wracking, King said, but also incredibly rewarding. Below, she discusses her Emmy nomination and explains how the fear of failing pushed her to deliver a career-defining performance.
Congratulations on the Emmy nomination! What awesome news.
I’m freaking elated. [Laughs] You should have heard me earlier. I was literally sobbing on the phone. It’s crazy because all of the predictions got me so excited, but you never expect your name to be called and when it was, it was the most surreal moment of my life.
Did you feel any pressure or anxiety leading up to the announcement?
Everything leading up to this moment, all the prediction posts, had me feeling a little bit anxious and quite jittery. You just have to remind yourself that it’s OK if it doesn’t happen. You put so much work into it and you have to be proud of yourself, but the fact that it happened is the cherry on top of such a great year. I’m so happy and I’m so thankful that I was given the opportunity to play this character. As a young actress, this is definitely something I’ve always dreamed of because this is the highest honor you can receive being on television.
Who was the first person you called when you found out?
My name was called and, immediately, my sister Hunter rang and then my mom. And then the first person I called after I hung up with them was Patricia [Arquette]. I’m just so proud of her — she’s nominated in the same category as me for “Escape at Dannemora” and then for supporting actress for “The Act,” as well. She’s freaking killing it! And to hear her tell me she’s proud of me and she loved working with me means the world. We created such a strong friendship on that set and we went through so much together and I admire her so much.
It’s certainly exciting to be nominated in the same category, but she is competition! Any weird vibes?
Oh my God, no! Not at all! It’s not even a little bit weird. I just kept crying and telling her I’m so honored to be nominated next to her in the same category. There’s nothing cooler than that. If I lost to Patricia Arquette, that is not a bad way to go, honestly. I can’t even believe I got nominated, you know what I mean? That is the biggest honor I could ever dream of, so I’m golden.
To not only be nominated alongside Patricia, but Michelle Williams (for “Fosse Verdon”), Amy Adams (for “Sharp Objects”), and Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis (both for “When They See Us”), must be a great feeling.
Absolutely. These women are forces to be reckoned with and I cannot believe that I am in the same category as them. I’m so over the moon.
At 19, you’ve already earned something many actors dream of. What does it mean to you to reach this point in your career at such a young age?
I’ve been working for 15 years and every actress dreams of getting to play a role that pushes them to be their best self and has people recognize all the hard work they put in. So being able to have played this role, gotten the opportunity to put in the work, and then have people respect the work and have this incredible acknowledgment, I can’t even possibly explain what it means to me at this point in my career. I’m so thankful, and all you can do is hope that it continues on and you do good work for the rest of your life.
When you read the script for “The Act,” did you feel like the role of Gypsy Rose Blanchard could be something big for you?
I just remember reading the story knowing about the real situation and then watching the documentary [“Mommy Dead and Dearest”]. I was excited to sink my teeth into something so fulfilling and just to take on someone’s story and do them justice, and do right by them. I wasn’t even thinking, “Oh, this could get me an Emmy one day!” So when word started spreading and people were saying nice things about my performance, it kind of blew my mind because you never expect it to happen to you. Even if you feel like you put in a lot of work and you’re proud of yourself, you don’t expect that to happen. You don’t expect your name to be called. Honestly, that’d be a little assuming.
Of course. When you take on a role, your goal is to play the truth of your character, which in your case was Gypsy Rose and the abuse she faced as a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
I was so nervous to even play this role, even just the opportunity to dive into it. I was so scared that I would fail or people would hate it or that I wouldn’t do well. I really put in so much to try and make sure that, whatever happened, I could say that I was proud of the work. It’s about telling the truth of the story, and trying to do right by [the real people on which it’s based].
Full interview: huffpost.com