“There’s a bee! Oh my god!” Joey King squeals into the phone. I’m talking to the 19-year-old actor from the opposite side of the country, but her sudden terror was palpable. And it was rather ironic, too, because we’d just been talking about something she’s not at all afraid of: shaving her head. She laughs and gathers her composure to tell me more about her dramatic, newly revealed haircut.
“I’ve never really had an attachment to my hair. I couldn’t care less what happens to it,” King says. “No part of me was nervous or was second-guessing it. So many people would ask me, ‘Are you really scared?’ or ‘Are you nervous?’ or say, ‘You’re so brave.’ And I’d go, ‘I’m not brave, I’m just cutting my hair off.’”
Perhaps one of the reasons King doesn’t flinch when the clipper comes for her hair is because this is the third time in eight years that she’s shaved her head. She previously went nearly bald when she was 11 for The Dark Knight Rises and again at 14 for Wish I Was Here (actually shaving her own head on-camera for the 2014 Zach Braff film).
And like the last two times, this new buzz cut is for a role: King is starring in The Act, Hulu’s new anthology series about strange and tragic true-crime stories. She plays Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who killed her mother Dee Dee (played by Patricia Arquette) after years of forcing her to live her life as a seriously ill child when, in fact, she was perfectly healthy. As part of the ruse, Dee Dee kept Gypsy’s head shaved so she would look like a cancer patient — hence King’s fully committed haircut.
Despite the especially heavy material that led to the new style, King is embracing and enjoying it. In fact, she feels even freer to play with different makeup looks. “Some days I feel like just throwing on a little mascara, a little bit of a dewy highlight, and then some lip gloss and I’m gone. Some days I want to have a wing and a nice eye shadow,” she says of her routine in the days since she’s been buzzed. “But it’s honestly just a preference thing because makeup, especially when you have no hair, is so fun to play around with. I have so many different options.”
It’s something that’s very freeing, really fun, and really empowering.
She had a lot of fun with her hair right before parting with it, too. “A little bit over a month ago, I decided, ‘Screw it, I’m going to go blonde,’” she said, pausing momentarily to once again flee from the bee. “And then after I was blonde for a little while, before I shaved my head, I got this crazy idea and I just went to the store, got a box of blue hair dye, and my sister dyed my hair blue for me. And then I had my future brother-in-law, just on a whim, cut my bangs for me.” For the record, her future brother-in-law is not a hair pro, unlike the stylist who had the honor of shaving King’s head on set.
“I know this sounds crazy, and not a lot of people will agree with me, but I think every woman should shave her head at least once in her life,” King says. “It’s not like they’re going to regret it 10 years down the line when their hair is long again. It’s something that’s very freeing, really fun, and really empowering.”
There’s one warning she does want to give anyone who might consider shaving their head, though, and it may explain why she was literally hiding from the bee in a closet by the end of our conversation: “I’m loving it so far, although I’m not loving that I’ve gotten three bug bites on my scalp.”