You already know Joey King plays Gypsy Rose Blanchard in Hulu’s highly anticipated new series The Act, which tells the devastating true story of an extremely toxic mother-daughter relationship. You’ve probably seen the Instagram video, too, where King shaved off all her hair to transform into character. And chances are, you’ve watched the 2017 HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest, which first brought this mind-blowing tale to TV after a 2016 BuzzFeed article by Michelle Dean sparked widespread interest. You’re likely also aware of the story’s tragic ending: The real-life Gypsy is currently in prison, serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of her mother, Dee Dee, after conspiring with a man she fell in love with online. That man, Nicholas Godejohn, was sentenced to life in prison.
You already know all these things, and if you didn’t, you know them now. But beyond the shocking headlines and disturbing details of the case, King’s role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard involved so much more than a five-second video with electric clippers.
Of course, King understands the appeal of the story. “The reality is, people really enjoy tuning in to true crime,” she says. “There’s something super intriguing and very stimulating about trying to get inside the mind of a criminal, and Dee Dee and Gypsy are both criminals.”
But King is equally conscious of the subject’s gravity. The case is nowhere near simple: Gypsy is a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and her mother Dee Dee (played by Patricia Arquette) perpetuated this form of child abuse, where someone causes or makes up an illness in a person under their care. “What I want to get across is that if you are not a sympathizer with Gypsy, watch this show and you’ll start to rethink calling her a ‘cold-blooded killer,'” King says. Spending so much time playing Gypsy meant King found ways to understand her mindset. “She’s a victim. This poor girl went through so much only to sit in prison now. It’s no life.”
While King does acknowledge Gypsy’s responsibility for her actions, including lying about her abilities and helping her mother deceive others, the actor believes it was out of fear. “She became a master manipulator, not by choice, but by survival,” she says. In the show, Dee Dee is depicted as reacting violently if Gypsy dared disobey.
I would sometimes fall asleep listening to her interviews… so that I could get her voice really ingrained in my brain.
Beyond the physical transformation of shaving her head and wearing four separate sets of fake teeth, King did as much research as she could about the disorder. But educating herself on Munchausen by proxy wasn’t easy. “One in 10 cases is fatal for the victim,” King explains, “so a lot of the time, we don’t get to hear from the victims because they die before they even get the chance to escape their circumstances.”
Although King says she couldn’t meet Gypsy face-to-face, she took mastering the nuances of her personality and physicality seriously, consuming any actual footage of Gypsy she could find online. “I would sometimes fall asleep listening to her interviews, like in my ears in my headphones, so that I could get her voice really ingrained in my brain,” the actor says. She also made sure to subtly differentiate between the character’s behavior when she’s around her mother and around anyone else. When Gypsy isn’t with Dee Dee, King explains, “It’s a very slight thing. You can see that she just wants her womanhood to come out, and she wants to be a normal teenage girl with sexual desires and friends and a boyfriend.”
Full article: bustle.com