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Joey King Shaved Her Head for The Act and Told Us Why She Loves It

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.


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How ‘The Kissing Booth’ Star Joey King Breathes New Life Into Coming-of-Age Stories

Joey King has had a pretty stellar year. Between starring roles in Netflix’s hit original film “The Kissing Booth,” zeitgeist-y horror flick “Slender Man,” and the upcoming “Summer ’03”—in which King plays Jamie, a teenage girl navigating the trials of adolescent love and sexuality in the wake of her grandmother’s death—the 19-year-old reflects on the foundations of her blossoming career.

You play teenage characters exploring young love in both “The Kissing Booth” and “Summer ’03.” Do you see any similarities between Elle and Jamie?
The difference between Jamie and Elle is that Elle is more this girl who’s really insecure, coming into her own body, and is super innocent. Jamie is also pretty innocent when we meet her, but she has some snark, some wit, some sass and attitude to her that’s a little bit different than Elle. It comes off in a little bit of a brash way when you first meet Jamie. [“Summer ’03”] is a bit more raunchy than “The Kissing Booth.” I do think “The Kissing Booth” audience will enjoy this. What I love about “Summer ’03” is it is a comedy without being super peppy. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s raunchy, and weird.

What has your latest role in “Summer ’03” added to your acting skills?
With “Summer ’03,” we had an amazing director in Becca Gleason. I love working with female directors. I learned so much from her in looking at a younger lady and watching her take charge and make her dream come true and direct this movie like a total badass. She wrote Jamie with so much life and love. I really was in awe of Becca because she [also] wrote [the film], and the way she translated her own words to the screen—I hope one day I can direct a film as well as she did.

Considering your new role as producer with your upcoming film, “The In Between,” you’re on your way.
I’ve been in this industry for such a long time, but there are always so many new things to learn and so many new things to tackle and experience. A lot of the time when you’re an actor, you don’t see how much labor it takes to get a film made. You hear about it, you know about it, but you don’t see it. Being able to be behind the scenes, going out and pitching it and selling it was incredible. It’s so much fun—but so much work.

How do you keep from burning out?
I don’t know! I love it, though. I feed off of the energy. I have been acting for 15 years and it never gets old.

What makes a character stand out for you as a role worth taking?
Whenever I read a script, I’m looking for something that I haven’t done before—or if I have, a new version of it. You could say “Well, ‘Summer ’03’ it is a romantic comedy-drama,” but it’s so different. I’ve never played a character like Jamie before. When I look at my role in “Fargo,” I’ve never done something like that before. When I look back at “The Kissing Booth,” I’ve never done a character like that; “Slender Man,” I’ve never done a character like that. I like doing things that are new and fun and keep me excited.

Are you one of those actors who brings the life of their characters home with them every day?
For each role it’s different, but what I try and do for myself—and this isn’t because it’s better, because every actor has their own process—but why I love what I do so much is because I make sure I put my mental health first. When I play these characters, a lot of them are dark, a lot of them have troubles and disturbing history. I try not to take that home with me. When I’m on set, I’m professional, but I want to make sure I’m having fun no matter what kind of character I’m playing. When you take certain characters home with you every night, it’s going to hurt you. There might come a time when I play a character that might be really hard for me that I might need to bring home with me. I’m a pretty light-hearted person in real life, and I want to maintain that. I try to leave the character in the trailer when I take my wardrobe off at the end of the day.

Over those 15 years, do any terrible audition stories stick out?
Oh, my god, absolutely. A lot of the time, when I think I’ve tanked it, I haven’t. When I went into the audition for “Fargo,” I thought I was terrible. I was so insecure [and] scared afterward. I was so sad. Then I got the call, like, “They loved you. You were the only choice.” I got in my own head. Instead of focusing on how I was performing, I think I was focusing on how [nervous I was]. Apparently it didn’t translate, which is great.

How do you typically prepare for an audition?
Every audition is different. I love auditioning because it’s such a great way to keep practicing your craft. Some people are like, “Oh, my god, I hate auditioning.” I understand why people would say that, because it’s stressful and it’s pretty disappointing when you go in and you get [told] no a lot. For every 65 auditions you go on, one will be the one that you get. But auditioning is fun, and you go in and you’re always getting better and you’re always doing yourself a service by doing it. I like going out for different kinds of characters. One character, I might want to [prepare by sitting] in my room for a couple hours and really dive in, or another character I might want to do research on the computer.
I don’t want to have a regimen that I can’t change.

At the end of “The Kissing Booth,” you ride off on a motorcycle. Did you learn how to ride? What special skills do you have listed on your résumé?
They tried to teach me! The problem was, the bike was made for someone Jacob [Elordi]’s size. I would never in any world be able to drive a bike that big. I was on a rig in that scene. [But] I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in a minute and 30 seconds. I used to be able to skateboard pretty well, but I stopped practicing. It’s always fun when a character has a special skill that I haven’t acquired and I have to learn it. For “The Kissing Booth,” I also did Dance Dance Revolution practice.


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Joey King Shares Her Upcoming Projects and Dream Role Following ‘The Kissing Booth’

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Joey King has been dazzling the screen with her goofy presence and quirky charm since she was four years old. From her first few roles in TV commercials through her first major role opposite Selena Gomez in Ramona and Beezus through to her most recent roles in The Kissing Booth and Slenderman, King has done nothing but prove she is an actress to be reckoned with. We got the opportunity to speak with her about her upcoming roles, what it was like working on her recent movies, and some of her favorite parts of acting in our Fall 2018 issue.

Let’s start by talking about your recent and upcoming projects! Tell me a little bit about Slenderman and your character, Wren.
I would say she’s pretty feisty. She’s sarcastic; she’s got a quick wit and a sense of humor about her that not everyone finds charming. She thinks she’s the most charming person on the planet but no one else does. But I think what’s crazy about Wren is that she uses her humor as a defense mechanism and really just a troubled girl. She makes a lot of mistakes and hurts a lot of people. Even though she thinks she’s helping people, she has to go through a lot In the movie before she realizes what she’s done but by then it’s already too late.

What was it like playing such a dynamic character?
Wren was so much fun to play. There are so many layers and emotional things that had to come through her and I was so excited that I got to be the one to do that. I think she’s really special.

Did you have nightmares after working with a “real-life” Slenderman every day?
Well the guy that played Slenderman, his name is Javier Botet. He is just the funniest man and everyone loved him so much. And when he would suit up as and it would really freak me out but he was just such a nice guy. But when I would go back to my hotel room after a day on set, I would sleep with my lights on because, you know of course I would play with my lights on after filming Slenderman. I would check my closet every night before I went to sleep.

That is amazing. So let’s talk a bit about the other projects you have coming up!
Gosh, I am so excited for all of them. The In-Between is going to be amazing. We just sold it, and it’s such a great story. It’s basically like the movie Ghost for teenagers. It’s a love story honestly, and it’s really heartbreaking, and it’s going to be so awesome. I can’t wait to start making it.

I’m so excited for Summer ‘03 to come out. I love that movie so much, and I had so much fun making it. It’s so wild and inappropriate and hilarious. I cannot wait. I think that people will have very strong feelings about it, and I hope that they love it because I love it so much. It’s just such a wild movie.

Then I have another film coming out called The Lie. That movie is going to be such a transition for me. It’s such a contrast between Summer ‘03 and The Kissing Booth because I play such a dark, just sad, sad girl and so many horrible things happen in this movie. It’s going to be crazy to watch everything unfold. I’m so excited for that to come out, too.

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Joey King for Euphoria magazine

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On discovering her love of acting:
“I was so enamored at how much fun I had throughout the whole experience. That was when I was like: ‘This is was what I want to do forever.’ Even at 9, I knew, and as I’ve gotten older that love has never left, which I’m so happy and grateful for.”

On how she characterizes her work ethic:
“I think I’m someone who is professional but I don’t take things too seriously. Like yes, it is a job. Yes, it is work, but I never want to lose my sense of fun. I think that’s what makes me so in love with my job… I always have a good time doing it. Even if the subject matter is dark and heavy, or the physicality of it is draining, I want to make sure I’m having fun. Like every time I step on a new set, it’s an adventure to make new friends meet new people.”

On how her upbringing raised her to have thick skin in a tough industry:
“I’ll be honest: I got told I wasn’t pretty enough for a role, and that really hurt me because it was just the harshness which unfortunately you have to become callous to. But with the type of person that I am, it fuels me, even more, to stay true to myself and be myself as much as I can, and I’m so grateful I was raised that way. I was raised in a way to let things roll off my back and taking a pause before I let anything affect me.”

On her favorite line from a past film:
“From Horton Hears A Who, my character says, ‘In my world, everyone’s a pony, and we all eat rainbows and poop butterflies,’ and that is a line that has stuck with me for years, and I think a lot of people who’ve seen the movie say it’s their favorite, too!”


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How ‘The Kissing Booth’ became a pop culture sensation (even if critics hated it)


They had just finished up a round of Skee-Ball when they were spotted by a couple of teenage girls meekly clutching iPhones.

We love ‘The Kissing Booth,’” one of the young women exclaimed. “Can we take a selfie with you?
The three stars of the Netflix film — Joey King, 18, Jacob Elordi, 21, and Joel Courtney, 22 — obliged of course. Since the film’s release in May, they said, they’ve been approached like this hundreds of times.

Every day, at least a couple of times a day,” Elordi said. “Some people are strange, but most of the young kids are awesome. The other night I was eating by myself at a diner and a group of college friends asked me if I wanted to sit with them, so I did.

His costars, meanwhile, grew up as kid actors in Hollywood. Courtney was 14 when he scored his first big role in J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8,” and King just 10 when she starred opposite Selena Gomez as the iconic Beverly Cleary character Ramona Quimby in “Ramona and Beezus.”

But despite years of building up solid resumes — King has appeared in “The Conjuring,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and the TV series “Fargo” — none of their projects have given them the instant recognition of “The Kissing Booth.” Earlier this month, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, called the film “one of the most-watched movies in the country, and maybe in the world.”

Which, frankly, no one expected.
The film is based on a story written by a 15-year-old, and it first appeared on Wattpad, an online self-publishing platform. It follows an upbeat teenager named Elle (King) whose high school existence is going swimmingly until she falls for her best friend’s hunky older brother (Courtney plays the BFF, Elordi the b.f.). It was directed by Vince Marcello, a Disney Channel filmmaker responsible for “Teen Beach Movie” and its subsequent sequel, “Teen Beach 2.”

In other words, “The Kissing Booth” is cute enough, but the majority of critics have declared it an objectively bad movie: It has a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But as Vulture put it, the romantic comedy is “bad in a comforting way. Most of the plot points and supporting characters are blatant rip-offs of earlier teen films, which gives the film a similar quality to those pop songs that build their hooks by sampling previous hits.”

It’s also an intriguing new piece in the ongoing puzzle known as Netflix original movies. While the streaming giant has produced a slew of respected, award-nominated television fare — “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Making a Murderer” — its film content has yet to make the same kind of broad impact.

Dee Rees’ “Mudbound,” which the company picked up at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, earned Netflix its first Oscar nominations outside of documentary categories just this year.

Other titles — from “Okja” to “War Machine” to Sundance prize winner “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore” — have flown lower on the cultural radar. Even a “success,” like Will Smith’s “Bright” — which Netflix says attracted a lot of eyeballs, though it never publicly released streaming figures — was dinged by scathing reviews.

But few, if any, of Netflix’s movies outside of its film library have been aimed at young people. Which is partially why the company decided to produce “The Kissing Booth,” financing the film’s two-month shoot in South Africa last year.

We had ‘13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Stranger Things’ on the series side, but it was a space we hadn’t explored much on the film side,” said Ian Bricke, Netflix’s director of independent film. “We thought this had a Disney Channel vibe, but felt slightly more grounded — it felt like an interesting, underserved spot between younger YA and edgier teen fare.

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