Curled up on a bronze leather couch at The London New York City hotel in midtown Manhattan, Joey King traces her fingers along the wall. “I love this wall,” she says, drawing abstract lines and curves on the tan velvet wallpaper.
The moment is perhaps the only instance of childish whimsy I see from King, 17, during our hour-long conversation. After all, she turns 18 at the end of this month. But other than her age, King’s wise-beyond-her-years persona might come from her 10-plus years playing precocious little sisters (Emma Stone’s in “Crazy, Stupid, Love”), daughters (Channing Tatum’s in “White House Down”), and granddaughters (Michael Caine’s in “Going in Style”) on film and television. “I got to grow up around a lot of people who I admire and look up to,” King says.
The next on-screen family member King will adopt is Ryan Phillippe in July 14’s “Wish Upon,” a horror film about a teenage girl whose wishes to become popular end in tragic consequences. However, instead of playing sidekick to her more seasoned co-stars like she did for the bulk of her career, King—now dressed in a baby pink blazer, cropped jeans, and silver metallic heels, with her shaggy chestnut brown hair resting on her shoulders—is finally ready to take the lead.
Raised in a suburb of Los Angeles, King, the youngest of three daughters, began acting at 3 in community theatre productions with her sisters. It didn’t take long before she made the move on-screen, beginning with a Life cereal commercial at 4. “I didn’t have any lines. I was gluing Life cereal onto a piece of paper as a craft project, and I started eating it,” King said. “It was a cute little thing.”
Soon after, King started landing guest spots on shows like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” before scoring her big break as Selena Gomez’s baby sister in 2010’s “Ramona and Beezus,” a role that solidified her decision to pursue acting professionally. “I was like, ‘This is for me forever,’” King says, “I just had so much fun. It’s just continued with the same amount of fun every time I go on set.”
But when it came time for “Ramona and Beezus” to premiere as King was entering third grade at a new school, the experience was far from a dream. As King was appearing on movie screens across the country, she received groans from her classmates, who outcasted her for her acting career. “They hated me before they met me,” King says.
However, King knew better to retaliate. Instilling a lesson she learned from Gomez, who she admits she still keeps in touch with, on killing with kindness, King took the high road, concentrated on her work, and brushed the bullies off her shoulders. “Selena was 16 when she did the movie. I’m almost 18. I really looked up to her as an older sister…She really took me under her wing and treated me like family.” King says. “We had conversations about staying humble and being nice to everyone and working as hard as you can.”
King carried Gomez’s lessons on humility throughout her career. It’s likely what landed her a part in Taylor Swift’s music video for her 2010 single, “Mean,” in which King played an outcasted schoolgirl forced to eat alone in the bathroom. It’s also likely what inspired King’s glass-half-full attitude, as evidenced by her positive outlook on everything from Twitter trolls (“They motivate me”) to hardships at school (“I loved the teachers”) to her first-ever kiss with Keegan Allen in 2011’s “The Sound and the Fury” (“I was super-duper nervous, but it all worked out.”)
Full interview: stylecaster.com