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‘The Act’ Star Joey King Breaks Down the Physicality and Psychology of Transforming Into Gypsy Rose Blanchard


Joey King had a big 2018 with Netflix teen romance “The Kissing Booth” and is now making a star turn in Hulu and UCP’s anthology series “The Act.” For her role portraying Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who grew up being told by her mother that she was gravely ill and later orchestrated her murder, King had to completely transform physically, including shaving her head every three days and wearing fake teeth. She says the project made her feel like a different person and also “so fulfilled.”

Other than shaving your head, what about the makeup and wardrobe process did you find very helpful in diving into the physical transformation to become Gypsy?
Her teeth changed throughout the stories. In pictures of her when she was younger she had pretty buck teeth with some silver caps, and then as time went on, her teeth got kind of rotten, and then there’s two more stages after that where when you see her in interviews now, we had those teeth, too.

You also drastically changed your voice for the role. How did the teeth help or hinder with that process?
What I had to get used to was saying my S’es, but it did change the shape of my mouth a lot, which was really interesting because when I looked at myself fully transformed as Gypsy, I was like, “Who is that!?” The teeth really helped me get into character, so much.

What did you find yourself working on most to get the voice down?
It’s a pitch change. It’s all in the throat, really. It’s mimic — listening to her and then trying out a lot of different things. It was kind of hard, though, because we shot for four months, and I got sick four times during shooting, and two of the times I had a fever and a sore throat, and doing the voice with a sore throat is rough! But it’s hard to explain exactly what my vocal chords do when I’m doing the voice, but when you work on it enough when you’re alone in your apartment, it kind of just comes out. And I hope people notice, too, that there’s a big change between the first episode and the eighth episode — there is a big difference because the story takes place over seven years and her voice dropped a little bit. I wanted people to see, “Hey it’s a big passage of time. She did grow up a little bit.”

And how did the wardrobe come into play?
For Gypsy’s early fashion, it was pretty comfy. I wore a lot of PJ pants. But it was pretty crazy how her style evolved and what she thought was sexy when she starts to come into a sexual role in her own mind, what she starts to do and how she perceives what that means, the darkness of that and how quickly it becomes quick scary. She goes pretty quickly from this childlike figure to “Oh no, she’s getting really wrapped up in this idea of what sexualization means and it could go very badly.” And it does.

Since there is a documentary about Gypsy and her mother Dee Dee, among other interviews, available as research, how precise did you want your physicality to be in your portrayal?
I was playing a version of Gypsy, but it was helpful to have all of the facts. We did have some creative liberty so our story could move along at a little bit of a quicker pace, but we do really stick to the story. … I wanted to really become her — to transform myself entirely, lose all vanity, lose all ego, lose everything I thought I knew about acting, just throw it out the window. And I’m really happy I did because I feel very vulnerable about this performance — I’m very nervous to put it out there — but that makes me excited because I know I did something worth putting on the line if I feel scared. And becoming her was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to face.

What was the first moment during this process you really felt like you finally had embodying Gypsy right?
The physical transformation was really, really huge for me. I shaved my head, I wore four different sets of fake teeth for the role, and with the costumes, the wheelchair and the voice, everything really seemed to fall into place for me. And then getting into the rehearsal room with Patricia [Arquette, who plays Dee Dee]. We both had prepared and we were both ready, but really figuring out how our characters were going to mesh was really frigging awesome — figuring out our dialect and how these relationships work and how it would be for us to play with each other for four months and what our trajectory was [going to be].

Once all of the external elements were down, what was most important in understanding her psychology, as a child who was living with a mother with Munchausen by proxy but who was in on some of the deception?
In the early episodes I really do believe that Gypsy believed her mom and wanted to listen to her because she knew nothing else; her life had always been trusting Dee Dee, listening to Dee Dee. The only thing she did know was that she could walk — but even then she was told, “You can walk, but it will make you sicker if you do.” So she was like, “OK then I’ll sit down.” So for me, with the portrayal of Gypsy, when Dee Dee’s around, Gypsy’s this infantilized, sweet, “I’m your little girl and I’ll always be your little girl.” And when Dee Dee’s not there, slowly it gets more and more sexualized. And it becomes less of a performance in front of Dee Dee, and as the series goes on you’ll see a much bigger difference in the way I act when Dee Dee’s there.

Did you want to talk to the real-life Gypsy to aid in any of this?
It would have been amazing to meet the person that you’re playing. Unfortunately that couldn’t happen for reasons, honestly, beyond my understanding. But that being said, so lucky that we had Michelle Dean as our producer because she had a lot of real contact with Gypsy and her family prior to the show, and I would go to her for a lot of resources. So although I didn’t get to physically contact Gypsy, getting to have long, long conversation with Michelle was the next best thing.

How did you and Patricia work on how much love and loyalty to showcase between Gypsy and Dee Dee, despite the toxicity of their relationship?
When Gypsy starts to see the cracks in what her mother is saying to her, she starts to rebel in the kindest, most childlike way she can [such as] eating candy and not brushing her teeth at night. But eventually the rebellion does get super sinister, and I really loved being able to show that progression because at a certain point there’s a switch that’s flipped and Dee Dee becomes the invalid. And that’s not common in a Munchausen by proxy relationship; usually you don’t here a lot of cases about this because the victims stay victims until they die. Why this case is so rare is that the proxy, Gypsy, turned Dee Dee into the invalid, and that never happens. I think the transition in playing around with this with Patricia was so special because it was such a mind game to figure out the manipulation that Dee Dee puts Gypsy through, she’s using on her mother. [And] When you listen to Gypsy give interviews now about why she had her mother killed, to her this was the logical answer. Her mom had always talked about how horrible and scary jail is — because Dee Dee had gone to jail — so she didn’t want her mom to go to jail. And then her mom always talked about if Gypsy went away it would kill her emotionally. So she didn’t want to hurt her mom, so with those two options being off the table, she just thought the best, most kind towards Dee Dee option was to get rid of her. So the murder, in a really horrible, messed up way, came out of a loving place.

How do you hope the audience of “The Act” responds to Gypsy’s story?
It’s hard to say because I don’t really think there’s a message to take away, but I hope people who are really not sympathetic towards Gypsy will see her story in a different light. She was a prisoner with Dee Dee and now she’s a real, government prisoner but she feels more free than she did her whole life. That really says something about her childhood. And I hope people open their eyes and start to see, OK murder is not the answer but this girl went through it; she was dragged through hell.

How do you feel like this experience changed you as a performer or woman?
I feel like a little bit of a different person, mostly because I worked with such lovely people and I had such a wonderful time getting to know Patricia. I feel like Patricia made me a better actor and a better person. I’ve never had to dive into a character like this before — to transform myself like this — and I’m really proud of myself, and I’m also really happy with where I am right now. I feel so fulfilled because I’m doing work that I feel really proud to be a part of. I feel proud to work with people I have admired for so long, like Patricia and Chloe [Sevigny] and AnnaSophia [Robb], and I feel like the experience has changed me because I learned a lot about myself as an actor and what I can do. I pushed my limits. And as a person I have met some of the most incredible ladies of my life, and I am so thankful to them.

What kind of hope or expectation does that set for the next role you take, beyond “The Kissing Booth” sequel?
I love all different kinds of things. I really love drama, but I love the idea of being able to go from “Kissing Booth” to something like this. I’m so happy and thankful that people trust me enough to go from something like [that] to something like this, and I just hope the cycle keeps going. I never want to marry myself to a genre or a character, and I hope people can recognize that I’m down for a lot.

Is there something specific about this time in your life or this television landscape that you feel is lending itself to booking such diverse roles?
I feel really lucky to be a part of a change that is happening now. Most of our directors on the show were women, and it was so awesome to have all of this female love and power in the room. And that’s not to knock any of the men; we also had some male directors on the show who were killer. But I feel so lucky that these stories are being recognized and made.


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Joey King Praises ‘Beautiful and Inspiring’ Selena Gomez Nearly 10 Years After ‘Ramona and Beezus’

Joey King has nothing but love for her Ramona and Beezus co-star, Selena Gomez.

In the decade since the family film was released in 2010, the 19-year-old King has gone from child actress to rising young star. Establishing herself with eclectic roles in both film and TV, from Fargo to The Kissing Booth, King still credits the G-rated feel-good movie (and Gomez) for helping her find her path.

From the time we worked together until now, I’ve always really looked up to her,” King told ET at Hulu’s Television Critics Association winter press tour on Monday while promoting her new series, The Act. “I’m really proud of everything she’s done.

King confessed that she hasn’t seen Gomez “in a really long time.” “But I think that everything she’s been doing lately with speaking out about mental health, I think it’s so beautiful and inspiring,” she said.

She just shows everyone every day that no matter what your Instagram follower count says, no matter how much you may or may not edit your pictures, no matter how many photo shoots you do, no matter what your life is like, it’s OK to not be OK,” King explained. “I really love that she puts it out there for everyone to see. It’s very vulnerable for her. She’s a big inspiration to people, whether she realizes it or not.

King has become a source of inspiration for young fans in her own right, gaining millions of new followers after the release of her Netflix film, The Kissing Booth, last year. Still, she can’t believe how far she’s come since Ramona and Beezus.

I’m so appreciative of that film and everything it did for me,” she said of the movie, marveling at how people still recognize her from a performance she gave when she was just nine years old. “But I’m so excited now, for people to see me go from something like that to all the things I’ve had in between, to Kissing Booth, to now [The Act].

The actress stars as Gypsy Rose Blanchard in the upcoming true crime series, which is based on the real-life case of a girl who helped kill her own mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, after years of Dee Dee convincing her daughter that she suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy and several other chronic conditions.

This is truly something,” she said of The Act, in which she stars alongside Patricia Arquette. “I love comedy, I love action, I love all these different genres, but my heart really does lie with drama, and I feel my most confident and comfortable in drama.

I feel like I love diving into characters that have a lot of complexities that need exploring and need cracking open,” King added. “I want to crack them open.

The Act will debut on Hulu on Wednesday, March 20 with two episodes. Subsequent episodes will be released every Wednesday.


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Joey King Has Her ‘Fingers Crossed’ for ‘Kissing Booth’ Sequel

Joey King is just excited for a possible Kissing Booth sequel as the rest of us.

Fans fell in love with the Netflix film when it was released last May, but so far, there’s been no word of a follow-up movie.

I want to know too! I can’t really say anything, because I don’t know yet,” King told ET on Monday while promoting her new series, The Act, at Hulu’s Television Critics Association winter press tour. “I know I would love to be part of something like that, but you know, my fingers are crossed.

2018 was a big year for Netflix rom-coms, withTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before(starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo) earning a sequel order from the streaming service in December. The Kissing Booth, also based on a YA novel, doesn’t have sequel books on which to base additional movies. However, the movie left its story open-ended; Elle (King) could either follow Noah (Jacob Elordi) to Boston, or look for love back home in her final year of high school.

Viewers couldn’t get enough of The Kissing Booth — it was Netflix’s most rewatched movie of 2018– or its stars, King and Elordi. The pair earned millions of followers on social media, with fans begging to know more about the movie and their real-life romance. Rumors sparked around the new year that King and Elordi had split, and as the actress told ET on Monday, it’s “really weird” to all of the sudden feel pressure to address her dating life.

It’s bizarre that people are intrigued about an aspect of my life that’s something that you usually only talk about with family,” said King, who started acting when she was just four years old. “I’ve kind of learned to not let it bother me so much, because when people ask those questions, it becomes overwhelming and you’re like, ‘I just want to experience what I’m experiencing privately, because whether it’s hard for me or not, I just want that respect and space.’

But I also realized, these people invested themselves in a performance of mine, and it really touched them, and now they really want to know what I’m up to, personally,” she expressed. “I’ve learned, and this comes with accepting self-happiness, to just be flattered by it — because what my fans and what my supporters say and do for me on the flip side of that, on not asking me who I’m dating and what I’m doing, I think it’s so special.

The actress continued to praise her fans for supporting her through it all — including her newest project, The Act, which couldn’t be more tonally different from The Kissing Booth. The Hulu series tells the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a woman who helped kill her own mother, Dee Dee Blanchard, after years of Dee Dee convincing her daughter that she suffered from leukemia, asthma, muscular dystrophy and several other chronic conditions.

The way they make me feel, and I’m so appreciative of them. They make me feel so good. Knowing that when I put the teaser trailer [for The Act] on my Instagram, and seeing what they’re all saying and seeing them repost it, like, my heart really does fill up with a lot of joy, because I think it’s so special that these people really care about my career,” she gushed. “Because I care about my career and I care about them too!

The Act will debut on Hulu on Wednesday, March 20 with two episodes. Subsequent episodes will be released every Wednesday.


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Joey King’s Young Hollywood 2019 Interview on The Act, Registering to Vote, and Shaving Her Head

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Joey King’s remarkable acting résumé can be intimidating. But sit in the same room with her and she’ll make you feel right at home. The bubbly young performer has been working nonstop since her first television role, a guest spot on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Since then, she has appeared in the music video for Taylor Swift’s song “Mean,” nabbed guest spots on shows such as Fargo and The Flash, and charmed legions of new fans after starring in Netflix’s runaway hit The Kissing Booth.

Recently, Joey has been busy with her transformative role on Hulu’s The Act, a crime anthology based on the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard. Joey plays Gypsy, a young woman who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after her mother was found stabbed to death in 2015; Gypsy is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence. Her mother, Dee Dee (played by Patricia Arquette), suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy and had allegedly been abusing her daughter by making her sick for years to win sympathy and attention. (Gypsy’s boyfriend at the time was later convicted of first-degree murder.) Joey is almost unrecognizable as Gypsy, having shaved her head and donned large, wide-framed glasses for the part.

Along with her work on the much-anticipated series, Joey has also been working on The InBetween, a supernatural romance recently picked up by Paramount Players that she’ll be starring in and producing. There’s hardly anything Joey isn’t already a queen at. As part of Teen Vogue’s Young Hollywood Class of 2019, she opened up about doing Gypsy’s story justice, becoming increasingly passionate about politics, and more.

Teen Vogue: As a representative of young Hollywood, what parts of you as performer do you hope to see more of in Hollywood in general?
Joey King
: I’m a big people person. I love getting to know people before making any judgments, getting to know their story. I find that when I work a lot on sets, I meet the most interesting people. Not just people who are producers, directors, or cast. The crew is such a vital part of making anything happen, and so really getting to know those people and respecting those people is a huge thing that I want to see more. I want to see people respecting others around them, because we all have a job to do, and each job is just as important as the next one.

TV: So far, what has been the biggest challenge to proving yourself in Hollywood?
JK: I just really want to show people that what I do is so important to me, no matter what kind of role it is. I want to show people that I can do any kind of role. That I can take on anything and really just go at it 110%. The biggest challenge in proving myself is being able to obtain those roles and certain characters that really get to show the range that I have and want to show.

TV: Your social media following majorly increased after The Kissing Booth. What have you learned about having a huge platform of more than 8 million Instagram followers?
I really feel very lucky to be able to have a voice that people care about hearing, but it is a lot of responsibility, you know? I want to set a good example for people, but at the same time I just want to show them a good time, so I try to do a little bit of both. Mostly I just try to be myself, and as cliché and stupid as it sounds, I feel like that’s the most important thing, because I want people to be themselves in real life or on their Instagram platforms or wherever.
Something that I just love to do is just never take anything too seriously. Sometimes I post just the stupidest pictures of myself with a face mask, this close up, or I call myself an egghead since I have no hair. I also think just not being afraid. Because so much of the time, you get mean comments from people. And that sh*t just rolls off my back. I don’t even notice them anymore. And so I post whatever the hell I wanna post.

TV: What’s an example of something that you have spoken out about that was maybe dealing with a heavier topic?
Because I’m now 19, I’ve gotten a lot more into politics than I had been before. That’s because I was not yet of age and I found it really hard to educate myself on politics. I even had a hard time figuring out how to register to vote. And that’s OK to be able to say that it’s confusing to figure out. And it’s confusing and hard to figure out what issues you need to know about. So this year, I really dove into that and tried to educate myself as best as possible. Lately, I’ve been speaking out about human trafficking, the importance of voting, and I went on a march recently [while] shooting in Savannah, Georgia. My costar AnnaSophia Robb [and I] went on a march to end human trafficking. It was just so inspirational to see all the people that came out to do that. When you have a platform like mine, and I’m lucky enough to have a vast amount of followers, I think I’m really proud to be able to say something that means something to me.

TV: The public is always scrutinizing, especially young women’s images. So how does it feel having shaved your head three times now? What have you learned about beauty and identity through the process of letting all your hair go?
: When I first shaved my head, when I was 11, I was so excited to do it. And then I got so sad because people were so mean about it online, and it just got so disheartening. Then the second time I did it, when I was 14, I was like, “Screw it. I learned from last time. I’m not gonna let anyone bother me.” And then it kind of happened again. I got a little sad because people were so mean about it. They were saying just awful things on Instagram. And then I had this awakening. I was like, “Why am I caring? I’m 14 years old. I have no hair. I look really freaking cool. And guess what? It’s gonna grow back.” So when this time came around for a role, I was ready to jump all in. And I can say that I haven’t felt more feminine in such a long time. I feel so feminine with my head shaved. I feel great, and I feel pretty, and I feel confident, and it takes me not even five minutes to shower anymore [laughing]. It’s so freaking nice.

TV: With The Act, you’re telling the story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, which is really dark. What have you done to make sure you’re doing her story justice, as opposed to kind of sensationalizing it?
: It’s something that I’m actually quite aware of. I just want to make sure that if she ever sees the show one day, I want her to know that we wanted to do right by her. The story is so messed up and there are so many layers, and it’s so, so heavy. I never want it to feel like we’re making fun of the story or we’re doing anything to romanticize it. It’s nitty-gritty; it’s really disturbing. And it’s uncomfortable because the story is really uncomfortable. What happened is so uncomfortable. And I’m really hyperaware of just trying to dive into Gypsy’s role as much as I can. I feel really proud of the work I’m doing.
With that being said, of course, I’m an actor, I’m very nervous about it, and I just want people to love it. And be immersed in the story, as immersed in the story as I am. So I’m hoping that the reaction to it is really cool because we put so much work into it, especially me and Patricia [Arquette]. Our relationship off-camera now has become so intense. We care about each other so much because we go through so much together onscreen. And Calum Worthy, who plays Nicholas Godejohn, is so phenomenal. I think all of us are trying our hardest to make sure we do right by these people.


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Patricia Arquette is an obsessed mother in true-crime anthology The Act: First look

In 2016, Michelle Dean wrote an article for BuzzFeed about the toxic, secret-filled relationship between Gypsy Rose Blanchard and her oppressive mother, Dee Dee, which ended in a twisted murder. Now, that story is the foundation of Hulu’s true-crime anthology series The Act, starring Oscar and Emmy winner Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee and Joey King as Gypsy Rose.

Getting into the emotion and getting into the character of Gypsy was something I was so excited to tackle, but I was also admittedly super-nervous for,” King tells EW. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten the privilege to really, really transform myself for a role.” That transformation included wearing fake teeth and shaving her head. “Transforming into Gypsy was one of the most challenging but most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she says.

Arquette was equally prepared to transform herself for her role as the manipulative, overbearing Dee Dee. “She is a fearless actress,” says executive producer Nick Antosca. “She is not concerned about playing a terrible mother. She’s not concerned about playing a deeply complicated, scary character who does have humanity under the surface. Patricia is willing to go there.

To Dean, who is executive-producing and writing the series with Antosca, the heart of the show is its emotional complexity. “I’ve spent three years listening to people tell me how crazy they think the people at the heart of this story are, and they were never that crazy to me,” she says. “They always seemed like human beings who had an emotional logic to what they did. Horrible things, but they did them out of truly human impulses. We made that into kind of a mission statement: We want people to understand the people behind the act.

The Act premieres March 20 on Hulu.