Early this month, Netflix released a film about a high school student being forced to choose between her best friend and secret crush. Titled The Kissing Booth, Joey Lynn King stars as the outgoing Elle Evans, who is fairly popular among her peers but has never gone out on a date, let alone been kissed. However, things take a turn when she ended up at a kissing booth, facing her best friend’s brother. Although the storyline may not appeal to the older crowd, this romantic comedy has managed to beautifully capture the ups and downs of infatuation.
The optimistic, upbeat Joey is exactly the kind of California girl that people instantly fall in love with, hands down! Born and raised in Los Angeles, you may know the American actress from her role as the well-meaning troublemaker Romona Quimby in Romona and Beezus, the 2010 adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s book series. Thriller enthusiasts may recognize her as Christine Perron, the first Perron in The Conjuring who noticed malevolent spirits in the house. And chances are, some may have identified her voice in animated films such as Horton Hears a Who! And Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Now, Joey is branching out into other films, with a role in James Franco’s upcoming comedy-drama Zeroville and a star turn in Slenderman, where she plays a high school girl who sets out to find her mysteriously missing friend.
Being in this industry from a young age, do you sometimes believe you’re missing out on life? This is a question that I get frequently, and I can honestly say no. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I feel like I’m the luckiest fricken girl alive. I really love what I do, and I also love the snacks on set. If anything, everyone else is missing out on those snacks.
“I love bringing books to life on screen. I think what Beth Reekles did with The Kissing Booth was incredible. This teenage girl starts a story on Wattpad, and then gets herself a book deal and THEN it gets made into a feature film for Netflix!? It’s truly inspiring.”
Summer 03 is a fun, nutty film! Tell us how you got involved in it and your initial idea of its storyline. Do you have a specific favourite scene or quote in the movie? Summer 03 certainly is a nutty film. When I first read the script, I immediately fell in love with it. It is funny, shocking, raunchy, and relatable. I mean the list goes on. I think one of my favorite scenes filmed was my big speech at my grandmother’s funeral in the end. It’s WILD.
How does it feel to be in a book-to-film adaption whereby the book is written by someone of your age? I love bringing books to life on screen. I think what Beth Reekles did with The Kissing Booth was incredible. This teenage girl starts a story on Wattpad, and then gets herself a book deal and THEN it gets made into a feature film for Netflix!? It’s truly inspiring. I love the story and the way the movie came out so much.
You met your boyfriend Jacob Elordi at The Kissing Booth. Tell us about your first impression of him and how did it develop into something more? Would you like to work on another film together with Jacob in the near future? Tis true!! Jacob and I met while filming on the set of The Kissing Booth and we honestly hit it off the minute we met, but just as friends. The shoot was about two months long. For the first month, I would say he became one of my best friends and I felt so comfortable around him to a point where we were both like “Hey, this person makes me feel happy and warm. Maybe there’s something there.” The best part is, we’re still best friends and we would love to work together again someday.
Joey King is not your average teenager. At just 18-years-old, she can boast of having worked in some of the biggest productions in the industry throughout her 14-year-old career: from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Rises and FX’s acclaimed series Fargo to horror maestro Jen Wan’s The Conjuring. But she keeps adding names to her resumé: having just announced her appearance in the upcoming thriller, The Bayou, alongside Academy Award-winner Gary Oldman and Maze Runner‘s Dylan O’Brien, and even stepping into production. There’s no doubt that King can do it all, and she doesn’t have any plans of stopping soon. Wise beyond her years yet candidly refreshing, King opens up to Schön! about stepping into the industry at a young age, the perils and pleasures of social media and her latest venture, The Kissing Booth, which premieres today on Netflix.
You’ve been acting professionally since you were four. How did your interest in acting start? Since we were little, my sisters and I just always had a desire to express ourselves in a way we couldn’t explain until we started doing little local theatre plays together. Then we really understood that we loved to entertain people and provoke emotion from people. Ever since then I’ve loved the feeling of being on a set and [bringing] characters to life.
What do you think has been the best and worst part of stepping into the industry that young? How does it feel to be stepping into the limelight now as a protagonist? I think for me, the best part has been that over the years I’ve gotten to meet people that I will call friends and even family for the rest of my life. I’ve been so lucky, almost everyone I’ve encountered along the way has been lovely. I think the worst part for some people is that they can get very caught up in the lifestyle of being somebody with a lot of attention on them, but although it sounds cliché, having a good family around you is the best thing to keep your head right. I’m very lucky in that aspect too.
Speaking of family, your grandmother was into theatre and, as you mentioned, your sisters are also in the business. How was it growing up in your family? Did they influence your acting in any way? My family is a blast. My whole family is full of characters. Me and my sister Hunter would make home movies a lot when we were younger and edit them ourselves so we were always doing something crazy. At six years old, I was in charge of special effects and sound effects in our films… lots of responsibility [laughs].
You’ve just released Summer ‘03 to positive critics on your acting. How do you feel you have matured in your craft as an actress since? Because you clearly have! SXSW was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I feel so proud to be in Summer ’03. It’s a performance of mine that I feel really confident in, which is hard for me to say because I’m always so critical [about] myself. I think when it comes out, people will be shocked, laughing, and feel like it relates to them in a way. It’s a wild movie. In terms of maturing in my craft, I try not to take myself too seriously and just have fun. Being carefree and committing yourself 110% to a character is so liberating and I hope that, as I get older, I get a chance to challenge myself and play many different kinds of characters.
You’ve been part of major productions like Christopher Nolan’s Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and more recently the series Fargo. What role has been your favorite so far and who are looking forward to playing in the future? Any experience that has been particularly formative or memorable to you? It is pretty crazy to take a look at what I’ve gotten to be part of. I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING! One thing I loved so much about making Fargo was that I got the chance to play someone who has an accent in the show and I would definitely love to play someone with an accent again. An experience that has been particularly memorable and formative to me was filming Going In Style. I got to work with some of my idols — Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Alan Arkin — which was a life-changing moment for me, all while being directed by one of my closest friends Zach Braff. The whole experience of filming that movie will forever be so special to me. Everyone was so so nice.
Your next project, The Kissing Booth, is set to air on Netflix. What can you tell us about the project? I’m so excited for The Kissing Booth to release on Netflix [today]! It’s such a cute movie that I had an exceptional time making. It’s a film about a girl named Elle Evans and she has a MAJOR crush on her best friends brother. It’s romantic, silly, heart-wrenching and just hilarious. I’m in love with it and I hope everyone else will be too.
If careers are like rocket ships, then Joey King’s is in full blast-off mode. Approaching her 18th birthday this July, Joey has an incredible acting career under her belt already, and no less than three huge films coming out soon. In NETFLIX’s teen comedy, The Kissing Both, Joey co-stars alongside Molly Ringwald, and in Summer ’03 she stars as a young woman whose grandmother leaves behind a mysterious array of secrets after she dies. Joey also stars in the highly anticipated horror film, Slender Man. For her BELLO feature, we had the chance to talk to Joey about her incredible career in Hollywood, her biggest inspirations, and finding love on set.
Not everyone can say they had the chance to work with an 80s icon as big as Molly Ringwald, but Joey King most certainly can. In the upcoming NETFILX comedy, The Kissing Booth, Joey got to bond with the legendary actress over several months. “It was incredible. Getting to work on a high school comedy movie with the high school comedy Queen was unimaginable. She was so kind, and everything I had always imagined she would be. Me, her, and some of my other castmates, especially Joel Courtney, we would sit together often and talk, and solve Rubik’s Cubes together. It was such a great time.”
Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that Joey’s all-time favorite 80s movie is one of Molly Ringwald’s biggest hits: Pretty In Pink (1986). “I love Molly and Jon Cryer in that movie, and I feel like Pretty In Pink was one of the first movies to have that great ‘underdog wins’ storyline that makes it so fun to watch.”
Working on The Kissing Booth was a labor of love in more ways than one for Joey. Not only did she become friends with Molly, but she also met her new boyfriend on set as well. So was it love at first sight for Joey and her co-star, Jacob Elordi? “Was it love at first sight? Well, I thought he was very cute when we first met, but it started as a friendship. Right away we were talking about gross things with each other (laughing). But before long I started to realize, ‘Hey, I think I kind of like this person!’ It was such an interesting experience meeting your boyfriend on set because you spend so much time together and become so close so fast. We were spending 17 hours a day together, and all of us would hang out after work and watch movies together and stuff. It was great.”
The Kissing Booth tells the story of a high school student who ends up having to confront her secret crush in a kissing booth, so we thought it worth asking her when her first real-life kiss was. As it turns out, Joey’s long career in Hollywood means her first kiss was of the on-screen variety. “My very first kiss was on a film set with Keegan Allen, in a movie directed by James Franco. Keegan was so sweet and he made me a lot less nervous, but he was nervous, too, because he knew it was my first kiss!”
Another of Joey’s films coming out soon is the dark comedy Summer ’03 in which Joey plays a young woman whose grandmother leaves behind a string of unexpected secrets when she dies. Joey says she was instantly attracted to the project from the moment she got the script. “I remember when I first got the script I couldn’t put it down. And the director, Becca Gleason — well, it was love at first sight. We became best friends immediately, and I could sense her vision for the project immediately. Plus, she’s so smart, and has so much drive and motivation. So once we got on set with the entire amazing cast, it was incredible. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”
One might not typically think of a dark comedy as holding nuggets of wisdom about life, but Summer ’03 very well might. “The take home message for sure (and it sounds cliché, but it’s definitely not cliché in the film) is that family is truly the most important thing in the world. We go through a lot of trials and tribulations to find that out in Summer ’03. The film is so funny and dark and weird, and it’s a great, motivational movie to watch.”
Joey King has been working as an actor almost her entire life, and the fruits of her hard work are self evident. So what advice would she give to child actors of a similar age as when she first started climbing the Hollywood ladder? “My best advice would be to have fun doing what you love. From studying your craft by watching as many films as possible (which is so valuable), to when you first begin working — try not to take yourself too seriously. You have to have fun doing what you do. Of course you have to be serious about the work because you have a job to do, but try not to be too serious about yourself — if it’s not fun you’re not going to enjoy it.”
Right now Joey’s biggest goal as an actor is to experiment with as many genres as possible. “There are so many actors, both women and men, whose career choices I admire. I love Jessica Chastain, and of course Jennifer Lawrence, but as much as I want to emulate paths such as these, I have to make it my own. I want to be the kind of person who can do the comedies and the dramas; the movies that are really silly and the serious ones, too. That’s what I love about The Kissing Booth — it’s so silly and so funny. I think every actor should do a teen comedy at least once in their lives. And Summer ’03, on the other hand, is darker humour. I want to be able to do many different types of things. I also love action, horror, and drama.”
But of all her upcoming films, the darkest by far is Slender Man. The highly anticipated horror, based on the disturbing Internet meme that seemingly took over the world, was light years away from the lightheartedness that Joey experienced on set of her other projects. “It was very, very creepy [to shoot]. You’re in such eerie territory while making these, but I think people are going to love it. We also had a lot of bug spray working on it because we were in the woods during filming.”
Working on a film so steeped in urban legend, one wouldn’t be surprised if strange things were to happen to the crew. “Nothing strange happened to me during filming Slender Man, but actually when I was filming The Conjuring, something strange did happen,” she revealed. “It hasn’t happened to me since, but while making that movie I developed a strange blood condition in which I lost thousands of platelets. The doctors said I needed a blood transfusion, but I didn’t want to. So before and after filming I had to get my blood tested everyday. And then my platelets slowly started building up on their own. As soon as I got home it was all perfectly fine. It was very strange because nothing like that ever happened to me before or since.”
For someone who works as hard as Joey does, relaxation time is critical. So what does she consider to be a perfect Sunday? “I would wake up really early, go to the beach, then I would go and buy some fresh-squeezed watermelon juice. Then I’d come home, play with my dogs, and probably watch something like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (laughing). Then I’d probably have dinner with my whole family.”
Family, after all, is where Joey gets most of her inspiration. “My mom is so smart and creative, and she’s so handy at thinking of projects for the home. My sisters, too, because they’re so smart and savvy. And my boyfriend loves to write, and I’m so envious of that. I’ve always wanted to learn how to write, and he’s so great at it. There are so many people in my life who I draw inspiration from.”
Summer ’03 does not yet have a release date, but The Kissing Booth arrives on NETFLIX May 11th, and Slender Man hits theaters in August 2018.
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.”)