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What ‘Wish Upon’ Star Joey King Learned from Selena Gomez About Fame and Overcoming Her Haters

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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:

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How Joey King Is Avoiding A Career In Elephant Dentistry

If she wasn’t an actor, Joey King would be an elephant dentist. It’s definitely not a job you hear about everyday, but what’s perhaps even more striking about King’s secondary career choice is the confidence with which she talks about it. The actor recently went on a safari in South Africa and learned that when elephants lose their sixth set of molars, they can starve to death. “I heard that there are elephant dentists, who make prosthetic teeth for them so that they can live longer,” she tells me when we speak at Bustle HQ in New York. “And I was like, ‘Oh my god. If I’m not an actor ever in my life, which I hope that never happens, I’m gonna become an elephant dentist.'”

At 17, King’s at an age where a lot of young women don’t know what they want to do with their lives at all, but she is a talker and is self-assured when speaking about everything, whether that be elephant dentistry, the time James Franco helped her with a breakup, or playing Michael Caine’s granddaughter in her latest film, Going In Style.

King has been acting since she was four years old (her first big starring role was in Ramona and Beezus in 2010), but right now things are really taking off — she has nine movies in various stages of production. Even though she’s been doing this, basically, her entire life, and counts Franco and Zach Braff as close friends, she’s still in awe of the people she gets to meet.

“I totally get star struck,” she says. “I think it’s really neat because I look up to so many different people.

Those people include the stars of Going In Style: Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and her on-screen grandfather, Caine.

Being around those guys, as much as it was exciting, I was like, ‘Oh my god. What if they don’t like me?’ And they just put those thoughts at ease the minute I met them,” she says. “They’re such legends and they’re so successful, and I just love the fact that they just stayed so humble and nice.

King has also stayed “so humble and nice” for someone who has had James Franco help her breakup with someone. The actor — who King describes as “one of those people who you don’t quite understand the minute you meet them but then when you understand them you’re like, ‘Oh my god. I get it now’” — was there when she was ending a relationship via text.

He was actually with me when I was writing the message out,” she says. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know what to say. This is terrible,’ and he’s like, ‘Calm down.’

King says she, Franco, and Braff all grew close when working on 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful. “If I want advice on either something about my work or anything to do with my regular life, those two will always be there for me,” she says. In the time since Oz, King has gone on to work with Braff on two more films, including Going In Style, which he directed, and with Franco on several projects, including the upcoming Zeroville.

While King is used to hanging out with celebrities who are much older than her, she, somehow, still seems like such a 17-year-old — and she relates to characters who are normal teens, too. In the upcoming The Kissing Booth she says, “I play this character named Elle Evans and she’s kind of awkward and funny and doesn’t really realize that she’s gone through puberty yet. And when I read the script I was like, ‘Oh my god. This is so me. She’s so awkward. I love it.’

King hopes she never has to put her plan B with the elephants into play, simply because she loves acting so much. “I love working, it’s my favorite thing to do is to act. And to do what I love, nothing about that makes me nervous,” she says. “I’m just nervous about hoping that people like everything.

And with her many upcoming projects and a little help from her industry friends, she can probably keep “making elephant dentures” pretty low on her to-do list for now.


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Joey King Is Most Definitely Going in Style


The chance to appear in a film alongside three of the greats—Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman—has to top the bucket list for every young actor. Such is the dream fulfilled for Joey King, 17, who plays Michael Caine’s whip-smart granddaughter, Brooklyn, in Going in Style, the Warner Brothers remake of the ‘70s caper flick, directed by Zach Braff, in theaters Friday. King’s had a very exciting career already, including starring last year in Independence Day and starring in Wish Upon, a thriller slated for release on June 30. We were happy to catch up with King to talk about her career plans, her family and why it’s really cool to be Zach Braff’s muse.

There had to be so many things, but what was the best part of being in the Going in Style cast?
I think the best part was getting to work with people who I so greatly look up to in New York City. What more could I ask for? Legendary people, great food, unreal movie—the list goes on.

Pretty amazing to join this venerable cast, too.
Shooting with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin is almost indescribable. I’ve always looked up to these men and one can only dream of working with a cast like that. It was so amazing because not only were they obviously insanely talented, but they confirmed all my hopes and dreams because they are the nicest men in the world. Alan would often play ukulele in the hair and makeup trailer, Morgan is just so lively and would always dance with me on set and Michael is so sharp and witty so our banter felt so natural and he became like a real grandfather to me.

I read that this is the third film you’ve worked on with Zach Braff.
Working with Zach Braff is something I will never get enough of. This is my third film with him and I hope there will be many more. He’s so sweet and calls me his muse, but I don’t think he realizes how much he inspires me. I feel everything he touches is magic, he can provoke such a range of emotion from audiences as an actor, writer and director. Going in Style is so funny I couldn’t stop my eyes from watering in the theater I was laughing so much and the soundtrack is fire, which Zach always knows how to do so well. I’m so proud of him and I’m proud and grateful to call him my director and friend.

What’s next for you?
Next up I have a film coming out that’s a psychological thriller called Wish Upon starring myself, Ryan Phillippe and Ki Hong Lee. It’s going to be so rad! And I was just in South Africa filming a Netflix movie called The Kissing Booth starring myself and Molly Ringwald. It’s a really sweet and hysterical teen rom-com that has a Pretty in Pink, She’s the Man and Mean Girls vibe to it all in one. I can’t wait for people to see it.

Do you have a mantra when it comes to picking projects?
I pick my projects based on if I like the script and if I think I’ll have fun doing it. But my favorite thing to look for is a challenge—something I’ve never done before or something I want to try that’s been incorporated into a script. I have huge dreams and making career choices can be very scary, but I have so many great people in my life, especially my mom and my sisters, and I always look out for myself. For me, it’s about having as much fun as possible and being kind to everyone.


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Joey King Opens Up About ‘Tween Fest’ and Social Media

Go90’s latest series Tween Fest is about to be your new go-to destination for laughs. The Funny or Die digital show parodies the lives of social media personalities and provides its viewers with a reality check on how obsessed the world can get with these platforms. Basically, if you’ve ever paused your friends’ brunch so you could take a photo, this show might or might not be for (and maybe even about) you.

With new episodes every Wednesday, the show takes you through a two-weekend long festival featuring all kinds of influencers. From Joey King’s pimple-popping character (which is exactly as it sounds) to a Venmo star with a loyal following, it’s an over-the-top take on how people treat the world of social media today. To get a better understanding of the show, Teen Vogue caught up with Joey about her experience filming and how she approaches social media on her own.

Teen Vogue: What was your favorite part about filming Tween Fest?
Joey King
: I got to work with some really cool people that I had such a great time with. I got to play a character I’ve never played before. My character is named Madison Crawford and she kind of goes a little crazy. She starts off as a really sweet girl, but loses it when things don’t go her way. She’s a YouTube-famous pimple popper, but what she really wants to do is break out into the music business.

TV: Are there any similarities between you and Madison?
: We’re so different, but the perfect way to describe her is that she’s very determined. Whether she schemes to sabotage the festival or does what she can to become a singer, [Madison] takes everything she does very seriously.

TV: What was the most memorable scene to film?
: I had to rub pizza and chicken wings all over my face at one point. It was the grossest scene I’ve ever had to film in my entire life and it was so funny. It was hilarious and my sister was on set that day, everyone was laughing so hard.

TV: What kind of message do you and your cast mates want people to take away from the show?
: We’re poking fun in a really funny way, the show isn’t being mean about anything. However, it shows a pretty terrible message about [social media] in the best way possible. At first, all the characters emerge from conflict and being internet-famous. By the end, they realize that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends.

TV: How do you feel about social media?
: I love social media. A lot of people have different opinions, but I feel like it’s just a really fun place to connect with people. What I like most about is getting to share photos and moments with people I care a lot about. Whenever I share something on social media it’s typically because I think it’s funny or I had a good time doing it. The fact that people respond to that and can connect with me based on something I’m passionate about is awesome.

TV: Which social media platform do you like most?
JK: I’m an old-school Twitter fan, but I never thought Snapchat would become social media. Ever since I made a Snapchat account, I’ve had so much fun on it. Every Wednesday I do “Wednesday Wisdom.” It’s hard for me to choose, but I also love Instagram. (I don’t get the whole “Finsta” thing though. I don’t get why people have those.)

TV: What do you have coming up on your “Words of Wisdom” segment?
: ” Everyone always asks if I prepare what I will say a week in advance, but the funny thing is, I’ll get on Snapchat and have no idea what I’m going to do. Then I get flooded with the most random thoughts and I just say anything that comes to mind. If I have friends over, they often get featured. Last week, Nolan Gould was it in and that was really fun. My sister Hunter makes an appearance, too. She’s hilarious and I love her so much.

TV: If you had to pick between a comedy like this and drama, which would you choose?
: It’s hard to say because everybody wonders what type of role is my favorite, and it’s so ridiculously difficult to choose. I love drama. It really pushes me as an actor and the outcome is super rewarding. Comedy is a hard concept to grasp, but it’s a lot of fun. I feel like it’s hard to actually be funny sometimes, which is also one of the reasons I enjoy it.