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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.


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Rising Stars Poised For a Breakout in 2019

Each year, a handful of fresh faces stun on the TV screen. Australian newcomer Eliza Scanlen did it this past year with her juicy role opposite Amy Adams in HBO’s Sharp Objects, as did Stephan James via his starring part in Amazon’s Homecoming with Julia Roberts. As the “Peak TV” era shows no signs of slowing down, 2019 is sure to usher in a new crop of breakout stars. Among those positioned to reach a new level of fame are model-turned-actress Hunter Schafer (HBO’s Euphoria), Dunkirk discovery Barry Keoghan (FX’s Y) and Olivia Hussey’s daughter India Eisley (TNT’s I Am the Night). Ahead of the new year, The Hollywood Reporter highlights seven actors — some newbies, others more recognizable — who are poised to make their mark on the small screen in 2019.

Joey King
The Act, Hulu

As a child actor, King rose to fame as Ramona Quimby in the adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s children’s book Ramona and Beezus. But in recent years, the 19-year-old actress has shed her kid star persona with edgier parts in horror flicks like The Conjuring and Slender Man. She catapulted to a new level of fame in Netflix’s summer rom-com The Kissing Booth. Despite being poorly reviewed, the film developed a bit of a cult following that boosted her and co-star Jacob Elordi’s profile. Next, she’s graduating to Hulu’s true crime anthology series The Act, in which she’ll star alongside Patricia Arquette and Chloë Sevigny. The first season is based on a 2016 Buzzfeed article and follows Gypsy Blanchard (King) as she tries to escape the toxic relationship she has with her overprotective mother, Dee Dee (Arquette). Her quest for independence opens a Pandora’s box of secrets that ultimately leads to murder — a role juicy enough to already be drumming up buzz for King. She even shaved her head for the part.


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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.