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.
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.
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?
JK: 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?
JK: 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?
JK: 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?
JK: 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?
JK: ” 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?
JK: 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.
Teen star Joey King recently hit up Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood bash, where she was sporting on-trend pink tresses dyed for her 17th birthday on July 30. Like many of Tinseltown’s busiest high schoolers, she began acting before grade school, making her debut in a Life cereal commercial at age four. Now, she’s appearing in the upcoming dramedy “Zeroville” alongside James Franco, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Jacki Weaver and Megan Fox, and the comedy “Going in Style” with Zach Braff. Here, she dishes with WWD on her longtime pals Franco and Braff, her first kiss and her fashion idol, Jaime King (no relation).
WWD: Tell us more about “Zeroville,” which was directed by and stars James Franco.
Joey King: We shot that about two or three years ago. James and I have a really lovely relationship. He’s one of my really close friends. I’ve known him for, like, five years now, so we’ve done a lot of projects together. He’s great. I cannot wait for people to see “Zeroville.” I had an amazing time playing the character Zazi.
WWD: We didn’t realize you guys were close. What did you and James bond over?
J.K.: We have the best time together. He always teases me and gives me a hard time about everything. We both love Beyoncé. We would listen to her in the hair and makeup trailer a lot. We would get up to switch chairs and we would Sasha Fierce it all the way over to each other. I did his movie “The Sound and the Fury” a while ago; he also directed that. He hired Keegan Allen to play my love interest. I had my first kiss with Keegan. I met him maybe an hour before we had to do the scene and he was 26 at the time and I was 14. I was so nervous. James told me he wouldn’t tell anybody that it was my first kiss, but then he made an announcement. I love Keegan and I’m so happy it was him because he’s the nicest person in the world, but I told James, “If you can squeeze Benedict Cumberbatch in there that would be great.”
WWD: You also have “Going in Style” directed by Zach Braff coming up.
J.K.: It was supposed to come out this year, but we pushed it to next April or May. And I cannot wait. It has an all-star cast including Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Ann Margret. I play Michael Caine’s granddaughter. It was literally one of the most legendary, magical experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s so funny too.
WWD: Did you know Zach prior to shooting?
J.K.: Yes. I’ve actually known Zach for the same amount of time as I’ve known James. We all worked together for the first time on “Oz: The Great & Powerful” and then I did “Wish I Was Here” with Zach, which was the one I shaved my head for. I know those guys pretty well and it’s been amazing knowing them this long. Hopefully we’ll continue making amazing memories.
WWD: We heard you also have a Courtney Love film project in the works: about a teenage girl with a dysfunctional family who dreams of becoming a writer. What can you tell us about that?
J.K.: We have not shot that yet. It’s called “The Possibility of Fireflies.” It’s a great script.
WWD: What are you filming next?
J.K.: I have a movie I’m starting in the fall called “Wish Upon,” which is a thriller. It’s going to be insane. The director is John R. Leonetti, who was the director of photography for “The Conjuring,” which I also appeared in. So I’m getting to work with some familiar faces.
WWD: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
J.K.: One of the coolest things I’ve ever heard from somebody that I look up to very much was from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I ran into him at the “This is The End” after party and I was like, “Oh my god. I love you so much.” He was like, “I know who you are. I think you’re pretty cool, but listen. You see all this stuff? The Hollywood parties? As much fun as it is, it’s not real life. You have to know that and always be gracious.” I thought that was awesome.
WWD: You’re also close with Jaime King. What do you love most about her?
J.K.: Oh my god. Literally, her closet is the greatest thing in the world. A lot of people think we’re related too. We’re actually not. But we want to be. We went out to breakfast or lunch one time and I had on this like vintage dress. It was fine. She had these Chanel overalls on. I’m like, “Dude. Kill me. Get out of that. I look stupid next to you.” She was like, “What?” And she had her cute little baby bump. I was like, “Stop. Looking so cute all the time.”