It seems almost like a cliché to say that Joey King
has grown up before our eyes, but literally that is true.
The young actress, who will be turning 15 next month, has been in
front of the cameras since she was only six, when appearances on
commercials led to her first TV role in a couple of episodes of
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
And what an action-packed almost-decade it's been
for her since. In that time she has been in such films as Ramona
& Beezus, The Conjuring, The Dark Knight Rises, White House Down,
Crazy Stupid Love and Oz: The Great & Powerful.
This summer is a huge one for her. She stars as the
daughter of Zach Braff in the actor/director's anticipated drama
Wish I Was Here. King also is in FX's acclaimed TV version of
the Coen Brothers cult classic Fargo.
Like everyone in this crazy business called show, it
started small for King. Very tiny indeed.
"I used to do little Stage Door Theater plays at our
local theater," King told me recently from her temporary home as she
films her latest film Stonewall. "It was really small.
There were only about 100 seats in there. That's when I really found
out that I loved it so much, that I wanted to do this for the rest
of my life. I got into commercials and it was off from there. My
sisters and I did it. That's how I got into it."
King's two older sisters, Hunter and Kelli, had
preceded Joey into acting. Hunter is currently on the soap opera
The Young & the Restless and Kelli was in the film Ascension.
For as well as her sisters did, it seems that for
Joey King the skies are the limit. She has been working steadily
for years now, ever since winning the coveted lead role in the movie
version of the beloved children's book Ramona and Beezus when
she was only nine.
Yet King is not letting it all go to her head. When
you talk to her, it is obvious that she is a well-adjusted teen who
is loving the ride but not losing sight of herself. So, yeah, her
day job is a movie or TV set, but she still has normal teen
pressures like studies and friends.
"I'm home schooled right now," King says. "Which
works perfectly for me, because it goes with my schedule. I don't
have to worry about being at school at a certain time. I feel like
I'm getting a proper education, too. I'm learning so much, not just
from my books and from my school, but as I travel the world. I'm
seeing things that I would never see before if I hadn't been in this
"As far growing up with a normal childhood, I don't
know," she continues. "This is my normal. I love it, because I get
to do what I love every day. I get to travel the world and see
things. My mom takes me and we have so much fun when we're away.
So I love it."
Which is great. Not everyone gets to love their
job. Sure, it's not easy for a young woman living out the crazy,
stressful world of show business and its temptations. "My addiction
is Capri Sun," King admits, laughing.
This journey of learning and self-discovery has
undoubtedly given King an insight into one of her latest roles. She
took on the role of Grace Bloom, the conflicted daughter in Zach
Braff's upcoming family drama Wish I Was Here.
"Wish I Was Here is going to be amazing,"
King says enthusiastically. "Zach is such a genius when it comes to
filmmaking and acting, so I'm so excited for everyone to see it.
It's just such a beautiful film. I think everyone is going to love
it. It's so wonderful, an epic of life. It just takes you on this
rollercoaster and shows you what's important."
The movie is Braff's follow-up as writer/director to
the 2004 art-house hit Garden State. He had worked with King
in a previous film and knew she was perfect for the role. King knew
he was fun to work with as an actor, so she was pretty sure she knew
what she was going to get from him as a director.
"He's just such a fun-loving guy," King says. "I
worked with him as just a co-star on Oz: The Great and Powerful.
That was so much fun. He's so amazing. Working with him on this,
it was so interesting to see him direct a film. I had seen
Garden State before, but I was very curious to see how it would
be live on set with him. He handled it beautifully. He made an
incredible movie. Even though we had a limited time and a limited
budget it was a stress-free set. Everyone had so much fun. He was
just so fun and lovely and funny. I think it's going to be
Not only did she have Braff playing her dad, the
film had a pretty incredible cast which also includes Kate Hudson as
her mother, Josh Gad as her uncle and Mandy Patinkin as her
grandpa. It was a tiny bit intimidating briefly, but quickly they
all fell into step and felt like... well, family.
"Kate is so beautiful and such a sweet person. I
look up to her. I've been watching her act for so long and I'm such
a big fan of hers. So that was pretty exciting," King laughs.
"Josh Gad is amazing, too. I was so excited to work with him. He
was so, so nice. And Mandy Patinkin is a legend, you know what I
mean? I was so excited to work with him. He was amazing. He just
did an incredible job. He's such a good actor. I have the
privilege to say that I actually got to work with him. Getting to
work with this cast was incredible."
In the film, King's character of Grace was going
through a crisis of faith and belonging and trying to fit in with
her family as well as embracing her beliefs as a Jew. For King, who
is part Jewish herself, the role resonated to her.
"This character, it was funny because I felt like in
a way we were so different, but we were so much the same at the same
time," King admits. "She's very, very religious in this script.
Basically, her family is not. They don't not accept her, but she
wants them to make her feel comfortable with being how she is. Not
always trying to get her to wear new clothes that are not the same,
or try to get her to do something that she doesn't want to do
because of her beliefs.
"It's really nice to see throughout the script how
at first, she doesn't feel quite understood. Nobody really
understands what she is doing and what she's dealing with. Then as
the movie evolves, you see that people are more accepting and more
understanding. And she's becoming less uptight and more free with
herself. It's really sweet."
One thing that made King a bit uptight about the
script was that her character decides, for religious reasons, to cut
her hair very short. It's not even the first time that King had to
do that for a film – she also had a near buzz cut in The Dark
Knight Rises – but it was still a bit tough to psych herself up
for the actual experience.
"Was it difficult?" King asks. "Yes, it was. I was
very nervous before I did it. But I would do anything for Zach.
When that day rolled around, I was in my trailer, getting into my
new costume while everyone was waiting for me on set."
She laughs, "I felt like I was going to throw up. I
come out and Zach just gave me this awesome pep talk and I got
through it. I'm so happy that I did it."
In the film, after she cuts her hair off, Brach's
character takes her character to a wig shop and gives her the choice
of any wig in the place. Grace picked a neon purple wig. So what
would Joey pick?
"What color wig would I choose?" King asks,
pondering. "Probably the one that they chose for me. It was so
awesome. It was so cool."
Of course, beyond the fact that it was the return of
Braff as a writer/director, Wish I Was Here has captured
serious buzz because the film was funded via Kickstarter, the social
media network in which regular people can contribute to help make a
work of art, be it a record or website or film. The inclusion of
Wish I Was Here on the site got the project serious press when
it was still in the planning stages, making it probably the biggest
name title made through the site so far. King thinks it is cool to
be part of a film that is opening an interesting new direction for
the making of movies.
"With the amount of attention and success that
Wish I Was Here got from Kickstarter, I think that it definitely
could change the way filmmaking is done," King says. "I'm not
saying forever, or every single film is going to be made by
Kickstarter. Of course people can't always get funding, because
they don't always have a bunch of fans supporting them already. But
I do think that there is something so special about Kickstarter.
People can be so generous and awesome. I think that Kickstarter
could definitely change some people's lives, like it changed Wish
I Was Here."
Of course, Wish I Was Here is far from the
only change that King has going this summer. She is also one of the
stars of the critically-lauded FX TV series Fargo, which is
loosely based on the classic film. The show is a story of love,
sex, murder, crime and intrigue in the frozen tundra of the great
King was excited to get the opportunity to help
bring the film to television.
"I really love that film," she says.
Like the movie, the series excels at the droll, flat
midwest line readings, a form of hyper-politeness known as Minnesota
Nice which features lots of "shoots," "ya knows," "fer shures" and
"What you said about the line delivery, it's kind of
funny, because we're trying to stay pretty true to the movie, but
we're trying to put our own twist on it, too. As far as the accents
and how we're doing that, we're trying to keep it close. We want it
to be this really sick, dark kind of humor." King laughs. "These
people are just so simple and some of them are just so crazy. It's
so funny. But I'm so excited that I get to be a part of Fargo.
It's so much fun. I really hope everyone is loving the season
so far. I think it's doing pretty good."
On the show, King is Greta Grimly, the daughter of
timid patrolman-turned-postal carrier Gus Grimly, who is played by
Colin Hanks. Tall, gangly and as good-natured as his father Tom,
Hanks has been playing a diverse group of characters in his decade
or more in the business, from a partying college student in
Orange County to a serial killer on Dexter.
"Colin is so cool," King gushes. "The minute we
met, we were just kind of chilling on set. Just having fun. Not
really worrying about being stiff with each other. It was really
fun. He's really so funny. He's one of those people that can make
you laugh. He'll tell a joke under his breath and if you just, just
catch it, it's hilarious. I just loved hanging out with him.
He's such a good actor, too. He's amazing. I think that he's a
great dad, too," she laughs.
Most of her scenes have been with Hanks as well as
Allison Tolman as the surprisingly clever police deputy Molly
Solverson and Keith Carradine as Molly's dad, a former cop turned
diner owner. We asked King if she would be working with more of the
cast, but she was very conscious of giving up spoilers in the
intricately plotted show.
"Well, I can't say too much," King admits, "but I
mostly work with those guys. But, I'm kind of... you'll see.
Fargo is quite
a change from King's first big role, co-starring with Selena Gomez
in the kid's favorite Ramona and Beezus. That film was based
on Beverly Cleary's popular series of children's books.
"The auditioning process was a very long process,"
King laughs. "I actually had a birthday during the auditioning
process. It was so funny, though. It was so exciting when I found
out that I got the role, because I really wanted it. I thought it
would be so cool. I loved the Ramona books and I loved the
script. I loved everything about it. I thought this will be
was at the screen test with Selena and I had to do a few scenes with
her and the director, Liz Allen, she was directing us. Everyone was
like, 'This is so cool!' What if this scene that we're doing now,
what if we actually got to make it? I was like, this would be
amazing. It's just a dream come true. Then it happened and I can't
say how much fun I had," King laughs again. "It was so amazing.
Such a life-changing event. It was my first lead in a role. I was
nine years old and I got to do so many cool things. With so many
cool people. I'm forever thankful for that experience."
Throughout her career, King has juggled more family
friendly films like Ramona and Beezus and her voice
performances in popular animated films like Horton Hears a Who!
and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs with darker, more adult
fare like The Dark Knight Rises, The Conjuring and Fargo.
"I love doing both, because it definitely shows a
variety of what an actor can do," King says. "Also, it gets a
variety of audiences, which is always good. People get to see you.
I loved having kids get to see me in Ramona and Beezus and I
think it's really cool that the adults can watch me in Fargo.
All the teenagers can watch me in The Conjuring. It brings a
variety of audiences and I think it's really cool for people to get
to see my work. To see me do different things in different roles
and different productions. I'm very excited. I hope more things
come in the future where people of all ages can see something."
However, from the very beginning, King and her
family kept it all in perspective. After all, it would be a strange
feeling to make movies which as a girl you were not allowed to
watch. King and her parents looked at it pragmatically.
I was younger, I didn't do really dark things," King says. "I did
Quarantine when I was younger, but I was still allowed to see
it, because I in it. I did an episode of Medium, but I was
still allowed to see it. I think my parents allowed me to see it
because they thought that if I knew that I was in it, I would know
that it is make believe. The only thing that they were worried
about was me getting scared, but because I knew that it was make
believe, I wouldn't get scared. So they did allow me to watch my
things, even if they were a little bit frightening. I could handle
it because I knew it was all fake."
Therefore it wasn't scary to act in, say, a spooky
ghost story like The Conjuring?
"The Conjuring wasn't scary to film, but it
was so scary watching it," King admits. "I don't really
watch scary movies that often. I'm not a big scary movie person,
when it comes to watching them. So, it very nerve-wracking." She
"But it was so cool. Now I kind of like scary
movies, after seeing The Conjuring. But The Conjuring
was exceptional. The director, James Wan, is so brilliant. The
cast was amazing. The other thing about the film was how true they
stuck to the actual story of the people. It was incredible. The
people who actually went through this experience came to visit us on
set once. That was really bone chilling, because we got to hear
part of their story. That was so, so cool."
Even before The Conjuring, King's career had
run across ghosts, playing guest roles in Ghost Whisperer and
Medium. After going through those experiences and meeting
the Perron family, King is a believer.
I've always believed in ghosts," King smiles. "I definitely
believe. Especially after hearing the parents' story about things
that happened in that house, The Conjuring. I believe it
even more now."
Ghosts aren't the only dark characters that King has
run across as an actress. She had a small but vital role in
director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, one of
the biggest films to come out in recent years. She played the young
Talia al Ghul, a child who would eventually grow up to be Marion
Cotillard's character and play a huge part in the film's twist
"Christopher Nolan, I'm a huge fan of his," King
says. "I love Batman, so getting to work on The Dark Knight
Rises was... I was shaking with excitement. Because I knew I
got to work with him and I knew I got to work with Christian Bale
and Tom Hardy. I was just freaking out. Christopher Nolan is so
awesome and brilliant and he's so nice. He's so involved, which is
so cool. And Christian Bale is so nice. So, so nice. Tom Hardy,
too. I can't even explain how cool it was to work on The Dark
Knight Rises, because I'm a huge Batman fan. That was just...
it was crazy. I still can't even believe it happened."
King also dipped her toe into straight comedy a
couple of years ago in Crazy Stupid Love playing the youngest
daughter of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore. It was a fun stretch
to do a comic role after a few years when King has played mostly
more dramatic parts.
"Absolutely, I love doing a variety of things," King
says. "Doing things that I haven't done too, too much. Like
straight comedy. Crazy Stupid Love was so much fun. The
cast was... like Steve Carell, I love him. I look up to him.
Julianne Moore was flawless. I definitely would look forward to
doing more things like that. Just keep it going."
the years, King has dabbled with music, too, doing some singing and
songwriting. It's something that she loves experimenting in as
"Acting is mainly what I do and I enjoy it so much,
but I definitely would love to explore that aspect of the business
at some point in my life."
The movie that she is currently filming as we speak
with her is returning King to more dramatic fare, though.
Stonewall is a labor of love for director Roland Emmerich,
telling the story of the Stonewall riots, a series of violent
clashes in Greenwich Village in 1969 between the New York police and
the local gay community. The riots are widely considered to be the
most important event leading up to the modern fight for gay and
It's certainly a different vibe for director
Emmerich, who is best known for special effects-laden action films
like Independence Day, White House Down, 2012 and The Day
"It's not your typical Roland Emmerich film," King
agrees. "Bring tissues to the movie theater, because it's really an
amazing story. I'm so honored to be part of it. We have Jeremy
Irvine in the cast, who is an incredible actor. I think it's going
to be so cool. It's going to be such a cool movie. It's going to
be something that will educate people in a lot of ways, and it will
break their heart and it will lift their spirits up at the same
time. There's a lot going on in this movie. You're not going to
want to miss it."
King was honored to get a chance to play a part in
Emmerich's vision of the story.
"Working with Roland, there's nothing like it," King
says. "He's so loving and so wonderful. When I first met him, I
was kind of intimidated by him. I was like: wow, this is Roland
Emmerich! Then I realized he's just this really cool guy who is so
nice and smart and talented and brilliant. I just loved working
with him on White House Down. When he asked me to be in
Stonewall, I was overjoyed, because I just love working with
Emmerich tell her why he felt so strongly about the story?
"The movie, I think, was so important for him," she
continues. "It's his passion project. It's something that he's
passionate about. I can't give away too much about the film, but
it's just so heart wrenching. I think that maybe it hits a little
close to home for him. It's going to be so incredible. It will be
a movie not just for a certain type or group of people, everyone can
go see this movie and enjoy it and learn something from it."
fascinatingly diverse cast, with actors like Jonathan Rhys Meyers
and Ron Perlman as well as King and Irvine.
"I have only met Jeremy so far out of all of them,"
King admits. "I haven't met the other guys yet. But Jeremy is
amazing. He's so awesome and he's so nice. He was just over here
for dinner last night. We all have become so close as a cast
already, so it's been great."
It's just another step in making the sometimes
awkward segue from child star to legitimate actress. King has heard
all the horror stories. She knows all the pitfalls that face a
young person in show business. Still, she feels confident, in
herself, her talent and her chances.
"You know, people talk to me about this a lot," King
allows. "About how I feel about making that transition. About what
I think I'm going to do. There's clearly been problems with it
sometimes, with people, and I'm determined not to have those
problems. I'm determined to make it smoothly. Hopefully I will. I
hope that I can continue to keep working while I make this
transition. My roles hopefully can show that I can make that,
because there is a big variety. Some of them are really deep and
dark. Some of them are funny. I'm definitely looking forward to
making that transition when the time comes, and making it
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