Joey King is a dizzying force of nature. Accomplishing more at 14 than most fit into a lifetime, the lake-blue eyed phenom with roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Conjuring, and FX’s Fargo already under her belt, is only getting started. Just wrapping The Sound and the Fury opposite James Franco and Seth Rogan and set to play lead in Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall, King also has a starring turn in Sundance darling Wish I Was Here, in theatres July 18. We mix it up with King, talking fashion, meteoric success and keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground.
THE KING FILES…
BEST EARLY MEMORY: My sister and I would go outside and put out reindeer food for the holidays…that was really fun!
DESIGNER CRUSHIN’: Betsey Johnson, Armani and Bariano.
LAST DREAMY FASHION FIND: I wore a Lumiere by Bariano dress to the Saturn Awards which I loved.
LATEST OBSESSION: Matisyahu. He’s a reggae artist…I love his music!
THE GREAT ESCAPE: I love going to Florida. The beaches are amazing there.
DIRECTOR’S CUT: I love Roland Emmerich who I worked with on White House Down, Sam Raimi (Oz the Great and Powerful), Zach Braff (Wish I Was Here) and James Franco (The Sound and the Fury).
BEST POPCORN FLICK HANDS DOWN: The Notebook, Real Steel with Hugh Jackman.
BEST ON-SET SHENANIGANS ON WISH I WAS HERE: Zach [Braff], Pierce [Gagnon] – who plays my little brother, Donald Faison and I had scene where we rolled around in an Aston Martin all day. We laughed the whole day and it was so much fun!
FAVE BAND RIGHT NOW: One Republic, because their songs are upbeat and meaningful.
THE INFLUENCER: My mom because she’s been there for me and been very supportive, and my sisters. They are my best friends and they’ve taught me so much. I love them, they’re the best!
TREASURED POSSESSION: My keyboard. I love to play.
YOU, IN 3 WORDS: Weird. Trustworthy. Friendly…I think!
HYDROGEN MAGAZINE: Let’s go back to the very beginning. Where did you grow up?
JOEY KING: I grew up in Los Angeles and have lived here all my life. Growing up here was very normal, even though I was acting. I had my sisters, went to school…had fun.
HM: Were you that kid hamming it up in front of the mirror, hairbrush in hand, doubling for a microphone?
JK: I think we all had our hairbrush/ microphone moment, but for the first few years of my life, I was really shy which is weird because I am the opposite of that now and so outgoing.
HM: You starred in a cereal commercial when you were just four. Any memories of that at all?
JK: Definitely! That was a very fun commercial. I had so much fun eating the Life cereal. I remember them wanting me to do a scene where I brought the milk to the table and I spilt the milk and started crying, thinking I’d done something wrong. But my mom and the director said it was cute. What can I say…I was only 4!
HM: You’ve been thrown into the very grown-up world of entertainment since you were knee-high. Has that taken some adjusting to? How have you dealt with the pressure of expectation or do you sort of tune it all out?
JK: Growing up in this kind of world hasn’t taken much adjusting too because I’ve been in it for a while, so it feels natural. I don’t feel a lot of pressure either. I’m having fun. If I’m not having fun, then what’s the point of it? Even though it is work and a job, it’s supposed to be fun.
HM: Let me throw a few names at you. Emma Watson, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, Sienna Miller, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron. Whose career do you glance at and think, ‘I wouldn’t mind carving out a path like that…’
JK: Definitely Jessica Chastain. She’s so good at what she does and I love her work. Jennifer Lawrence because she’s funny and so amazing. She also seems like she loves what she’s doing. Emma Stone, who I worked with on Crazy, Stupid, Love. She’s so sweet and I really look up to her.
HM: Best bit of career advice you’ve gotten so far…
JK: I ran into Joseph Gordon Levitt at the after party for This Is The End. I told him how much I liked his work and how he made the transition from child actor to adult so smoothly. He said, “Look around you. Just make sure you know this is fun and exciting, but it’s not real life.” He also told me to stay normal and to stay humble. It meant a lot, because I look up to him and the fact that he took the time to talk to me was cool.
HM: First big gig…
JK: Ramona and Beezus. It was my first lead in a movie. I’m more nervous now, looking back on it but at the time I was just excited and had a great time.
HM: I looked at your list of credits and my jaw basically hit the floor. You’ve had roles in Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Dark Knight Rises, Oz the Great and Powerful, White House Down, The Conjuring, not to mention television roles in Entourage, CSI, New Girl, and FX’s Fargo. And you are just 14….incredible. Tell me about some of those experiences…
JK: Filming Fargo was so cool because I was a huge fan of original movie and the cast was incredible. It was also nice filming in snow, since it’s always sunny out here. Oz the Great and Powerful was the best time because I met great friends on that set – Sam [Raimi], James [Franco] and Zach [Braff]. They’re my besties now [laughs]!
HM: You just completed The Sound and the Fury, teaming up again with James Franco who you worked with on Oz the Great and Powerful. He is directing and starring this time around along with Seth Rogan, Jon Hamm, Dave Franco and yourself. Tell us about Miss Quentin, the character you play.
JK: The film is based on a book by William Faulkner. I play Miss Quentin who is very feisty. She’s Benji’s (James Franco) niece. She’s unhappy at home because her other uncle is mean to her, and she feels misunderstood. She’s also rebellious. You sympathize with her, but you also think, “what are you doing?”
HM: What was James like as a director?
JK: Working with James as a director was incredible. He’s smart and he knows what he wants but he’s also open to change. He’s light-hearted, so he sets a great tone on set. He’s such a pleasant person to get to work with.
HM: Let’s talk about Wish I Was Here, your latest movie, directed by and starring Zach Braff as Aidan Bloom, a 35-year-old who is at crossroads, forcing him to take stock of his life, career and family. First thoughts when you read the script….
JK: Before any script, I knew Zach from working with him on Oz the Great and Powerful. He approached me and after I read the script, I thought it was such a relatable story, touching, and heart felt. Then he asked if I would shave my head in the film, and I was like, sure! The script was brilliant. Zach and his brother Adam did an amazing job writing it.
HM: Tell me about your character Grace. What makes her tick and what was your approach to playing her?
JK: Grace is very uptight and reserved. She’s very set in her beliefs and her family isn’t. She wants to fit in with her family or have them fit in with her. As the movie goes on, you see her evolve and become less uptight and more comfortable with herself and more understood, but she doesn’t have to change who she is to fit in. My approach was to give her a bit of sass, but not too much, and I wanted her to be her own person. I wanted her to feel less accepted and by the end, I wanted the audience to see her liking herself more. It was a challenge, but in the best way.
HM: You’ve played such a wide variety of roles in different film genres from comedy and drama to fantasy. Is there a common denominator to how you tackle each role or is it something different each time?
JK: I do something different each time – different role, different strategy. You have to become the character and feel what they are feeling and it comes to you naturally.
HM: Give us some dirt on Zach Braff. He can’t be as nice as we all think he is…c’mon…
JK: Zach is super nice and just awesome. On Oz the Great and Powerful, we had a bit of a prank war going on… he started it! He taped a head shot of himself from Scrubs on my door, so I took it one step further. I put a headshot of myself on his door, adding, ‘Thanks for being a big fan, follow your dreams. Love, Joey.” Then I teepeed his room!
HM: What do you like to get into when you have some downtime?
JK: I read a lot. Not as much as I’d like to, but I love to read. I play keyboard and love to go to the beach a lot and just relax.
HM: One thing we’d be surprised to know about you…
JK: I’m very big on trying new things. A few weeks ago, I tried an oyster for the first time and I hate seafood! I’m not closed-minded and am definitely open to discovering new things.
HM: Your success has come fast and furious. Do you pinch yourself sometimes when you think about all you’ve accomplished in such a short time? Your family must be plenty proud…
JK: I do! It’s crazy how much I’ve gotten to do at my age and to know some of the actors I admire so much. I’m happy to be where I am. My family is so supportive and sometimes it’s overwhelming – the feeling of it all. I love what I do so much.
HM: How do you stay grounded in an industry like the one you are in?
JK: I have such a great family and friends supporting me. I think if you are naturally an appreciative person, it doesn’t ever get to your head. It still weird to me that people have fan pages for me. I’m like, “For me? Why?” I have that appreciation for what I have and what people have done for me. I never take it for granted, as it can all go away tomorrow.
HM: What are some of the goals you still have out there for yourself?
JK: To win an Academy Award. I don’t know what I would do with myself, it would be crazy!
‘WISH I WAS HERE’ IS IN THEATRES ON JULY 18.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT SAYLES