If it were up to Joey King, we’d be talking about something, anything, other than Joey King. Sure, the 21-year-old Los Angeles native, who’s been acting for more years of her life than not, is a professional famous person, but even she knows that when the country is going through a total and painful reckoning of its racist past and present—while also battling a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere—the last thing anyone needs is a celebrity profile.
And yet: “I get it,” she says about our interview. “We got some shit to cover.” This is, after all, part of the deal when you’re a young Hollywood star. For every Big Splashy Project you book, you have to do press so everyone knows about—and wants to see—the project. This makes The Next Big Splashy Project a little easier to book. Oh, and did I mention you have to do it all with a smile on your face, even when asked waaay too personal questions about your intimate relationships, all while it feels like the world is ending around you?
Not that Joey gives up control that easily. It was her idea that we have lunch together on a Monday afternoon in June—well, it’s sort of lunch. And we’re not at all together. She’s home in L.A., quarantining with family, which is relatable, while managing the renovation of said home because it’s hers, which is not. (“Don’t worry, everybody’s wearing masks and gloves,” she explains over the sound of a construction crew ripping out carpets.) Joey’s teacup Yorkie, Angel, is happily hopping on her lap.
I’m also home, in Grand Haven, Michigan, having left New York City to quarantine with Mom and Dad in a town that is the opposite of New York City. I basically begged my parents to take our black Lab, Finn, out for two hours so he wouldn’t bark while I was on this Zoom. Well, it was supposed to be a Zoom, but half an hour in, the app self-destructed just as Joey was showing me around her bedroom (it’s filled with a giant ornate bed, for her, and lots of little beds, for her “old as fuck” dogs). So anyway, now we’re on FaceTime. We’re doing what she calls lunch-delivery roulette. You each order for the other person from a local restaurant in their town—“gotta support small businesses,” her publicist enthusiastically explained via email—then talk through why you chose each dish. The time-zone difference puts me three hours past lunchtime, but what is time, really, when you’ve been sitting inside your house for the past four months?
I picked a spread for Joey of my favorite New York City foods (pastrami sandwich, matzo ball soup, a black-and-white cookie) because I’m homesick. Her verdict: “I’m so happy, you don’t even know.” My own Grubhub options are McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Subway, so I painstakingly curated a list of acceptable Middle of Nowhere, Michigan, restaurants for her to choose from. She ordered me “Italian”: chicken Francesca with kale Caesar salad, aka Midwest for “chicken and greens covered in cheese.” “I ordered bruschetta too,” she says as we unbox our lunches. “And they were like, ‘We don’t have any bread.’ I was like, Are you joking?! Everything I’m trying to do is going to shit!”
This, of course, is a lie. Not the bruschetta, the other thing. Just looking around her house proves the opposite: a picture of her and Patricia Arquette in costume from The Act; a shadow box with the teddy bear her character, Gypsy Rose, was obsessed with; a painting from the set of White House Down. I can tell she’s not arrogantly hoarding this stuff for some sort of trophy wall—it’s more like how you’d hang on to old sorority sweatshirts because they still spark joy.
And consider the reason we’re here at all: Joey has just returned to the Kissing Booth franchise (the sequel to the 2018 Netflix movie premiered July 24) that made her a household name. And this time, she didn’t just act, she also co-executive-produced the damn thing.
Full interview: cosmopolitan.com