In hindsight, it’s somewhat of a miracle that “The Kissing Booth 3” got made in the first place.
Not because the 2018 “The Kissing Booth” was initially a stand-alone film — before the summery rom-com, about a high schooler who falls for her best friend’s brother, became an unexpected hit on Netflix. And not because of the pandemic; this final chapter was shot earlier, in 2019, at the same time as “The Kissing Booth 2.”
With workdays that included wrestling in massive inflatable sumo suits, shooting a montage at a water park and racing go-karts in Mario Kart-like costumes, it’s remarkable that Joey King and her colleagues, who had a ball in the process, were able to focus enough to get the job done.
“If you put us in a room and you expect us to get much done that’s productive, it’s going to be hard,” King, the franchise’s 22-year-old star, said in a video call. “We’re like 12-year-old boys.”
The trilogy’s final film, which begins streaming Wednesday, follows Elle, King’s character, through her last summer before college as she juggles dating her boyfriend, Noah (Jacob Elordi), and checking off the aforementioned antics with her friend Lee (Joel Courtney) in a last-ditch effort to complete their childhood bucket list.
One of her next projects has a different vibe: King described “The Princess,” which she’s shooting this summer in Bulgaria, as an action movie, “‘The Raid: Redemption’ meets Rapunzel.” She sat down for a video interview (energetic as ever, it’s worth noting, at 6 a.m. local time) to discuss the end of the series that has defined this phase of her career and how Elle’s coming of age has mirrored her own. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What was it like shooting the last two films back to back?
Actually, we shot them at the same time — meaning in one day, we’d be shooting scenes from both movies. It was so confusing.
How did you keep everything straight?
I can’t give myself that kind of credit, because I didn’t. I knew exactly what I was doing every day, but when I was on set and my director [Vince Marcello] would come over and say a note or something, I was like, “Wait, are we in Movie 3 right now?” He’s like, “No, we’re still in Movie 2.” It’s not like they were very similar, because their story lines do take crazy different turns. But it was kind of fun to marry them together.
Was this film — along with “The Kissing Booth 2” — the first project you executive produced?
It is, which was lovely. I’ve been putting my hand more into producing lately; I’m actually producing “The Princess” as well. But it was really special for me to start on those movies since I’ve been with them for such a long time.
I’m a bit of a sponge. On set, it was more of me absorbing stuff from Vince and being like, “So why did we make that decision?” Just asking more questions. He was so willing to be even more collaborative with me and ask my opinion. I felt like I had a voice on set, but my voice really did come in on the back half of filming. I had a lot of say on what the final product was, and I also am very heavily involved in the marketing process. I’m very passionate about both of those things, and I feel like I am one of the target audiences. It’s fun to be able to have a say in something that I would want to watch at the end of the day.
At the heart of these movies is a coming-of-age story. Did you find similarities to your own experiences at this stage of your life?
I’ve always felt very connected to Elle. I remember receiving the script for the first movie. I called my team, and I said, “When can I audition for this? I want this so bad.” And they were like, “You don’t have to audition for it; it’s an offer.” If I had had to audition for it, I would have done anything to get that job.
So when I started playing Elle, I felt like [she] and I were very, very similar. Her vibe, her sense of humor; I felt very in tune with it. And same thing goes for the second and third movie, if not more so — I went through a lot of important life moments in her shoes.
How do you feel you’ve changed since then?
I have changed so much. It’s actually quite unbelievable to me. I never thought I was going to change as a person, and I was so wrong. That’s the beauty of being young. My perspective on life changed — my perspective on family, on relationships, on career. So that’s why, when I feel like I’ve really gone through so much with Elle, it’s because I have changed so much as a person and learned so much.
In what ways?
I became a little bit more present. I started meditating. I found a very incredible relationship [the director and producer Steven Piet]. Obviously I’ve always loved my family, but I have found a deeper appreciation for them. And career stuff, too: I started becoming more zeroed in on exactly what I wanted to do and how much I didn’t want to do certain things. And that was really interesting, just to feel a little more empowered in my own abilities to make decisions. I’m actually quite an indecisive person. If you take me to a restaurant, I have no idea what I want. And that’s even if we decide where we should go. But when it comes to my career, my brain switches over to a decisive mode. That’s a new development for me.
You’ve had such a range of roles at this point — “The Kissing Booth” is very different from “The Act.” [King was nominated for an Emmy for her performance in the Hulu true-crime drama, as a young woman convicted of killing her mother.] When you talk about narrowing down what you want to do, do you hope to keep that sort of variety? Or do you prefer certain roles?
I personally love to keep a wider range, and I never really have a specific “this is what I want to do next.” I want to keep excited about it. I love the fact that they [“The Kissing Booth” and “The Act”] were polar opposites. And I’m hoping that people are excited to see me in different kinds of roles, because I very carefully decided that this is what I want to do.
This was, as far as we know for now, the final “Kissing Booth.” But if the opportunity arose, can you see yourself returning to Elle and this story in the future?
I started these movies when I was 17. We were just like, we hope people like it — if anyone even sees it. Little did we know what a big impact this would have. I’ve never tired of playing Elle. It’s so fun. Watching this story be wrapped up so nicely in like a beautiful bow, I think it would be a little hard to come back after that. We made this ending exactly what I think it needed to be. Selfishly, do I want to play Elle again? Absolutely. But I think that the story is on its final chapter.