The European stonechat, a member of the robin family, tends to build its nest on or near the ground. Youngsters tumble out into the world as soon as they can, before they can even fly. Apparently, the prospect of flapping without flight amidst the dangers away from the nest pales in comparison to being grounded—a sitting duck, so to speak, for the numerous predators afoot. It is tempting to imagine what the world will be like when the masks come off and gates re-open, where the future has ambition and promise again. Instead, we spend countless hours a day trying to convince ourselves that the same bird who flew out into the world with ease and not a tendril of hesitation is the same one that, at present, doesn’t leave the comfort of their sheets. As we are learning, we must try to keep the heads, in which we spend most of our time, a suitable place to live, regardless of exterior influences. Actor Joey King inspires such force with a simple repeating of her morning hymn, “I am above ground.”
As the first months of 2021 transition to memory, King speaks from a newly found perspective after surviving the seemingly never-ending and ever-changing year of 2020. But while time continues to prove itself to be a construct, King has not wasted a single second. Her fresh and bright demeanor fills her Los Angeles home as she shares an appreciation for the constants that have grounded her in place, when the urge to float away becomes too overwhelming. She speaks kindly of Angel, her fourteen-year-old dog, who is “spunky and bright as ever,” cooking as a form of healing, and self-discovery through introspection and autonomy, encapsulating what it truly means to be young and learning through a pandemic.
King’s standout role as Elle Evans in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth—based on the book of the same title by Beth Reekles—is where she reached a new level of presence. The trilogy follows a spirited high schooler as she navigates her way through the wormhole that is young adulthood, with friendship an evergreen guiding light. And viewers ate it up. The 2018 debut shattered viewership records with 66 million-member views in its first month’s release, launching King to newfound heights. In the first installment, Elle’s turbulent relationship with high school bad boy Noah, played by Jacob Elordi (also of Euphoria fame), sees a wrench thrown into her friendship with Noah’s younger brother. The Kissing Booth 2 sees Noah now off to Harvard, and Elle back for her senior year, with all new problems arising. Closing out the trilogy, King is faced with the decision of where to go to college (and we might assume some push and pull from long time darling Noah). Both installments two and three were filmed in South Africa, the latter to release this summer, and King shows nothing but staggering humility and gratitude for the closing of this five-year run of romantic turbulence and emotional inquiry.
When it seemed like King could not soar any higher, she landed her Emmy-nominated role as Gypsy Rose Blanchard, opposite Patricia Arquette’s overbearing Dee Dee Blanchard, in the critically-acclaimed Hulu true-crime limited series, The Act, about the toxic mother-daughter relationship turned criminal. She also finds herself opposite Brad Pitt in the upcoming action-thriller Bullet Train, a no doubt gripping tale of five assassins on a bullet train who find their missions to be not so unrelated. With her impressive curriculum vitae of thoughtfully crafted roles, King has honed her talent of elegantly evoking an audience, chiefly with her warm countenance and distinct authenticity. She states, “I think that being able to be an everyday person who is able to transform into someone like Elle Evans, to just be like every girl and able to be a lead of a movie, is meaningful. And also to become someone like Gypsy and completely strip away my vanity. I think people resonate with that, that vanity is not my top focus.”
King has also found her way to the producer’s chair, where she has discovered new autonomy in her creativity. Perching herself on the other side of the casting table, she is able to not only develop a deeper understanding of the industry she has dedicated her life to, but advocate for narratives and stories in a different way than she has before. King is set to executive produce and star in Netflix’s Uglies, a film adaptation of Scott Westerfeld’s international best-selling dystopian fantasy novel of the same name, set 300 years in the future when everyone must undergo plastic surgery at 16 years old to meet globally dictated beauty standards. Passionately, she says, “I feel so frickin’ grateful to have reached such a certain amount of success where I am now able to decide what I want to produce, and create opportunities for myself that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have presented themselves to me.”
As the recently turned twenty-one-year-old makes her graceful ascent from childhood actor into international stardom, she is no stranger to the glamour and grit of the industry. After the success of The Kissing Booth, she found herself under a different kind of microscope. King confesses, “Being an actor is so tough, because you have this image of who you are and what kind of image you want to present to other people, when in reality you have no control of what people think of you.”
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