Joey King has been a working actor since she was 7, but the 20-year-old’s career took a major upswing last year when her performance opposite Patricia Arquette in Hulu’s drama “The Act” earned her Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations.
“After that, I signed a first-look deal with Hulu, which was very exciting for me,” King says on Thursday’s episode of the Variety and iHeart podcast The Big Ticket from her Los Angeles home, where she’s been bingeing “Floor Is Lava” and “Say I Do” on Netflix during quarantine. “I’ve been able to be a little bit more picky, which I’m super appreciative of because actors oftentimes don’t get the opportunity to work on the projects they really want to work on. They’re just trying to make sure that they keep working.”
Ten months before “The Act” premiered in 2019, King also became a certified YA rom-com star in Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth,” in which she plays Elle, a high schooler who is secretly dating her best friend’s older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi). The sequel, “The Kissing Booth 2,” finds Elle in a love triangle between the new guy at school, Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), and Noah, a Harvard freshman. It debuts July 24 on Netflix.
“I love the first movie, but [the sequel] is better than the first,” King says. “I know that’s crazy to say about a sequel, because that’s not often what you hear, but it’s true.”
When you signed up for the first movie, did you also sign for the sequel?
The first movie was this beautiful surprise. It was in Netflix’s independent department, and they weren’t expecting too much out of it. They were like, “Make this, have fun, and give us a movie afterwards.” When the first trailer was released and it started tracking so well, we were like, “What’s happening?” We only signed on for one, but then the fan reaction was incredible. When they asked us to do the second, it was a no-brainer.
Does it feel strange to be in a movie like this during the pandemic? It’s weird watching the kissing-booth scene.
It’s crazy because you watch it and you’re like, “Oh, look at how close and loving to each other everyone is.” And you’re like, “Oh, my God, when’s the next time we’re all going to be able to hug each other?”
Why do you think “Kissing Booth” resonated so much?
I think that people were kind of craving that classic John Hughes feel-good movie, and there hasn’t been a lot of that. When “The Kissing Booth” came out, it just ticked all those boxes of that feel-good summery vibe. Our characters, the way they were written, they talk like real people. My character Elle, she’s not the outcast or the popular girl. She’s just a girl that goes to school, and has some friends, has a best friend. I think what resonates so much about her is that she’s just your every girl.
“The Kissing Booth” wasn’t critics’ favorite movie in the world. Is there a disconnect between what viewers want and what critics think are good movies?
I understand that critics weren’t all over this movie, but that’s the thing — it’s not meant for critics to be like, “Wow, what a movie!” It’s meant for people to watch and have a great time. I’m thankful that I got to do “The Act,” where critics were like, “Oh, that’s awesome.” But also not everything you do has to have critical acclaim. It doesn’t mean it’s not successful. And it doesn’t mean it’s not one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on. The fan reaction to it is all the criticism I need as far as just the way it fills my heart.
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Since gaining legions of fans for playing Elle, the lovestruck teen at the center of Netflix’s 2018 film The Kissing Booth, Joey King has been very, very busy. After the original film became a sleeper hit, King shaved her head (for the second time in her life) and starred alongside Emmy winner Patricia Arquette in Hulu’s true crime-inspired series The Act. Soon after her stirring performance as a daughter whose mother is suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, King found herself invited to Oscar parties and nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe. While she didn’t win a golden trophy, she’d certainly opened her career to new possibilities. Now, she’s returning the teen rom-com circuit with the July 24 release of The Kissing Booth 2, and that move comes with yet another career milestone: an executive producer title.
“Our director Vince Marcello is already very collaborative, he’s just so easy to get along with and talk to about everything, but my role kind of came later on in post production. I had a lot more approval of things on the film side, and also on the marketing side,” King explained to Refinery29 on a Zoom call alongside her co-star, Joel Courtney, who plays Elle’s lifelong best friend. “My favorite thing that I got to do as a producer was attempt to fire Joel Courtney every day,” she joked.
Fans of the series know that jab couldn’t be further from the truth — the co-stars are close friends. In fact, Courtney was a big supporter of King’s new promotion, even bringing her a daily smoothie on set because he saw how much she was putting into the movie.
“Joey was working every single day and was the first one on set and the last one off set. She was working harder than anyone else there, so I took it upon myself to brighten her day as much as I could,” said Courtney.
It makes sense that for round two as Elle, King would want to take a more hands-on approach. While working on The Act, she learned to speak up about a pivotal scene in which her character Gypsy has sex for the first time.
“This is the one aspect of playing Gypsy in which I had to try and pull from my own real life experiences of what it felt like to become a young woman with those desires and those wants and those needs,” King told Refinery29 back in 2019. “It’s such a life-changing moment in a young woman’s life, so I feel like it should have been documented in her story.”
Joey King has never spent a day in high school and has never been in a sorority, but she imagines that filming The Kissing Booth 2 is pretty similar to those experiences.
“I was homeschooled, but from what I’ve heard, that’s what it’s like,” she told Seventeen. “Being back on set was like having a really big family back together again. It was wonderful.“
The Kissing Booth 2, which drops on Netflix Friday, July 24th, brings the entire cast from the first movie back for more fun, drama, and, of course, kissing.
“Getting to work with the whole cast again was so exciting because we genuinely had every single cast member come back from the first movie and that was so special,” Joey said. Since the last movie, TKB has had a lot of successes, including becoming one of the most re-watched movies on Netflix in 2018. Joey said that it was nice to celebrate those accolades with the cast, as well as to “jump into another film and have a great time while doing it.“
Of course, one of the movie’s man cast members is Jacob Elordi, Joey’s ex. And then there’s the new cast members, Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Taylor Perez, who will play Chloe and Marco respectively. Joey promises that both of the characters will “make some waves” in the film and from the looks of the trailer, it seems like they may get in the way of Elle and Noah’s relationship.
Along with The Kissing Booth 2, Joey is also the face of Urban Decay’s latest campaign for their new mascara, Lash Freak. For Joey, the partnership seemed obvious.
“Urban Decay was one of my first introductions to makeup ever,” she explained. “When I was 13 years old, they came out with a collection for my film Oz the Great and Powerful and the eye shadow in their Good Witch palette was the first form of makeup I’d ever used.“
These days, Joey has graduated to wearing slightly more makeup. Aside from the Lash Freak mascara, Joey constantly finds herself reaching for the Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette.
“I love every color,” she said. “For me, personally with my skin tone, my favorite thing to use is gold and browns and I love that it works one, not only my skin tone, but also on every skin tone. It’s just a very diverse and beautiful palette.“
And then, she tops her look off with the brand’s 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil. “It’s my favorite because I have very watery eyes so my makeup had the tendency to run, but this one does not budge and it stays on all day long.“
Um, it sounds like I may need to get some of that eyeliner before I watch The Kissing Booth 2 because if Chloe and Marco are about to make waves and break up Elle and Noah, tears will definitely be running.