Joey King hit the zeitgeist hard with 2018’s Netflix rom-com “The Kissing Booth,” and scooped up an Emmy nomination for her work in 2019’s “The Act,” a heart-wrenching limited series about the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard by her daughter, Gypsy Rose. She can now be seen in Hulu’s “The Princess,” where she learned action-hero stunts, and is set to appear in Hulu’s adaptation of Holocaust-themed “We Were the Lucky Ones.” Up next for King is David Leitch’s “Bullet Train,” a high-octane thriller out now. The heavyweight cast includes Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Zazie Beetz, Bad Bunny, Michael Shannon and Brian Tyree Henry. King plays Prince, a sinister and manipulative character with a British accent.
Prince is so much fun. What was your process with her? Did you give her a backstory?
I played around on set a lot with David [Leitch] because we didn’t know exactly how we wanted Prince to come off. We said, “Prince could go either way. She could be just extremely sinister, extremely clean and menacing. Or she could have a little edge to her where she seems psychotic.” I told David, “I have so many ideas for her, and I have a baseline knowledge of who I think she is, so I’m going to give you seven different performances and you can choose your adventure.”
The characters are all on a train, and each train carriage is almost its own world. What was it like being on that set?
It was so cool. The train was built [on a soundstage], and we had big LED screens playing the different landscapes going by. It was wild. When you’re parked and the car next to you starts to reverse, you think you’re going forward. That’s what it was like every single day. Our set was gorgeous. I’ve been on a bullet train, and it felt like I was back in Japan. I loved the way [Prince’s] attire and attitude fit into that world so well because everyone [on the train] has such distinct personalities and traits. She is fierce. She is crazy, and I felt like a kid in a candy store when I stepped into that set as Joey just before being Prince. I love being on soundstages because it’s unbelievable what production designers and those crews can do to that space to make it feel like you are transported somewhere else.
Your accent is so good. How did you prepare?
When I had the audition, I was told I needed to have a British accent. I’ve done minimal accent work before this, in my car, on the way to appointments, but I’d never had specific training in it. I had a dialect coach, Jamison Bryant, who is amazing. We worked together every day, for at least an hour, sometimes two to three hours. We cycled through different types of accents, and we presented that to David with some options. One of my favorite ways to get a character is to read the entire script out loud in that accent. It’s such great practice because you want to do it right.
What about the physical side of the role? Did you have to prepare much for that?
I have a lot less [need] of action than a lot of the other characters. My character’s biggest strength is her mind, and she uses that to the best of her ability. She doesn’t like to get her hands dirty, but she loves to manipulate. But I was training for my role in “The Princess,” and what a different experience that was. I had just been in a huge action movie where I didn’t really get to be super immersed in any of the action. Suddenly, I’m the star of an action movie, and I had to learn how to do everything.
Things you didn’t know about Joey King.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Let’s get physical: She finds stunt training difficult, calling her work on “The Princess” one of the hardest things she’s ever done.
On track: She says she’d be Diesel if she were a character in a live-action Thomas the Tank Engine movie.