One to Watch – Joey King Talks About China Girl, Pranking James Franco, and The Swear Pig #DisneyOzEvent
Some of you may remember Joey King as the feisty Ramona Quimby in Ramona and Beezus. Now? She will most certainly be most recognized as China Girl in the blockbuster film Oz The Great and Powerful. She hopped into the conference room in the sweetest black and white checked dress, along with a sparkly green headband (as a nod to The Emerald City, no doubt) and a simple Tiffany & Co. bracelet. She was young, fresh-faced, and beaming with excitement.
The nice thing about Joey is how grounded she is. Although she has been in several films and TV shows, she is just a sweet, typical 13 year old. Joey is a breath of fresh air in a world where children are growing up too fast. She isn’t wearing a ton of makeup or sky-high stilettos. She’s just enjoying being a kid. Joey isn’t growing up too fast like many child stars, or most 13 year olds in general. She is certainly one that, as a parent, I want my daughter to look up to.
Joey in person is as sweet and clever as her character China Girl. She is a true talent that should be one to watch because this girl is going places…
How did you get involved with the project?
JOEY: I auditioned for it, and I really loved it. It was so exciting for me, and magical, ‘cause I’m a huge fan of the original movie. And when I went to the screen test, I got to meet Sam there. And it was just amazing. And I wanted to be a part of it really badly because it seemed like such a fun thing to do, and it was just like, a breathtaking movie.
Were any of the actresses like your mom on set?
JOEY: Um, Michelle Williams is more like my mom. Mila was more like my sister. Michelle was really funny because she has a daughter Matilda, and she wanted to know things. One time when she asked me, how old were you when you got your phone? ‘Cause I don’t want to give Matilda a phone too early or too late. And I was, like I got my phone at 10-years-old. She goes, “ten, really?! That’s early!” I’m just like, no it’s not!
Do you have a China Girl doll yet?
JOEY: I’m working on getting it. I’m almost there. I really want one because she’s so cute, and I think it’d be really fun to show, uh, my, uh, family.
What did you think of your finished character when you saw the movie for the first time?
JOEY: When I saw the movie, ‘, at the premiere, that was the first time I’d seen it. I had only seen about 20 minutes of it before. But it was really exciting for me, because I got to play two characters. I played a little girl in a wheel chair in Kansas, and then I played China Girl in the Land of Oz. So it was really cool to see how everything came together, and how they did China Girl, ‘cause what they did was they used, um, like, CGI technology, and they filmed my face, and attached my expressions onto China Girl. So it was really, it was like I was watching myself, like, kind of, but in an animated character.
Do you feel like it was easy getting into the character?
JOEY: Um, I think that it was. ‘Cause there’s parts I’ve done before where it’s very difficult to get into that mode, and you have to be very, uh, different than yourself. But, you know, I am always up for a challenge, and I love those kind of things, but this one was a little bit more close to my personality. She’s very sassy, and had a lot of personality. She’s very energetic, and she’s a little – not that I’m saying I am – but she’s just a little bit manipulative, in a way, but I pull pranks on my sister, so I can’t say that I’m not.
What was your favorite part about the movie?
JOEY: Um, there’s so many great parts about filming that movie, ‘cause really exciting for me. You know? ‘Cause I love the original, and I just loved everything about the script. One of my favorite parts was just getting to work with everyone, like James, Mila, Zach, Michelle, and Sam Raimi is an amazing director, an amazing person, and I love the way he works. He’s very precise, and he catches every little detail. But it makes all the difference. He let us play around with it. And that made it just feel really more natural. And also the cast I was, like I said, Michelle’s more like a mom figure to me. Mila’s like a sister to me. Zach is like a brother to me, and James is always teasing me on set. And he’s like a brother to me, too. So I love them all.
What advice do you have to other kids that want to get involved in acting?
JOEY: I’ve been doing this since I was four years old, and I am 13 right now. But it took a while, you know, to actually get where I am. And it’s really exciting now that I am here because it was a lot of rejection, and a lot of auditioning, and getting so close, but not close enough to where you actually get it. So, and I never gave up, ‘cause I am here… that’s my advice to everyone – to never give up, because you never know when it can happen.
How old were you when you watched the original Wizard of Oz?
JOEY: That’s a really good question. I’m not really sure. It was a while ago because I’ve watched it so many times, over and over and over again. It’s one of my favorite movies. I grew up with it. It was way before this movie. ‘Cause my sisters have watched it and loved it. And my mom has it, and I just loved it. And I watched it over and over again. I would say I was pretty young. I wasn’t, like, 10 or anything. I was a lot younger than that.
Did you get to hang out with the puppet much?
JOEY: Um, yeah. I got to, I got to be on set a lot, which was really cool. What they did was they filmed my face in the booth. Zach and I, ‘cause we were in the same booth together, we got to go on set a lot, and they brought the cameras on set, and the puppeteer, Philip Hover, he was amazing. She had so many strings on her, and he knew what every one worked, and it was so cool to watch. There was a string where she could blink, and where she could move her arms, and… So I got to hang out with her a lot. It was almost like she was a real person. I forgot that she was just a puppet. That was really exciting and neat.
How do you balance your work with being a teenager?
JOEY: A lot of people ask me that, and they’re, like – well, how do you balance it because it must be hard being, doing this work and stuff? It’s a lot of fun for me to come here and do this kind of thing. It’s exciting for me. I love going away and filming, ‘cause I usually have to travel. And when I come home, I get to see my friends, and I get to hang out with them, and do fun things a lot. But this is what I love to do, and it’s, it’s basically just, um, just like being a kid, for me, like, being a teenager, it’s part of who I am, and I love it.
What is it like being a role model for other kids who are watching your career?
JOEY: It’s, it’s kind of cool to see that kids look up to me, and how to, how to be, and, like, they, they admire my work and my personality, and I think that’s really, that’s really neat, because it’s, like, I get to do these things. I get to do these kinds of charities, and I get to share these things that I do, and let kids know that it’s fun to do these kinds of things. It’s fun to do charity, and you always have to stay involved with the world.
And, although it’s exciting for me, sometimes it’s a little bit of a challenge as well. But mostly it’s more fun. But the reason why it’s a challenge sometimes is because I’m not like a normal teenager, you know? I love hanging out with my mom. My mom and I just went shopping the other day together. I love letting kids know that there’s more than just sitting at home on your computer and doing things like that.
Did you know any of the other actors or actresses prior to making this movie?
JOEY: This was the first time I had met them, working on the movie, but I knew of them very well. Um, I loved James in 127 Hours, and Mila, I love all her movies. And Michelle, and Rachel and Zach. I knew who they were, and I loved meeting them, because they became like a family to me, and it was exciting to get to see them every day, ‘cause I’d be, like, oh, hey! How’s it going? And we just all talk, and hang out. It wasn’t, like, weird or anything. It was very relaxed.
Can you tell us about the swear jar?
JOEY: Uh, yeah! I did the swear jar on (set) Oz, the Great and Powerful. But you know what? My mom was the one who put the most money in it. Which was funny becauseshe swears more than the cast and crew. I didn’t keep the money. I donated to Meals on Wheels, which is a charity that my grandma volunteers for, and I go and deliver with her a lot. So that’s, it was, it was more of, um, I got to do that for them. And so doing the swear jar was kind of, like, a funny thing, in a way. But also it was a really, it was actually a really nice thing.
How much did you raise?
JOEY: Oh, that’s a… I, I forget. Uh, I don’t remember. I’ll have to ask my mom. But she, she put in most of the money. So.
So you started the swear jar?
JOEY: It was my teacher Eva on Oz, the Great and Powerful. We decided, we’re like, okay, let’s do this. This is gonna raise money for the Meals on Wheels, and so we decided to do it, and she bought me a piggy bank, and I painted it with chalk board paint. Her name’s, like, Swearetta or something. So I just brought her around on set when somebody swore. The first assistant director, Casey, he put a down payment of 20 dollars so he could swear, he could swear 20 times, and he wouldn’t have to pay. So it was a really, it was a really funny thing.
What was your favorite scene in the movie?
JOEY: One of my favorite scenes is when I’m convincing Oz to let me go with him and Finley on their journey to go hunt the Wicked Witch. And that scene is my favorite because you get to see, like, this side of China Girl. She’s, she’s kind of that manipulative little girl. But she’s really, she really wants to hang out with them and go with them, and she just wants to go on this adventure. She’s a very adventurous little girl, and she’s an orphan. So it was a funny scene, and I loved seeing how it all played off.
China Girl is trending on Twitter.
JOEY: No way! What? It’s trending on Twitter?
JOEY: Ah! I’m so excited right now! That is so cool! I have to tell my mom!
QUESTION : We made flying monkey trend for Zach earlier.
JOEY: Oh, that’s so cool! Thank you’!
What was the most challenging thing for you about being on set?
JOEY: Um, we were almost filming this movie for six months, which is longer than anything (I’ve done)… Usually, it’s just two to three months. But I wasn’t there the whole time. I was home for one of those months, but one of the most challenging things for me was that I wasn’t on set the whole time, you know? ‘Cause I was on set a majority of the time, but when I had to go back in that little booth, it wasn’t as fun as it was being on set. But at the same time, it was kind of fun because, James and everyone could hear us through our, like, little headphones. We (Zach and I) spoke in the microphone and they could hear us.
So Zach and I were always, like – James… listen to your conscience! So, we would kind of mess with him, and got in their head. So that was fun, but it was also one of the most challenging things, ‘cause I love being on set with the other guys.
When you were not doing your voices, would you run around on set and explore?
JOEY: Yeah. You know, when I wasn’t doing school, I was usually roaming around. The sets were, like, the most amazing thing for me to see, ‘cause they were just, they were so big, and detailed, and so I just walk on them, and it’s like, whoa! This is real! This is real life! And it was really, it was really cool for me because I loved the original movie, and the sets were very similar, but more. They were more, you know, detailed, and they were, they were just, it was so cool for me.
But there was also a big studio that I would roam around, and I’d go, I’d run to the wardrobe department, and the hair department. Especially the wardrobe department. I was, like, hey guys, can I just take a look at the costumes and just, like, look at them?Like, yeah, sure! Go ahead! And so all the costumes were crazy! The Wicked Witch!
What was your favorite character other than your own?
JOEY: Definitely Finley. Finley was so cute! In the movie he’s so funny. And you know? The movie has the good guy, bad guy, the suspense and everything. And I like that Finley and China Girl kinda bring a certain humor and light to it. And it really, like, lightens the movie up, and I love that. And Finley is definitely, hands down my favorite character because he’s so funny, and when I watched it I was laughing so hard, and Zach was sitting behind me in, at the premiere, and we were laughing together. I really like those two characters, Finley and China Girl. But Finley’s my favorite.
Do you have the Finley monkey yet?
JOEY: I want that one, too! I don’t have it! He’s so cute! Like a little stuffed animal. I would totally, like, show him off to everyone. I’m like, yep, that’s Finley. My friend, my, my, my bestie.
Photo courtesy of Inside Out Motherhood
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Disney provided me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the red carpet premiere of Oz: the Great and Powerful and to attend a Wreck-It Ralph press day at Disney Animation studios. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. All photos property of Disney unless otherwise mentioned.