Oz’s China Doll
by Lynn Barker
You might have seen the film Ramona and Beezus based on the popular novel. It starred Selena Gomez and as Ramona, a younger Joey King who will be 14 this summer. The very in-demand young actress also voiced animated characters in Horton Hears A Who and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
In the amazing new Disney film Oz: The Great and Powerful, Joey briefly plays a girl in a wheelchair then, for the majority of the film, she is the voice of computer-animated China Girl who survives, thanks to Oscar Diggs (James Franco, later Oz), a devastating wicked witch attack on her delicate China Town village.
AGW is in Pasadena, California at a gorgeous hotel sitting down with friendly Joey who talks everything from her continuing friendship with Selena to her fave music artists and how she is making the difficult transition from kid to teen actress. First, she shows us her shiny silver clog shoes, a wrap party gift to her from Michelle Williams who plays Glinda, the Good Witch.
AGW: Very cool shoes! Were you disappointed that, for most of the film, you didn’t get to appear live with James Franco and the other actors but were the voice of a computer-animated character?
Joey: But I actually was there. I got to do both. I was on set and got to do the CGI thing too. I was in this (recording) booth with Zach (Braff who is the voice of flying monkey side-kick Finley) and they filmed my face (while I said the dialogue) and attached my facial expressions onto China Girl. But also I got to be on set and like hide behind a rock. Zach and James took me under their wings like they were my big brothers. It was so fun. So, I did get to work with them like five feet away.
AGW: We also heard that there was a cool marionette puppet of China Girl on set for the actors to see. Explain?
Joey: Yes, Philip Huber was the puppeteer and he would pull her strings and make her move and she would be doing the acting for James and Zach and whoever else was in a scene with her. Sometimes the marionette puppet would be on set and I’d be behind a rock doing the voice. So, the other actors could visualize us there.
AGW: That makes sense. Very cool. What qualities do you admire about your character China Girl? She’s very feisty and brave.
Joey: Yeah. She’s kind of like me basically. She’s kind of sassy but she’s manipulative too. I pull pranks on my older sisters so I guess you could say I’m kind of manipulative. I definitely like her personality and I love who she is. She’s very delicate on the outside but on the inside, she’s a feisty little girl.
AGW: You’ve worked with a lot of very big directors like Christopher Nolan of the latest Batman movies. What was working with your “Oz” director Sam Raimi like? (He directed the earlier Toby Maguire Spider-Man movies).
Joey: I love Sam so much. He’s the best. He was so precise and detailed with his work. Not to the point where he’d make you crazy putting in a “the” instead of a “but” but he’d always wanna know how I’d feel. He would talk to me a lot like “What do you feel about this scene and how to do you think China Girl would play it?” “What would you want to do with it?” He’d let me play around. He was really good about that and he’s so nice and brilliant.
AGW: A couple of years ago you starred in the movie Ramona and Beezus with Selena Gomez and you became pals then. Are you still in contact with her?
Joey: Yeah. I text her a lot and her and my older sister Haley Hunter King hang out a lot too. I get to talk to Selena too.
AGW: Is there a book or series of books you’ve read that you would love to see turned into movies?
Joey: Yes! It’s “The Uglies Trilogy”; “Uglies”, “Pretties” and “Specials”. They are such amazing books by Scott Westerfeld. They are so good. My eyes were glued to the page. I would like to have a role in those films.
AGW: Awesome books! So were you into the “Twilight” books or films or “Beautiful Creatures”, any of those?
Joey: I never read the Twilight books but I’m definitely into the movies and my good friend Mackenzie Foy, she played Renesmee. It’s really cool that I got to see her in the movie and we recently went to Disneyland together. She’s so sweet but I love those movies.
AGW: I hear you’ve done some charity work and sometimes go talk to kids at schools. Can you talk about that?
Joey: Last time I went to schools to talk was for UNICEF and before that I was talking about DEAR, the Drop Everything and Read program and before that I was promoting “Ramona” so I’d go there for various different reasons.
I love going to schools and talking to these kids and getting them involved. It’s nice to see them want to make a difference. I also do work for the program Stomp Out Bullying. I’m home-schooled but some of the other home-school kids and I go to this program every Tuesday when I can make it. Some of them are there because they were bullied (in regular school) some are actors like me and others don’t like their school system. So many different reasons. There are so many different kinds of bullying too.
AGW: So what band or artist are you really into? I heard you singing in the hall earlier with a friend.
Joey: (laughs) We were singing a One Direction song. I love Bruno Mars. I love Ellie Goulding, I love Katy Perry, I love Black Eyed Peas, I love Pink, so many.
AGW: So what is your favorite subject in school or maybe your least fave subject?
Joey: Math is very difficult. I’m more into the literature side of my brain. I’m not good at Math at all. My favorite subjects would have to be reading and history. I love history.
AGW: You are 13 and will be 14 this summer so do you have a plan to make that difficult transition from kid actress to teen actress?
Joey: I’m still into playing roles a little younger than I am. I just did a role where I was 11. I don’t want to go too fast or make it abrupt. So many kids my age are trying to be so much older than they are. I just want to go slow. Some girls my age are all about their outfits and make-up. I love getting dressed up and but you have to be appropriate.
AGW: Why will tweens and teens really get into your movie Oz The Great and Powerful?
Joey: I think it’s a great movie! There’s suspense and the good guy/bad guy thing. The 3-D is cool. It’s a little scary and there is humor and light. Kids and teens will love that.
Uncredited photos copyright and courtesy Walt Disney Pictures, 2013
This film is rated PG
Web Site - OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL