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Joey King devours action role in ‘The Princess’

It was just a typical day in Bulgaria for Joey King, surrounded by XXL-size henchmen who wanted to slit her throat.

Sword in hand, the star of the medieval drama “The Princess” knew exactly what to do between takes.

“You think about the food. I’m a big foodie. My favorite thing every day is, ‘What am I going to have for dinner?’” she says in a Zoom interview from her Los Angeles home.

“In Bulgaria, you have your three places and you rotate the restaurants,” King says. One night, it was banitsa (a tasty phyllo pastry dish made by layering a combination of beaten eggs and bits of cheese). Another night it was tarator (a cold soup made with fresh cucumbers, walnuts, garlic, yogurt, dill, herbs and lemon). There was also the local version of moussaka made with potatoes instead of eggplant.

“All of it was delicious,” says 22-year-old L.A. native who began her acting career at age 4 by eating something far more American (“I was the Life cereal girl,” she points out).

King — known for “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Act” and “The Conjuring” — stars in Hulu’s new film “The Princess,” streaming Friday.

It revolves around a strong-willed royal who refuses to wed a cruel sociopath. When she’s kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle, she must escape to save her father’s throne and save the kingdom.

Next up, she will appear opposite Laverne Cox in the film “Uglies,” about a world where a compulsory operation removes human physical differences and makes everyone pretty.

She also stars in “A Spark of Light,” a “Dog Day Afternoon”-inspired drama set at a women’s health clinic where a gunman takes everyone inside hostage.

Review-Journal: Describe making your first action film.

Joey King: Exhausting! The amount of work that went into this film was mind-boggling. It blows my mind how it came out. It’s not what you expect from a film called “The Princess.”

What was it like doing these intense action scenes?

I had never done stunts like this before with constant fighting. The only reason I thought I could do these things is that no one made me feel like I couldn’t do it. I just tried to be a good student. People telling you that they know you can do it makes you really believe that you can do it.

You spent months training for the film. Describe that process.

You can’t just go, “I trained for two weeks. I’m ready.” It takes time. It’s more than just getting your form. It’s about facing your fears. I got kicked in the head and hurt my back, but I let go of fear so I could go full throttle. You have to learn how to respect what scares you and then you’re no longer afraid.

Didn’t you have a few physical issues going into the film? Did you get hurt on set?

Right before I started training for this, I had wrist surgery, and I have a bad hip. I didn’t get hurt on set. I did feel terrible because I accidentally hurt my co-star Veronica Ngo.

I hit her super hard with the sword and her finger was gushing blood. We stopped and then went right back into it. She was amazing about it. I still felt terrible.

What was the most challenging scene?

It was a scene with Veronica in the woods fighting together. I don’t think we actually stopped fighting for 12 hours. I was wearing leather pants. Oh, my God! I think I lost five pounds of water weight that day.

So it’s Joey King, action star?

I wouldn’t shy away. I unlocked a new confidence and it really makes me feel empowered.

How do you choose roles?

I love when it scares the living hell out of me. This script was 95 pages, with 92 of it spent fighting. I thought, “Can I do this?”

Who do you go to in life when you’re not sure about something?

I have a couple people who I call and say, “What have I done?” Mostly, one of these people will say, “We don’t know how you will do it Joey, but you will do it.” You’re lucky if you have people in your life who believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

This film is about female empowerment. What was your takeaway?

I think the thing is it’s the tale of an underdog really coming out on top in the end when she thinks she can’t do it. There is so much self-doubt life. We ask ourselves, “Can I pull this or that off?” Meanwhile, you become overwhelmed and tired. I just try to take it one step at a time, which is also the message of this movie. No matter how strong your self-doubt is, you really can overcome it and come out on top. You just have to trust yourself. And bet on yourself. You’ll be fine in the end.

What’s your idea of a fine Sunday?

I love to hike. It’s good for your body and mind. So, give me a free Sunday and an open trail. When I’m done, I’m at peace. And then I’m wondering, “What’s for dinner.”

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