Don't mess with The Princess: From the first moments in the trailer for the upcoming Hulu action-comedy (launching July 1), it's clear that Joey King is not playing your typical daughter of the crown. She's no damsel in distress waiting to be saved, but a warrior ready to take up arms — which is exactly what drew her to the role.
"It scared me a little bit," admits King, also in this summer's forthcoming Bullet Train. "I didn't have the training and haven't done fight sequences." That fear ultimately pushed her to take on The Princess's title role: a royal locked away in a tower after refusing to marry a sociopathic suitor, Julius (played by Dominic Cooper). When her would-be husband makes a play for her father's throne, it's up to her to save her family and the kingdom.
King intended to do most of the film's fighting herself, even with only a short window of time to get in shape. She trained for a month in Los Angeles, continuing through the Bulgarian shoot; ultimately, the actor estimates she did about 90 percent of the stunt work you see on-screen.
Simon Varsano/20th Century Studios Joey King in 'The Princess'
"We want to bring realism to it," King says, "so the Princess gets beaten up. We want her to be tired, to feel like she's in danger."
At its core, The Princess is an underdog story, set in a patriarchal society. "She's overcoming all these people's expectations of her," King says. "She really breaks those barriers and shows everyone she is worthy," King says.
But first, she has to get past Cooper's Julius and his righthand woman, Kai (played by Oblivion's Olga Kurylenko). "Julius wants the Princess, and Kai wants to get the Princess in his hands, but then also [wants to] get her out of the way so she can have him," explains King, also a producer on the film. She loves the creepy intensity Cooper brings to his role, and can't wait for viewers to see the insane weapon Kurylenko wields. "These two villains complement each other so well," she says. "They both played them so beautifully, and I had such a good time filming with them."
20th Century Studios
Fortunately, the Princess won't be facing them alone; she has a great ally and close friend in her teacher, Lin (Veronica Ngo). "I love Lin and the Princess together, and I can't wait for audiences to love them together," King adds. "I just admire Veronica. She's an amazing fighter, and I learned so much from her."
One of King's favorite memories from set was a grueling day shooting a flashback where her character trains with Lin. "I accidentally hurt Veronica's finger while we were doing it," King says of a session that was both exhausting and thrilling. "We weren't even cutting between takes — we were going full-throttle all day long, doing these different angles."
While The Princess delivers plenty of action, it also finds room for an absurdist streak, as when the Princess deploys some Home Alone-like tactics while fending off invaders. "She's so smart," King says of her character, "She uses the castle to her advantage, and I love that it breaks up the fights."
Ultimately, King wants viewers to have fun watching the movie: "That's what I had while I was training for it, so I want people to watch this and say, 'Damn, that was fun.'"