Jaime King: Pretty Girls Make Graves… Into Box Office Gold

Earrings, ring and cuff Stephen Webster; Nail color Awaken China Glaze.

Text by Sophia DeArborne
Photography by Matthew Welch
Fashion editors: Kemal+Karla

If I had a dime for every time I heard the career description “model-turned-actress” I would be a millionaire many times over. I found an exception to my dime hoarding in Jaime King, one of the original “model-turned-actress” success stories and co-star of the up-coming film, The Spirit.

Chatting with King for the purposes of this article was easy; she made eye contact rather than blowing plumes of smoke in my face when answering my questions—not typically something you expect from a successful ingénue. While being coiffed and preened for her photo shoot, the extraordinarily young-looking 29-year-old casually shared with me her modest but providential beginnings in Omaha, Nebraska, where she took up photographing her best friends in her basement at the precocious age of 13. This interest proved to make an easy transition into modeling when Michael Flutie, of Company Management, discovered her. Shortly thereafter King was off to New York and, as she nonchalantly states, “My first shoot was for Vogue, then I shot with Steven Klein for Visionaire.” Pretty auspicious beginnings for a Midwestern teen, but only a small sample of what was to come.

Between showing me pictures of her two gorgeous Shiba Inus (an eerily intelligent fox-like dog breed from Japan), King shares with me how she segued from magazine covers to film. She describes the switch as fairly seamless: “The transition was so smooth I knew it was meant to be. At 18, with modeling, I didn’t feel that I was really learning that much. I wanted to grow.” Despite the obvious fraternity between the two fields, don’t make the mistake of confusing King for a slacker, with roles handed to her. She takes her craft very seriously. As much as one would like to hear about temper tantrums or the revisiting of long abandoned drug habits, she remains level headed and dedicated to professionalism, “The most important thing to me is that I do whatever I do with excellence. I felt like I had to be excellent because there was always going to be a critical bias. When you look a certain way there’s a perception that you can only do a certain thing.”

With films like Pretty Persuasion, Sin City, and The Spirit under her belt, underestimating King can prove to be a major miscalculation. The two latter films, both directed by Frank Miller, are proving to be cult classics already—not to mention Sin City 2 and 3, both guaranteed to be instant hits as well. King got the role without knowing what it was; she had a blind meeting with Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, and after reading was immediately offered the role of Goldie and Wendy. The project had an immediate draw for King, “Comics and graphic novels give you the opportunity to delve into worlds or characters that are supernatural… they tap into that magic.” It also gave her the opportunity to work with some of the most promising and well-established actors in the industry, not least amongst them: Mickey Rourke. “I love him,” King says of her time with Rourke, “probably the finest actor I’ve ever worked with… he makes you bring your ‘A’ game, your best performance.”

Presently King has just wrapped the film, The Pardon, a hugely anticipated period film set in the 1940s, featuring King in the lead role as the first female convict to be electrocuted in the United States, Toni Jo Henry. It’s an overt departure from her other roles, but an intentional move nonetheless. King strives for range and complexity in her work, and as much as a cliché as it may sound, playing a part where you wait around for institutionalized and state-administered death, certainly bares some weight (ergo Dead Man Walking). King was perceptibly proud of her latest feature, “It’s an ideal role, because you see someone who has an imperfect life. I’m interested in playing characters with great depth and flaws.” She spent a month researching and preparing for this particularly harrowing tale, picking apart the script until she had internalized her character and her motivations, typical preparatory work for the thorough King.

But it’s not all noir and gloom for King. She’s done her fair share of comedies, including Fanboys, the film she shot a few years ago with her new husband Kyle Newman, whom she met on the set. The two instantly fell head over heels, soon thereafter moved in and wed. She gushes over her husband; it’s immediately clear she is very much in love with him, as demonstrated by her glowing praise at their one-year anniversary—just this past November 23rd. “It helps that we’re both in the same industry but not both actors, so there’s no competition, but we can still relate to each other’s work.” King takes familial responsibilities very seriously, and regularly sees her ever-expanding family of two sisters and one brother, all of which have children themselves.

In fact, she has enlisted one of her nephews for her new horror film My Bloody Valentine as her son, since they bear an uncanny resemblance. Very cool Aunt Jaime is not above hustling for talented pint-sized family members, though I wouldn’t count on her being the type of “cool aunt” that gets you your first underage beer, poor kid.

King is candid and comfortable with life’s curve balls and missteps, but is still confident in being able to navigate it’s swells, ebbs and flows. That sort of serenity in the calamitous sea of Hollywood (more often than not, strewn with the flotsam and jetsam of people’s dreams) is not easy to come by, and is something to aspire to. All too often we predict Armageddon after a splash of sea salt in our eyes. King’s simple but sage wisdom in regard to her future is a reflection of her composure in life, “We never know what the future holds, all I can do is keep studying and hope that people recognize my hard work and want me in the roles that I want to play.” There is little doubt that this budding “model-turned-actress” has much more in her arsenal than we know, there is every indication that she’s going to “kill ‘em, kill ‘em good.”

All clothing this story
Yves Saint Laurent; Earrings Stephen Webster ; Bra Eres; Hosiery Wolford; Boots Ruthie Davis; Loveseat Future Perfect for TenOverSix in Los Angeles.

Cuff and ring Stephen Webster.

Earrings Stephen Webster.

Cuff and ring Kiel Mead.

Production: Meritocracy Productions. Hair: Giannandrea for L’Oreal Professional at Artists by Timothy Priano. Makeup: Lauren Anderson at Celestine. Manicurist: Marsha Bialo for China Glaze at Artists by Timothy Priano. Fashion Assistant: Erica Cloud.