With short blonde ringlets and a wide-eyed innocence, 26-year-old Georgia King looks like a Disney character come to life. In her latest role as Goldie Clemmons on Ryan Murphy’s NBC comedy, The New Normal, she plays a Midwestern, former teen mom looking for a way to improve life for herself and her nine-year-old daughter. Naturally, she decides to move to Hollywood, but instead of seeking fame, she aspires to be a lawyer and elects to be the surrogate for a wealthy gay couple as a way to foot the bill for her new life.
Unlike her character, the UK native, grew up in an idyllic pastoral setting with a loving, accepting family (mother, father, and sister) and similarly idyllic pathway into acting. She was working in a cheese shop just before beginning college when she was approached by an agent who recognized her from a school play and offered her representation. At age 18 she landed her first role in the BBC mini-series Jane Eyre, and this spring will star alongside Keri Russell, in Austenland, a comedy in which the Jane Austen obsession has been leveraged into a theme park fantasy experience. Here, King talks tabout the impact of an unconventional/conventional sitcom for an American TV audience, the power of comedy, and being fake-pregnant:
How do you relate to the character of Goldie, who is a parent, and whose life and background are so different from your own?
On paper we are actually very, very different. I mean, I’m British and she’s American, she’s a waitress and I’m an actress, and you know, she has a daughter and a husband and a whole different life than mine. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and see a lot of the world and this is a women who has been very limited in her opportunities. But the characteristics that Goldie has I absolutely relate to, and in a weird sort of way, she is probably the character I’ve felt closest to out of everything I’ve played in the last two years of acting. Also, I’ve oddly been inspired playing the character because she is so selfless and she is so bright and kind and positive. I think working on a character like that is very influential on yourself.
Did you do anything to prepare for the role of Goldie?
Yes, obviously the American accent is a big one. Also I was really keen to understand what it would be like to be somebody in the Midwest, in Ohio specifically, with her background and what would that make her as a person. Bebe (Wood) – the actress who plays Goldie’s capricious nine-year-old daughter, Shania – and I spent a lot of time off-set around each other to really feel so comfortable with each other. Bebe nowadays doesn’t think twice about climbing up onto my lap and rubbing my belly, and like hugging me, or asking me for a massage, or whatever it is. So that was another thing that was very important to me, was that our bond, which is so important on the show, was very real and believable.
Like your character Goldie, you recently made a big move to LA. What was that like for you?
There are so many parallels with Goldie’s initial journey to mine. In the pilot she leaves her husband and drives to LA. Just before the pilot on the way to the airport, I went through a horrible breakup, a painful breakup. Purely because I read Goldie’s story and I was like, if she can ask for better a situation in her life so can I. So I took a leap of faith and I got on a flight and I was overwhelmed in LA but also very happy and excited.
What is the oddest situation you’ve found yourself in for this role?
It’s odd being pregnant! It’s wonderful. I mean, what I find weird about being pregnant is the fact that I enjoy it so much. Like oh man, sixth months, and I get my belly on, and it’s like everything is right in the world.
What has your experience been working with Ryan Murphy, the co-creator of The New Normal?
Ryan is a terrific, incredible man. I hadn’t really come across Ryan, actually, except for seeing his shows. I loved American Horror season one, and Glee I just started watching. I just got Netflix and I was like ‘Oh of course it’s like this!’ because it’s Ryan has got a wonderful unique taste and style. He is ahead of the time with the shows. You know, Nip/Tuck is talking about image and plastic surgery and you watch that now and it feels very current as a show – the fact that it was made years ago is just extraordinary. I think working with Ryan is as close as I’ve ever come to working with a genius.
What do you see as the cultural impact of The New Normal?
I know that it is ruffling a few feathers, but I really hope that it helps encourage acceptance. I was quite surprised when I moved out here to do the show in July, we did some press, and before we’d even filmed we had the Million Mom protest and it was banned in Utah. I was so surprised, purely because I don’t think you necessarily have to agree with everything in the show – I respect peoples’ opinions and I respect peoples right to voice those opinions – but without even seeing the show I felt like that reaction was severe, rather than anything of substance, because I think what our show is saying is so normal to me. I also hope the show shows any single parents out there – the kind of person that I am representing – that you can do it and you will survive, however scary it is. I think Goldie is a very important voice for single parents.
Critics have said that The New Normal doesn’t offer anything new, because gay marriage and gay parenting are frontiers already touched on by shows like Modern Family and Will & Grace. What do you find original about The New Normal?
I think those shows are amazing. I’m obsessed with Modern Family, I think it is comedy genius. But I think there hasn’t been a show where the central couple are gay, nor has there been a show where you see a gay couple really in love and really exploring every finite detail of their life. I don’t see many gay couples kissing nor do I see many mixed racial couples. Like my character’s love interest is played by an actor called Sterling Sulieman, who is a beautiful black actor, and I think those are important things to be showing. I feel like Will & Grace and Modern Family and that show Partners, I think they are vital stepping stones for something like The New Normal. But I don’t think another show has gone quite so far and committed quite so hard to the idea of a mix-matched family.
Do you think comedy is an effective medium for conveying serious social issues?
Absolutely. If you look back in history, humor has been a way of being able to discuss situations. I remember studying history when I was younger, specifically studying humor that was used during the Second World War. It is a way of communicating a lot of pain actually. Humor is used not only to make people laugh but also to communicate problems – to communicate anxiety, fear, pain – and it is a really effective tool for those things.
Do you have any aspirations for what you hope to see Goldie achieve in her journey as a character?
Without giving too much away, finding who she is and her strengths. Realizing that she is a successful good women is a huge part of what I hope Goldie achieves. I think her happiness towards other people is quite strong but she has quite a lot of self-doubt, and so I think it would be feeling comfortable in herself. From personal experience moving to LA, there is a strong pressure on image and all of those things. I have to say that I feel very happy to be, you know, who I am and be comfortable in my skin and not feel like I have to conform to anything too severe. Also, to have a womanly shape and be comfortable with that and know that that is ok. Those are the things that I see in myself that I think Goldie probably feels as well.