Where others have notably fallen, Jaime King has played the model-turned-actress card to fruitful results. In 2001, King transitioned from Rocawear campaigns and Vogue spreads into her first major film role as the super gorg nurse Betty Bayer in the Michael Bay weepie, Pearl Harbor. A steady 10 year acting career followed, with roles in Sin City, Slackers, and The Spirit. Since then, the slash denominations have built up—from model-slash-actress, to actress-slash-director, and more recently, woman-slash-Lana Del Rey BFF. We recently caught up with King to discuss playing smarmy Southern belle Lemon Breeland on season 2 of Hart of Dixie, her perfect friendship with LDR, and shooting Sin City 2 blind.
Lemon, your character on Hart of Dixie, is such an entertaining antagonist. What drew you to the role?
It was kind of an interesting process. Deciding to do television is obviously huge commitment, especially when you mostly do films, because you sign for seven years of your life. Josh Schwartz had offered me the role, and I kept thinking about it and kept thinking about it and kept holding off until I just couldn’t really get the idea of Lemon out of my head. I feel that about a lot of the characters that I play—you read them, and then, it’s like they’re a lover [laughs] a best friend; you kind of fall in love with them.
What do you think of the name Lemon?
I love Lemon. I think it’s the best fucking name I’ve ever had for a character.
Do you have input in Lemon’s wardrobe?
Yeah. Very much so. The idea for the wardrobe actually came from [an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live] where I wanted to do an homage to Grace Kelly, one of my favorite actresses. I did this loose version of a throwback 40s wave and I wore this beautiful Reem Acra dress, tight on the top, big and floral and very elegant and beautiful, and the creator had seen that look. When I first met with them, they pulled out the picture and said, “This is what we want Lemon to be like.” We decided to play off of that look and did that very much so in a broad comedic way which was sometimes teetering on the edge of ridiculousness and then started to bring it down, down, down. We essentially went through every single archive: the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, everything Warners Brothers had and then some.
Let’s talk about Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” video. How did that come to be?
Obviously, [Lana’s] one of my best friends. She was over one night and we were just sitting on the living room floor. I had just shown her the short film I had written and directed called Latch Key and she was really proud of that and really loved it. My husband was there and so was our friend Spencer Susser, who directed Hesher, and I was just like, “Let’s just do it. Let’s shoot a video for ‘Summertime Sadness.’ The single’s coming out soon. Let’s do it guerrilla style.” I literally paid for it out of my checkbook. I just started writing checks and getting camera equipment. We shot probably 10 different mini shoots on everything from a Lexus to a Red camera, Bolex, iPad to iPhone, all of these different camera phone apps. And at the time, her label didn’t even know [laughs].
We came up with this idea with two women that are in love and you don’t know what that love is, but that idea when one person is gone and you can’t really live without them. Is Lana real? Is she not real? Is she a ghost? Is she not a ghost? Playing on a lot of really important themes for both us personally, and also for my husband who directed it along with Spencer. It was one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of—making something with a group of friends—because every time we watch it, it’s so revealing of who we are. Crazy things happened. I almost got arrested. Helicopters were chasing me because they thought I was actually jumping off the bridge. We didn’t have permits. That’s probably her most watched video now and I think the reason is because people see the depth of love and friendship.
How long have you two been best friends?
I met her almost two years ago. I had been listening to her music, because my husband saw her video on YouTube, and I was like, “Oh shit. My husband’s in love with this girl.” [Laughs] And then, I listened to the music and I was like “Oh shit. I’m in love with this girl.” Her little sister Chuck is best friends with one of my other best friends and he said, “Listen Lana’s a huge fan of yours and you guys should hook up.” And that was that. We just have a very blessed relationship because there’s nothing that I need from her, and there’s nothing that she needs from me, and I think in Hollywood and often in the music industry, it’s really nice to know that you can have a friend that you can depend on where there’s no rivalry. So it’s really just about loving and supporting each other.
You have your first feature film Polar Seasons due out next year. Tell me about that.
Polar Seasons is a film I co-wrote with my friend Jason Dolan. It’s like a Hitchcockian-thriller with a temporal structure sort of like (500) Days of Summer. I really wanted to write a movie for women, where the women weren’t just the girlfriend or the girl on the side, where women were very much the heart and soul of the piece, even though it’s a male lead and four other female leads. It’s really a cool film because you never quite know what’s happening, but essentially what it’s about is a guy who’s haunted by the loss of the person he loved most in his life and how dangerous it’s become after the fact. Brett Ratner signed on to produce it with me with my husband, and we’re in the process of casting it. I’m really excited. Directing is what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve been writing since I was a kid.
Do you see yourself transitioning into directing and leaving acting behind?
I don’t think I’ll ever leave acting behind. I kind of see it as: they’re all a member of my family. It’s all a part of me. I mean, I love my show so much and every day I come to work, and I’m so grateful and happy to be here. At the same time, since writing has always been my first love, as well as filmmaking, I don’t feel complete when I’m just acting. I feel most whole when I’m directing and writing. My intentions are just to play the roles that I’m destined to play and, not to sound woo woo, but that are meant for me and to make more films because there’s such a lack of female directors out there.
I know Sin City 2 is currently filming. Have you shot your scenes yet?
I have. It was good. It’s a trip because we’ve been waiting to make this movie for so long and I had the offer for a couple of months and all of sudden they were like, “Oh. Can you get on a plane on Monday?”
What was it like being on that set again? It’s been almost a decade since the first movie came out.
It was kind of a trip, because there were no other actors beside myself, literally no other actors I was working with besides seven different pieces of tape and someone’s hand. On the first Sin City, at least I had Mickey Rourke there, but none of the movie had been cast yet for Sin City 2. The only people who had been cast were myself, [Jessica] Alba, Mickey Rourke and Rosario[Dawson]. But because they had to shoot for a specific time, they just started shooting before they cast the rest of the film. So I’m kind of interested to see what it’s going to be like, acting to myself—because I play the twins at the same time, or acting to a bunch of things that aren’t there.
It’s a gift being in Sin City 2, because out of all the movies that I’ve done, every actor or most actors that I meet are like, “God. I would have given anything to be in that film,” because when you’re studying acting and you grow up, you watch films in black and white, film noir. In a world of HD color, sometimes you dream of doing something that’s very much Old Hollywood. And then you get to see yourself on screen the way Rodriguez and Miller shoot—in black and white—there’s something really powerful about that experience.
Season 2 of Hart of Dixie resumes January 15 at 8/7c on CW.
Photography by Justin Campbell