By day, she plays Y&R’s drama princess, Summer Newman, and by night, she portrays flighty newlywed Clementine Hughes on the CBS sitcom LIFE IN PIECES. It’s a juggling act many actors couldn’t imagine handling, but 23-year-old Hunter King is taking it all in stride.
“I thought it was going to be a struggle and pretty difficult, but so far it’s been great,” says King. “They’ve really worked out the schedules with each other. I think there’s only been one time where I’ve had to go from one show to the other show. And over at LIFE IN PIECES, we film one episode a week, so there’s not much dialogue for me to learn in a day, whereas on Y&R there’s a lot of it. It’s balanced out pretty well.”
While King has easily mastered double duty, there’s one aspect of her prime-time gig that has been a challenge: segueing into comedy. “I’ve been doing drama on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS for a little over four years, and I did another show [HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS] that was a drama,” she notes. “Comedy is a totally different beast.”
To prepare for her new role, King turned to some old “friends”; specifically, the super-sitcom that ran from 1994-2004. “I’m obsessed with FRIENDS,” admits King. “It’s my favorite show. I’ve watched the different seasons so many times all the way through. I really kind of studied Phoebe a lot, and Rachel. I felt like it would be a good balance between the two of them because my character on LIFE IN PIECES is a little bit ditzy. I would watch scenes without sound just to watch their reactions. Then, I’d listen to them and not watch the picture to get their timing for the jokes. Stuff like that.”
The approach has apparently been a success. In fact, LIFE IN PIECES Creator/Executive Producer Justin Adler praised King’s work to Deadline.com, observing, “to have a dramatic actress who excels at comedy is a rare find.” Not surprisingly, his words meant the world to the young actress. “That was the sweetest thing I’ve ever read,” she says. “I don’t consider myself a comedic actress, but I’ve always dreamed of doing comedy at some point in my career. To have him say that about me, that I can do both, was the nicest thing. I’m still learning. I’m nowhere near being among the other people on the show. I feel like I’m the rookie of it.”
While King may consider herself a rookie comedienne, she’s already a dramatic pro, having taken home the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Daytime Drama in both 2014 and 2015. “It’s great to able to be recognized for the work that you’ve done,” demurs King. “The writers have written great story for me and the producers have trusted me with them. It would be awesome to be able to have a storyline that I could submit again.”
So far, most of King’s Y&R plots have revolved around teen drama, family relationships and major romantic turmoil. To date, Summer’s had a marriage that ended with a cheating husband (Austin) being murdered and an engagement that was over when her duplicitous fiancé (Luca) was sent to the slammer. “I don’t know what that’s about,” muses the actress. “Summer’s been pretty unlucky at love. There’s no way of getting around that. I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. This is not okay.’ We’ve got to get that rolling. I don’t want people to be scared to play my love interest.” King sums up Summer’s love life pretty simply: “She jumps in a little too fast, but I get it. She loves love. She can’t help it.”
King can definitely relate. “I feel like before, when I was younger, I was kind of like her. Then, you go through relationships and you go through different experiences and you realize, ‘Okay, I need to be a little bit more wary before jumping into something.’ So I’ve definitely changed [in that respect]. But it’s so great that Summer can open up her heart multiple times and not feel so guarded. That, I think, is something that I struggle with. When you’ve been hurt, you want to build up walls. But Summer is different. I wish I was more like her. She’s just like, ‘That was that relationship. Now I’m moving on to this one.’ ”
At the moment, King is dating someone special, although she prefers to keep the details of the new relationship to a bare minimum. “I’ve learned,” she explains. “I just started dating someone, and it’s going really well. He’s just the sweetest guy ever, and I’m really happy. He works in the business but he’s not an actor. I don’t really want to date an actor. There can be competition involved, and I don’t ever want to have to experience that. Then, if one person’s filming and the other person’s filming … I don’t know. I want to steer clear of actors. I think we’re a little too much to handle.”
Besides, there are enough actors to handle in her own family. King’s older sister, Kelli, is an actress, as is her younger sister, Joey. And the close-knit clan spends lots of time together. “I actually live at Joey’s house,” she shares. “It’s me, Joey and my best friend, Titina. My mom stays there pretty often, too, because she has to drive Joey back and forth to meetings or go on set with her.”
While many young women her age might long to move out and get their own place, King is totally content with the way things are. “I have thought about it, but then I realize I can wait a while. I don’t need my own place yet,” says King. “My sisters are like my best friends, so getting to live with Joey is honestly like having a sleepover every night. We hang out and chat. She’ll sleep in my room sometimes. I’ll sleep in her room sometimes. It’s just so much fun. And Joey goes [on location] and films a lot. So it’s really nice to be with her when she is home.”
Between the perfect living situation, appearing on two shows she loves, and a new boyfriend, King only has one thing left on her wish list: a new love interest for Summer. Although there’s no one on the soap’s current canvas that she could see Summer hooking up with, King does have her eye on a particular leading man. “I did mention somebody to the writers a while ago,” confides King. “He used to be on another soap opera … Jesse McCartney [ex-JR, ALL MY CHILDREN]. I had a big crush on him when I was a kid. So I thought it would be great to have him play Summer’s love interest. I don’t think they were going for it, but who knows?”
Since Gina Tognoni assumed the role of Summer’s mom, Phyllis, King has totally bonded with her. “Gina is amazing, the sweetest lady ever,” raves King. “She and I clicked right away. From the very beginning it was like, ‘I just want to hang out with her.’ ” The hangouts occasionally come with perks. “I’ll tell Gina about my boy problems. I’ll tell her the great things that are happening with a guy,” recounts King. “She’s so sweet. She’ll give me advice, just great friend advice.” Peter Bergman (Jack) sometimes joins them. “The other day, Gina, Peter and I were all joking around about our pasts and what we’ve done. It was so much fun. Just a bunch of friends hanging out in a dressing room, going over lines, and chatting it up.”
Just The Facts:
Birthday: October 19
Hails From: Ventura County, CA
All In The Family: King has an older sister, Kelli, and a younger sister, Joey, who are both actors.
Hit The HEIGHTS: Before joining Y&R, she appeared on HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS as Adriana Masters. Her love interest was portrayed by Robert Adamson (Noah, Y&R) and her father was played by Grayson McCouch (ex-Sloane, GH et al).
Let The Fur Fly: The family’s pet set consists of three dogs and a pot-bellied pig. “The pig and two of the dogs are at my parents’ house. My dog, Dallas, she’s a big golden retriever, lives with me and my sister.”
Paper Trail: King always carries her Y&R script in her backpack. “I’ll look at it while I’m blow-drying my hair. I’ll look at it while I’m grocery shopping. So I take it with me everywhere,” she notes.
In The Bag: Her favorite stores are Forever 21 and H&M.