Three Great Things: Jaime King

The actor and activist, who is currently starring in the new thriller Lights Out, on her greatest passions in life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the February 16 release in theaters, on digital and on demand of Lights Out, the new thriller starring Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer, Scott Adkins, Dermot Mulroney and Jaime King, actor and activist King shared some of the things in life she is most passionate about. — N.D.

I love artists and the artist’s process. Recently, I met Arthur Jafa, a brilliant cinematographer and artist whose work I adore. It’s so stunning to me to ever be in the presence of someone so gifted, and for them to take the time to mentor me, be close to me and share their inherent, intrinsic beauty with me. It’s amazing for me to think of all the artists who have come into my life: Bradley Cooper; my teachers Elizabeth Kemp and Caitlin Adams at the Actors Studio; John Hyams and Justin Chu Carey, my showrunner and costar on Black Summer; and even people like George Lucas and Michael Keaton.

It’s a profound experience for me to be around people who are creating things, putting beauty out there with such loving care, like Bradley did with Maestro. He put six years of preparation into that, with such commitment and detail, and really bared his soul. I get caught up and am mesmerized by the spirit of these people’s willingness to share that beauty with the world, which is really what we’re all trying to do.

For me, art has always been about the process, that what I do is limitless and requires extraordinary freedom. And to have that freedom requires discipline. I always want to go for the truth, for authenticity and reality, and to be ugly and messy about it, to be unafraid. My mentor Elizabeth Kemp, who passed away a few years ago and was brought into my life through Bradley, was one of the most extraordinary human beings and teachers and really helped me drop into that in a way I never thought would be possible. She did that by teaching me all kinds of techniques: Jungian theory, dream work, the Method, animal totems, tapping in, flipping a script on its head. She taught me to see who I am within a character and that there is no difference between the two of us, but that there also is, and then understanding what those differences are. She taught me the sacred and cherished nature of acting and that art is personal, deeply personal. There are always deeper levels to go to, and the muscles we use to make art need to constantly be moving. What’s great about being an actress is I’m always able to watch other people, to absorb and learn from them, so I try to find art wherever I go.

Making Music
I love making music, I love writing music and I love supporting and facilitating other artists’ visions for their music. It’s a love language to me that is and has always been intrinsic to the fiber of my being. I’m very directional; I want musicians to thrive, and I love holding that space for them. There’s something about it that is just so fulfilling. I love the technical aspect of it and I love seeing people lock into where music comes from. (Where does it come from?!) There are artists I’ve been close with and had the opportunity to direct or assist in shifting, changing, growing, learning, expanding and discovering, and that is something I love doing.

I never talk about the music that I myself write or make, but it’s one of the great loves of my life. It’s kind of crazy that I never talk about the music I have made, but always focus on what I’ve done as a musical artist in supporting, guiding and working with my best friends’ careers. But so many friends of mine who are musicians say to me, “What are you doing, dude? Why are you not putting this out there?”

My musical journey over the past few years has been really interesting: with lockdown, my consciousness shifted and changed and it made me ask myself, How do we share ourselves with the world in a way that really matters? And if my goal is to tell the truth and for people to feel less alone in the world, then why would I hide one of the things I love the most?

I’ve not been intentionally hiding my music, it’s simply that to reveal oneself is a scary thing. Vulnerability is our greatest strength as artists, but as an actor, as a filmmaker, as a writer, I already feel so vulnerable because I’m putting so much out there. I’ve had so many dreams about my terror of singing on a stage, which is ridiculous. As a filmmaker, I can do anything in front of people, because you can’t have any vanity and have to be able to make a fucking mess, if the role calls for it.

I’ve never shared this publicly before, but I’m working on something really special right now: my first album. It’s scary but exciting to finally reveal that!

My Children
My two boys, James Knight and Leo Thames, are nine and 10 years old (they’re 22 months apart), and they’re my everything. When I was younger, I was told I wouldn’t be able to have children. I had to face a lot of loss before I had my two babies, so it’s truly a miracle that I have them. My heart aches for them all the time, even when they’re in my presence.

Being with my children, I am consistently engaged, through their intellect, through their heart, through their spirit, through their mind. I’m not the teacher, they are. They’re so naturally and intensely creative, so intensely intellectual and curious. I’ve never really felt like I had to instill anything into my children other than kindness and a moral, ethical way of approaching life.

I don’t think I would feel free to be open about my music career if it weren’t for the fact that one of my sons has been composing non-stop. He taught himself the way I taught myself, and now I get to watch and listen to him. I realized I wouldn’t want him to not speak about his love of music, so why should I hide mine? There’s nothing to lose by sharing something when it comes from a place of purity.

To see who my children are is just astonishing to me, and I’d rather hang out with them way more than anybody else. I just want to make art and commune with the world with my kids. They also have incredible resilience. During the pandemic, where they were on Zoom for almost two years, I was awed by their adaptability, their way of seeing things and how they process them, and how they see us. They see a different way, and I think that’s really important to pay attention to. It’s really exquisite. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Jaime King is currently starring in the thriller Lights Out, opposite Frank Grillo, Mekhi Fifer, Dermot Mulroney and Scott Adkins. She made her debut in Daniel Waters’ Happy Campers, then starred opposite Johnny Depp in Ted Demme’s Blow, opposite Ben Affleck in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor and was part of an all-star cast featuring Benicio Del Toro, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and more in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City. Her other major films include DJ Caruso’s Two for the Money, starring opposite Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey, Frank Millers’ The Spirit with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, appearing opposite Joseph Gordon Levitt and Josh Brolin. On TV, she was a series regular on the CW show Hart of Dixie and recently starred in the critically acclaimed hit Netflix series series Black Summer.