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From executive producer Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, Chuck, The O.C.), the new CW drama series Hart of Dixie, premiering on September 26th, follows New York City doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) as she inherits a small local medical practice in Bluebell, Alabama and must learn to adjust to life in a small Southern town. But, Southern hospitality isn’t always so hospitable, as evidenced by the reaction of Brick Breeland (guest star Tim Matheson), the other doctor in town, and his normally sweet southern belle daughter Lemon (Jaime King), whose disposition turns sour upon meeting Zoe.
During an interview about her role on the new show, actress Jaime King talked about what made her decide to try television, how she enjoys the complexity of her character, and how she feels the big city and small town aspects of this show will help it appeal to everyone. She also talked about how she recently directed her first feature, Latch Key (which she also wrote), in her hometown of Omaha Nebraska.
Question: What did you love most about this character, when you read the script?
JAIME KING: She’s so funny and fun to be with, and she’s crazy. The most fun thing is her complexity. She really is in love with somebody else, but can’t be with him. She has to fight her inner nature, and I think it’s fun to watch people unravel.
How does your character fit into this story?
KING: I play Lemon Breeland, who is a young woman born and raised in the South, that is engaged to Scott Porter’s character, George Tucker. Her mother left many years ago, so she is struggling with that, and trying to keep the perfect image of what she thinks that she should be. Rachel [Bilson] comes down and rocks her world off kilter, and she’s dealing with keeping her composure and keeping with what people want her to be, and dealing with the conflict of what she really wants.
Can you identify with the idea of being a fish out of water because of your background?
KING: Oh, I understand it. Being from a small town and going to a big city was very, very different. It was difficult for me to understand that, when you’re kind to someone in a big city, a lot of the time, they think that you want something. I didn’t understand that, all of a sudden, niceness meant that you were trying to get something out of somebody.
How do you cope, in that type of situation?
KING: You just continue to stay true to your heart.
With all the film work that you do, did you have any hesitation about singing on for a series for a number of seasons?
KING: Rose Byrne said to me, “Jaime, you have to do a television series!” She said, “There’s nothing like it. The roles for women are so spectacular and amazing, and you get to act, every single day.” There’s something to be said about that, and I really wanted the opportunity to not only be consistently working, every single day, but also, on my hiatus, have the time to really focus on my work as a director. And, once I knew that Rachel [Bilson] was going to be on the show and Josh Schwartz was the executive producer, it was a done deal.
You had worked with Rachel Bilson previously, on The O.C.?
KING: Yeah, that’s when we became friends. I had played just a fun character from Florida. So, when (executive producer) Josh [Schwartz] had offered me the part, the real clincher was not only that I loved the character, but that Rachel was involved.
What’s it like to shoot this on the Warner Bros. lot?
KING: It’s so weird because it actually feels like we’re acting in this town. The way that they’ve set it actually feels more authentic, for some reason. Everything is so authentically made for the South.
How will this show accurately depict people from the South?
KING: I’m from Nebraska, but a lot of my friends are actually from Alabama, and I really understand the mentality of what that is like. I understand the way that they’re very steeped in their traditions, and the way that they were raised. At least for my character, I really do my best to make sure that I’m honoring that and showing the audience that these traditions are not something to make fun of, but something that really means something. It’s to be celebrated and enjoyed. Audiences from all demographics will really appreciate it because it’s a show that shows a different side. You get the sexy city part with Rachel [Bilson], who plays the New York City girl, but at the same time, you also get something that people from the South and the Midwest can really relate to, being in a small town.
Do you get home to Nebraska a lot?
KING: I do. All of my family is there. I pretty much go back every other month. I just made a film there that I wrote and directed.
Have you always wanted to write and direct?
KING: Yes, I’ve always wanted to write and direct. I’ve been writing since I was seven. It’s a film called Latch Key, about a 14-year-old girl who loses her mother suddenly and because she can’t cope with the stress of it, she wakes up when day and decides to pretend like it never happened, so it’s her first day back to school after the tragedy. And, I used actors and crew who were all from Omaha. It was really an amazing experience.
Were you in it as well?
KING: No, I just directed it.
How different is it to live here in L.A. now?
KING: It’s totally different. But, working on this show, all of a sudden, feels like I’m back home again. We’re with a small, tight group of people, and the town feels like Omaha. So, I basically go from my house in L.A. to our town, and it feels like I’m back home, in a lot of ways.
What did you miss about Nebraska, when you left?
KING: When I went to New York City, I missed the nature and the general kindness and graciousness that people forget about. That was one thing I really longed for. That’s something that’s so great about being on a TV show where you really love the people around you. There is that loving presence of family and friends.
What is the most important manner that you wish everyone else had?
KING: I think the most important manner is just general kindness. When you go to big cities, sometimes people forget to just say, “Good morning,” or “How are you?” I say a lot of “Yes, ma’am,” and “Yes, sir,” because that’s how I was raised. I say it to everybody. It’s weird because sometimes you get this cockeyed look, but that’s the manners that I was raised with. If we all just took a moment to be a little more thankful and kind to people, or smile at people, it could really change someone’s day. It doesn’t mean that you want something or you are trying to take advantage of them. It’s just a general hospitality. That is sometimes forgotten, when you move into the hustle and bustle of a big city.
How do they react to all of this when you go back home? Do they treat you differently?
KING: Not really. Because I’ve been working for so long – since I was 14 – they really embrace it and love it, and I love my community in Nebraska so much that I really include them in a lot of what I do, so I think it’s a very fun thing.