At just 20 years old, Hunter King is making the transition from child to adult actress on The Young and the Restless in the role of angsty teen Summer Newman, whose world came crashing down around her when it was revealed that Nick Newman was not her biological father, but rather Jack Abbott was, and her mother -- Phyllis Summers (Michelle Stafford) -- had an accident and has been in a coma ever since..
King, who launched her career at age six under the name Haley King, has amassed a list of comedy and drama credits that includes guest starring roles on the TV series Roswell, Hidden Hills, The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour, Without a Trace, Dexter, ER, Hannah Montana and Workaholics, before becoming a series regular on Hollywood Heights.
It was on that Nick at Nite series that she met Y&R's executive producer Jill Farren-Phelps, who is the reason that King is on the CBS daytime drama today.
But read on as she tells the story in her own words:
How did you end up getting the role of Summer on The Young and the Restless?
Jill brought me over there. I never auditioned for Y&R. Jill [who had worked with Hunter on Hollywood Heights] just called me. As I was coming off the plane from Florida with a friend, Jill called and said, "Do you want to come work on Y&R and play Summer? I was like, "Yeah." She said, "Okay. You start in two days."
I came in and replaced the old Summer [Lindsay Bushman] in the middle of a huge storyline, where she had gotten into a car accident and hit Chelsea, her aunt, and killed her baby. I came in in the middle of that, as Summer was waking up in the hospital. It was very intimidating coming into such a huge storyline, but everybody was really helpful. I got into it very quickly.
Were you a fan of Y&R, or at all familiar with the show before Jill called?
I was kind of familiar with it, because my grandma has watched it for a while now. So I sometimes watched it with her. I did know who some of the characters were and the relationships between them. Now, when I have any questions about what's going on, I go to my grandma and she tells me everything. My grandma is really good about that.
Has your grandmother (Elaine Farrar) lobbied for a visit to the set?
She's actually come with me [to work] a few times. Sometimes I bring my mom to keep me company for the day. Sometimes, I bring my grandma. Whenever she comes, she's very excited. It's like real life to her. She's like, "Uh oh. There's Nick [Joshua Morrow] and Sharon [Sharon Case]. Are they getting together?" She gets very into it.
When was the first time your grandmother came to the set?
I think Michelle Stafford was still there, so my grandma was very excited to get a picture with her and to see what was going on. It was adorable watching her. She likes to see what's coming up on the show.
Did any of the more veteran actors take you under their wing when you started?
Well, Peter Bergman's always been extremely helpful. He's always been one to go over lines with me multiple times. He's always so willing to give me guidance whenever I needed it. Also Michelle Stafford was really good about that, as well.
How long did it take until you felt comfortable in the role?
I would say [it took] about two months until I felt that I had made it my own. I just got used to going to the same place every day, getting the lines and developing my own personality for Summer.
What was your reaction when you first learned that Nick wasn't going to be Summer's dad? At that point, did you think that was the truth?
I thought that was the truth until they exposed what happened. I didn't find out the truth until the script came. They're like, "You have to wait and see." For a while I was like, "Oh, my gosh! This is huge. He's not my dad." I was getting really into it. Then I saw what happened. I was reading and they left like a cliff note right at the end of one of the scripts about what Sharon did. I was sitting in my dressing room in disbelief, like, "How could she do that to me? This is awful. This is way bad." I took it very close to heart.
Are you looking forward to the big reveal when the truth comes out that Sharon switched the DNA tests?
I'm actually really excited. I'm very curious as to how they're going to play it out with Summer. I'm sure she's still going to have the close bond that she now has with Jack. I'm excited to play it as an actress and to see how it all plays out as a fan.
Learning Nick wasn't her father caused a lot of drama, like discovering that Kyle (Hartley Sawyer), who she had a crush on, was her brother.
She's been through a lot. She might need to get some therapy soon. That's all [Hartley and I] ever talk about on the set: When are we going to find out that we're not related? We're both really curious to find out. But it's actually been fun to play those awkward moments between Summer and Kyle because you know that they still have those feelings there, but they really shouldn't because they're supposedly brother and sister. It's really fun to play.
Is there any way you are like Summer in real life?
Well, I don't have fun modeling shoots, and my boyfriend isn't my brother. But, we're the same in the way that when there's trouble, we both kind of run from it. At first, we didn't want to handle any problems. As I've grown older now… Summer and I have kind of grown up together in a way. Now when problems happen in Summer's life, she's more willing to confront them and try to solve them rather than run away from them. I think we're both kind of the same that way.
You began acting at a very young age. How was that?
Since I was six years old. My older sister (Kelli) started acting when she was six. I was a really shy kid. My mom [Jamie] didn't think I could do it. Then one day we went into the agent's office and I said I want to do it, too. I was six years old. Nobody would have expected that coming out of my mouth. I started going on auditions. My mom has always been my acting coach. I took some acting lessons for a few weeks here and there, but mostly I just did plays in this little theater in Agora Hills [Calif.] when I was growing up. Just going over lines with my mom really helped me a lot.
You had done guest starring roles on shows like Dexter, Without a Trace and Hannah Montana, but Hollywood Heights was your first role as a regular on a series. Do you consider that to be your big break?
Yeah. It was scary at first because it was the soap opera-style of filming, where we filmed an episode a day. There would be 50 pages of lines to learn. I'd never experienced that before. I'd experienced going on auditions and having a few little lines to learn. And other shows, primetime shows, they film an episode in a week. So I was used to that. It was really intimidating. Everybody was really helpful, though, and I got used to it quickly.