Joey King Says Real-Life Family Behind ‘We Were the Lucky Ones’ Is ‘Impossible Not to Love’

“I’m so thrilled that our show exists and that we’re able to put it out into the world now,” the actress tells TheWrap of the Hulu Holocaust series

Joey King plays Halina Kurc in "We Were the Lucky Ones" on Hulu
Halina (Joey King), in "We Were the Lucky Ones" (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)

Joey King stressed that the heart of the ensemble family centered in Hulu’s “We Were the Lucky Ones” shines a different light on the events of World War II and the Holocaust in the limited series.

Adapted from the best-selling book by Georgia Hunter, the historical drama follows the Kurc family of Polish Jews as they spread out over continents during the onset of the war and genocide. 

“The best thing about what our industry is, is that there’s so many different perspectives of this piece in history and there’s so many different stories and films and television shows that show you different perspectives from World War II. Our family that we follow, we haven’t seen this perspective, and it’s a completely different kind of perspective,” King told TheWrap in February during promo for the show at Television Critics Association press tour. “It’s a story that, yes, it’s still a tragedy, but is also filled with a lot of hope and a lot of really joyous moments.”

“I’m so thrilled that our show exists and that we’re able to put it out into the world now because this family is so inspiring, but also their love and their joy is so infectious even in times of severe tragedy,” the Emmy-nominated actress added. “Which I found to be so unique, and it’s impossible not to love them when you watch the show. Everyone just is so lovable.”

King recognizes the many layers to her character Halina, the youngest Kurc child; particularly the relatable, ordinary traits behind the survivor. Halina was Hunter’s great-aunt, the sister of Hunter’s grandfather Addy (portrayed by Logan Lerman). King described Hunter’s book as a “Bible for all of us.”

“I found through her book, speaking with Georgia directly and having stories shared from her about Halina and from her grandkids that Halina, yes she was so resilient, she was so brave and she did all these things to keep her family safe and to keep herself safe,” King told TheWrap. “But, the core of her, she was so humorous and so joyous and she was so young when this all started she had to grow up so quickly.” 

Signs of antisemitism permeate the atmosphere of Radom, Poland, where the Kurc family lives from the beginning of the pilot episode. That’s where Halina excitedly hails her Addy, who lives in Paris, at the train station when he comes home for Passover in 1939.

“I found that keeping connected to that joy that she has, obviously the show takes a lot of dark turns, but knowing where she first came from was important to me,” King noted, “because sometimes it made me realize how, even though she was being so brave in these situations, how scared she must have been and how different the personality that she had to exude in this moment is from who she is.”

Physical extensions of Halina’s characteristics included vibrant red lipstick and elaborate hairstyles in moments before the segregation of Jews into labor camps, ghettos and other harsh trials.

Joey King plays Halina Kurc in "We Were the Lucky Ones" on Hulu
Halina (Joey King), in “We Were the Lucky Ones” (Photo by: Vlad Cioplea/Hulu)

“Women of the ’40s, it was just the norm of how you present that you value yourself or take care of yourself. As someone who has no experience or expertise in doing my own hair like that, it was so fascinating to have those signature styles and Halina’s graceful way of holding herself in costume and hair and makeup,” King added. “It’s historically accurate for the time and it’s pretty incredible. It was really powerful because I think Halina’s such a confident person, and she can, even when she’s not confident, she’s able to appear so confident. It was really helpful as a person playing someone, to have all these elements helping me feel most in character and her hair, her makeup and the costume was all part of that.”

A scene in Episode 2 of the series, titled “Lvov,” showcases another regular life aspect as Halina and her brother’s girlfriend Bella (Eva Feiler) travel by wagon to where most of the Polish men had to go once Poland was invaded by the Germans. There, the pair of women have a classic gossip session about love and romance.

“I love that scene because it shows that there’s bizarre moments of normalcy when you’re surrounded by chaos and tragedy, and it helps you get through these things. It feels like we’re just hanging out with these two girls basically having a sleepover, and then you zoom out and realize how scary and risky the situation is,” King said. “I love that moment between them because it’s Bella and Halina becoming closer and understanding each other more and also just having this moment together that feels safe and sacred in a world that’s just full of chaos and risk.”

The first three episodes of “We Were the Lucky Ones” are now streaming on Hulu.


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