"We hadn't been paid yet and I could see my gas meter flashing empty, so I went to get it filled up and I had no money," she tells TVGuide.com. "It's surreal trying to get home on an empty gas tank and looking at billboards of your face."
Hopefully such problems will soon be a thing of the past for King, who plays Goldie, a single mother who moves from Ohio to Los Angeles to become a surrogate for a gay couple, in the NBC comedy.
The New Normal, created by Glee's Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, premieres Monday at 10/9c on NBC, but it's already been in the headlines for months thanks first to a boycott by the group One Million Moms and more recently when NBC's Salt Lake City affiliate opted not to air the show (it has since been picked up by another station in the area). "I think, if anything, it's a sign that we are raising questions that are very important and do need to be asked," King says. "It's not about shoving one opinion down viewers' throats. It's about raising so many different ideas and thoughts and I think that's what's so refreshing about the show. As much as I respect other opinions, I would like to maybe suggest watching a program before you judge it because I think people might be pleasantly surprised."
Much of the stir has been about the show's gay couple (played by The Book of Mormon's Andrew Rannelis and The Hangover's Justin Bartha), but the show also traces Goldie's efforts to make a better life for her daughter Shania (Bebe Wood), much to the chagrin of Goldie's conservative (read: bigoted) grandmother Jane (Ellen Barkin). "It's not just about a gay couple: a single mother and how she's struggling, a young girl growing up, a 50-year-old woman who's back to dating again and figuring out her life," King says. "I think the universal themes are really very much something that everyone can relate to."
Following roles in such British series as Little Dorrit and the original Free Agents, The New Normal marks the American TV debut of Scottish native King. "I came over for a pilot season amongst hundreds of British people that do. I read the script and was really excited about how edgy and relevant and how important the subject matter is," King says. "I'm buzzing off the fact that I'm in a program that I am so proud of."
The show has also afforded King the opportunity to work with one of her idols, Barkin. "I grew up watching her films, so to not only be a part of Ryan Murphy's project, but to get to work with Ellen Barkin is quite surreal," she says. "You just try to play it as cool as possible."
Away from the cameras, King has clocked the most time with her on-screen TV daughter Wood. The two have been exploring Los Angeles' many frozen yogurt options (Pinkberry is a favorite so far). "The core of our story line is that relationship, and Bebe and I spent a lot of time off set hanging out, which was an absolute pleasure just to find that familiarity that you have between a mom and daughter," she says. "My whole character's arc in the first episode is fighting for my daughter to have a better life and I need my daughter to give me courage and strength and that's what Shania does, so it's a very interesting dynamic."
Wood has also helped King with her American accent — something that has come quite naturally for King, the daughter of an Australian actor and a Scottish singer. "They're all performers, so it's been super-fun," she says. "There are so many wonderful American shows and American characters that are written that you have to adapt."
However, she remembers one challenging scene. "It was a lot, and Ryan was going 'quicker, faster, faster.' It was a lawyer scene, so it was a lot of hard Rs," she says. "Every now and then, I've been like, 'Bebe, how does this sound?'"
"Now she has to help me with my accent," Wood says, before she states "I'd like a cup of tea please" in her best British inflection. "I'm a very proud teacher," King says.
The New Normal premieres on Monday at 10/9c on NBC before moving to its regular timeslot on Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c.