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Her first major role was in Pearl Harbor (2001) and her first starring movie role was in Bulletproof Monk (2003).
She has since appeared as a lead in other films, such as Sin City (2005) and My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) and, from 2011 to 2015, starred in the television series Hart of Dixie.
To avoid confusion, King opted to use her childhood nickname, James, for the duration of her modeling career and later, at the beginning of her film career.
King landed dual roles (as twins) in the film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel Sin City.
She had met with director Robert Rodriguez, who was a fan of her work, and at the time King was unaware that Rodriguez wanted her involved in the film.
After five auditions, a screen test, and a physical test, she landed the role of Jade, a character skilled in martial arts. Bulletproof Monk received mostly negative reviews from critics, who cited that the fight scenes were not as well choreographed or directed as those other genre films, and that the alternating comedic and action scenes were jarring.
Regardless, Bulletproof Monk was nominated for Choice Movie in a Drama/Action Adventure award at the Teen Choice Awards.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine commented that King "has a lively minute or two" in the film, but her part was small and the "young cast is mostly pinup packaging".