For Jonathan Tucker, the star of the Audience Network series Kingdom, working in television is a lot like getting into the ring for a mixed martial arts fight. It’s an apt comparison, considering Tucker’s now in his second season playing Jay Kulina, a fighter at his family’s gym whose talent is only surpassed by his ability to make a mess of things.
“In many respects, there’s no better team sport than combat sports,” says Tucker, who’s in New York City on a break from working in L.A. “It’s a unique situation: You can’t walk into a fight without being supported by a team, yet the moment you cross into that cage you’re the loneliest you’ve ever been. In that respect, our show is similar. It’s a real team and all our performances succeed because of how talented and committed everyone on the show is. Then there’s the sense that we’re all trying to battle our own demons on-camera, which is always more of a solo endeavor.”
The series, which films in North Hollywood, Calif. as well as L.A.’s Venice neighborhood, was created by Byron Balasco and stars Frank Grillo and Nick Jonas alongside Tucker as members of a family whose lives are tied up in mixed martial arts fighting. To hear Tucker—who’s faking a fight with his real-life dad in this behind-the-scenes show—tell it, the series gives all of its actors a chance for a truly unique work experience.
“It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to be part of an auteur-driven show in what we’re now celebrating as this new frontier of television,” he says. “When you’re working with a show runner who’s entirely free to express his vision and who’s so comfortable with his own talent that he allows everyone else to do their jobs, you get to operate from a place of fearlessness. It allows you take significant risks and not be concerned that your failure will harm you in any way.”
As for what’s in store for Tucker’s character over the remaining episodes of the season, let’s just say that what happens in the ring might not be his most important battles. “It’s a period when he becomes a little more selfish and a bit less selfless; his old sense of duty is still there, but it’s less focused,” Tucker explains. “That happens because he succumbs to addictions, and that lack of self-discipline reveals itself in his relationships but also in his fighting.”