(“The great majority of people who are fighting are not doing this for money and glory. There’s something else that drives them to the cage.” / Photo via kingdom.directv.com)
Though mixed martial arts has inspired its share of movies — both decent and dreadful — Kingdom is the first TV drama to be set in the world of MMA. The series, which premieres next Wednesday, October 8th, on DIRECTV’s Audience channel, focuses on ex-fighter Alvey Kulina (played by Frank Grillo), his two sons, and their daily battles inside and outside of the cage.
Providing some of the show’s necessary tension is Jonathan Tucker, who plays the troubled black sheep of the Kulina clan. Jonathan took some time last week to chat with CagePotato.com about his preparations for the role, and the lengths that the cast and crew went to in order to ensure authenticity. Read our interview with Jonathan below, follow him on Twitter @jonathanmtucker, and visit Kingdom’s official site to learn more.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Kingdom takes place in the setting of a mixed martial arts gym and professional fighting, but it really seems to be about a father’s relationship with his sons. Tell me a little bit about the character you play, Jay Kulina.
JONATHAN TUCKER: Jay’s kind of this high-wire act, who’s part warrior, part jester. There’s a lot of characters in MMA gyms, and everybody’s being driven to fight for some different reason. Everyone’s finding a sort of healing in the training or the fighting or the camaraderie of being in a gym like that. And for Jay, there’s a sense of distance that he gets from the training and fighting that keeps him out of the other addictions in his life. And when he loses that ability to train, he succumbs to a lack of self-confidence and turns to alcohol and drugs and sex — which is certainly something that I got to see among people in different gyms around Los Angeles.
How much physical preparation was required for a role like this, where you’re portraying a fighter? What was that process like?
We did a two-week boot camp with Joe “Daddy” [Stevenson] and his team, and Greg Jackson, out in Pomona and Victorville, and I did a lot of individual coaching at different places around LA. I was already generally walking around at the weight I was on the show, but when you give a person a few months to really step it up and focus on the diet and the workouts, that extra 5% difference really shows.
I was dragging my ass to the gym every single minute I wasn’t working, and then fight training; we rolled in the morning, got in conditioning right afterwards, then we’d have time for lunch, we’d go box, and usually do some kind of kickboxing in the evening. Of course, we had the luxury of time. All we’re really trying to do on the show is honor the fighters who are trying to pay their rent, who are always working a second job, who are supporting families. The luxury that we had to just train without worrying about paying our mortgage, that was something we never took for granted.