Kingdom Exclusive: Jonathan Tucker Interview

Kingdom returns for its third season tonight, but I met Jonathan Tucker last summer during the Television Critics Association press tour. He was just getting ready for the new season and enjoying some snacks before it was too late.

Season three will end up being the final season of the show. Find out what’s in store for Jay (Tucker) and the rest of the characters on DirecTV’s MMA drama. Kingdom airs Wednesdays at 8PM on Audience.

WLE: Where do we find Jay at the beginning of season 3?

JT: The thing that’s so fun about playing Jay, the emotional aspect, is that [creator] Byron [Balasco] puts this character through these crucible like experiences where he has extraordinary highs and profound lows. It’s hard to imagine a season or a storyline where you don’t get to watch that young man be put through some sort of a ringer.

WLE: As an actor is Kingdom all highs, because even the turmoil is juicy stuff to play?

JT: It is. I mean, it’s the most welcomed opportunity I’ve ever had, and Byron’s been there on set. Some of the scenarios that are offered are so juicy as an actor in theory. But in practicality, opening up the door to your mother who might or might not have overdosed and be dead from drugs, to do that for 14 different setups for four and a half hours, the moment you open the door, you’ve got to have that same sort of reaction. The energy has to be high, so it’s challenging.

WLE: How harrowing has it been to play the ups and downs with Jay’s mother?

JT: Joanna [Going]’s just such a fabulous actor. She’s one of the most dynamic actors I’ve had the chance to work with so you never know where the scene’s going to go. That’s kind of what’s so exciting about this show in and of itself. Byron puts you in this place where you have a lot of room to ski or snowboard or fall and tumble or fly into the air. You kind of get to play within that boundary. Within those parameters, the relationship with my mom is one that I’m always worried about. I’m always worried there’s going to be a huge fall.

WLE: Even though it’s acting, when you play a scene where Jay wins a fight, do you feel like you’ve won a fight?

JT: Yeah. I love fight day. Fight day great. The wardrobe people will put a little note in the trailer, like “Kick some ass. It’s fucking fight day.” The whole crew gets into it. The last two fights, with Natalie and with me and Matt, we’re all like on another level with fights. They look so slick. They look so good. We watch so much MMA. We go to so much MMA. So if I as a fan of this sport am now watching a fight for that same critical eye and completely immersed in the experience, there’s a few people doing something right.

WLE: In between seasons of Kingdom, do you get a little break from training?

JT: Yes. I just ate a number of croissants. I just had some tater tots. I swear to God, I got a massage, I’m drinking scotch but come September, I can assure you, Fred, we will be back. I need two months. As long as I have two months, I’m good.

WLE: Did American Gods fall exactly in between seasons of Kingdom?

JT: It did. I was going to do two episodes of it but I’m actually just doing one because they’ve shortened their schedule. With Endemol and AT&T’s blessing, I’ll come back for the second season of American Gods

WLE: Is Low Key Lyesmith pretty faithful to the book?

JT: Everything from the book you’ll see in the first episode. Bryan Fuller and I had worked together before and he’s been such a pleasure to work with. I like Byrons and Bryans.

WLE: Did that require any training?

JT: No, a little facial hair, a few prosthetics that I brought into it. And some animal fun elements to him. We shot in a real working prison so despite maybe wrapping a scene and moving on to the next location, we would have to wait until the prison transfer was done or lockdown was finished. I swear to God, that was pretty wild.

WLE: The intensity of cut day is what really got me on Kingdom. Is that the most intense MMA gets?

JT: I think the most intense it gets, from everybody that I’ve spoken to, cutting weight is the hardest part of preparing for a fight. The fight is a bonus that you get when you’ve made weight for the most part.

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