Kingdom Premiere Preview [VIDEO and PHOTOS + Exclusive Joanna Going Interview]
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead
I cannot tell you how much I’ve been anticipating the premiere of this series. I don’t know that much about Mixed Martial Arts, but I’m such a big fan of family dramas and this series has it in spades. Kingdom the story of a struggling business owner trying to keep his family together. It’s also the story of a group of former and up-and-coming MMA champions trying to make something of their lives. It’s also a story of adult children trying to come to terms with and make sense of the decisions and mistakes of their parents.
Series synopsis, from DirecTV:
Kingdom is a visceral family saga that takes place in Venice, California and is set against the backdrop of the renegade subculture of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It is a world rife with complex characters and relationships that unfurl in surprising and deeply human ways.
Frank Grillo isÂ Alvey Kulina, a Mixed Martial Arts legend and owner of Navy St. MMA gym based in Venice, CA.
Kiele Sanchez isÂ Lisa Prince, Alveyâ€™s girlfriend.
Matt Lauria isÂ Ryan Wheeler, the world-class athlete who had it all, including Lisa Prince, until his spiraling drug addiction landed him in prison.
Jonathan TuckerÂ is Jay Kulina, Alveyâ€™s eldest son.
Nick Jonas is Nate Kulina, Alveyâ€™s youngest son and the prized fighter at the gym.
Joanna GoingÂ is Christina Kulina, Alveyâ€™s estranged wife and mother to Jay and Nate.
All photos courtesy of DirecTV.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Joanna Going. She told me more about her character as well as the Kulina family dynamic, what it was like working with this talented cast of actors andÂ how this show is like nothing she’s ever done before.
We don’t know too much about Christina Kulina and we don’t meet her until the very end of the first episode. Christina “is the estranged wife of Alvey Kulina, who is a Mixed Martial Arts star,” Joanna tells me. They got “together very young” and she was “with him as he rose to stardom.” They have two sons, Jonathan Tucker’s Jay and Nick Jonas’ Nate. Alvey “owns the gym” where “the two boys are fighters.” But “Christina has gone in a bad direction. She’s a heroin addict, as you see when we meet her. She’s on the street, she’s” turned to “prostitution to support her habit,” she explains. Joanna thinks Christina “left the family to protect her sons.” She describes the family dynamic as “fractured” and “even the ones who are living with each other have their battles.”
When I asked Joanna what drew her to this role, she tells me even though there wasn’t much of Christina in the first episode, as she was reading the script she was “getting drawn into the writing and, in particular, to the Jay character.” When she “got to the page where, finally, we see Christina and it was this payoff with the Jay character, I was just like, ‘Yes. I want to be attached to that character.'” That moment made her “want to go on the audition.” And as is standard practice for most auditions, Joanna tells me she had “a dummy scene with Alvey,” so she “knew a little bit of the nature of their dynamic” just from thatÂ scene.
Most of Christina’s screen time is with Jonathan, but Joanna also has scenes withÂ Nick and Frank and she has nothing but praise for all three of them. Joanna tells me Jonathan “lives up to everything and beyond” of “what that character was on the page. He is so thrilling and constantly surprising you in the scene.” She continues, “it was very exciting and very challenging to me to work with him because it made me want to step it up.”
Joanna calls Nate her “lost child. Jay remembers me as a mom,” but Nate “does not. He’s a much more difficult nut to crack.” She reveals that “Nick has this soulful, smoldering thing were you know he’s got issues, but there’s a sweetness there. It was really amazing.”
As far as Frank goes, Joanna tells me “there could not be another person more perfectly suited for this part. First of all, he’s been a fighter all his life. It’s in his bones.” Joanna tells me Christina and Alvey are “still drawn to each other. There’s a lot of tension in our relationship,” which should prove interesting. When I asked Joanna if she had any scenes with Kiele, she tells me they hadÂ “a little bit. We mostly crossed paths in the makeup trailer” but it was fun to have another female on set.
Understandably hesitant to give away any spoilers, Joanna tells me it’s hard to choose her favorite scene or moment from the first season, which they’ve already wrapped filming. She loved all her scenes with Nick and Jonathan. In addition, creator/showrunner/EP Byron Balasco was “so inclusive to the actors, which is a very new experience for me.” Joanna was able to be part of the “development of” her character, which she really enjoyed. In fact, she already misses playing Christina. Even though she was “a mess, it’s a very different character that I played before.” She adds that it was “fun and raw. I really liked it.”
Kingdom premieres Wednesday, October 8th at 9/8c on DirecTV.
All images courtesy of DirecTV.
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