Two seasons of cutting weight to play MMA fighter Jay Kulina on Kingdom was enough for Jonathan Tucker — and his wife, Tara. Since the Boston native got to ditch his 1,000-calorie-a-day diet, “this season was her favorite,” he jokes in the new issue of Us Weekly. “I get grumpy when I don’t eat. It’s great for the role and it’s honest and respectful of what these people go through in order to make weight so they can fight, but it’s challenging.”
Tucker, 35, spills on the drama’s final round, premiering Wednesday, May 31, at 8 p.m. on AT&T’s Audience Network. Read his Q&A below:
Us: How do you feel about the series coming to an end?
JT: We’re all upset, but it’s the right time and we’ve given it our best effort. Top to bottom, everyone feels a great deal of pride on our show.
Us: What’s the biggest difference this season?
JT: We move ahead a little bit of time. Previously, there have been private struggles with addiction and lying or protecting or connecting. Now, everything is very public. This third and final season solidifies on a very large scale who these characters are and what they want.
Us: Why do you think mixed martial arts works as such a great backdrop to the emotional storylines on the show?
JT: There is a ferocity to MMA and to the training, but there’s such a humanity to it too. It takes so much sacrifice and humility to get into it and to rise through those levels. If you look at the fights as a means to test who you are, every one of these fights is an opportunity to see how far you’re willing to go up against yourself— and to find and define your limits. That’s why it’s such a good sport to use as a device for a TV show. If there’s a good crossover from MMA to our show, it’s that you have to be in midseason form in the preseason. Every episode has to be great. Every scene has to work. You have to lay it out hard and full every single day.
Us: Have you picked up any MMA skills?
JT: We train in all of these different gyms and we go to fights. I train every day when I’m not working. At this point, my Muay Thai looks pretty good!
Us: Have you ever had a fight-scene mishap?
JT: Early on, I got my eye opened up pretty badly. [Another actor] had me in a full mount and punched me. I got 12 stitches, but first I shot the whole day with super glue in my eye.
Us: In these new episodes, will we get some immediate answers on the big cliffhangers from last season?
JT: Some of what was left unanswered in season 2 remains incomplete. There are still some stories that carry over and then there are some other elements that are answered immediately in the first episode.
Us: Jay has been through so much heartbreak in past seasons. Does he finally get the happiness he deserves?
JT: It couldn’t be set up with more joy and personal connection to something bigger than himself in the first half of the season. Then, in the second half, he couldn’t get hit any harder. It’s like, how much more can you possibly put this guy through?
Us: Last season, Jay found out that Nate [Nick Jonas] is gay. How does this affect their dynamic?
JT: It’s no different than how it’s always been. If anything, Jay becomes more defensive of his brother. Jay would do anything for Nate, particularly if someone was threatening or making fun of him.
Us: It seems like you and Nick have that brotherly dynamic in real life as well.
JT: We have a total bromance. I just love him. He’s a great, great human being. He’s incredibly talented, he’s wickedly focused and has self-discipline greater than most adults in any professional capacity. He’s amazing in this last season. He’s just incredible.
Us: You even got a writing credit on his 2016 song, “Champagne Problems”! How did that come together?
JT: We were just having a conversation. He’s a real young man who is going through the exact same real young-man journeys that everybody else goes through. Just because you’re well known doesn’t mean you don’t experience heartbreak or have a relationship that doesn’t go the way you want it to, or you’re not worried about the text that you just sent that girl and she hasn’t responded. I was like, ‘Dude, you’ve got to write that song.’ I love that idea of champagne problems because it’s universal. I have no musical talent at all and my wife is very aware of that, so I got to go home and say, ‘I don’t know if you know, but I’m maybe going into the songwriting business.’ It gave her quite a laugh.
Us: Any fun stories from the songwriting experience?
JT: We were at Nick’s place and [songwriter/ “Issues” singer] Julia Michaels started singing in the middle of the night. I was like, ‘Oh my God, you have the most incredible voice! How are you not singing?’ I called it. I was like, ‘You’re a huge f–king star. You have to sing!’ I am her biggest fan. I’ve never heard anybody sing like that. She has a totally unique voice.
Us: Assuming you don’t pursue a career in songwriting, now that Kingdom is ending would you ever bring back your Parenthood character, Bob Little? It seems like every single show is getting a revival!
JT: Oh yeah, that character is a blast. He’s so divisive too. Some people really hated him and then other people were like, ‘Well, he seems kind of reasonable.’ I was bummed out because they cut the last scene of the final episode where I gave Christina [Monica Potter] the school. In the scene we shot, I was like, ‘I just want to let you know, I have spoken to the city counsel and it is a thrill to let you know that this is your school.’ Then they just cut it! I had a really good time doing that show.
Kingdom airs on AT&T Audience Network Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET and is available on DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse.