Kingdom’s Jonathan Tucker Teases Final Episodes: ‘Addiction Plays Into This’

Jonathan Tucker attends the premiere of "American Gods" at ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome on April 20, 2017 in Hollywood, California.
Jonathan Tucker attends the premiere of "American Gods" at ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome on April 20, 2017 in Hollywood, California. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Although we last saw Kingdom’s former MMA fighter Jay Kulina getting knocked to the ground by Ryan, his friend and former opponent in the ring, it seems the competitive spirit between the two will continue to bring them closer. “It’s such a great relationship,” Jonathan Tucker, who stars as the AT&T Audience Network series’ fighter-turned-real-estate-agent, tells Us Weekly exclusively. “You don’t have a Magic Johnson without a Larry Bird. Who wants to watch a series if you don’t have Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James]? The Yankees and the Red Sox? You need that rivalry to bring out the best. That’s what I think Jay sees. It’s not a personal need to be one better than him, but it’s a personal need to be his best.”

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Though Ryan (Matt Lauria) wants Jay to give up his business job, which he has taken to support his girlfriend Amy and their daughter, Maya, Tucker says that getting back in the ring could ultimately benefit his passionate character. “If he’s self disciplined, then that takes him out of being an addict,” he says of Jay, who has dealt with drug addiction in past seasons. “It’s this trifecta that he deals with frequently.” The Boston native hints of future episodes: “His addiction plays into this.” 

The competition among friends comes off the pages of the script and into the actors’ work when bringing their characters to life. “If everyone is prepared, then you have this wonderful, healthy competitive spirit of everyone being present, in the moment, on fire and operating with instinct, gut and intuition,” he says of the cast, including Frank Grillo, Nick Jonas, Kiele Sanchez and Joanna Going. “You really just have to bust your chops at home so that when you come to set you do the work and it’s joyous.”

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Tucker adds: “It’s not just the actors who give everything they have, but the props team comes in and is like, ‘I know you asked for a red lighter, but here are four other options that we went out and scoured to find.’”

While there are signs that Jay will eventually get back to fighting, his personal problems may take longer to repair than his professional ones. “Jay has a unique relationship with women and he has needs that were built in childhood, when his mother, Christina, abandoned the family,” Tucker says, adding that in the show’s final episodes, “those wounds are still there. He tries filling them with some different ways that don’t always involve Christina directly.”

Their characters’ relationship may be tense at times, but offscreen, Tucker has no problem having fun at Lauria’s expense. While on a flight with the Friday Night Lights alum, a nearby passenger recognized Lauria, who, like Tucker, starred on Parenthood.  “I was on a plane with Matt and he was clean shaven and I had all my facial hair. I’m sitting next to this woman and she looked over at Matt and whispered, ‘I know him,’” Tucker, who played Bob Little on the NBC series, recalls. “I love selling actors out so I was like ‘You might know him from Parenthood.”

Perhaps the excited passenger should have brushed up on the show. “She was like, ‘I love him in Parenthood,’ and I asked, ‘Have you seen a lot of the show?’ She’s like ‘Yes, I’ve seen every episode,’” Tucker explains with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Every episode, really?”

Kingdom airs on AT&T Audience Network Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET and is also available on DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW and U-verse.

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