OK, we all know that actors are just acting. Carroll O'Connor wasn't really a bigot; Anthony Hopkins has never killed people, much less eaten them.
Still, it's fun to see when an actor gets to leap especially far from his self and his roots. A prime example is Jonathan Tucker, who grew up in an arty family and now plays part of a combative one in "Kingdom." The show returns Wednesday (Oct. 14) on DirecTV; here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Every now and then,
an actor gets to ... well, really act.
He gets to rage and
roar, to let loose. That's what people do in “Kingdom,” the
DirecTV series set in a mixed-martial-arts gym. Jonathan Tucker –
the loudest of the ragers – considers it a form of realism.
“We do so many
things in real life that are big and wonderful and strange and
oversized,” Tucker said. “(But) sometimes, as actors, we feel
like that's too much.”
In this high-octane
setting, he said, there's no holding back. “I've had a really good
time chewing it up.”
So have many of the
other actors, leaving Kiele Sanchez playing one of the only semi-calm
forces. “You see all of these wild characters around you and you
get a little jealous,” she said.
She plays Lisa
Prince, the former fiance of Ryan Wheeler (Matt Lauria), who is an
ex-con and a champion. She runs the business side of the gym and
lives with its owner, ex-champ Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo). She also
manages Alvey's son Jay (Tucker) – who is angry, alcoholic ... and
dangerous enough to make people reluctant to fight him.
Frank's other son
Nate (Nick Jonas) is a promising fighter who is bisexual. Their mom
Christina (Joanna Going) is a former prostitute and drug addict.
More changes are
coming, as Christina grasps for a normal life (working in a fast-food
restaurant), Nate recovers from a beating and Lisa scouts a promising
young fighter, played by Natalie Martinez.
Adding to the plot
was real life: Sanchez was almost four months pregnant when filming
of the second season began; that became part of the show, with a
weary Lisa often angry at Alvey and the excesses around her. “Because
of the pregnancy, she has a little less patience with the animals,”
roles let actors stray from their usual turf. Jonas is a pop star in
the teen-idol mode. Lauria, an outgoing guy, is an American native
who spent half his childhood in Ireland, then found success in
“Friday Night Lights” ... which spent its final seasons on
DirecTV. Grillo was already 46 when “Warrior” (2011) cast him as
a mix-martial-arts trainer. “It changed my career,” he said. “I
got put into this niche of the older guy who can act a bit and can be
physical and be convincing.”
But no leap is
bigger than Tucker's. His father is an art professor at the
University of Massachusetts and an expert on Claude Monet; his
boyhood was spent with ballet – including five straight years
playing Fritz in the Boston Ballet's “The Nutcracker.”
Ballet and fighting
are opposite worlds ... but Tucker feels that's not unusual.
“I think Jay is in
two different worlds, as well,” he said. “He's coming from
Alvey's kind of sense of discipline,” yet he's also a raging
addict. “Sometimes, you have to be two different people.”
On one side, Tucker
has needed discipline – constant work-outs, losing 30 pounds. On
the other, he savored Jay's wildly undisciplined moments. That's when
“you don't know I do ballet and my father is an art historian.”
He's simply a gym animal, ready to roar.
-- “Kingdom,” 9
p.m. Wednesdays, DirecTV, Audience Network (Channel 239)
-- Second season
starts Oct. 14