Nick Jonas has been hitting the gym and believes his new DirecTV series Kingdom works well with the new bulk he’s put on from dedicating himself to working out. Jonas gained 12 pounds of muscle for his role as Nate Kulina, the son of the owner of a Mixed Martial Artis (MMA) gym in Venice, CA, with the family drama centering around life at the gym. In addition to Jonas, the cast of the new dramatic series includes Jonathan Tucker, Frank Grillo, and Kiele Sanchez.
DirecTV just premiered Kingdom on October 8, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT and already the series has earned an additional order of 20 episodes. However, before it debuted I had the chance to speak with Jonas about the show during the summer Television Critics Association event.
Nick Jonas Kingdom Interview
Does fight choreography have anything in common with dance choreography?
Nick Jonas: “A little bit. I didn’t really do a whole lot of dancing in my other career path. A little bit when I was doing a Broadway show called ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.’ And it was similar in that way. But the thing about the fighting that is so different is you have to become this person. The minute I sort of get into that mind set when I’m in the cage, even when I’m training, I become kind of an animal. And it’s just about being as intense and as focused as you can be because one wrong move, like they said, and you could have a knot in your forehead.”
Once you were confident with your training, how did it affect the way you felt about and carried yourself?
Nick Jonas: “It was a major shift. I think that any time you sort of open yourself up emotionally like we’ve had to in this show, you experience things in your own life, and you have to sort of find a way to adjust when you go home. Turn the lights off of the character and be the person that you are. So it was just about trying to turn off the switch more than anything because my character’s really intense and sort of zeroed in on life and his fighting. And I found that important, just find a way to become Nick at the end of the day.”
Did you get clocked?
Nick Jonas: “You know, I had my big fight in the first episode with Cub Swanson who’s one of the best fighters in the world. And there were two instances where he landed a couple light kicks that were pretty intense. Even in our training, we did a couple drills where we would take about a 25% kick or punch just to know what it felt like, knowing that there was still 75% more that he could be giving us. That was intense, but it was good for us to feel that and to get an experience.”
Do you get more respect from your brothers now?
Nick Jonas: “Yeah. It really is interesting. You walk with a lot more confidence. I don’t have much fear when it comes to being out or getting into a situation. The only thing I’d fear is that God forbid that ever did happen, I’ve been trained by some of the best fighters the world now, and I have to be careful.”
How did the kick feel?
Nick Jonas: “Liver kicks are pretty intense. Basically, it just releases all the toxins in your body and you kind of collapse right as it happens. The other one was right to the chest, so I just lost my breath and was pretty sore the next day from being dropped on my back a few times in the fight scene. But it was all worth it. And what was really interesting, we shot this fight for about – I think it was about a 12 hour shoot day – and the emotional build of it all was really intense as well. So the real emotion that came out just from exerting yourself physically like that for 12 hours was really an amazing experience. And something that now, carrying into emotional scenes, I’ll go and I’ll spend three, four hours jumping rope or doing push-ups and doing a circuit of different exercises to drain myself so that I can get to that emotional place.”
What was the skill or technique that you didn’t think you’d be able to master?
Nick Jonas: “The Jujitsu stuff came really naturally for me. I feel like when you grow up with brothers, you get away with wrestling and with putting each other in pretzel positions easier than you do punching because, you know, parents would catch that. I think the striking was actually the thing that I had to work on the most, just making that motion feel natural. And as I was gaining size and muscle, I was getting a little tighter and less flexible. So with the striking and the other things, you have to be really loose. And Bruce Lee said, ‘Be like water,’ and that’s kind of the idea we all have to have. But when you’re building, it’s tough.”
What has it meant to you to be able to pursue totally different career goals and have that time to just make it about what you want to try to do?
Nick Jonas: “I think it’s been really meaningful to feel like I’m kind of in control of my own life, at this point in my life, almost, nine, 10 years in this business, and loved every step, every career milestone I’ve had, but I feel like this is one of the most significant. It’s probably the one I’ve been able to lose myself in the most, and that feels really good. I’m thrilled for people to see it and to not only see another side of me, but just take the steps in my career to continue to evolve and grow.”
Do you have any plans musically?
Nick Jonas: “There are some music plans, yeah. I’ve been able to focus on the acting and make that a hundred percent a priority and also do some music. And actually, in a lot of ways, digging in emotionally with this role, has been opened me up to be able to write in a way I never wrote before. So it’s been an exciting time. And there will be some new music, I’m sure, in the future.”
Did you worry about getting your face hit or breaking your fingers?
Nick Jonas: “No, I wanted to. I think it’s kind of a rite of passage all the fighters have, the cauliflower ear and for a minute I thought I was going to get it which kind of freaked me out, but it’s also something to be proud of too.”