In this Halloween edition of Tenant Spotlight, Ariana caught up with writer/producer Byron Balasco on a warm fall day in Hollywood. Byron is the creator of Direct TV’s hit show Kingdom and is currently writing Season 3 while Season 2 is scheduled to premiere on the Audience Network October 14th at 9/8c. Kingdom is set in Venice Beach and focuses on a family’s mixed martial arts gym and the relationships and addictions of the characters. Kingdom Stars Nick Jonas (Singer/Songwriter) and Frank Gillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Purge: Anarchy).
Wow, Byron you are just cranking out these episodes. What can fans expect in Season 2? The theme of season 2 is the painful ascent. So the gym is on the rise, some of the fighters are on the rise but with that success comes some shifting dynamics with the characters. Not everyone gets dragged along at the same pace and so, many tensions arise.
How did the idea for Kingdom come about and how did Venice, California come into the shows setting? I’ve been a fan of MMA for a long time; I really wanted to dive into the MMA world in a way that is different than how the sport itself is marketed. The more and more I got to learn about these fighters and got to know them personally, their lives are filled with the same struggles as anybody else’s but often times a little more extreme. They don’t have a safety net, it’s very dramatic, very risky, there is a lot of high stakes so it was a great place to set a family drama. A lot of things these guys and girls struggle with, mirror what everybody does, so there is universal themes in their lives. But distilled down to a more visceral level.
And Venice? Venice came into the setting because there is a ton of MMA in LA so it’s an organic place to have it. Venice is a very interesting setting, where you have a little bit of the glamour of LA but you still have the grit and sort of the danger. It’s sort of all mixed together which is a lot of how the world of MMA is.
The show is centered on Mixed Martial Arts, do you have onset trainers and is craft service a donut free zone? We do have a lot of trainers, professionals on set at all times. All of our background in the gym are real fighters. We have a guy named Joe “Daddy” Stevenson who is a very famous UFC legend and coach who is on set with us every day. He is our onsite technical advisor and he trains all the actors one-on-one, together and while we’re shooting. Joe is on the show a lot. We also have another technical advisor by the name of Greg Jackson. He is a legend in the sport and is the top trainer in the world right now. Greg is based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico but he is the guy I talk to on a regular basis. He and I go through all the scripts. I always go out and spend a couple of weeks with him before every season starts.
One of your fans, Julie Plec, who has tweeted about Kingdom, her writers take daily walks as a group around the facility. What sort of daily rituals do your writers do to get the creative juices flowing? When we come in, we all have coffee and then we beat the shit of Johne Frye, who is our writers assistant. [Laughs] So we beat him around for a while and then when we tire, we’re ready to go.
Which character do you most identify with? This isn’t a copout, but really and truly, they all are my favorites in that… As a writer, a little piece of you is in everything, so they each kind of have a thread running through them that is personal or at least interesting. If it’s not the literal thing that they’re dealing with it still has an emotional resonance to me. All of these guys.
Ronda Rousey is killing it in the UFC world and has a little feud with Floyd Mayweather. Who do you think would win that fight? Ronda versus Floyd… I think if Ronda could get a hold of him, get him on the ground, she might be able to beat up on him. If it’s stand up, I think he’d probably smoke her. But if she can get a hold of him, who knows.
More and more woman are creating a lasting impression in the MMA world, will you have more women in Season 2? We definitely have that this coming season. It’s a huge part of the sport, it’s an incredibly fast growing side. I think Ronda Rousey has been amazing for it and she is dominating and I think in the future the talent pool will become a lot deeper. There will be more rivals for people like Ronda and a little more parody. Right now, she’s just a superstar and everyone else is kind of new.
Do you think there is anyone that can beat Ronda right now? No, I don’t think she really has a challenger. But I think it’s great for the sport, it’s happening at every gym you go to. There are women training all the time.
Nick Jonas plays Nate Kulina and in Season 1 he battled a lot with his sexuality. Will Nick’s character continue to battle with his sexuality in Season 2? Not only Nate’s character, it’s sort of everyone trying to figure out their identity and who they are and where they fit in. So Nate’s struggle will continue, it’s not so simple. He’s not in a theatre troupe he’s in a fighting family and a very aggressive testosterone driven world. His family loves him, his immediate family of course, but also the family at the gym and the world. They love him. But I think he’s scared and afraid of how his sexuality might re-contextualize him in relation to those people. Even if he is accepted, he doesn’t want to be thought of as other, you know, different.
Mark Consuelos will be guest starring in this coming season as a friend from Alvey’s past. Tell us a little bit about his character. He plays a guy named Sean Chapas, who was a guy who fought with Alvey back in the day. They were contemporaries. They haven’t really seen each other in several years. But in the meantime Chapas has gone off and become very successful. He comes back to see Alvey and I think they both feed each other’s dark side.
What kind of drinking game should Kingdom fans play while watching the Season 2 premiere? Take a show of tequila every time somebody says “fuck”. You’ll get pretty drunk by the time you get out of the teaser.
What shows are you binge-watching at the moment? I’m not really binge watching. Well, what’s your go-to when you get home? College football. [laughs] Project Greenlight has been pretty good. I love Veep. I think Veep is such an amazing show. I really like Fargo.
What advice would you give to some of our readers who are currently trying to produce a dramatic series? I say, number one, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. I don’t like to know exactly where I’m going. I mean, I like to know the kind of global truth of what I’m going towards. But I don’t like to know plot wise exactly what I’m heading towards. I like to be able to kind of discover as you go, and that’s just how this show works. Not all shows can work that way. But for me, I don’t like to get slaved to a premise or like a hook for the show. I really like it to be about the characters because that’s really what I think, in my opinion, is what people come back for: falling in love with the people populating the show. Versus the hook or the gimmick which, you know, I think you have to have in a lot of ways to sell a network show. But for me, it’s find a great world that you could put your characters in. A world where the premise doesn’t swallow up the characters.
Last question, it being our Halloween edition, what are you going to be for Halloween? Oh man, a fern.