Kingdom’s Matt Lauria Previews a Season of Darkness


Matt Lauria has a title to defend. More specifically, his character, Ryan “The Destroyer” Wheeler is the one who will be defending the title he won at the end of last season when Kingdom enters the ring for Round 2 on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. ET. The MMA drama’s action will pick up six months after Ryan’s title fight and airs on DirecTV’s Audience Network. The series was recently renewed for 20 episode, which DirecTV will separate into a second and third season but will be filmed back-to-back.

Winning a title in Season 1 wasn’t the only thing keeping Ryan busy, as he also wrestled with feelings for ex Lisa (Kiele Sanchez). She’s now pregnant with Alvey’s (Frank Grillo) child and a female fighter (Under the Dome’s Natalie Martinez) joins the gym under her tutelage. How will Ryan deal with these changes? For more insight, The TV Junkies checked in with Lauria to talk about everything coming up for Ryan in Season 2, his dark turn and intense training regime as well as why he feels sorry for Blindspot’s Jaimie Alexander.

The TV Junkies: With Season 2 jumping ahead six months, what’s Ryan’s mindset like now that he has a title to defend?

Matt Lauria: What’s interesting is you see Ryan really contrite and humbled in the first season, but then what begins to be explored is how success affects that standard and that balance. The theme that takes place with Ryan is that ultimately, at the end of the day, the man is who the man is. Perhaps it was success, perhaps it was recognition, perhaps it was a certain degree of attention that led to Ryan’s demise earlier in his life? It’s a balancing act of trying to keep those things in check.

TTVJ: During the fight in the Season 1 finale “The Destroyer” persona really seemed to take hold of Ryan. Will we see that dark side come out again in Season 2?

ML: To me that’s the “diet version” of “The Destroyer,” that we see in Season 1 because at the end of the fight he’s also a good sportsman with his opponent. I think it takes for Ryan a certain battle mode, a certain warrior mode to succeed in the fight. All I can say is that you’re seeing [in Season 2] sides of Ryan that you’ve never seen before. Sides of him are coming out that surprised me when I was reading the scripts.

TTVJ: You do, as an actor, tap into a lot of dark places for the character. Does that ever unintentionally carry over into real life?

ML: It’s funny that you say “dark” because man, you ain’t seen the half of it. The thing is, he’s not a good guy or a bad guy, he’s a guy. The first season is like the “diet version” of dark if the second season is dark. He’s just a complicated guy that’s dealing with some really fucked up stuff. It definitely gets way darker, and it’s all the struggle and coming out of his desperate psychological and personal needs that are driving him to places of darkness or fear or anger.

In terms of carrying over, this job is so relentless and the way that we commit to it–I’m working with individuals who commit so intensely and we’re all on board. There’s no slacking and I certainly feel a really heavy responsibility not to be the weakest link or let any of my extraordinarily hard working and gifted co-workers down.

One thing I do is at the end of the night–we have these outstanding women in the makeup trailer who labour over our tattoos and scars, who will put a hot towel on your face. I’ve just taken that moment, it sounds really fancy but it’s not, and just sit in the chair and have it be a Moment of Zen. When they remove the tattoos is when I remove Ryan, and I have to embrace that moment of chillaxin’.

Endemol Shine Studios/ DirecTV
Endemol Shine Studios/ DirecTV

TTVJ: Jaimie Alexander is getting a lot of attention for all her tattoos in Blindspot, but you guys have a good amount of ink work as well. What’s that process like?

ML: We do and it takes a lot of time, and the other issue is we’re running around half naked all the time and we have to be mindful of them when we’re grappling or fighting so that they don’t get rubbed off. Having said that, when I was looking at her tattoos, I was like ‘Man!’ I know what it’s like to care for and upkeep these tattoos and the two hours it takes to do all this stuff. I do not envy that woman! I will never complain again.

I never complain anyway because they do so much for the character. It does so much for me. I’m always grateful for it but yeah, I have no room to complain after that poor woman.

TTVJ: Ryan has admitted to still being in love with Lisa, but she’s now pregnant with Alvey’s baby. How does Ryan respond to that and will he try to move on from her in Season 2?

ML: Ryan has such unique experiences that affect how he processes things. Ryan is not a guy that sits and mulls over things at home and worries. His prison experience influences him where if it’s right there in front of you, then you take it. If someone is posturing and talking shit, then you hit them. There’s no delay. He compartmentalizes it instantly. What it makes for is an even more complicated and dynamic relationship between the two of them.

As for how the romantic aspect of it goes, it’s like there’s no conversation to be had. ‘You’re having a baby with Alvey, so even if anything ever happened with us, this stupid choice is going to mean that even if we wanted to be happily ever after, Alvey’s always going to be in our picture. It’s done. Goodnight. It sucks.’

But here’s the other thing of it, Lisa is the only person that understands Ryan on the level that she does. He doesn’t have that relationship or camaraderie or empathy from any other direction. She understands what makes him tick sometimes better than Alvey, certainly better than Jay. Now there’s this woman who is the closest person to knowing who he is and really knowing him, but now he feels like she owes him some favours. But she feels like he owes her some favours because of what emerges. It’s obviously a complicated relationship and he still obviously cares about her tremendously.

TTVJ: Keith (Paul Walter Hauser) is a character that brought about a whole other side to Ryan. Will we see him at all in Season 2?

ML: He’s back in a really interesting and awesome capacity. We love Paul Walter Hauser because he’s tremendous and the Ryan/Keith saga continues in fun and unexpected ways.

TTVJ: As a female viewer I’m excited about the addition of female fighter Alicia (Natalie Martinez) in Season 2. How does Ryan react to her and can you preview their interactions at all?

ML: I have done things with that woman on screen that I’ve never done before on screen. That could be fighting, could be chess… But first of all, Natalie is amazing and perfect for this role. I think it’s fair to say right away she has an interest in Ryan. Is it his being a champion of the gym? Is it his former glory? Is it an attraction? Is it an ulterior motive or agenda?

There is some interest. We end up having a lot of scenes together. I love working with her and the character. It’s explosive because both these guys are really intense athletes that have that special champion mentality. They are self-possessed in all the right and wrong ways. They collide in some really interesting ways.


Are you excited to see Ryan fall into the darkness during Season 2 of Kingdom? Sound off with your predictions and thoughts in the comments below.

Kingdom airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on DirecTV’s Audience Network in the US. Season 2 will premiere Thursday, November 11 at 9 p.m. on Bravo in Canada.