Brutal fight scenes hard to stomach

Joanna Going (above) plays the estranged wife of a gym owner in Kingdom.
Joanna Going (above) plays the estranged wife of a gym owner in Kingdom.PHOTO: RTL CBS EXTREME

After doing two seasons of mixed-martial arts television drama Kingdom, American actress Joanna Going still finds it difficult to stomach violent fight sequences, but she has since gained respect for the sport.

She tells The Straits Times with a chuckle over the telephone from her home in Los Angeles: "I was not a fan of the sport. I knew very little about it, except that there was this thing called cage fighting.

"But I have learnt so much about mixed-martial arts through the show and I've gained enormous admiration for these athletes - for their discipline and the techniques that they are trained in.

"I've come to respect the sport. It's still not easy to watch it, but I do respect it."

Kingdom, which is centred on a family who owns a mixed-martial arts gym in California, is known for its authentic and brutal fight sequences.

Going plays Christina, the estranged and troubled wife of gym owner Alvey Kulina (played by Frank Grillo).

A former drug addict, Christina works as a prostitute and is eager to rekindle her relationship with her two sons Nate (Nick Jonas) and Jay (Jonathan Tucker). She lost touch with them many years ago.

Despite Christina's problems, Going says she can relate to her. The 52-year-old, who has a 12-year-old daughter with her ex-husband, Dylan Walsh of Nip/Tuck (2003-2010) fame, says: "I relate to her as a mother because I'm a mother. Christina is quite a wayward mother, but she does love her children, although she's just not well equipped as a mother.

"Now she's facing these adults who were her children, but she missed their entire childhood.

"My daughter is 12, but I still see her as a two-year-old. I relate to Christina longing to be with her children and to have an intimacy with them."

Indeed, the actress accepts only roles that she can "connect to in some fashion", whether it is a gritty part such as Christina or her former role as the polished First Lady Tricia Walker on acclaimed political series House Of Cards (2014).

She says: "Tricia Walker and Christina - they're about as 180 (degrees) as you can get. But any role is a role that you dive into and research and find any way to connect to. I don't take on a role unless I feel like I have a glimmer of understanding of this person."

Still, she admits that playing "unpleasant characters" is more fun.

"It's a lot less challenging than playing someone who always does everything right or is the hero.

"There's a lot more freedom in Christina. The other actors on the show are quite wrapped around the edges, but I get to play off that. The challenge in it is just sort of to be free and let go and have fun with it."

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• Kingdom Season 2 airs on RTL CBS Extreme (StarHub TV Channel 428 and Singtel TV Channel 335) every Thursday at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2016, with the headline 'Brutal fight scenes hard to stomach'. Print Edition | Subscribe