“It’s not just an MMA show,” declares “Kingdom” star Natalie Martinez as we chat (watch above) about the hit Audience Network family drama series that she joined in season two. “You really get involved with these characters,” she says, “get to know their family, know their stories, know what’s happening in their personal life, see how they deal with stuff, how they feel.”
The action on “Kingdom” centers around Frank Grillo‘s character Alvey Kulina, a mixed martial arts trainer who owns and operates the Navy St. gym in Venice, CA. Martinez — whose TV credits include “End of Watch” and “Secrets and Lies” — plays Alicia Mendez, the gym’s first female fighter.
Alvey manage the careers of his sons Nate (Nick Jonas) and Jay (Jonathan Tucker) while dealing with both his drug-addicted ex-wife (Joanna Going) and pregnant girlfriend (Kiele Sanchez). Martinez becomes a surrogate member of the family when she joins the gym. “Everyone was so dope and so great,” she says of the tight-knit cast who welcomed her in with open arms. “I was so excited to meet them and be apart of this, and they were just excited for a female fighter.”
And with her own experiences as a boxer and muay thai fighter, she says the role was a natural fit. “It finds you, and you find it. For my character as well, it’s something that she came across.” Alicia still has a long way to go this season, which just returned with a new batch of 10 episodes after a brief hiatus. “She wants this,” the actress explains. “She’s driven, she’s focused. You’re going to see her grow from a green fighter to someone a little more seasoned.”
While the show features many brutal fight scenes, Martinez says keeping the focus on the family heightens the stakes of these. “When you’re watching them in that ring, you know who you want to win,” she explains. “Just the fact that you connect with them on whatever level, I think it allows people to get more invested. Within that, you root for them, and they find redemption.”
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