Kingdom creator and EP Byron Balasco was on hand for Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event Sunday, joined onstage by some of the stars including Frank Grillo, Kiele Sanchez, Matt Lauria, Jonathan Tucker, and Joanna Going. The Audience Network show, which will premiere its third and final season May 31, follows Grillo’s character, a former mixed martial arts fighter trying to keep his gym in business.
Intrigued by the world of MMA and the people who choose to do it for a living, Balasco said it was important for Kingdom to remain authentic to the sport. “The main logistical concern is that the actors are in the shape that they are in and train as hard as they do,” he said. “We hire real MMA fighters to fight with them so we don’t have to use a lot of stunt double. It feels real, and it feel more emotional.”
Grillo, who also has a fighting background, echoed the sentiment. “We never wavered from that. These guys become fighters and entrenched in the world. I think its one of the best TV shows, as far as believability, that I’ve seen.” He lauded Balasco “for never changing what he initially said this show is going to be right to the end.”
The show airs on AT&T’s Audience Network, which Balasco said really allows him “to make a show like this that perhaps wouldn’t live on a broadcast network.” He added that it’s “a bit of a niche show, but once you get into it, you realize that these are very human themes. Being at a place like Audience, it really lets you explore that and you don’t have to pull anything back.”
Audience Network’s You Me Her, created and executive produced by John Scott Shepherd, is a comedy about a polyamorous relationship that Shepherd termed as a “throuple” while onstage for The Contenders Emmys at the DGA Theater. Stars Greg Poehler, Priscilla Faia, and Melanie Papalia also were om the panel.
“I become really interested in alternative relationships and the growing menu of happiness … the idea that we’re constantly expanding what adult relationships can do,” Shepherd told moderator Pete Hammond of Deadline about the origins of the show. “Then, seeing that, I grew very drawn to the idea of bringing it down to the ground floor of mainstream. … In a series of events, this becomes a true romantic comedy that happens to involve three people.”
The show is set in Portland and centers a suburban married couple who enter into a three-way relationship with a grad student.
“We chose Portland partially because of it being liberal and we didn’t want to do any trope of extreme television suburbia,” Shepherd said. “We found this cool, legibly progressive people and we thought it was more interesting to see those people surprised by themselves.”
The series, which was picked up for a Season 3, airs Tuesdays on Audience Network for DirecTV and U-verse customers.