Child actor turned leading man Jonathan Tucker, 33, was born and raised in Charlestown. The son of art historian Paul Hayes Tucker (an expert on Monet) and his equally prominent wife, marketing consultant Maggie Moss-Tucker, Jonathan attended the Park School in Brookline and played Fritz in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker for five years. He began acting at the age of 12 and has appeared in numerous films, including The Deep End, Hostage, In the Valley of Elah, Love Comes to the Executioner, The Next Three Days, The Ruins, Sleepers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Two If by Sea and The Virgin Suicides. His television credits include roles on The Black Donnellys, Justified and Parenthood. Currently, he can be seen on the DirecTV drama Kingdom, whose second season premieres on Oct. 14. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Soroff Biggest difference in being cast as a child actor and as an adult?
Jonathan Tucker I think I have a lot less fear. When you’re younger, you’re looking to please, and once you’ve settled into yourself, you’re more willing to take risks.
I’d say good parents, good education and a healthy sense of humility.
Yeah. In success our friends know us, and in adversity we know our friends. If you think you’re looking at the top of the mountain, you are guaranteed to reach a valley, so you’d better be ready.
Well, both my parents collect, but my father, in particular, has an affinity for French drawings. That was always a big hit whenever I’d bring a young woman home in high school—have the professor give a tour. And now that I’ve moved into a home here in Los Angeles, I have a few of those pieces, and they bring me back to my days at 21 Monument Square in Charlestown.
As hard as it is to admit, you can’t beat the Met. As reluctant as I am, as a Bostonian, to give New York that credit. But what’s been exciting about being in LA is what’s happening in the gallery scene. I gather it’s reminiscent of New York in the ’70s. It’s yielded some really interesting young artists.
Favorite movie you were in? I recently saw Sleepers again. I showed it to a friend who hadn’t seen it, and I’ve gotta say it’s really good. It’s strange and exciting to look back on the films that I did when I was younger, because it’s not just the movies themselves. They were part of my childhood. It’s a double experience.
Would you let your kid act? Only if they dragged me by the hand, the way I did with my parents. They’d need to want it so much [that] they’d have to figure out what an agent is and how to get one.
Well, if there were something else I loved as much, then I should be doing it, so I’m not sure. I really like politics when it’s done right, and you’re able to help people. And I love history. So maybe something in those two fields.
I fell in love with Nova Scotia. The maritime region of Canada feels like what Cape Cod and Maine and Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard were like before they were discovered by tourists. I ended up going back every summer for six or seven years, and I still kinda pine after it. It’s the perfect place to have a summer home. But I’ve shot all over the world, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love and explore some places that I might not otherwise see.
I had a rough time in Romania. The craft services weren’t quite what one would expect. [Laughs.] Seriously, it’s like the saying that only boring people get bored. Deer Lodge, Montana [the location for Love Comes to the Executioner], has literally two industries: There’s a prison, and there’s the mine. A lot of people might assume that would be awful, but you kind of look for what it has to offer, and there’s always something interesting.
So, earlier you mentioned knowing yourself. What did you mean? Well, I’ve always known I wasn’t the guy who walked down the hallway in high school and all the girls swooned. I was the guy who has the locker next to you, who you end up falling in love with, but I was there the whole time. I’ve always tried to hold that mirror up, and that’s what’s nice about being in my 30s. I’m not scared. I know who I am. I’m not looking to please at all costs. I’m looking to collaborate and bring something to the table.
Kingdom Well, I can squat 350 pounds. [Laughs.] Seriously, I don’t know what to say except that I’ve worked very hard at expanding what my range is, and you can do that in a practical, concerted way.
How? By waking up every day and working, whether or not you have a gig. It’s another part of the Bostonian in me, but I try to put in a full day’s work at what I do, whether it’s movement, studying dialects, the Alexander method, breathing, reading, going to the gym, whatever…All of it is preparation, and I try to focus on it. I don’t want to scrape by.
Absolutely. Even more so, Charlestown. The experiences that I had growing up there formed me, and I hope I make good on the promise of the Athens of America. That’s the transition from child to adult. Do you know, and are you comfortable with, who you are? I’m at least far enough along to know that I’m never going to do a musical.
Well, first of all, I can’t sing. I don’t have that theatrical comedy rhythm. I don’t pick up on it. So I know what I am. I’m not Scott Eastwood, who my sister was just telling me was the most gorgeous human being alive. I’m good-looking enough. And with the right lighting, good writing, etc., I can get there. I’m becoming good at what I do.
Well, I’d say with Kingdom. Most people didn’t think—especially while I was playing the mayor of Berkeley on Parenthood—that I’d end up with a Mohawk and a goatee and go up and down 30 pounds in a season as a drug-addicted, alcoholic fighter.
Justified. It’s tough to come on board a moving train that’s been running for six years, going 120 miles per hour. There’s a lot of expectations. There’s a lot of fans. And in order to do it, you’ve gotta be going 130 miles an hour when you jump on.
Oh, for sure. There are people who are unprofessional and ego-driven. They don’t inspire creative collaboration. They create a fear-based environment in which people feel uncomfortable.
Favorite TV show? Right now? Difficult People. I think it’s absolutely genius.
Actor you most want to work with? I’d love to work with Bryan Cranston.
How it sucks you in so elegantly that you forget how all the things that used to seem weird are now completely normal. All of a sudden, I’m walking around with cold-pressed juices and a yoga mat, and I’m like, “Wait a second…” Plus, I’m loving it.
Thing you miss most about Boston? How long is this article? I miss absolutely everything.
Photographed by Dustin Snipes in Los Angeles; Grooming: Sienree / Celestine Agency; Styling: Alvin Stillwell / Celestine Agency; Wardrobe: G Star tank top, shirt and jeans, Aldo shoes, Samsara necklace