Handsome Kenny Johnson — Maria Bello’s onscreen boyfriend in “Prime Suspect” — admits he’s found challenges in the character that didn’t exist for him in his former detective roles on “The Shield” and “Saving Grace,” or his motorcycle gang member character on “Sons of Anarchy.” “A personal relationship feels more real and naked and exposed and difficult than playing a corrupt cop,” he says. “Just living with a person and all its complexities and subtleties, to me, feels challenging.”
Johnson, who was brought onto “Prime Suspect” at the 11th hour in a change of actors, clicked with Bello right away, which is a good thing, since they didn’t have much time for hanging out and getting to know each other. “She’s got so much on her plate — every scene of every show, practically. And she has her Haiti charity, along with work. And she has her 10-year-old son. I make it as easy as I can for her. I do my homework,” he points out.
Of course, the prime challenge for “Prime Suspect” right now is staying alive. In October, the network ordered six additional scripts of the police drama, but ratings have been weak and so far, there’s no green light for those episodes to be shot.
MEANWHILE: Johnson doesn’t keep up those guns of his without a certain amount of effort — and we’re not talking about firearms here, but his own arms. “I box every day,” he tells us. And there’s more.
“I arm-wrestled for a bunch of years. I was second in the world in my weight class,” reports the actor. “This year, I’m trying to get to the amateur world championships.” He calls the “crazy little sport” his “secret life. I do it as a hobby. People think arm wrestling is so stupid.” And yet, proponents say there’s more to arm wrestling than commonly assumed — strategy, not just brute strength — and they’d like to see more coverage of it, as well as its inclusion in the Olympics.
Johnson’s friend and mentor in the sport is famous champ Neil Bell of Perth, Australia — a.k.a. the late Heath Ledger’s uncle. “He befriended me in my first competition over a battle. Such an old-school, Neanderthal kind of thing to do.” Gotta love it.