By Dan Buffa
Frank Grillo wants to punch you in the face and would like you to hit him back.
It’s not personal.
It’s just something he needs to do.
Grillo lives by a saying and it’s simple and blunt. “Hit them first. Hit them hard. Hit them a lot.”
It’s part of the 51 year old actor’s DNA. He needs to hit things and do it often in order to breathe properly and stay relaxed. Luckily, when he joined We Are Live in May to talk about his 2016 surge of entertainment, nobody was injured but guest hosts Rafe Williams and I were blown away by Grillo’s experiences.
Grillo is hitting audiences hard this year with a fleet of action packed entertainment in all shapes and sizes. He fought Chris Evans’ Captain America in May’s box office smash Civil War and stars in the hottest show on television in AT&T’s Kingdom, which is currently in the home stretch of its second season. On July 1st, he reprises the role of Sergeant Leo Barnes in The Purge: Election Year aka Purge 3.
Resiliency and a do or die spirit has aided Grillo since his career kicked off back in 1993. He has carved out a long career in Hollywood doing the kind of roles that others are afraid will drown them in typecasting. The ones that kick serious amounts of ass and make guys want to join gyms and cause women to swoon.
Grillo saw roles like a trainer in Pride and Glory and End of Watch as opportunities to stay in the game and keep his foot in the door before a breakthrough role like 2011’s Warrior came along. That was the film that opened doors for Grillo.
The appeal is easy to see. What you see in Grillo on screen is what you get. He doesn’t care for stunt doubles, meritocracy on sets, and actors who don’t like to fight him. When it came time for Chris Evans and Grillo to tangle in an elevator for Captain America: Winter Soldier, Grillo insisted on Evans trading blows with him. Grillo did the same with Jason Statham on the set of Homefront. Do it right or don’t do it at all. That’s the Grillo way.
He’s an action guy and someone who cares as much about getting a stunt right as what his face looks like after a hand to hand combat scene is finished shooting. Unlike some actors who look to their agent or the director for a stunt double, Grillo works hand in hand with the stunt coordinating team. “You’re going to pay me to do this. I’m up for the challenge,” Grillo said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. He isn’t letting anybody else take the credit or the punches.
Take Kingdom for example. A show about what fighters face outside the ring as much as inside of it. The MMA world is merely a supporting character in the abyss of Byron Balasco’s world of misfit toys meant to consume one another through their problems. Grillo is at the heart of the production and was the first person Balasco called when the show was being prepped.
In a recent interview, Balasco talked about why he teamed up with Grillo. “He knows the world so intimately and he's been doing it for 25 years. He's been boxing his whole life so we could speak that same language.” Working with Grillo doesn’t feel like you are standing next to an actor. It’s more like standing next to a warrior celebrating his craft. “There's never a false note when he's on set. You don't feel like it's work. It just seems natural.”
Playing badass heroes comes natural to Grillo, and it will continue in the next year. He will team up with Indonesian martial arts superstar Iko Uwais in Beyond Skyline and will soon get behind the wheel of writer/director Jeremy Rush’s Wheelman, which is being released exclusively by Netflix. The project brings longtime friends and collaborators Joe Carnahan and Grillo back together after they collaborated on the underrated Liam Neeson film, The Grey.
This October, the Kingdom crew goes back to work on Season 3. Grillo doesn’t mind the workload. He’s been working towards this kind of exposure for years. While the ability to pick and choose from scripts is nice, Grillo likes his life and has no designs on becoming the next Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Walking down the street and hearing his name screamed towards him is something new, but not something he wants to see plastered up on every corner. It’s all about the work for Grillo. He doesn’t need the glamour.
Why should you pay attention to Grillo? He’s the real deal. He’s not a fake. He’s bled for his craft. If there was ever one guy who personifies “the one and the only”, it’s this guy. Everything he touches turns into an authentic experience.
When I left The Purge: Anarchy screening and ran into a fellow consumer of the Grillo experience in the lobby, he couldn’t find words to sum up what the experience was like. All he could say was, “that guy is something else”. Indeed he is.
Frank Grillo is no longer “that guy”. He is a legit face in the world of film and television. His 2016 surge of entertainment is just getting started.
Listen to the full audio of We Are Live visit with Grillo below.