While on the set in Pittsburgh for Spike’s action/drama series The Kill Point, I had a chance to sit down with actor Frank Grillo, who plays one of the ex-soldiers turned bank robbers. Grillo’s had steady gigs in TV and film, highlighted by roles on The Shield and Prison Break. Soap opera fans might remember him from the few years he worked on Guiding Light. He’ll have a prominent role in The Express, a film currently in production about Ernie Davis, the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy. He also filled me in on a cool new project he was trying to set up with two Hollywood heavy hitters. Plus, as the photo reveals, he can totally kick your ass with kung fu.
What attracted you to The Kill Point?
Frank Grillo: Probably the fact that these guys are veterans of Iraq, and given what’s going on currently with the situation of these guys coming back. I don’t know if you know, but the government is not exactly stand-up as far as taking care of these kids when they come back, and the problems that they have from post-traumatic stress and so forth. That aspect of it is what attracted me to this.
Is there a political message to The Kill Point?
FG: I think it is desperation. These guys aren’t necessarily criminals, but they’re desperate. And they’re alone. Like with Vietnam, these guys come back from the war and nobody really cares about them. They have some emotional issues that need to be dealt with, and they don’t have the funds to take care of themselves. So they’re kind of lost. I think that’s the message, that we have to take care of these people, these kids that we send there, these men that come back damaged.
What did you do to prepare for your role as an ex-soldier?
FG: We’ve done a lot of work together as a group. Believe it or not, YouTube has been a great resource, because a lot of these kids that are there make these videos of themselves and they’re just so autobiographical. It’s fascinating. You cry, you laugh. So we did a lot of hunting down stories off of YouTube and of course in the newspaper and stuff, which skews the stories a bit. And we did a lot of weapons training and things like that as group.
I sense that the hostages in the series aren’t just props. What role do they play?
FG: This is a great thing about this script. Also, the fact that James DeMonaco wrote this is another thing that attracted me to it. Each story, we learn a lot about each person, not only their backstory but how they react in a situation like this. And the hostages are very well fleshed-out characters that have a direct effect on us and what the outcome of this situation is. In other words, there’s that thing they say about how in a situation like this the hostages and the hostage takers have a weird kind of bond. And that takes place here, and what ensues in the later half of the series is in direct relation to what those relationships were forged in the beginning.
Is there an advantage for an actor to work on a cable series?
FG: There is. There is a freedom that cable allows you, because they’re not so concerned with the competition from the other networks that basically, they just keep working against themselves. There’s an artistic freedom — not to say that they let you do whatever you want — but there’s just more growth as an actor and a writer and director in the cable networks in general. And I think we’ve seen that networks like HBO and Showtime and FX and now Spike are doing much better work than what’s on the networks. A lot of what’s on cable is very much in the movies.
What’s up for you after The Kill Point?
FG: I’m in the process of working a deal with Mr. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks to go do a miniseries for HBO for 16 months in Australia called Pacific. About a real-life war hero, actually four of them, and I would play one of them. So I’m excited about that.
[Update: Here’s recent casting news from The Pacific, and Grillo’s not mentioned … yet. It looks like he won’t be one of the leads, anyway.]