“I hear actors pooh-pooh the idea… people might see them as a certain thing. I welcome it” – Frank Grillo on Typecasting
You’ve seen actor Frank Grillo in plenty of movies and television series even if you don’t immediately recognize him. Of course, by far his most famous role is playing supervillain Brock “Crossbones” Rumlow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Grillo didn’t become Crossbones overnight. After starting his career in a beer commercial, Grillo has spent the last two decades building a solid resume of credits in television and film. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Grillo speaks about his career ambitions, his “dirty secret” in becoming an actor, and what he thinks of himself as an actor.
Grillo had ambitions to become something of an action hero, but he believes his Italian-American appearance steered his acting career in a different direction. He says, “I always wanted to be an actor. I really did. I was intrigued by the Steve McQueens, the [Charles] Bronsons and the Lee Marvins of the world. I always loved those guys growing up, watching those films. But conventional wisdom says I come from a family of immigrants basically, so that’s not really the trajectory. So that wasn’t even an option, but I always kind of dabbled in it.” Later, Grillo explains about how his cultural background influenced his career in a positive way, adding, “Coming from immigrant Italian people, the one thing you do is work hard. If you really work hard and stick to it, something will happen. I don’t know what. I can’t quantify success. But then it did. It really did.”
In fact, Grillo didn’t start acting right away — he graduated from New York University with a degree in business and started in a different field entirely. He reveals, “When I graduated college I decided that I was going to try to be an actor, but it was my dirty secret… I was in acting classes, was in a theater group… and somehow got to these Coors commercials [his first major paying job]. That got me to a point to not work anymore on Wall Street, which got me enough money to concentrate just on acting, which got me an agent, and then I got on a soap opera [Guiding Light]. It all happened very quickly.”
By “quickly,” Grillo means in part that he’s been cast in a variety of roles, including in films like Warrior, The Grey, the last two Captain America movies, and End of Watch. Though Grillo has spent the last several years starring in many films, he now aims to follow the career path of his The Grey co-star Liam Neeson — whom Grillo named one of his sons after. He reveals, “At this point, I’m not thirty years old, so I have a finite amount of life left in me. I want to make sure that I do as much as I can within the genre. I use Liam Neeson as an example, because he’s a great friend of mine and I’ve watched his career with Taken go in a certain direction. I’d be lying if I told you that money and finances aren’t a factor. I have three children, [including]two very young children. At my age, to know that within the next five years I’ll keep doing these kind of movies, and I’m able to make a certain amount of money… and my family is okay, well then that’s what I’m doing. There will never be a romantic comedy on my resume.”
What Grillo means by swearing off romantic comedies — though to be fair, he did appear in a small role in 2002’s The Sweetest Thing — is that he seems aware of the type of roles he is considered for and is comfortable with that. He explains, “I found a place that I feel really great in, and I’m comfortable, but not complacent. I can take each character and find something cool and make the audience dig the guy without having to play something that’s so far away from who I am that I take this great risk for the sake of taking a risk. I hear actors pooh-pooh the idea… people might see them as a certain thing. I welcome it, because I think in cinema we’re missing guys that are throwbacks to the Lee Marvins and those guys. I’ve said it before. If I can have even five percent of what those guys had, and people respond, I’m all in all day.”
So is Grillo resigned to doing only certain types of films? Not necessarily, because to him it all depends on the team he works with. He explains, “I really wanted to be respected by the people that I worked with. I wanted to be able to work with really cool people, people who are at the top of their game. I still want that. That’s still what I strive for… I gotta struggle. I gotta hustle for that, and it keeps me going. It keeps me getting up. There’s more. Keep going. Not that it’s better, but it’s different. Stay hungry.”