Frank Grillo has done everything the hard way in Hollywood and continues to do so. On top of appearing in the MCU as Crossbones, he started a production company with director Joe Carnahan called War Party films; he starred in one of the most underrated TV series of the last ten years in Kingdom and is one of the most active performers working today. He has eight films releasing in 2021, including Boss Level, which is out today on Hulu to stream. In it, he stars as a man caught in a time loop reliving the day of his death over and over. It also stars Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Annabelle Wallis, Ken Jeong, and about 100 other people you know. It is really good, and can you believe this: Grillo gets to be funny. We got to chat to him about Boss Level, the difficulty getting it to the finish line, the audience now discovering Kingdom on Netflix, and even his return to the MCU on the upcoming What If? animated series for Disney+.
Frank Grillo Is Always In Motion
I want to start with Kingdom for a quick second. You know, the show got put on Netflix, and now it's blown up all over the place like everybody knew it should have. I'm sure you get asked constantly about another season. But I just want to ask, is it a little bittersweet that it's taken off the way it has?
You know, great question and not at all. The fact that you've got a second life with the streaming service that we would have been lucky to have the first go, it's such a blessing. It's not too bittersweet, actually. I think because of the timing and the way the world is now, I think there was a silver lining in it. I could not be happier with how it played out.
I'm a huge fight fan, and I know plenty of people who have never watched MMA in their lives, who watch the show, and they're becoming fight fans now. It's a real shame. But at the same time, I'm really glad that it's found an audience.
I know, and I agree. Conversely, there's nobody there were so many people who were fans but never really saw the show. And then not only did they like the show, but they appreciated the authenticity of the fighting and stuff. So everything that we worked really hard for three years ago, four years ago… you know, sometimes you don't get rewarded immediately. And I feel like a couple of years later; we got the love and the respect that the show as a whole really deserved. My agent, Charlie Jennings, sent a tweet to my buddy James Gunn, the director, and said, "If you haven't seen the show Kingdom while you're in lockdown, you should search it out." Because of that tweet, then Charlie Jennings reached out to Netflix. And he got the whole thing set up in about a week and a half time. Otherwise, you know, we would not be having this conversation at all. Charlie Jennings, get his name out there!
The pandemic's raging on still, but somehow you're still staying one of the busiest guys in Hollywood. Why is that? Do you just have an insane work ethic? Do you have to work?
I do. I mean, I love to work. I think if I'm not working, I'm not my best possible person. But I think we got lucky, Connie (Joe Carnahan), and I got lucky that we were able to work and produce still, a film called Copshop with Gerard Butler. And that took up about three or four months of our time. And we learned a lot about contact protocols and created our own contact tracing system. So we were a little bit on the forefront of, you know, how to make movies during this pandemic.
You guys are used to having those kinds of issues on getting films made. That brings me Boss Level. It sounds like it's been kind of a pain in the ass to get this movie even made, frankly. It sounds like you guys really went through it.
Yeah. I mean, it was percolating for probably a decade. We got shut down by Sony. They weren't up for it; I just didn't have the cache to carry a movie like this at that time. And so it went away, and then when we did get financing, a forty-one-day shoot in the eleventh hour turned into a twenty-seven-day shoot. With all the action and all the stuff that was involved, we had three hundred people that we had employed at that point. We needed to close the whole thing down or do it and figure out a way to get it done. Twenty-seven days and we did it, twenty-seven days with a great crew and then we had problems again getting distribution. We finally got the distribution with Hulu, and so it was like, you know, one thing after the next thing. Not unlike with Kingdom.
What's it like to cram all of that fight training into 27 days?
You know, it was like I had PTSD at the end (laughs). It did take a while to recover because I did 95% of my own stunts. And it was repetitive, but it was not easy. But I have to tell you; it's kind of a testament to how fast and how much time that we spend making movies. There is a lot of things on set we can cut out of the process of making the movies that are not necessary at the end, save a lot of money and be more efficient. And that's what we got to learn from that.
What was it like working with Mel Gibson in this one?
I have to tell you, man, I've been a Mel Gibson fan forever. I grew up on Mel Gibson's movies; he's a great director. He's an incredibly complicated guy. He's had a pretty difficult past decade, problems of his own. He's gotten through them though, he's kind of redeemed himself and fixed himself. I got to tell you, he's now a really good friend, and he's terrific in the film. And I look forward to making more movies with him and having more dinners with him, and picking his brain because he's really a special guy. And I don't think people give him credit for getting back to where he is now, without getting too far down in the weeds (laughs).
Do you think he'd be a fun guy to be stuck in a time loop with?
I think that would be fun to do anything with (laughs).
Was it cool to bring out more of your comedic side with this role?
Oh, man. It was so much fun to be, physically speaking, so comedic. You know, it kind of really close to who I am in my real life. So I had such a ball, you if you would see the outtakes in the behind the scenes all week, it was great. I want to do that more.
Another film you have out right now is Body Brokers. I actually watched it a couple of times this week, and I really enjoyed it. What was it like when you got that script? Were you aware of some of the pieces of information that the script was talking about? Could you believe this is a thing that goes on?
Yeah, that's it exactly. Yes. I read the script and, you know, it's a small role for me. It was a supporting role, which is something I was looking to do. And I read the script, and then I spoke to John Swab, the writer/director, and he had been involved in this. And I was like, this is amazing and fascinating, and I want to do this. I get to play kind of a dark side of Tony Robbins, have some narration, which I always enjoy doing. And look: that is a movie that's made for a million bucks. I think John pulled it off brilliantly for what it is. What I mean is… I know people will critique the film based on many things. But yet when you only have 19 days, and you're limited to a million bucks or so, you have to take that into consideration when watching it.
I know you are getting asked a bunch about Crossbones and the MCU quite a bit. I'm not going to ask you whether Crossbones is coming back because obviously, probably not. And you said probably not, but what was it like to do voice work for What If?
I just did an episode today! I just recorded it in my closet with the guys. That's amazing. It's great to see the trailer. I think it's going to be bigger than the movies. It is so cool. I can't wait for everyone to see that one.
Boss Level is streaming starting today on Hulu. Body Brokers is available digitally and on-demand, and Marvel's What If? will debut this year on Disney+. You can bet you will see Frank Grillo all over the place in about 1,000 other roles as well.