'Guiding Light' - Catching up with Frank Grillo </font>
TEN YEARS ago, a young New York actor named Frank Grillo stepped into the role of Hart Jessup on "Guiding Light," and for the next three years, played to a loyal audience that has continued to follow him into films and prime-time television. He also wooed and wed Wendy Moniz, who played Dinah Marler, the lady Hart Jessup was involved with on the show.
"Guiding Light" was Grillo's television drama debut. He has since put together a TV credits list that includes, among other shows, Wasteland, Blind Justice, Battery Park and The Shield. Currently, he co-stars on ABC's Prison Break as attorney Nick Savrinn, a man he describes as intelligent and ambitious a combination Nick believes can get him whatever he wants. Maybe!
Grillo's film work has also been impressive, with roles in The Sweetest Thing, Minority Report and April's Shower. He's currently shooting the upcoming movie Pride and Glory, opposite Colin Farrell and Ed Norton.
Some actors call soap operas a training ground for other work. Grillo disagrees:
"Everything you do as an actor teaches you something." But soaps are not, as Grillo notes, necessarily the best learning ground for other genres.
"There's a difference in the way you work in films compared to the way you work in soaps. And the same with prime-time television."
The pace and the way scenes are shot are unique to its genre, he notes.
Grillo's first acting experience was in college theatre productions, and theatre remains his favourite medium. He agrees with those who say it's easier for a stage actor to adapt to soaps than it is for actors from films and prime time. Briefly, he explains that the action on both the stage and the soap set is larger. "In theatre, you have to be seen and heard by whoever is sitting in the last row in the house."
The soap format, which goes back to its radio roots, also has to be broad enough to compete with the distractions that are an inevitable part of daytime viewing.
Grillo's work in Prison Break has been cited by critics as some of the best acting on television today. He accepts the compliment graciously, adding: "I'm lucky that I've got a wonderful role in Nick. The writing is great. It makes it easy for me to do my job."
Since the 1930s, when Hollywood struck a gold mine with its prison movies, the subject has been a popular one -- mostly with men. However, there is a growing audience among women as well, thanks to a greater emphasis on story rather than mostly action. For example, women want to know why someone reached a point in life where he or she wound up in prison, and could he or she be helped? Men want to know what he did, how he got caught and what's happening to him in prison.
All that being said, why this nearly century-old love affair with prison-themed films and TV shows?
"I'd say, because we are both repelled and fascinated by this world, which is separate and apart from what we know," says Grillo. "On one hand, we feel grateful that it shuts away those who would harm us. But we know that sometimes innocent people are locked up, and what if that happens to us? Could we survive in a place where your freedom to make your own choices no longer exists?
"As I said earlier, prisons fascinate and frighten us, and the only safe way to see into that world is on screen."
NOTE: Coming up next for Frank Grillo is the lead role in the pilot for Hollis & Rae, the new ABC drama from Steven Bochco
FYI - if anyone would like to see the episodes of The Shield that Frank appeared in you can get the dvds. That's how I was able to see them. If you can get your hands on Wasteland I'd highly recommend it. The character is so different from the others that Frank has portrayed.