Long before he began pursuing a career acting on the big screen, Frank Grillo was a Yankees fan growing up in the Bronx.
Grillo, 55, recalled his family’s obsession with his hometown club, bonding with relatives at his Italian-American household while his favorite team played on his television set.
“I remember the games were always on the television regardless of who was in the house,” Grillo told Inside The Pinstripes. “Bobby Murcer and Roy White, those were the great Yankees and they were just part of the Bronx where I was from. It was a sense of pride.”
As was the case for many local baseball fans growing up in the 1970s, Grillo’s favorite player was Thurman Munson. The future actor had just turned 12 when New York won the World Series in 1977, the franchise’s first of two titles in a row.
“Whether they were good or not, to be a Yankee or to live in New York and to live in the Bronx, it didn't matter if they won championships, they were always the best team,” Grillo explained. “To be a Yankee, you were the best baseball player ever. That's what you thought when we were growing up. I still think that.”
Grillo was quite the athlete as a kid, playing football, wrestling and lacrosse. Despite his love for the game of baseball, however, the Bronx native moved on from the sport after Little League.
“Funny story,” he said, allowing a smile to creep across his face. “I was always afraid of the ball. I'm not afraid to fight, I'm afraid of that ball. A couple times the ball popped up and hit me in the face and then I got hit and I was like, ‘I've had it, this is not my sport. It's not for me.’ I felt sad that I never really connected as a player to baseball.”
Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. Grillo has since blossomed into a renowned actor, known for taking on Captain America as Brock Rumlow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, among other starring roles.
It’s almost like Grillo’s childhood as a Yankees fan, constantly immersed in a roster featuring the biggest names in the league, prepared him for his work on star-studded casts in major motion pictures.
“The Yankees have always been the top of the food chain as far as talent. They've always paid a lot of money for that talent and the Marvel Universe has morphed into the same thing,” Grillo said. “When I was doing the Avengers Endgame, it was the 10-year anniversary for Marvel and we had everyone on stage, surrounding Stan Lee, and when I looked around that stage, there must have been 40 Oscars. It was overwhelming.”
The 55-year-old added that actors like Chris Evans weren’t famous when they started working on films with Marvel. A decade later, they’re superstars.
It’s comparable to a prospect like Aaron Judge transforming into one of the most famous athletes in the nation only a few years after he made his big-league debut in pinstripes.
Speaking of a cast filled to the brink with star power, Grillo’s newest project is no different. The movie, called ‘Boss Level,’ is a flick starring the likes of Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh and more. It premieres on Friday, March 5, on Hulu.
“Those become iconic names. It doesn't get better,” Grillo said. “I consider myself a lucky kid at my age to be able to do this with these people. I never thought I would.”
‘Boss Level’ has a similar premise to ‘Groundhog Day,’ but with much more action. Grillo attempts to break loose from a mysterious time loop, racing against the clock to save Watts’ character and battle a slew of persistent foes at every turn. The star called it an “homage to the ‘80s action unapologetic R Rated” films that made him fall in love with movies when he was younger.
“You can sit back, you're not thinking about anything else, you don't have to worry about anything, you're not trying to figure out what's happening, you know what's happening in the movie from the first frame, and there's a lot of laughs until there's some heart,” Grillo explained. “It's just a fun ride.”
Grillo said he’s incredibly proud of the way the film turned out, a movie that had been in the works for a decade and encountered countless obstacles (including the COVID-19 pandemic) along the way.
Considering how busy Grillo has been with his acting career over the last few years, the Bronx native admitted that he hasn’t been following the Yankees as closely as he once did. But that doesn’t mean he’s not hearing the chatter from those same relatives that made his fandom grow all those decades ago.
“It's a commitment, and once I'm in, I'm in … [but] I'd love to get back into liking team sports.”