Opening in theaters, on digital and On Demand February 16th is the new action thriller ‘Lights Out,’ which was directed by Christian Sesma (‘Section Eight’) and stars Frank Grillo (‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’), Mekhi Phifer (‘8 Mile’), Dermot Mulroney (‘Scream VI’), Scott Adkins (‘John Wick: Chapter 4’) and Jamie King (‘Sin City’).
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with Frank Grillo about his work on ‘Lights Out,’ his first reaction to the screenplay, why Duffy was a perfect character for him to play, Duffy’s friendship with Max, working with Mekhi Phifer, and shooting the fight sequences.
The actor also talked about his work on DC Studio’s upcoming animated series ‘Creature Commandos,’ if he’s finished recording and who he recorded with, when it will be released, when we might see him reprise his character in future DCU live-action projects, and a conformation that he will definitely not be in ‘Superman: Legacy.’
Moviefone: To begin with, what was your first reaction to the screenplay, and did you realize admittedly that Duffy was a perfect Frank Grillo character?
Frank Grillo: The screenplay was a solid C+ when I first read it. It was okay, but it was a home run for me. I knew I could knock this one out of the park, so I was not concerned with that. I wanted to get the script to a place where it made sense, and it worked. Look, my buddy Stallone did a movie called ‘Rambo,’ and it’s that guy that I love. It’s that exact kind of character. I’m not comparing myself to the great Sylvester Stallone, but it’s that world.
MF: To follow up, what were some of the changes you wanted made to the script so that this it would work for you?
FG: There was some structural stuff. I can’t get into all of it, but I needed the script to flow a little differently. Then there were some tropes and cliches that needed to come out and kind of make it where people talk less and do more, which I find makes action movies a little bit more interesting. Then to build a relationship with Mekhi’s character and my character, because I thought that was the heart and the core of the film. So, stuff like that, but you got all those great actors. I knew everybody was capable.
MF: Can you talk about that relationship between Max and Duffy, why Duffy chooses to help this man that he hardly knows, and what it was like working with Mekhi Phifer?
FG: I think he chooses to help him because I truly think there’s something about Mekhi that draws him in. I think Duffy needs a purpose. He wants to get a headstone for his mother. That’s kind of a reason for him to make believe he wants to go to a certain place, but he finds somebody who gives him a purpose. We never feel more enlightened than when we’re helping somebody else. I think it gives him a sense of that. Mekhi is, as charming as he is on-screen, he’s 10 times as charming in person, and we’re both New Yorkers. I fell in love with Mekhi the minute I met him, I mean immediately. It was a 30-year relationship in 12 minutes. So, I knew on screen, much like I did with Anthony Mackie when we did ‘Point Blank’ together, it would be this cool combination. I love movies where there’s a black guy and a white guy. I just love it culturally when they mix it up. I’m Italian and we’re both from New York, and I think it comes across really cool on screen. I love that dynamic. I really do. I know everybody’s politically correct, but Mekhi and I even got a chance to kind of play with that thing, you know what I mean? That’s what life is about. Then after that, we did another movie together. I had another movie that I put together, a bigger movie, and he was my choice. He was my guy. I said, “Please come and do this,” and he did. We went to Columbia and Puerto Rico together and that’s the kind of relationship that it blossomed into.
MF: Can you talk about preparing and working out the choreography for the fight sequences?
FG: I mean, at this point I didn’t know the fight coordinator well, although he was good. My stunt coordinator, my double, comes with me on every movie, Greg Fitzpatrick, who’s done stuff with Robert Downey Jr. He’s been with Downey for a long time, and all of Ben Stiller‘s stuff. He’s so amazing. I know we didn’t have a lot of time, so we came in and choreographed at least all my stuff, all the fights, to make them authentic. This is about underground fighting. It shouldn’t look like ‘John Wick.’ Hats off to Brandon Burrows, the producer, because once I saw the original cut and the fights, I said, no Bueno. This all looks fake, and you got to make this so that the one judicious guy in the back who knows fighting says,” I believe that.” I think that’s what we kind of were able to pull off. It was Herculean to get it to the place that it is, but when I saw the final cut, I’m like, “Wow, I’m impressed.” If people knew the effort that it took to get it to that, you’d have to appreciate it a bunch more, and Brandon, the producer, was a big part of this.
MF: The last time we spoke you revealed that you will be starring in the animated series ‘Creature Commandos,’ which will be the first TV series from James Gunn’s new DC Universe. Have you finished recording for the first season, and were you able to record with the other actors?
FG: Yes. I recorded with (David) Harbour and I may have recorded with Maria (Bakalova). But it’s great. I love James Gunn and Peter Safran and what they’re doing at DC and for the DCU, and these characters are living in all their movies. I’m going to be around for a while, and I wish I could tell you what I have coming up with them, but I can’t. But it’s exciting. I was just with the RussoBrothers, Kevin Feige and Lou D’Esposito and it’s kind of like, “I miss those guys, but you blew it.” Now we’re going over here.
MF: Do you know when the series will premiere?
FG: Yes. I believe Sean Gunn just said something (about it). I believe around end of the summer, beginning of the fall.
MF: James Gunn has mentioned that the characters in ‘Creature Commandos’ will also appear in live-action DCU projects in the future. Do you personally know when your character will appear in live-action and what project it will be?
FG: Yes, I do. Again, in a world filled with great talent, actors and famous movie stars, I mean what James Gunn and Peter Safran has entrusted in me with this character and with the future of what they’re doing in that company, I’m humbled.
MF: Finally, is it possible we’ll see you in ‘Superman: Legacy’?
FG: No. I wish.
“They started the wrong fight.”
In Lights Out, a homeless veteran, Michael “Duffy” Duffield (Grillo), meets a talkative Ex-Con, Max Bomer (Phifer) who notices Duffy’s skills after he gets… Read the Plot
What is the Plot of ‘Lights Out’?
A drifting ex-soldier (Frank Grillo) turns underground fighter with the help of a just released ex-con (Mekhi Phifer), pitting them both against corrupt cops (Jamie King) and hired killers (Dermot Mulroney) gunning for them and all those they care about.
Who is in the Cast of ‘Lights Out’?
Other Frank Grillo Movies: