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Interview: Frank Grillo on 'The Purge: Anarchy'

In 2013 we were introduced to the world of “The Purge”: a world where, for one night every year, all crime – including murder – is legal. With its intriguing dystopian plot in place, the filmmakers made the decision to focus its scope on one family whose home is under attack on the night of the Purge.

Frank Grillo in "The Purge: Anarchy"
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures, used with permission

Now we’re being treated to a sequel to the horror hit just one year later. And this time, the scope has been blasted open. Aptly titled “The Purge: Anarchy,” writer/director James DeMonaco focuses not just on those who relish that one night a year to unleash their murderous desires on the world (though don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that here), but on people who find themselves partaking in the Purge for more personal reasons – like the main character played by Frank Grillo.

Grillo plays Leo Barnes, a man hell bent on getting revenge on the man who killed his son in an auto accident. While on his way to take justice into his own hands, he comes across a group of people involuntarily stranded on the streets during the Purge. He takes them under his wing, and together they try to survive the most deadly night of the year.

Sitting down with Grillo on site at The Purge: Breakout Experience, we spoke about “The Purge: Anarchy,” his role in the latest “Captain America” movie, and what the future has in store for him. During our conversation, it was incredibly clear not only how much fun he had making this movie, but how much he loved exploring the terrifying world of “The Purge.”

What was it about the script that drew you to this project?

Frank Grillo: Well I met with James DeMonaco, who was so passionate and so clear on where he wanted “The Purge” to go. Because the first “Purge” was a big hit, and they really weren’t expecting it. So now we had the opportunity to expand on what I think is an interesting idea.

While watching this movie, one of the things I couldn’t stop thinking about was how interesting it would be to see how the Purge started. Do you see room for a prequel?

Grillo: Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of room to explore this idea. And of course it is fantasy – this is never going to happen – but I’ve said this to a bunch of people: we can turn on CNN and see countries with genocide everywhere -- Africa, South America, the Ukraine -- we’re killing each other; it’s awful. But I think as a movie, as an idea, as fantasy, there are endless amounts of stories, as long as people are interested in coming to see them.

There’s a lot of social commentary in this movie. What message do you think people should take away from it?

Grillo: I think the message is twofold. First, I think the message is about how we should all be very conscious of how we treat each other, regardless of ones economic status or social status. I think if we all live with more compassion, globally, that we’d be in a better place. Right now we have more technology and information than we’ve ever had as human beings – theoretically we should be further along, as far as not wanting to kill each other. And then the other message is that we all need to question our own motives about how we behave in times of crisis, times when we feel wronged. And that’s what I love about the movie. It’s not just a scary movie; it makes you think a bit.

What was it like to play Brock Rumlow in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and how did you go about preparing for the role?

Grillo: I did an extensive amount of research and I read all the comics that he’s in. For me, for Brock Rumlow, that’s an origin story film. And you never know if you’re going to see him again or not; you never know with Marvel. But I like to think we’ll see more of him. And it’s kind of fun, because the fanboys are very strict and specific about you playing these roles. So you have to really abide by – as much as you can – what they expect to see. And Marvel is great at doing that.

Can you tell us anything about some of your upcoming projects?

Grillo: I’m off to do a movie called “The Raid;” it’s a remake of the original “Raid.” I think we’re going to shoot it in January in Malaysia. Patrick Hughes is directing it; he just directed “Expendables 3.” And right now I’m shooting a TV show called “Navy St,” which is kind of like a movie I did called “Warrior.” I play a guy who owns a gym and have a really dysfunctional family. It’s very dark. It’s DirecTV’s first series. And I’m shooting 10 episodes of that right now.

“The Purge: Anarchy” in now in theaters. For showtimes in Miami Beach, click here