TV: Frank Grillo Talks Upcoming ABC Show ‘The Gates’

B-D’s Chris Eggertsen recently caught up with Frank Grillo, star of new supernatural-themed ABC show “The Gates”, debuting on the network Sunday, June 20th at 10pm. The busy actor opened up about his role on the series, why the “Desperate Housewives”-y marketing promos are rather misrepresentative of the show’s tone, and what creatures of the night we can expect to come out of the woodwork over the duration of the first season.

The show follows a metropolitan police officer becomes chief of police in a quiet suburban neighborhood.

BLOODY DISGUSTING: Tell me more about the show.

FRANK GRILLO: It’s going well. I think we’re on episode five or six now, and I’ve seen the first two. It’s going really well. It’s that kind of ‘feeling everybody out’ period. Everybody’s away from home, so it’s been an interesting couple of months. But I think it’s something that people are gonna respond to. It’s a show basically about a family, my family, I’m a guy leaving Chicago as a cop to leave something that happened in my past behind and kind of find a new life for my family. And I take this job at a gated community, like a Bel Air. And I soon kind of begin to realize that things are not what they seem to be. And things unravel, and I can’t explain what’s going on. I start to find out that the people who live next to me aren’t really people. And little by little, it kind of unfolds as the thirteen episodes evolve, that this is a community of supernatural people who have moved here to live life as a human and protect themselves from outside forces. So it’s kind of like a ‘Northern Exposure’ slash ‘Twilight’ slash ‘Desperate Housewives’.

BD: I was gonna say, I watched one of the promos, and it gave off kind of a ‘Desperate Housewives’ vibe.

You know, it’s interesting, because that’s not the tone of the show. Promos are a very different animal. I know ABC knows their audience, so they have to attract people they know who watch the shows on ABC. The promos are fine, but I think the show’s a little dramatic than it appears to be in the promos…the show definitely has a dark side to it, which I find to be interesting. You know, when I first saw the promo it almost looked a little campy. And that’s not what the show is. It’s kinda serious, and it’s fun at the same time.

The Gates

BD: Are you worried that when people tune into the show, they’ll be expecting something different and they’ll be disappointed when it’s not that?

Well, that always kind of a fear. When you do a film, it’s the same thing. You know, usually it’s the studio that cuts the trailer, and you kinda never know what it is that you’re gonna see. You know when you see trailers, and [then] you go the film and then you’re like, ‘wow, that’s a lot different than I expected.’ Because they’re trying to get people into seats. And so it’s always a fear, but it’s nothing that I’m an expert at. So I think if they already need promos, obviously they know a lot more about audiences than I do. So I’m assuming this is always how they do their job. So we’ll see. I think the promos will change as the show kind of evolves.

BD: When is it premiering?

June 20th. It’s Sunday nights on ABC at 10pm. So we’re taking over for where ‘Brothers and Sisters’ was. We were originally on at 9, but that’s when ‘True Blood’ [is on]…it’s on at 9 on Sundays. So what they’re hoping is after ‘True Blood’ they’ll tune in to ‘The Gates’.

BD: So how vampire-heavy is the show? Is it a vampire show or is it all different types of supernatural creatures?

Oh, no. No, no. The vampires are just one element of what lives inside the gates. Which is kind of like a new twist on an old genre. There are…we have wolves on the show, werewolves. So you can only imagine what that’s leading to. And there are other, I guess you’d call them supernaturals. But they’re all here for the same reason, to kind of live life as normal as they possibly can.

BD: So it’s more like vampires and werewolves as opposed to mutants like in the ‘X-Men’ series.

Yeah, they certainly do have powers that humans don’t. It’s not superhero-y, they’re not mutants like I guess in ‘X-Men’. But I think they all are something that we as audience members are familiar with from other movies or TV shows. But what the writers have done here is they’ve taken these supernaturals – I’ll just call them supernaturals for lack of a better word – they’ve taken them and they’ve kind of put a twist on it. Because the things that we know, for instance, about vampires or werewolves from other films, don’t hold true to these people necessarily. So they’ve changed the rules a bit, which makes it interesting.

The Gates

BD: So they’re not necessarily evil, but maybe more misunderstood?

In fact, they’re not evil at all. It’s the opposite of that. They would rather live anonymously because they wanna fit in to society. It’s more about them feeling prejudice against them. In the grand scheme of things, you can think of apartheid or anything like that – I know that’s big and heavy, but – it’s really people just wanting to fit in with other people.

BD: But I’m assuming there is also an evil element among them.

Yes. Because what they require naturally to sustain their lives – let’s say a vampire – you know, they have to go against their nature to kind of maintain this life as a human. And like anything, like being an alcoholic, you know, you still have the urge to drink. It’s the same kinda thing. As much as you don’t want to feed, they still have the urge. So it’s kind of an unnatural thing for them to kind of put themselves in this position.

BD: I know it’s ABC, so they can’t pile on the gore or anything like that, but is it going to push the boundaries of the level of violence you can see on network TV?

It’s certainly pushing the envelope as far as what you see as far as – I guess you would call it gore – which is, again, why they really wanted to push it to 10 o’clock also. Definitely, with the elements that we have, it gets violent at times, and you definitely see the blood. It’s not just implied. There are some scenes that are pretty kinda gruesome in a cool TV way. And you know, we have actresses like Chandra West, and Rhona Mitra, and Marisol Nichols. They’re all very beautiful women, and that’s not lost on the show. The vampires, Rhona and Luke Mably, very sexy and sensual and…so there’s a little bit of everything, I think, for a wide audience.

BD: Talk more about your character.

Well, the thing that attracted me to this is that the character is a Chicago homicide detective who kind of becomes a vigilante because somebody he arrested is getting out, and he killed a child. So he takes it upon himself to kinda get rid of this guy. So he’s got this moral dilemma. He’s this serious detective, family man who’s kind of taken the law into his own hands and acted as judge and jury. And he goes through a trial, and he gets off, but he retires from the force cause he wants to get his family out of Chicago. And really I’m just kind of looking for redemption and resolution, so I take this job in this little sleepy community thinking it’s kinda gonna be just a great place for my family, I won’t have much crime…and it quickly turns into something very different. And at one point it becomes a matter of fight and flight. Whether I’m gonna stay and deal with what I’m recognizing, or am I gonna leave? So it’s a real complex thing, and early on myself and one of the vampires, we have to actually work together in a sense when I make the discovery, which I think the audience is gonna love.

BD: Who else is co-starring in it?

Chandra West, Rhona Mitra, Luke Mably, who’s phenomenal, British actor. Marisol Nichols from ’24′. Actually Marisol and I were on the show ‘Blind Justice’ together, so she plays my wife. And another kid, Colton Haynes, who is a really great young actor, really great…I think the teen girls are gonna just fall in love with him. And a couple of other really good kids, I was really impressed with the jobs that they [did].

BD: What is the commitment from ABC for the show?

The commitment is 13 [episodes]. So it runs over the course of the summer. If the show does well, then we could possibly come back in the mid-season. But all of that is just speculative based on how the show opens. I do know that ABC is very excited and surprised at the level of quality of the show. So they’re hoping for the best.