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The Gates – Frank Grillo on turning the whole show around with Vampires

The Gates - Frank Grillo
Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) © ABC
The Gates - Marisol Nichols, Frank Grillo, Colton Haynes, Skyler Samuels, Janina Gavankar, Justin Miles, Chandra West, Travis Caldwell, Luke Mably and Rhona Mitra
The Gates - Sarah Monahan (Marisol Nichols), Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo), Brett Crezski (Colton Haynes), Andie Bates (Skyler Samuels), Leigh Turner (Janina Gavankar), Marcus Jordan (Justin Miles), Devon (Chandra West), Charlie Monohan (Travis Caldwell), Dylan Radcliff (Luke Mably) and Claire Radcliff (Rhona Mitra) © ABC

There’s something strange going on inside the community known as The Gates. When Nick Monohan, a Chicago cop, is employed as a security guard it doesn’t take him long to realize that this is not your normal neighborhood. Monohan is about to get tangled up in a mystery in which he’ll begin to piece together the dark truth about their new home, and the supernatural inhabitants that lurk in the shadows.

Frank Grillo, who portrays Nick Monohan, is no stranger to ABC, where he starred in the series Blind Justice. I spoke with Grillo about his new role at the network’s press day at Disney Studios.

Can you talk a little about the premise of The Gates?

Yes, it’s a gated community that we all live in, and by appearances it could be like a community in Desperate Housewives, where everybody’s having a good time and they have their suburban problems. But you soon learn that the people in The Gates are not exactly what they appear to be. There is a supernatural element, and you learn that they’re in The Gates protecting themselves from the outside world.

My character comes from Chicago, I’m a cop, and I come thinking I’m there to basically uphold the law inside The Gates. I don’t question until later on, am I protecting the people in The Gates from the outside or the outside from the people in The Gates? What’s most interesting is that everybody has normal problems, but there’s another element.

Why does your character leave Chicago for this job?

The Gates 1.03 - Frank Grillo
Episode 1.03 "Breach" - Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) © ABC

In Chicago I was a homicide detective and I got involved in a shooting that is questionable, I get cleared of the shooting, but it’s a huge dilemma for my family because we’re in the newspaper. I just decide I need a quieter life, and I get offered this job, and I decide it’s such a beautiful place, because they give me a home to live in. I go and it’s basically being a security guard.

You just did My Soul to Take, which is the new Wes Craven movie, where you also play a police officer.

Yes, are you seeing a theme? It’s funny, because I also did another show for ABC called Blind Justice where I play another cop who’s blind. When I took this job, on paper it’s a cop but what happens is I become part of what I think I’m protecting.

It’s not just about being a cop. It’s about the discovery that everything I felt was (fake) in the movies might be real. So the police (aspect) is secondary; that’s just the backdrop.

Where you get cryptic shows like this, actors love not knowing what’s going on. Does it help you as an actor to know what’s going on?

The Gates 1.06 - Frank Grillo
Episode 1.06 "Jurisdiction" - Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo) © ABC

That’s a great question, especially for me specifically because my character’s not supposed to know. So I chose very early on not to read the parts of the script that had to do with (scenes) I’m not involved in. I read all of my stuff and I have a bible of back story for myself, who this character is. I purposely don’t read (the rest) so I’m not anticipating anything. Some people do, they want to know, but for me that reveals itself in the acting somehow.

Does the audience know more than your character knows?

The audience knows way more than my character, which is another element that I loved when it was pitched to me. I loved the fact that the audience isn’t seeing it through my eyes, the audience knows more than me. So when I learn about it, I’m catching up to the audience. It’s revealed in bits and pieces which keeps the drama of it all heightened.

Does the series have an arc to it, or are they stand alone episodes?

It has an arc, because what happens is the person who had the job before me was very cooperative with the people inside The Gates, in protecting what they were. I have no agenda except to protect these people, and now I’m starting to realize that there’s something going on that’s bizarre.

It gets more bizarre and more unexplainable until something happens where it’s exposed, you see the vampire, and all of a sudden I discover everything I thought was fiction is fact, and it turns the whole show (around).

Is there a lot of green screen work in this?

The Gates 1.04 - Frank Grillo, McKaley Miller, Georgia Cole and Luke Mably
Episode 1.04 "The Monster Within" - Nick Monohan (Frank Grillo), Dana Monohan (McKaley Miller), Emily Radcliff (Georgia Cole) and Dylan Radcliff (Luke Mably) © ABC

There’s a little bit. There are some amazing effects and there’s another element of the show which I’ve never seen on any other show with some animals that are just amazing.

Are there other supernatural beings aside from the vampires?

This place, The Gates, is a very interesting community that is very well planned out and it’s very well thought out. There are other aliens in the world walking amongst us who want to be human and want to protect their identity, and moved to a certain place to do that. They don’t want anyone to know who they are.

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