Frank Grillo banged on a heavy bag in Beijing when he came up with the idea for the new Netflix series. FightworldHe lived in China during the filming of a sequel Wolf Warrior II– which would have earned 800 million dollars at the box office, – and came across the boxing gym of Fight Republic, looking for a place to throw mittens.
“Being an actor can be a lonely life,” said Grillo. Men's magazine after completing several rounds at the Overthrow gym in New York. This is especially true if you are one of those actors who always have two films in their work, and you can look back at the list of merits, including warrior, Captain America, noisy bunchand the series "too early" Kingdom,
“You appear in a new city and end up in a lifeless hotel room,” said Grillo. "But I always knew that I could find a community of people of my type in the gym." Now, when he comes to a new city, he throws his things into the hotel and immediately finds a place to sweat.
This ritual supported him throughout his fruitful career in Hollywood, not to mention the fact that he helped him maintain his fragmented physique. But besides these advantages, he also became friends with fighters from around the world.
Spending time with these fighters gave him the idea of filming cinematic documentation in the spirit of Anthony Burden. Parts unknown with an emphasis on tackling gyms, and he brought the show to life with the help of his producer partner Joe Carnahan and director Padraik McKinley. The first season brought Grillo to Thailand, Myanmar, Senegal, Mexico and Israel.
The result is a beautiful and insightful look at five completely different cultures, linked together by mutual respect for martial arts, and, according to Grillo, a better show than he ever imagined.
How did you choose the places for the show?
There was our committee that chose the seats, and all of them were chosen for a specific purpose. In the first season, we knew that we wanted to go to places where there was a lot of history and narration that we could tell. Not to mention that I wanted to be able to have a personal connection with the people with whom we spoke. Some of them were closer ties for me than others, of course.
How and what?
Well, first of all, I love boxing. This is my sport. So going to Mexico and seeing Julio Cesar Chavez was the obvious choice. I had to go with him to the Aztec Stadium, where he defeated Greg Haugen in front of 90,000 people. He has not been there since that battle. There was a lot of heart in our conversation; he was the guy who reached the top, and he had such a long and inspiring career.
How was it to go to Israel to train in Krav Maga?
Israel has changed my life. This is one of the most amazing countries I've ever been to. I had an idea in my head what it would be like. I became entrenched there with soldiers, special forces guys, and spent a lot of time with their families. I think it’s hard to think about yourself when you are surrounded by these hostile nations that focus on destroying the city. You can feel the tension there. I don't care if you believe in God or not, you feel something more there. The city has an incredibly sophisticated antimissile system called the Iron Dome. Go to Tel Aviv; It's like Paris, and everyone is having a great time, obviously they know. But this does not prevent them from enjoying life.
Do you better understand where the Krav Maga came from?
In the Gaza Strip there are tunnels that the enemies are trying to use to get to them with explosives. They use Krav Maga to fight the people in these tunnels. You are not fighting for points; You are fighting for the life of yourself and your family.
I saw you leave with not only new experiences in the episode with Thailand. How do you like the new tattoo? What inspired you to do this?
I saw all the guys fighting in the gym, swaying these beautiful tattoos, and I knew that I needed one for myself. I already had tattoos, but getting a tattoo is a completely different experience. I sat there with this monk and ate gold leaf. Price is all he wants, he may want money, cigarettes, any other item you have on you. This beautiful singing continues during the process, and he never leaves his sitting position. When he finished – I hadn’t even seen the tattoo yet – he made me bow, and then hit me on the back with this giant sword.
How did you feel when you first saw it?
I immediately returned to get another one from the same guy. I know my tattoos well, so I didn’t feel good until I got the second one. So not only did I train with Buacao, who may have been the greatest fighter ever to have lived in Thailand, but also got two great pieces of ink.
There is a strong feeling for Anthony Bourden, and I could see him enjoying the show since he practiced jujitsu.
Anthony Bourdain – a legend and inspiration for me. I had a dream that he would go with me to our Brazilian episode, as he studied BJJ. I know my limitations, so I never wanted to become Burden. His character was so strong that he could always be in front and in the center of his show, and it works great. Although I did not believe that it would be better for our show. I wanted to make the stories of these people, these fighters true.
How do you end up with these powerful connections when you first enter the new gym?
I mean, you are not going there in search of friends, but you start hitting the bag. People can hear sounds; they can tell if you hit before. Obviously, they know that you are from another city, so they ask where. A conversation suddenly begins. Everyone goes his own way to finish his studies, but then someone talks about having a drink in the usual place. This is where I want to go, not some boring hotel bar. They become my guides to all the best places in their city.
What attracted you personally to the fight?
I have always been restless. I have always been a seeker. This is one of the reasons that I train as hard as I do, and I have studied as many disciplines as I have. I need to challenge. This is the first time I feel that what I am releasing into the world can help people and guide them in a better direction.
What was the response to the series so far?
I cannot even describe how positive the response was from people who approached me on the street, to people from all over the world on the Internet. This is a deeper response than I have ever experienced from fans. I will be honest, it makes me not even want to act. Don't get me wrong was fun to do Cleaningbut at the end of the day there is not much substance to work like that. Now I get these letters from people who just start crying.
Where would you like to go in the second season?
I want to go back to Brazil and make the right episode. I trained with the Gracie family, who really founded BJJ, so this is a place with which I am already connected. I want to go to Uzbekistan, one of those places where the fighting is simply immersed in their culture. I would also like to go and make a fur seal culture. I would like to study Silat. There are so many great stories, and I think the world needs more such stories.
Fightworld is now available on Netflix. This Q & A has been edited for clarity.