Frank Grillo stars in and executive producese "No Man's Land." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- No Man's Land star and executive producer Frank Grillo says he can relate to migrants who cross the Mexican border to reach the United States because his father was an immigrant from Italy and faced many similar difficulties coming to this country.
The new film is set in the area between the Mexican border and the border fence north of the Rio Grande river. Grillo's character, Bill Greer, takes it upon himself to patrol No Man's Land between the border and the fence.
"I understand that these aren't people who are coming here to destroy our country," Grillo told UPI in a recent phone interview. "They want what we want: a happier, better life, end of story."
Bill Greer is a rancher in Texas near the border of Mexico. He hopes his son, Jackson (Jake Allyn), leaves the ranch for school and a baseball career, as Bill struggles to keep the family farm.
When Jackson accidentally shoots an immigrant boy while on patrol with Bill, he flees to Mexico with a Texas Ranger (George Lopez) in pursuit.
Grillo said it was important to establish the Greer family's history before the inciting incident sends his son on the run. He said he and Andie MacDowell, who plays Bill's wife, Monica, added dialogue to suggest they formerly were more supportive of immigrants.
"In one scene, she says to me, 'We used to put blankets out. What happened to us? When did we change?'" Grillo said. "Without those scenes, you really don't have any idea who the family is or what the family has gone through."
Even more important than the immigration themes, Grillo was drawn to the chance to play a father. The 55-year-old actor has three sons in real life. His eldest, 24-year-old Remy, is Jackson's age. Liam Grillo is 16 and Rio Grillo will turn 13 on Monday.
"I connected, on a father/son [level], on a family level," Grillo said. "That's how I connected first, before it was political."
Jake Allyn co-wrote No Man's Land and his brother, Conor Allyn, directed. Their father, Rob Allyn, also executive produced.
Grillo said his experience in Hollywood films, like The Purge sequels and Marvel films, enabled him to help the Allyn family in his executive producer capacity. For example, Grillo would step in if he saw the Allyns devoting time to scenes that likely would not make the final cut.
"You're going to waste time which we don't have," Grillo said. "You're going to waste money which you don't have and you're probably not going to use this."
Grillo added producing to his credits in 2017 with the films The Crash and Wheelman. The latter film was a collaboration with producer Joe Carnahan, who directed Grillo in The Grey.
Carnahan and Grillo produce films through their company WarParty. Those films, Grillo said, are his priority, unless an opportunity like No Man's Land comes along.
One of the films that came around between WarParty films was Avengers: Endgame. Grillo had played the villain Crossbones in the Captain America movies.
Writer-directors Joe and Anthony Russo asked Grillo to reprise his role for a scene in which Captain America (Chris Evans) returns to a scene set in 2012. Grillo wasn't interested in the cameo, but son Remy convinced him to do it.
"My son said, 'Do it for Rio,' my baby, who's a Marvel freak," Grillo said. "So I put my selfish ways aside and went and did it."
WarParty has another Grillo-starring film, Boss Level, out March 5 on Hulu. Carnahan directs and Grillo plays a retired special forces officer who keeps reliving a day in which he's killed by assassins.
"Basically, it's Groundhog Day meets Die Hard," Grillo said.
No Man's Land is in theaters and video-on-demand Friday.