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The Intense Way Frank Grillo Prepped For No Man's Land - Exclusive

The title of director Conor Allyn's new movie, No Man's Land, refers to the areas of land between the Texas and Mexico border. Frank Grillo stars as Bill Greer, a rancher who lives with his family on the Texas side. It's standard procedure for Greer to patrol the border at night, often with his sons in tow. On one of these fateful excursions, his son Jackson (Jake Allyn) — an athlete with a promising career in major league baseball — accidentally shoots and kills an immigrant child. Not wanting to compromise Jackson's potentially successful future, Greer tries to absorb the blame himself. 

While a Texas Ranger (George Lopez) is sorting through the crime details, Jackson hightails it across the border and into Mexico. While he's on the run, he develops a perception-smashing, firsthand appreciation of a country that he never previously explored, despite it being so close.

Grillo has played many tough and gritty characters over his lengthy career, from Alvey Kulina in Kingdom to Crossbones in Marvel's Captain America franchise. He's also done westerns, so some of Bill Greer's traits weren't foreign to him. And as he told Looper during our exclusive interview, he found some strong parallels to tap into. 

"I have played a character similar, as far as where he's from in the world," Grillo says, "but I'm a father of three sons, and for me, the jump-off was that this is a story about family, specifically about Bill's relationship with his son. That was really the core for me, behaviorally, because it doesn't matter if you come from Texas or New York or Timbuktu, fathers and sons are fathers and sons, and that's kind of where I kept it."

Frank Grillo on what he hopes resonates with moviegoers

In addition to highlighting familial bonds, No Man's Land does an outstanding job of examining how prejudice and ignorance of other cultures can lead to tragedy. For Grillo, it was essential to learn about the border setting, and in doing so, he gained a great deal of insight. "I learned the dialect," he says. "I learned what makes being from [that] part of the country different than even a different part of Texas. I did a lot of research about this path of the world that really exists, where Americans actually have to carry their passports. I was amazed at how little I knew about it and how entrenched our country is on these borders with Mexico and how divided and polarized it is."

The primary message in No Man's Land is that exploration and communication can lead to strength and respect. Grillo hopes that audiences will take that home. "I hope people understand that we're all the same deep down. The people coming across the border are trying to find a better life — they're doing what my ancestors did by coming to America, which is built on the premise that we are the land of the free and we have opportunities for everyone. We are all human beings, and we all want the same thing — the pursuit of happiness and for our kids to be healthy, safe, and well-fed."

IFC Films' No Man's Land, which also features Andie MacDowell and Jorge A. Jimenez, is currently in theaters.