Daytime fans first became familiar with actor Frank Grillo as Hart Jessup on Guiding Light — the son of one of soapdom’s greatest villains, Roger Thorpe. Since then, he has made a career of playing rough-and-tumble, edgy characters, cops, and action heroes in primetime and film. This week, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard sat down with the actor to discuss a range of topics such as loss, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, suicide, and channeling heavy emotions through physical activity on his video podcast show, State Of Mind.
Maurice Benard and Frank Grillo: No Holding Back
The two men jumped right into a discussion of the importance of men expressing their emotions and the dangers of holding them in, both mentally and physically. It’s a subject both men are familiar with, coming from Spanish and Italian backgrounds.
“I grew up being taught that you have got to be strong, and yet, I had a father that suffered from chronic depression and alcoholism,” Grillo revealed. “He died from it, ultimately, but he struggled with his emotions. I thought, when I was younger, that it was about melancholia, but it wasn’t. This guy was seriously depressed. And towards the end of his life, he was on depression meds, and he was doing better. But again, he came from an Italian immigrant household. There were a lot of boys. You had to be tough.”
Benard (Sonny Corinthos) countered with a query. “Don’t you think that kind of upbringing and stress, and not letting it out, is going to cause the depression?” Grillo was quick to agree.
“And exacerbate the bad things about depression,” Grillo added. “And you are so alone. People who suffer from depression and are afraid to talk about it — specifically, men. Because my experience has been 99% with men. The results are devastating.”
*Trigger warning: Grillo discusses depression, suicide, and gun use.
The action star disclosed recent losses. “Over the past year, I have experienced two people who took their own lives because they could not cope. They both died from gunshot wounds to the head.
“One of them was very vocal, a very prominent manager, who came from a very prominent family in Hollywood, Chris Huvane,” shared Grillo. “His brother is Kevin Huvane and Stephen Huvane. Kevin is one of the partners at CAA. He had all of the help in the world. Had all of the money. Success. He had a great bunch of clients. Had a great new wife. He talked about his depression. He was trying to find the right meds. It wasn’t enough.”
The other death was closer to home for the actor. “My cousin, who I grew up with as a brother, was kind of a happy-go-lucky guy, got divorced from his wife, and she moved to Montana.” He detailed his cousin’s downward spiral. “He was struggling with going back and forth. He came to my house on a Thursday. We chatted about what I thought he should do, as far as where he should live, and he wanted my opinion because we were always together. Always together. And then he drove home, saw his kids, and shot himself in the head. With his kids in the house.”
Both losses gave Grillo a new perspective. “In terms of what our thoughts can do. Our thoughts can be so poisonous. Our thoughts take us to a place that doesn’t yet exist, but it could, in our minds, and then we convince ourselves that that’s where we are going.”
Benard could relate. “It will pass. There is a light in the f**king tunnel. We have to let people know that you get through it.”
Frank Grillo: Channeling Emotion Through Action
Grillo found that physically channeling repressed emotion created a more healthy state of being. “Repetitive motion creates this Zen state. That is why you see these Buddhist doing the stone raking because it is a constant repetitive motion, and you stop thinking, so when you have to concentrate on what you are doing [making boxing motion], 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, all of the sudden, there are no more thoughts in your head.”
“So, for two hours, I am not thinking. I am reacting. I am boxing. I am not thinking. When I stop working out, I am reinvigorated, emotionally, because all of that has gone away.” It is a philosophy that served him well in his career, and he often shares it with others. “So what I profess to most people is if you are not feeling good, go for a walk. Get your body moving. Your body is very important, and it will help this [points to his head]. And I know it because I have done it.”
The like-minded duo went on to discuss a mountain of topics. Frank Grillo disclosed everything from losing both his parents in a three-week span, divorce, raising three boys, and parenting tips that have helped him through tough times. Benard and Grillo discussed his career, his latest projects, and working with people like Al Pacino, Mel Gibson, and Chris Evans. The actor even disclosed his unique diet regimen and why it works for him. Check out the entire episode here.