Anthony Robert Grasso is an actor, director, and teacher hailing from Brooklyn, New York. With studies completed at well-regarded institutions such as Larry Moss Studio and the British American Drama Academy, his strength of schedule over 35 years is difficult to rival. His portfolio includes high-profile productions like FX’s Gotham, Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, as well as a number of indie hits like Gun Hill Road and The Pigeon Egg Strategy (both Sundance showcases). His experience in the filmmaking industry is staggering. Grasso has received 63 nominations and won 84 awards, including 9 for acting and 2 for directing. Aside from making such films as Crumb Cake and Extradition, he’s also made it his mission to pass on all that he’s learned to the next generation of up-and-coming talent with his bold endeavor, ARG Studio, and by teaching at various institutions around the world.

What was your upbringing like, and do you find yourself incorporating elements of your cultural heritage or family background into your own works?

Yes, I was raised as an inner city kid in a very Italian and Jewish neigborhood. I grew up in a two-family house with a Jewish family occupying the first floor. They were my parents best friends and we bought the house together. In exchange I got the best from both my Italian heritage and a Jewish one. We shared all our holidays together and celebrated birthdays and graduations and they are my extended family.

Was there ever a moment in your life where you realized that you belonged in films more than on the stage? What was the catalyst that led you to pursue this career?

I’ve always liked both but I came up with training to work first on the stage. For many years I did play after play and studied vigorously in different methods before I took my first tv film class. But as a lover of film I knew I wanted to be in films. My ideal career would be to be a film actor or TV series regular that gets to direct and do theatre when I can.

You’ve seen well over 250 stage plays as well, a fact that probably not too many people know about you. Can you name your favorite and explain why it holds that spot? Or a top three?

Well Burn This by Lanford Wilson and August Wilson Fences comes to mind as I worked in Broadway theatres in the late 80’s. I got to see these great playwrights and actors again and again. Well over 50 times I would be shattered after watching Fences with James Earl Jones and would recite the words as well for Burn This. Another that comes to mind is The Father with Frank Langella (later made into a film with Anthony Hopkins) – completely shattered after that play and Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman with Brain Dennehy, I could not move after the curtain went up. I was an utter mess. Many of the men in the audience were. But there are many more. Some Musicals too, Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in The Park With George the 2007 revival. Absolutely one of my favorite musicals. . . period.

Your resume boasts a diverse range of mainstream shows and films, as well as acclaimed indie projects. Out of all your time spent on sets, what is one moment you’ll cherish the most?

Many indie projects allowed me to step off type or brand. It gave me the opportunity to play a variety of roles. An earlier indie feature The Pigeon Egg Strategy (went to Sundance) filmed in Hong Kong – probably one of the most cherished of places and fond memories from that. Many friends were forged since that shoot. I started out auditioning for a different part and eventually got a larger and more challenging one.

Which role of yours was the most challenging? How did you prepare for it, and did it have an impact on you personally moving forward?

I like to think all my indies were challenging but these are a few that stand out. Sci Fi drama Kill Al directed by Walter Brandes. I had to play a predator and alcoholic who uses his power to heal a romantic wound. The hard part was to find the human in there and his vulnerability within his insidious mind. Another was The Long Commute directed by Miguel Garzon Martinez – playing a British businessman who is reunited with his ailing estranged father. I had to work on the accent and was co-producer and co-writer. Another was a Russian character from Extradition (worked on Russian accent and Director ) and most recently the comedy Last Laugh directed by Paul Lewis Anderson playing (a ghost) a dead stand up comedian. Had to get out of my comfort zone to find the obnoxious comedian and again his vulnerability. The controversial drama Blind Date directed by Peter Danish – a film derived from a play and we did 6-8 min takes. Challenging to say the least, but a wonderful experience.

It would be a huge missed opportunity to not ask about your appearance on the hit FX show Gotham. What was it like to step into the shoes of Ganza and get down to business with the likes of Fish Mooney and Carmine Falcone?

That experience was insane in the membrane – from the start from being fitted in one of the most expensive designer suits and some of the best shoes I’ve ever worn, then filming at Steiner Studios and being in Mooney club with Jada – it was an incredible few days. She was gracious to all the guests and a real pro. Great time.

How did ARG Studio come to be, and what is the goal of your institution?

I studied in the UK, Oxford at The British Academy Dramatic Arts in 1999. I started coaching other actors there just to help fellow students and someone said “you are really good at this – you know how to convey and work with an actor where they are, did you ever think about teaching?” When I returned I was so excited about what I learned that I started a scene study class – that was 25 years ago. I then was an adjunct professor at NYU Tisch Undergrad program, The New York Conservatory Of Dramatic Arts and New York Film Academy, all the while holding a private on-going class. Over the years I built a strong client base, and opened BTS studios which was a training and networking facility. I was the artistic director/owner and held hundreds of Industry workshops and taught private classes there. I then rebranded and opened ARG Studio to teach primarily on-set and audition techniques for film and TV.

Your wife is actor, producer, and writer Diane Harrington, but something audiences may have missed is that you’ve worked together on several occasions, namely in your film Crumb Cake. She also wrote the screenplay and starred in it. Can you describe what it was like to work with your wife and how she approached filmmaking?

We always say we are at our best collaborating. We also have worked previously in another short film that I co-wrote and we co-produced called The Long Commute, so it was easy to work side by side during Crumb Cake. With Crumb Cake, Diane had originally written a short play called For My Daughter that I directed and she then expounded on the theme of three sisters and Crumb Cake was born. So we worked very closely on this piece for some time. We had a blast. She also has also been in my classes over the years off and on so we are very familiar working together.

Some might say that directing and acting are very similar, as both involve elements of interpretation. As an actor/director yourself, do you find truth in this idea? How do you find your voice as an actor and a director?

I always say I am an actor first and then a director, but I enjoy them both equally. With acting you come in and you are a part of a puzzle and help tell the story through the character point of view. You are hired as a storyteller, which is why I love it and find it extremely rewarding. You learn to walk in other people’s shoes. As A director you have the big picture. You have to solve the puzzle and put together all the pieces – shots, music, tone, acting etc. – like a maestro. That’s what I love and find most exciting. It’s your vision. A director stays with a project many many months after the project ends where an actor could move on and have shot two – three more films in that time. So the jobs are very different.

We had the chance to see you recently in Louis Leuci’s family drama, Ivy’s Dream. The screenplay penned by Brendon Lemon deals with some distressing, heavy subject matter. How did they approach you for this role? What compelled you to join the film?

I was asked to audition and fell in love with the material. I also have a rule – the part, the people and the production are key reasons to do a project. The main actress, Maggie Alexander, I have known for some time and always respected her work and said how I wanted to work with her. So that was a no brainer and of course the production was on the higher end and the part was glorious, it gave me something to really sink my teeth into.

I still had to audition because the director Louis Leuci didn’t know me or my work, so Maggie, when she hired Louis, she thought it was only fair he had casting final approval, especially being it is a two person film.

I also did work on a play called 50 Words by Michael Wheeler which deals with marital problems in a very toxic relationship. I always wanted to find a film with similar edge and high stakes. The monologue my character Stephen has in the film, was the auditioning piece and I flipped. I felt like I knew this guy and how to play him being I have worked on 50 Words years prior. At the end of the day, no matter what, we fight for love.

Your co-star, actress, and producer, Maggie Alexander, is an absolute revelation in the film. What was it like to be on set with her? How did the two of you prepare for such serious themes?

Maggie is an absolute dream to work with as an actor and producer. Really left her ego at the door and was a consummate pro! We had several rehearsals which we are so grateful for and the writer Brendon Lemon was really open to any script adjustments. This was a play as well and needed to be leaned out for the film. We really connected to these characters and loved working together. As it turned out Maggie also worked on the play 50 Words so we both had a great starting point. A certain trust was there and a familiarity instantly. I’d work with her again anytime, anywhere.

Ivy’s Dream has already picked up a handful of awards for Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Actress. What kind of future do you predict for the short and for the creative team? What is the message you hope the short is able to project into the world?

We are very grateful and the award recognition is always nice, but I always say I don’t do projects for awards. But they are nice!

We all are just happy it’s resonating with people and hopefully gets people to seek help during times of grieving and possible alcohol abuse. It’s a bit like the plays 50 Words meets Rabbit Hole and Days of Wine and Roses.

What are projects you are currently filming or have recently wrapped that you can disclose? Is there anything we can look forward to?

I just wrapped 3 more projects, Sister of Seneca a sexy thriller, Game Night (with Diane again, this time acting side by side) and Mairanne and The Rebels, a period comedy playing the role of German historian Philosopher Friedrich Engels. Best part of doing indie films. you get to play in all sandboxes and areas. A lot of Fun!

We have to ask, what is the secret to a “mean Italian sauce and meatballs”?

Haha. I can never give that away, My Grandmother and my mother’s secret.




Anthony Robert Grasso is an actor, director, and teacher hailing from Brooklyn, New York. With studies completed at well-regarded institutions such as Larry Moss Studio

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