For Albany-based stuntman Mark Pettograsso, all roads lead to “Gotham.” The East Greenbush native, who’s been a precision stunt driver on some massive feature films, including “Salt,” “Men in Black 3” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” has landed his first acting job on the Fox TV show “Gotham.” That show explores the origins of Batman and his enemies in the wake of the murder of the prominent parents of young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Pettograsso’s acting debut will be as Robert Jones, aka “Frogman,” a mysterious inmate in Gotham City’s creepy Arkham Asylyum. (The above still shows Pettograsso in character with series co-star Donal Logue, who plays Detective Harvey Bullock. The tattoos are all Pettograsso’s.)
So how does a nice boy from East Greenbush find himself in this situation?
“Most of my work has really all been the car chase scene. I’m a born and raised car guy. I’ve always raced. I have a car that I love racing at some of the race tracks in the area…I’ve been primarily working on feature films and commercials doing car stuff. So lots of skids and slides and general car chase scenes. It’s kind of like where is all started was being in the right place at the right time. I originally started as an extra on a film and I did a couple of things here and there and then it brought me to work here in Albany on the movie ‘Salt.’ On ‘Salt’ the precision car coordinator was Bill Young, who is old school stuntman. Bill originally started on the TV show ‘CHiPS.’ Bill is like best friends with Erik Estrada, those guys are like pretty tight. So on ‘Salt’ he basically said, ‘I need the best guy here.’ And I just happen to be standing next to him, and I said ‘Hey Bill, I’m right here.’ I guess I made a good impression on the second unit director, and the stunt coordinator.”
“Salt” led to more stunt driving on feature films, almost all of it on the east coast, which is pretty unusual in and of itself.
“I was working on ‘The Town,’ and I was actually working on two films at once. I was working on a movie it was either ‘The Zookeeper’ or ‘Knight and Day.’ I think it was ‘Knight and Day.’ It was all at the same time that Kevin James was doing ‘The Zookeeper’ and we were doing ‘Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’ and then ‘The Town’ was being filmed also, so I was bouncing back and forth between those three films. When I was working on ‘Knight and Day’ in Boston for almost 3 months and so we would take our days off and on short days and we would go over and work on ‘The Town.’ I had a lot of fun with the full three months that I was in Boston. I’m a car guy, so you know being able to do that stuff it’s like a little kids dream. It’s a really cool job to have.”
Is it fair to say that there’s an element of adrenaline junkie in Pettograsso’s makeup?
“Yeah, there is, but you know what it all comes down to is when you are on the set is the importance of safety, because it is dangerous. The adrenaline is there but we don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Pettograsso had previously worked with the stunt coordinator on “Gotham,” and done some work on “Gotham” earlier in the season. As it often does in the business, that led to a phone call:
“The stunt coordinator on ‘Gotham’ called me and said ‘Hey, can you get down to Steiner studios tomorrow – I think I have something for you but I need you to meet the director.’ It was kind of funny because I had the director explaining to me what Frogman was, and what the scene was and the show what the episode going to be about, and while I was doing it it was almost like he was asking me to like act out the things he wanted me to do. So we played like this little kind of charade back and forth and he’s like ‘I need know that you can do this. And to look a certain way and you know do whatever you’re doing.’ Finally he said ‘Alright, he’s our guy.’ And then I said oh alright and ask him who I going to stunt double. He goes to me ‘Oh no, you’re not doubling, you’re the guy.’ And I said ‘Well, what does that mean?’ And he said ‘You’re going to be a character.’”
Other than the name of the character, Robert Jones, aka Frogman, Pettograsso isn’t allowed to say much about his character:
“There was a stunt involved in it and it was acting involved in it. I would love to tell you the whole story about like what happens in the the episode but I just can’t. I do a lot at Arkam Asylum, and that there’s a story behind it that story is not going to get told until future episodes . So the future episodes are basically going to say why I am there.”
Pettograsso speaks glowingly of the calibre of people working on “Gotham,” from stars Ben McKenzie, who plays Detective Jim (and eventually Commissioner) Gordon and Donal Logue who plays Gordon’s bad cop partner Detective Harvey Bullock, to the writers and crew.
“The people that are working on Gotham, they are just really really creative people behind the show, everything from the writers and the people that are on the set, everybody’s in a good mood, everybody loves what they are doing. It’s really a good vibe for the whole show. I know hasn’t been picked up for a second season yet, but I guess it looks pretty good from what everyone is saying. They are doing some creative stuff and I think it’s got a different look to it as far as the cinematography, and I think people kind of like that too.”
While he waits to find out what’s going to happen with Frogman on “Gotham,” Pettograsso has a number of other irons in the fire.
“Mostly stunt work, but there is more acting stuff I’m going to be doing for ‘Gotham.’ I’ve been working on another TV show, just more stunt stuff, that’s a whole other thing. I can’t say anything about it – I have to be secretive about it. Mostly New York stuff. I was supposed to go out to West Virginia last month to work on a monster movie, but I was kind of late to the party so I got passed on that one. But I’ve got a couple other things going on – the ‘Hot Wheels’ movie, and a western movie that I’m going to be working on in January. So there’s some good things coming up. From what I was told, they need to finish telling the [Arkham Asylum] story and they will be having me come back either at the end of the season this year or next season, but they said that Frogman is going to be coming back.”
Pettograsso’s performance as Frogman will be on “Gotham’s” mid-season premiere which will air at 8:00 PM, Monday, January 6th, on the Fox television network.