Albany actor has part as villain in ‘Gotham’

Mark Pettograsso is never going to tangle with Batman.
Mark Pettograsso
Mark Pettograsso

Mark Pettograsso is never going to tangle with Batman.

The timing is all wrong — Bruce Wayne is just a kid in Fox’s new “Gotham” television series. Police detectives Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock are in the mix with criminals who will eventually confront the adult Wayne’s masked vigilante from the comic books.

Pettograsso, who lives in Albany, has become Gotham rogue Robert “Frogman” Jones. He has a substantial part when the rookie series’ second half returns to the air on Monday, Jan. 5.

“From what I’m told, it was a character introduced in the comics back in the ’40s or ’50s,” said Pettograsso, 43, who grew up in East Greenbush and graduated from Columbia High School in 1990. “They never did a whole lot with the character.”

In the Gotham set-up, Pettograsso has been confined to Arkham Asylum — the place where many Batman villains receive “treatment” before breaking out to once again wreak havoc on Gotham City.

Jim Gordon — fans know he’ll eventually make commissioner — has been assigned hospital duty. He wants to know what’s happening inside, so he strikes up a conversation with the Frogman.

“I’m not an informant, I’m a patient,” Pettograsso said. “But I’m not a very nice patient.”

Pettograsso is happy to play bad guys, nice guys, anybody, although his chief roles in television and film have been steering instead of speaking parts. He’s been a stunt professional for the past seven years, fitting in camera time between his full-time gig as an electrical contractor for Albany’s Comalli Group.

He started out as an extra on one of “The Dark Knight” Batman movies starring Christian Bale.

“It’s kind of easy to be an extra, you just have to know the channels to go through to be able to have a casting company choose you for specific roles,” Pettograsso said. “That might be something you look like, it could be an ability; they look for extras all the time. I was able to get on that movie through a friend of mine who told me about it. He said, ‘I know you like driving. There’s some serious driving stuff going on here.’”

Pettograsso used that contact and snagged a job on the film. And, as has happened in other screen careers, luck played a supporting role. A stunt coordinator approached extras and said he had to have the best driver in the bunch.

“I happened to be standing next to him when he asked that. His name is Bill Young,” Pettograsso said. “I said, ‘Bill, I’m standing right here.’ I had met him a few minutes before that and he looks at me and he’s like, ‘Why do you say that?’ And I say, ‘Because I’m responsible and I’m a good listener.’ Those are the first things that came to my mind.”

Pettograsso was selected and began working with the directing and stunt teams. The brass liked what they saw, and more work was promised.

Pettograsso was a driving natural for Angelina Jolie’s spy caper “Salt,” parts of which filmed in Albany during the spring of 2009. He also revved engines for 2010’s Tom Cruise vehicle “Knight and Day,” Ben Affleck’s bank job adventure “The Town,” another 2010 release, and 2012 films “Ted” and “Men in Black 3.”

Pettograsso said he’s always been a car guy. He doesn’t need any makeup or memorization when he’s on camera in a truck or car. “I’ll be hitting a shopping cart or sliding around a corner and crashing into fruits and vegetables,” he said. “I can say that’s me, but nobody else would know that.”

He likes the vibe that comes with membership on the stunt team.

“I like that feeling, the feeling that we’re a special breed; we’re a really close-knit community,” Pettograsso said. “Everybody knows there’s an awful lot of talent in those groups of stunt professionals that really makes things happen in movies that people don’t see.”

Pettograsso has become more visible lately. “Sometimes, I’m a police officer,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m a taxi driver. In ‘Blue Bloods,’ I stunt-doubled a drug cartel guy. I beat somebody up with a crowbar.”

Roles can come up quickly. Pettograsso said he’ll get a call on a Thursday from a shoot that needs him Friday or Saturday. “Gotham” can be a quick trip; the series is produced at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn Naval Yard.

“If I lived in the city, it would be a different story,” Pettograsso said. “But I like it up here. I like upstate New York. I like the area. If I can keep kind of doing this … sometimes I’m away from my family for weeks at a time, months at a time. But I always have them come out and visit me when I have my days off.”

On Gotham, “Frogman” is never going to replace the Penguin or Riddler as frontline antagonists. But fans of the show will see more of the character in coming weeks.

“I’ll be back,” he said. “There are things down the road. There are still some missing pieces they’re going to tell down the road.”

For now, it’s just fun being on set. Driving units usually work on roads, highways or closed lots.

“I don’t get a ton of opportunities to work in the studio, but looking at the set, looking at the talented people who have made this show what it’s become, is really impressive. Being able to sit down in Wayne Manor on Bruce Wayne’s couch in his living room is awesome. I actually took a picture of that, which I can’t show.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected]

Categories: Life and Arts

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