Frank Alfano Jr., BFA in Performance, 2008
Right before his senior year at VCU, Frank watched the James Bond movie Casino Royale. “I saw Daniel Craig crash through a drywall, and it clicked.” Frank had been doing stage combat since he was 12, and this moment brought it all together. Aaron Anderson (a longtime graduate and movement professor at VCU, now Associate Chair) really pushed me into stunt work because he said, ‘This is really where I think you’ll succeed.’”
Even though Frank was in three mainstage shows and many at Shafer Street, he told his professors that he wasn’t going to concentrate on acting. “I just focused on learning about stunts and everyone supported it. Stunt work is straightforward: You can either do the job or you can’t.”
After graduating, he went to the International Stunt School in Seattle (now called United Stuntmen), but it didn’t prove helpful. “It’s like taking a cooking class over the weekend and thinking you’re ready to be chef.”
Frank’s best friend Mike Blouin (TheatreVCU ’06) had moved to Florida to work at Universal. Frank followed to Orlando, where he got his Equity card working at Disney World for five years. He kept auditioning for the stunt shows, “but if you weren’t a martial artist or tumbler, they wouldn’t consider me. I couldn’t do a back flip, so I created a fire gel that allowed me to set my face on fire, a ‘skin burn.’”
He moved to New York in 2013, and he’s been busy ever since, including jumping out of a helicopter into the ocean for Telemundo, a fire burn for Vampire Diaries, being thrown off a seven story building, and being killed by at least two Oscar-winning actors. Other credits include Gotham, The Blacklist, Law and Order SVU, Daredevil, Homeland, Vampire Diaries and the feature film Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix, to name a few! One advantage of his Italian looks is that he can get cast in movies that have a Bar Mitzvah Hora scene, because they only use stunt actors to carry the chair for the dance.
Sometimes his acting training still pays off, “I have VCU to thank because sometimes they want an actor for the stunt. On Law and Order I got hit by a car and had an acting scene afterwards.”
Frank explains, “New York is a television city, so it’s usually dead in the summer.” But this year he’s already booked an unnamed pilot and has four other gigs lined up. He gives credit for his start to Aaron, “He contacted stunt men he knew and got me meetings where they told me about the industry.” Frank recently started a workshop for stunt professionals called Northeast Fire Stunts, teaching them how to perform fire stunts for film and television.
Header image (clockwise from top left): Frank as the lead image for The Following in the Netflix cue; Frank in makeup for a scene for the Marvel TV show Iron Fist; Behind the scenes shot from the film Skin—Frank in a hospital bed with “double naked arm burns and face burn”; Frank acting in VCU mainstage Three Sisters; Frank posing with Michael Emerson on the set of Person of Interest. Frank was Emerson’s stunt double for the last two seasons .
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the June 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.