21 Jump Street Star Trades Acting For Painting

On 21 Jump Street, Richard Grieco was a rising star, the sidekick to Johnny Depp who seemed destined for a long acting career.

But it didn’t exactly work out that way. After the show ended he appeared in a series of television shows and movies, but failed to find his breakout hit like Depp did.

Now, the Los Angeles resident has left acting entirely to pursue his new passion — painting.

Grieco said for 20 years he’s considered himself an artist, whether he was in front of a camera or a canvas. The 21 Jump Street star had painted as a hobby and kept the works to himself, but some words of encouragement from the late Dennis Hopper brought him to finally open up.

“Dennis told me to show my work to the world. It was a little daunting yet my work is based on the subconscious and not a literal point-of-view, and it is all based on pure, unbridled emotion,” Grieco said.

Eventually, Grieco said he became so enamored with painting that it came time to make a decision, either continue acting or continue painting. He didn’t see room for both.

“(I stepped away from acting) because being a true artist I don’t think you can dabble when you paint,” Grieco said. “You have to be totally committed to it which means letting all emotion and every ounce of energy you have to be focused on the canvas.”

Grieco opened a show this week at Gallerie Sparta in Los Angeles, one that’s generated quite a bit of buzz. The show features what’s described as “abstract-emotionalism style paintings,” and has been getting press both in Los Angeles and nationwide.

Even in his painting, Richard Grieco still has a strong influence from his 21 Jump Street days. One of the pieces at his new show, called “Blue Jean Red,” includes bits of the pair of jeans he wore in the series finale.