“Training Day” continues the new trend of creating television series based on feature films, joining “Lethal Weapon,” “Fargo,” “The Exorcist” and the upcoming “Time After Time.” The CBS drama takes its inspiration from the 2001 Denzel Washington/Ethan Hawke film of the same name.
What makes this production even better than the original film is the casting of Bill Paxton as a jaded detective who gets an idealistic young officer (Justin Cornwell) as his new partner. The mix of the chemistry between the police partners and the heavy action make this a solid addition to the network lineup.
Playing the roles came easy for the actors.
“Art does imitate life with me being this older veteran actor and here’s this great young actor coming up,” Paxton says. “There’s also the fact that Justin is new to Hollywood, a place I have been a denizen of for 40 years.
“I have enjoyed there is this passing of the torch. I got lucky because I got a great partner.”
The bond between the actors has been so great, the pair often get together to rehearse or just to hang out.
Paxton’s playing Det. Frank Rourke in “Training Day” is just the latest in an acting career that started in the late 1970s and ranges from the “Fresno” miniseries to starring in the cable series “Big Love.” This is the first series regular role for Cornwell.
Paxton has been able to bring some of his Texas roots into the character by making Rourke a fan of Hollywood movies, especially Westerns.
“He’s a throwback. He’s a gunfighter. He’s almost been pulled out of a time capsule and put in modern times, because he has this old kind of gunslinger code of honor. He’s tough, but he’s fair,” Paxton says.
It’s that gunslinger attitude that has caught the attention of his bosses, leading to the younger cop, Kyle Craig, being sent in to do some spying. While he’s keeping an eye on Rourke, Craig is also learning what it takes to survive the mean streets of Los Angeles.
Making the transition from the film to a TV series also got a boost from Antoine Fuqua, director of the 2001 movie. He’s serving as an executive producer on the CBS series. He was able to answer questions the actors had about how the film connects with the series.
Fuqua points out that a huge difference between the film and TV production is the sense of humor Paxton brings to the role.
“I had so much fun watching these guys go at it and watching Bill doing his thing. That’s what I love the most about it, is that it had humor,” Fuqua says. “… I mean, if I’d had more time in the film, I would have put more humor in it. But in a show like this, you can have that, and you can have a lot of fun.”
“Training Day” has plenty of humor and action, but it also has a family element that Paxton sees as a major strength to the story. “These are characters who are in life-and-death situations, and they are looking out for each other,” he says.
Cornwell agrees, saying, “In this show, the things that bring you together as a family can also tear you apart as a family. We explore those ideas.”
▪ 10 p.m. Thursday, KGPE (Channel 47.1)