“Boom! You never know.”
When Denzel Washington said that line to Ethan Hawke in the movie Training Day, he probably never knew the film would become a TV series 16 years later. Washington won an Oscar for his portrayal of corrupt cop Alonzo Harris, whose trainee Jake (Hawke) finally got the better of him.
CBS’s Training Day is set in the world of the movie, but with new characters. Bill Paxton plays Frank Rourke, a rogue detective raising red flags in the Los Angeles Police Department. So they assign Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) to be his partner.
Paxton and Cornwell spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about the Training Day series after the show’s panel for the Television Critics Association. Here are 12 lessons they shared about the new show.
The eternal debate of Training Day will be between Frank’s Old West justice and Kyle’s belief in due process. It’s not that Frank will just shoot first and ask questions later, but he believes in confrontations.
“He’s more of a gunfighter,” Paxton said. “He’s going to push the guy into a mano-a-mano situation. He’s not going to just shoot the guy in cold blood. It’s not like he’s going to shoot the perp. He’s going to make the perp put him in a situation. There’s a whole Western myth built into the thing. I think Frank gives them a chance. If it was a due process show, it wouldn’t be Training Day.”
In a single movie, the film took a stand that Alonzo was dirty and Jake had to stop him. With a new episode every week, the Training Day series can explore more shades of gray. Kyle starts off with good intentions, but he won’t always be right.
“My character is like, ‘We have to do things the right way,’” Cornwell said. “We have to put the image out there of cops. We need to be good cops. We don’t need to be these other cops.”
Sometimes Frank is right: Real life is different than the textbooks.
“You want to be a cop?” Paxton said. “You want to stay alive? You gotta get dirty. Forget what you learned in the police academy. He’s like, ‘No, we start doing that, what’s the difference? We’re just like them.’ Yeah, we are. In a weird kind of way, I am pushing that envelope, and it does create that dialogue. Who’s right here?”
Kyle’s father Billy was Frank’s partner before he died in the line of duty. Part of Kyle’s training will be learning the truth about his father. Paxton shared a scene that got deleted from the pilot.
“I start to tell him, ‘What did you really know about your dad? Pee wee football, church on Sunday?’” Paxton said. “Then I go into this whole thing where I say, ‘People were so afraid of your dad, gangsters were so afraid of your dad, if they thought he was coming, they’d turn themselves in. That’s no lie.’ You find out that his dad was King Kong, and he was my fearless leader. He’s the guy that I would follow into hell. He was the baddest one.”
A single episode of Training Day already has more action than the movie’s handful of shootouts. The first episode already has Frank bust a drug house with a foam gun, and Kyle gets blasted through a window, landing on a car.
“I’ve done a lot of my own stunts for this,” Cornwell said. “I did not jump out the window. All the fights were me. I think the only stunt I didn’t do in the pilot was jump out of that window. I landed on the car but I didn’t break the glass. I think it’s more high octane.”
Frank Rourke is a different character from Alonzo Harris in many ways, not the least of which is that he hasn’t fully crossed the line into killing witnesses and dealing drugs himself. One thing that makes him the perfect Training Day veteran though is he can talk.
“He’s obviously got a lot of that Irish in him, Frank Rourke,” Paxton said. “I tapped into that, and the only thing I really pulled from Denzel was really just that wit and that quickness and messing with people all the time. He’s got a fast mind. I think Frank could’ve been successful in a lot of other areas too.”
Training Day matches the look of the film with a yellow tinted skyline of downtown Los Angeles. That may simply be because that’s what L.A. looks like in real life.
“It was dawn, and I was looking at L.A. and I said, ‘Wow, this is the same color as our show,’” Cornwell said. “I feel like it is that. L.A. has that orange hue. It might be the refraction of the light hitting pollution.”
Frank Rourke couldn’t have asked for a more badass introduction, lugging a foam cannon over his right shoulder. It wasn’t so easy for Paxton. Having suffered a spinal injury before shooting the pilot, he had surgery immediately after and held the gun over his right shoulder to spare his left shoulder the weight.
“That’s my first day of filming,” Paxton said. “I’m in excruciating pain because part of my spine is collapsed. I don’t even know if I can get through the pilot.
“Because he’s been doing it so long,” Paxton continued, “it’s the idea that a guy who’s been a painter a long time, he’ll use the minimal amount of effort to accomplish what has to be done. There’s something laid back about the action part of him which I really like.”
At his core, Frank believes what he’s teaching Kyle about the streets. Sometimes though, he just has fun making Kyle squirm, like when he brings his girlfriend Holly (Julie Benz), a Hollywood madam to Kyle’s house for dinner.
“I love that my character is taking great pleasure in his discomfort, looking at him like, ‘Yeah, it’s gonna get weird now,’” Paxton said.
Kyle tries his best to stop his wife from inquiring what Holly does for a living, but there’s no keeping this under wraps.
“I just love what they edited in that scene, looks between us,” Cornwell said. “It speaks volumes with no words. Sometimes dialogue gets in the way. That scene was great because we didn’t have to say much and we kind of let the girls have this conversation.”
Training Day is fictional and all the characters are created; however, they take inspiration from some of the real controversies that faced the LAPD in recent decades, including the 1990s scandal in which more than 70 police officers tied to the Rampart Division’s elite anti-gang CRASH unit were implicated in wrongdoing.
“The police commissioner doesn’t want me turning into another Alonzo Harris,” Paxton said. “She even says that because that just about killed the department, which is a reference to what happened with Rampart. It’s not pulled out of the headlines, but they’re pulling a lot out of things that happened over the years in LAPD.”
Alonzo was just one of the characters in charge of LAPD corruption in the world of Training Day. The movie even touched on the bigger pictures, like the Three Wise Men who were above his head. The show will explore additional pockets of corruption.
“That world still exists [in the TV series],” Cornwell said. “The wise men who sent him on these missions, they still exist. The sickness that’s in the department is still there. The corruption is still there.”
Paxton previewed the season finale of Training Day, which finds Frank interrogated in Mexico. He compared Frank’s escape to Robert Duvall’s Apocalypse Now character on the beach in Vietnam.
“I get shot not just with sodium pentothol,” Paxton said. “It’s a cocktail of sodium pentothol, LSD, something to relax me, but something to get me not too relaxed. So we get busted out of there, and we’re in a shootout, and it’s almost like I become Kilgore in Apocalypse Now: He’s just walking through the bullets. That’s the guy that’ll never get hit. It’s been lifted, and it’s on steroids for sure.”
Alonzo Harris was a lone wolf, and woe be to the rookie who got partnered with him. Frank Rourke is not alone. Katrina Law and Drew Van Acker play other cops who Rourke considers family.
“You find out that I rescued her from a human trafficking ring when she was six years old, real dark stuff,” Paxton said. “Drew [plays] a guy that came into my life. He was a pro surfer that was kind of an adrenaline junkie and was kind of lost. I found him and brought him. He rescues people, but he finds lost souls. He’s kind of looking for a weird redemption.”
Training Day premieres Thursday, February 2 at 10 p.m. on CBS.