Russell Hornsby is very familiar with the 1999 movie The Bone Collector. Its pedigree, featuring Academy Award-winning actors Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, is one of the reasons Hornsby wanted to be a part of Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt For the Bone Collector, premiering Friday at 8/7c on NBC. The new series shares its source material with the 1999 thriller: Both are based on Jeffrey Deaver's 1997 novel The Bone Collector.
But Hornbsy, who co-starred with Washington in 2016's Fences, chose not to seek out Washington's advice when it came to time to put his spin on the character of Det. Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic forensics expert who was paralyzed while pursuing the serial killer known as the Bone Collector.
"You know what, I'm old school," the Boston University acting conservatory alum told TV Guide during a recent phone interview. "I was raised by old-school cats, and I come from a school where it's like Nike — just do it. I was never inclined to call Denzel or reach out, nor did he reach out to me. And I don't say that in a bad way. I really believe Denzel is like, 'Hey brother. It's yours. You go do it.' And I took it like, 'Hey, it's mine. I'm going to go do it.'"
"I don't believe there's anything that he could tell me from his standpoint or anything that I would want to hear from him," Hornsby said. "I say this respectfully. This is a different role on a different medium, and I think he would feel the same way. Old-school cats didn't suffer fools when I was coming up. There's no hand holding. When I was working in theater with cats who were 20 years my senior, they were like, 'Hope you're paying attention. There won't be a review. Get what you get and move on, brother.'"
Instead, Hornsby's preparation for the role of Lincoln Rhyme involved spending a lot of time with the show's medical consultant, Gary Baisley, who is a c-5, c-6 quadriplegic.
"He's on set every day that I'm working, and he's there to monitor my physicality or lack thereof and to make sure that I'm being authentic and that everything comes from an organic place," Hornsby said of Baisley. "Obviously, for dramatic purposes, there are certain things we have to massage a little bit. I also went to some of his physical training sessions and met other quads as well to get an idea of their sensibilities and how they think."
Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector introduces Lincoln as he's trying to leave the Bone Collector in his past. He's stopped trying to find the infamous serial killer — until a transit cop named Amelia Sachs (Arielle Kebbel) discovers a corpse that is staged the same way the Bone Collector tended to stage his victims' dead bodies. Lincoln leans on Amelia's mental and physical resourcefulness as the two team up to find their man.
Hornsby teased that Lincoln and Amelia will work together to solve cases each week, and that their pursuit of the Bone Collector will often serve as a secondary story within the episode.
"You've seen me play a lot of cops, detectives, and law enforcement. And I do believe I possess a lot of swag," Hornsby said. "I grew up in Oakland, listening to hip hop, and I infuse that into the work. That's why I was able to get the wife I got, the roles I've gotten and do, all these kinds of things. But Lincoln is a savant, like Sherlock Holmes. What happens when you take all of that swagger away — when you take away that walk or whatever it is that turns somebody on or makes somebody take notice?"
"What you have is a man with cerebral swagger because he is so bright," he continued. "There is still a charisma that you still have to have. With cerebral swagger, it's all about his articulation and word choices — all of these things that once you graduate from college, these are the things that I found women were attuned to. That's the beauty of Lincoln and the place he's in right now."
Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector premieres Friday, Jan. 10 at 8/7c on NBC.
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