The original film was released in 2001 and centered on crooked cop Alonzo Harris (Washington) who tries to take his rookie trainee (Ethan Hawke) under his dirty wings. Antoine Fuqua, the film's director, is serving as the series' executive producer, which gives the series more authenticity than some other network reboots of successful films -- but the series still has a hard task of distinguishing itself from its mothership. Fuqua was on hand to discuss how his team set up the series during the show's panel at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Monday.
The most obvious difference between the film and TV show is that the racial dynamic between the cop mentor and the new trainee has been switched. Bill Paxton stars as Detective Frank Rourke, a veteran member of the LAPD who gives his new trainee, Kyle (Justin Cornwell), an unfiltered look at the mean streets of Los Angeles.
However, to make the series sustainable, there were changes that needed to be made to Frank's character that wouldn't have worked for Alonzo.
"Alonzo's character had already crossed way over, " Fuqua said. "He [was] gone. He was dead before the movie even started. Training Day, for me, was like Heart of Darkness. You go further up river and lose yourself. Frank has gone up the river and somehow made it back. He's still looking for redemption. Frank still has that code of honor. He's still there"
The mentor role isn't the only one that went through adjustments. Cornwell elaborated that his character isn't as wide-eyed as Hawk's character was in the film either. "Our characters are not the same character," Cornwell said. "I feel like Ethan's character had a lot more ambitions than Kyle does at the start of the series."
Those shifts in character are what producers believe will propel the series and create the chemistry that Paxton and Cornwell need to make a compelling performance. "What's interesting about the show is that it's not just a show about Kyle's seduction [to the dark side]," said executive producer Will Beall. "It's a show about Frank's redemption. It's how those two guys push and pull on each other that's interesting to watch."
Despite all of the tension, the cast and crew want to emphasize that the show is actually fun to watch -- which surprised all of them.
"The funny thing about this is that we had so much fun," Fuqua said. "It is all about the characters. I forget to yell cut sometimes from the back of the car watching these guys."
Are you going to tune in?
Training Day premieres Feb. 2 at 10/9c on CBS.
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