Interview: ‘Training Day’ Producer Will Beall on How the TV Series Is Like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Warriors’
Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 by Fred Topel
CBS did not present a Television Critics Association panel for their upcoming series Training Day, based on the 2001 movie, but the cast and creators attended their evening party. Screenwriter Will Beall adapted the movie for television under producers Antoine Fuqua and Jerry Bruckheimer. I actually ran into Beall just as he was about to leave the party, in line at a waffle truck parked for dessert.
Beall said this was the first formal interview he had given on Training Day, which now has veteran Det. Frank Rourke (Bill Paxton) take rookie Kyle Craig (Justin Cornwell) under his wing. The movie had Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop training a rookie played by Ethan Hawke. Beall is also working on the feature film scripts for Aquaman, The Legend of Conan, and Robin Hood, and we discussed them all during our conversation. Training Day could be on CBS this fall or midseason. Note: this interview contains spoilers for the movie Training Day.
Is Training Day on television a chance to explore all the things a corrupt cop and his rookie can get into, more than just one day?
The movie is its own thing. To try to remake the movie to me would’ve been crazy. Antoine, when I talked about doing a TV version of it, we had always said that it was important that the thing have its own idea. To me, the most interesting part of the movie, my favorite scene in the movie, after they kill Scott Glenn, Roger. Ethan Hawke’s whole fucking world turns upside down. They’re in the car and Denzel, Alonzo, has this amazing speech to him, this heartfelt speech where he says, “I’ve been in that seat. I know it’s terrible to see how things really get done out here, but I’m telling you stick with me. This is the way it needs to happen. This is how things get done. Trust me, you stick with me…”
It’s almost like a version of the only thing that was good in any of the Star Wars prequels is when Palpatine says to him, “You wanted to live a life of conscience, of significance.” It’s his version of talking about the subtleties of the Force, right? Then after that, the movie takes a radical turn where he takes Ethan Hawke to the gang guy’s house and you realize, oh shit, he’s just a bad guy. He’s going to kill him. That moment where you don’t completely know where Denzel is at. Wait, is he a good guy? What he’s saying makes sense to me but I’ve just seen him kill this guy. That was the most fascinating, intense dramatic part of the movie. So I wanted us to be able to do a series that lived in that space.
Are 13 or 22 episodes a chance to explore those questions further, like do the ends justify the means?
My guy, if you asked him do the ends justify the means, he wouldn’t understand the question. He’d be like, “There’s just the ends. You either get it done or you don’t.” Which is part of what makes him a fascinating character.
Is Training Day in 2016 very different than it was in 2001 with all of the current events dealing with cops?
You’re the first guy that I’ve talked to about this. The real real is that Training Day every week is the kind of action movie that I grew up on that they don’t make anymore. So you’re going to get, in the way that action movies of the ’80s and early ’90s were sort of modern westerns, that’s what this is. You’ll see when they show you the pilot and three or four episodes, you’ll see that the show is up on the balls of its feet a little bit. It’s just a little bit heightened from where the movie was.
It’s almost like there is Colors, which is a classic and fairly authentic depiction of gangs in Los Angeles, especially for the time. I was a cop before this for like ten years in L.A. and worked most of the time in South Central. I did not realize. I saw Colors when I was in high school. It wasn’t until I came on the job that I realized, oh shit, Colors, not only does it hold up but Colors is a truthful movie, as goofy as that sounds.
There’s Colors, this authentic depiction of gangs, and then there’s The Warriors where the fucking Baseball Furies and there’s a roller skating gang of all that stuff. Training Day the series is in there somewhere. That part of it is what’s most exciting to me about that. So it exists in some ways in its own world. It’s outside of time a little bit in the way that The Warriors was. We’re not that explicit but you’ll see that it is definitely a heightened L.A.