Training Day’s Justin Cornwell inspired by Muhammad Ali
TORONTO — Before landing a starring role on the new TV series “Training Day,” debuting Thursday on CTV at 10 p.m., American actor Justin Cornwell got a boost of confidence from “the Greatest.”
He met the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali two years ago when he was playing him in a theatrical production of “And in This Corner ... Cassius Clay.”
“He’s my hero. He’s affected the way that I live my life,” Cornwell said in an interview.
“It definitely changed me,” he added of their meeting. “I felt like he gave me his powers when I shook his hand ... I felt like right then, he gave me his like: ‘You’ve got to do it. Here you go, you’ve got everything you need, man.’”
Cornwell channelled Ali’s moxie a year later when he heard Antoine Fuqua — director of the 2001 film “Training Day,” which earned Denzel Washington an Oscar — was developing a series set 15 years after the original story.
“I tweeted Fuqua Films in February, a month after they announced that they had put the project together and CBS had won out on the bid to produce the pilot,” he said. “I was like, ‘Hey, don’t sleep on me, I really want an audition, I’m in Chicago.’ I don’t know if they ever saw it but I ended up getting an audition.”
Within a week of his audition, he was on set with co-star Bill Paxton of “Big Love” fame, shooting the Los Angeles-set series.
Cornwell stars as Kyle Craig, a rookie detective whose heroic efforts to save a kid get him promoted to the elite Special Investigation Section. There, he’s tasked with exposing the corruption of veteran cop Frank Rourke, played by Paxton. Costars include Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the deputy chief.
“Instead of being aspirational like Ethan Hawke’s character was in the original ‘Training Day,’ where Ethan Hawke wanted to be Denzel Washington’s character, he wanted to be a detective, my guy is not as aspirational to be Bill Paxton’s character,” said Cornwell.
“He really wants to take him down, he’s waiting for him to slip up, really.”
Kyle’s viewpoint on Frank changes, however, when he realizes he was his father’s partner and may be able to help him solve his murder.
“The police chief and everybody else comes into question, like ‘Why am I really here? What’s really the point of putting me next to this guy?’” said Cornwell.
“It’s one of those situations where I feel like, ‘Now who do I trust? Where can I go?’”
Bill Paxton, left, and Justin Cornwell of ’Training Day,’ which debuts Thursday.