I'll probably remember Bill Paxton most as a performer for Apollo 13 and for HBO's Big Love, in which he played the often conflicted polygamous husband to three very different women. But the real Paxton may have been closer to the cop he'd been playing for the past few weeks in CBS' Training Day.
Not the corrupt part, but the lovable, rogueish character who otherwise seemed to fit Paxton so well.
The 61-year-old actor, whose death from complications of surgery was announced Sunday, was at the Television Critics Association's winter meetings only last month, talking about Training Day in a session that made me wish, at least, that I'd liked the show better.
"I think the thing that I really dug about this whole thing, besides that it has been a lot of fun to play such a rakish, rogue character, and it kind of plays to all of my strengths. You know, I like to be entertaining. That’s what I do. I’m an entertainer. And Frank Rourke [his Training Day character], if he’s anything, he is at least entertaining. I think audiences will relate to him across the aisle," Paxton told reporters.
The Texas-born actor was delighted, too, that Training Day executive producer Will Beall — himself a former Los Angeles Police Department detective —had melded some of his background with Frank's.
"When I started talking to Will about this whole show, I could see that this guy had a great love of westerns, a great love of Hollywood, and we totally bonded on that. There’s a real western ethic involved in this character. Ethos, I should say. He’s a throwback. He’s a gunfighter. He’s almost been pulled out of a time capsule and put in modern times, because he has this old kind of gunslinger code of honor. He’s tough, but he’s fair. And he’s kind of woken up in this digital age, and he doesn’t really know quite what to make of it. I can relate to that as Bill."
CBS and Warner Bros. Television released this statement on Paxton's death: