For a long time, Titus Welliver has been the excellent supporting actor everybody recognizes, with roles on NYPD Blue, Deadwood, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy and recently The Last Ship. But until now, he’s never had a lead role. In Amazon’s drama Bosch, based on the fiction of Michael Connelly, Welliver plays the title role: the antisocial but brilliant LAPD detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch–a role he immediately wanted. He says, “When I read the script, I thought, ‘this is a character that I will play or should like to play for as long as they’ll have me.’”
Had you read the Michael Connelly books before taking this role?
Yes, many years before. Then when I was cast I asked Michael Connelly what books should I read that would give me the greatest insight into Harry and so he said, “every single book.” He joked that he should’ve just put them on a Kindle, although they’re a prize possession. They’d been in casting and they could not find Harry Bosch and they’d met with everybody. They were literally ready to say, “let’s put this on the shelf and revisit this because we’re just not finding our guy.” Fortunately, it worked out I got the role and then we were really on the fast track. I think it’s a daunting task anytime an actor is going to jump into the shoes of a somewhat iconic character. I looked at that and went, “well, I’m sure there will be detractors and people who say I don’t look like Harry, I don’t sound like him,” but we can’t please everybody.
The show is pretty close to the books
We didn’t deviate wildly from the books, except for his military service and the timeframe, because I’m too young to have served in Vietnam. So, we changed that, and I don’t wear a suit and a tie all the time like he does in the books. I don’t have a mustache, but the intent of Harry, his moral compass, his contemplative moments are expressed through narratives in the books, but we express them by putting Harry alone in his house. Because I think those things are very important. They speak volumes about him, because he’s not an emotionally demonstrative guy. He’s a man of very few words. When you read the books you see that he only speaks when he really has something to say that’s important. So, that’s tricky in that regard. But so, the end of that is just to say that it’s not broke, so no need to fix it. So, with the exception of a few little tweaks here and there we stay faithful to the books, actually.
Bosch doesn’t seem to really care what people think of him–how did you connect to that? Are you anything like that personally?
No, he doesn’t and that’s what I find endearing about him. Someone who has so little affect and so little care. It’s not that Harry’s a prick or a bastard, but because of the rough nature of his life, the tragedy and loss of his mother, it’s really formed the adult that he is. So, as a kid he was a scrapper. He had to fight for his piece of ground.
He kind of comes in always and says, “I’m Harry Bosch. This is who I am, you may like me, you may not like me, but this is me–good, bad or indifferent,” and that’s a person who has real self-awareness. I don’t know that I have that much self-awareness, but I identify with that because I’m not typically a people pleaser and that’s not due to any kind of trauma, emotional psychic trauma. Anyway, my experience has been in observing that kind of desperation and anxiety that’s projected by actors when they come into rooms, this thing to win, to be liked.
Why do you think this has been your first lead role?
There have been a few things where I’ve looked at them and thought to myself, “this character is pretty good, but we’re looking at a film, we’re not looking at a series.” So, is this going to sustain me for a prolonged period of time or am I going to turn around in two years and sort of run out of gas? And my thing is, even though I’m not necessarily a people pleaser, I would never want to engage in a contract with someone and not be able to fulfill it, even for personal reasons. And I’ve been on sets with actors who are into their third and fourth season and they’re not happy, they’re really not happy. They’re getting paid. They’re being extremely well compensated. They are given opportunities during the hiatus period to go and do films, but they have this odd kind of resentment for the fact that they’re still playing this character. But in looking at Harry Bosch, first of all you have such a wealth of material with these books. In The Burning Room, there’s Harry at 62 and he’s still out there grinding cases and doing compelling detective work. So, that really is the thing that pulled me into Bosch, and then the people that are connected with it. You know, not just Michael Connelly, obviously having the author there is invaluable, but Eric Overmyer whose work I’ve loved. He’s been doing this for a while back to shows like Homicide, NYPD Blue. Yeah, there’s a connective tissue to David Milch who is not only a colleague and someone who I’ve done multiple collaborations and shows with, but is also like a surrogate father to me and pound for pound one of the most brilliant men and writers in this business without question.
So, season two–there’s going to be the murder of a Hollywood producer and Bosch’s ex-wife and teenage daughter are in trouble, what else can you tell us if anything?
Well, we’ve chosen three books. The Drop, Trunk Music and a little bit of The Last Coyote. Bosch will reopen his mother’s murder case and try to solve that, which will be interesting, although, it’s not going to be a major centerpiece. What I will say is the stakes are incredibly high in this because there’s a level of peril that not only affects Bosch directly, but also of course affects his daughter and his ex-wife. In the words of Harry Bosch, “you can mess with me, but if you mess with my family it’s going to go bad really quickly.”