With a career that spans more than two decades, Titus Welliver has become the quintessential go to actor for film and television. He’s had pivotal roles in such series as Sons of Anarchy, Life, Deadwood and Lost. Titus has also made numerous guest appearance on CSI, Supernatural, Touch and The Closer. This summer he will be starring in the new Transformers film and will also be appearing in the new TNT drama The Last Ship, which hails from Michael Bay and is being toplined by Eric Dane and Rhona Mitra. He can also be seen playing Detective Harry Bosch in the Amazon Studios drama Bosch, which looks set to be picked up to series. In this, the first-part of a two part interview, Titus spared some time to talk to TVWise about his new project Bosch, a drama pilot for Amazon Studios which was released earlier this month.
TVWise: Bosch has been a real passion project for Michael Connelly, who reportedly had to pay $3 million to Paramount to get the rights back, making the Amazon pilot possible. How aware of that were you?
Titus Welliver: No, I actually wasn’t. The thing is I had read a Bosch book years ago and things like time and being a father kept me very busy. I read voraciously and normally have 3 books going at the same time. So, I would usually learn my lines for work and then be in bed by 9pm. I was very much aware of the Harry Bosch character and when I read the script, I was really pulled in to it. I was filming Transformers 4 at the time, so my schedule was just crazy with multiple locations and many times having to jump on a plane at the last minute, so I kept having to reschedule meetings with Michael Connelly and [director] Jim McKay. It was kind of making me crazy because there were two scheduled meetings that I couldn’t make and I thought you know what, it’s going to go away and I had to kind of resign myself to that.
Fortunately, there was a window when I was back in LA between locations on Transformers 4, walked in the room and within minutes of speaking to Connelly and company I said “I have to have this role and have to work with these people”. There’s always that element when you are meeting with creators, there has to be a synchronicity of thought and just having that dialogue with them it supported my suspicions that I really wanted to work with these guys. When they cast me, I was really overjoyed. Like all things that you jump in, particularly with television pilots, you are always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop when you are shooting. What’s going to go wrong today? Is somebody not getting along? That just never happened. It flowed really smoothly and it was just a fantastic experience. It’s all the more reason for me to want this to be realized as a series because there are so many stories to tell.
TVWise: Were you originally approached for the role of Bosch or did you read for the part?
Titus Welliver: Yeah, I know that they met with a lot of different actors and agents. It’s also one of those things that is kind of daunting. You get very attached to a character when you read it and you sort of get this picture in your head of what the character should look like or which actor should play it. I’ve experienced that myself because I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve been so nicely surprised when I thought, “I don’t know that I would have cast that person”, and then you see the performance and you kind of go “wow, I don’t see anybody else doing it”. So, you have to kind of create a sense of ownership there and I just really connected to the character of Harry on so many levels.
TVWise: Did you do any kind of preparation or research for the role of Bosch?
Titus Welliver: Yes I did. Mike Connelly sent me over all the Bosch books, but because of short amount of time, he said “you have to read Concrete Blonde and City of Bones because we are combining those two books for the first season”. I burned through those books in no time flat. So, I read the books and that obviously gave me a really deep insight. Michael’s narrative really makes it easy to kind of get into the mind of Bosch and his whole universe. They [the producers] also connected me with two LAPD Robbery Homicide detectives who were technical advisors and also longtime friends and colleagues of Michael’s. They were also on hand and on set all the time if I had any type of technical questions. The beauty of this is that we wanted to make a show that was true to procedure, so it’s not MacGyver. There’s also the temptation to kind of sex it up a little bit, but I was really happy that their vision was to stay true to the books.
They also set me up with an interesting thing. It’s a simulator called Shoot, Don’t Shoot. It’s a big screen in front of you and you have a weapon that’s interactive with the screen. It plays different scenarios on the screen and you have to make split second decisions whether to use lethal force or not to use lethal force and it’s pretty intense! I’ve done a lot of weapons training over the years for different roles and I’ve been shooting since I was a kid. I found that your heart rate really does go up and it’s a high pressure situation and having a bunch of LAPD detectives in the room with you when you are doing it, you really want to do well. It also gave me the insight into the character in as much that in Concrete Blonde, it’s his pursuit of the serial killer and rapist Roberto Flores which we see him tracking in the opening of the pilot and shoot him and then of course he’s on trial in a civil case as a wrongful shooting even though he was exonerated by the department as it being a good shooting. It gave me a sense of what these guys have to deal with; it’s an enormous weight. A lot of the scenarios are designed to trip you. A guy might reach into his pocket in a car and you think he might be going for a weapon when he’s actually going for his phone. So, in that way it was very interesting and very helpful.
TVWise: Knowing this was such a passion project for Michael Connelly, did it add a level of pressure or responsibility for you?
Titus Welliver: Not so much pressure, but definitely responsibility. I think anytime you tackle such an iconic character in the genre knowing there is such an enormous fan base for the books, you want to do well. I sensed Michael’s passion in wanting to do this properly, so of course I felt responsible to service his vision. Michael has been a help to me in realizing the character. He and I kind of have a shorthand on set in which I can do something and I can look up and over the monitor and catch his eye to get the Connelly nod and that for me just kept me on track. I also got caught up in it to and I feel very passionate about it as well. I think it’s an incredible character and you want to service it.
TVWise: Do you see Bosch as a straight forward black and white character or is he more shades of grey?
Titus Welliver: Yeah, I think he’s a very grey character. He certainly doesn’t wear the white cowboy hat and that’s what I like about him. He’s a very human character and it makes him very attainable to the audience because he’s flawed. He’s not written in a way where he is so heroic that you can’t connect with him. He’s a very haunted character who had a very painful childhood, so he’s not bulletproof. But, there’s also a guarded quality to the character and he also has a sense of humor. He’s not this sort of cookie cutter, grim cop who is at odds, but there is a world weariness about him with a tremendous vulnerability and that’s such a gift for an actor to be able to play something so nuanced.
TVWise: Where there any major differences or challenges shooting the pilot for Amazon as opposed to shooting the pilot for one of the major networks?
Titus Welliver: If one was to attempt to do Bosch with a network, it would have to be really sanitized and diluted to the point where it would not be as compelling. You have great books, so why deviate from the musculature that has been created by Connelly. So, in that way it’s great to have the liberty to not be restricted by the standards and practices of network television, which are fine. It’s not to deny or diminish the weight of network TV, but when you are not restricted, you can really get out there and use language and violence when it’s needed and it’s certainly not glorified or cool, our depiction on how things occur.
TVWise: What do you think separates Bosch from other police shows?
Titus Welliver: Well, it doesn’t fit within the same kind of framework of procedural shows; Bosch will not solve the case in one episode. I mean, I get that, because there is an immediacy in network television, you can always do cliff-hangers, but I think it plays more like a novel by doing it the way we do it. It allows the audience to kind of experience with Bosch in real time his approach to solving the case. It gives the audience a chance to breathe because I don’t think everyone wants it spelled out for them in a short period of time. If audiences want immediate gratification, they can watch reality television, but with our show, they have to sit forward and pay attention. I think that is what we’ve done with the pilot. Sometimes there is always the temptation to keep the pace moving and moving and never letting anything breathe, so when you do that you can also be criticized for being slow. I think good storytelling allows moments to land on the audience so that they can take that in a little bit and think for themselves.
TVWise: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Titus Welliver: I am just finishing The Last Ship for TNT and that has been fun. Transformers 4 is coming out this summer and it’s going to be one hell of a ride. I hope everyone fastens their seatbelts for that one. I have another film coming out with Ron Pearlman and Giancarlo Esposito called Poker Night, but at the top of my list is Bosch. I can’t wait to slip back in to Harry’s shoes for lack of a better analogy. I really love that character and I feel like there is so much more to do. My fingers are crossed and I’m really indebted to the fans for really showing up and watching, rating and sharing the show with friends and supporting the show. I sort of joked on Twitter that I would love to give everyone a hat and a t-shirt that says Team Bosch for all the support they’ve given us. What I can offer to the fans in return for their generosity is a really good show that they will have some sense of pride of ownership because they will be the deciding factor. That’s pretty cool and a whole new world in that way. I hope it shakes out the way that I believe it should.
– In the second part of this interview (coming later this week) Titus talks to us about a number of his previous projects including Lost, Life & Sons of Anarchy; working with David Milch and more.