It took 17 books from author Michael Connelly before hard-boiled LAPD detective Harry Bosch finally made his way from the page to the screen. Obviously, the best-selling author was in no hurry to find the embodiment of his literary hero, who implacably solves cases while rarely giving those around him glimpses into the horrific childhood that left him scarred.
But Connelly found the right guy to do Harry Bosch justice in Titus Welliver, the veteran character actor (“Lost,” “Deadwood,” “Sons of Anarchy”) who stars in Amazon’s “Bosch.” Welliver’s Bosch is all grain and gravitas, a rough exterior that fails to cover the emotional wreckage within.
TheWrap: You’ve been acting professionally for more than 20 years now, but are there ways in which Bosch, and the character of Harry Bosch, feel like a breakthrough?
Titus Welliver: In every actor’s career, that are marks that you hit. If you want to be analagous with Shakespeare, in the beginning I’ll play Romeo, and then I’ll play Hamlet, and then I’ll play MacBeth and eventually make my way to Lear. So for me, I’ve been fortunate that there have been characters that have come along at certain points in my career that have not only moved my career forward, but have also challenged me to a certain degree, that have made me perhaps a better actor or a little bit smarter.
Harry Bosch is this character who has this great life experience and this enormous back story. You can look at it and say, “OK, he’s the hard-boiled detective, kind of rough around the edges,” but there’s more depth than that. He’s a deeply vulnerable and flawed character, which makes him very attainable not only to the readers but now to the viewers of the show. He’s a real anti-hero. And for me that makes him really really interesting to play.
You’ve said you really wanted this part. Why did you want it so badly?
I felt like, this is a guy who’s not wearing a white hat. He’s driven. He’s kind of relentless in his pursuit, and he’s a grinder. He takes nothing for granted. And that’s the beauty, also, of Michael Connelly‘s books. I call it literary judo — just when you think you have it figured out, you’re on your back and you have no idea what’s going on.
It’s experiencing the investigation of the case in real time with Harry, and he takes nothing for granted. The process of leading you down that path is interesting, and it’s interesting to play that.
What was it like to go in and try to land a part as badly as you wanted this one?
The truth is, I really had to check myself and say, yes, this is a great role, you want this desperately, but you have to go in and treat this like anything else, which is to do well and win the day. Which is all you can do as an actor.
That’s the tricky part of it, because at a certain point in my career I had to really surrender myself and be resolved that sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you do. It’s how they see that character. You can come in blow it out of the park and you don’t get it, but you have to be OK with that, and not be consumed by this notion of rejection. It’s not that, it’s not personal.
But when I was ultimately cast, I was completely thrilled.
Did you walk out of that audition thinking you’d nailed it?
I felt like I did what I wanted to do. I felt like I serviced the words and the intent of the character. I didn’t walk out of there with any regrets. I went in and did my interpretation of the character. Michael Connelly tells a story, because he likes to make me blush — he said after I walked out of the room, he turned to [the other producers] and said, “That was Harry Bosch.” In moments of profound insecurity, which all actors have, I can think, at least I have that.
Speaking of Connelly, here’s a guy on the set who created this character almost 20 years ago, and wrote 17 books about him. Was that daunting?
The great thing about Michael Connelly is his generosity. This is his baby and he’s held it very, very close. And at a certain point, he had to allow me to take some ownership of this character. But having him there made it a real collaboration. And it ain’t broke, so there’s no need to fix it.
There were very few things, just some tonal things with the character that I wanted to do, and Michael was completely open. I got to the point where I said, “Are you sure you’re OK with this?” He said, “If I wasn’t OK, I’d say it.”
Harry is a man who doesn’t speak much, and doesn’t let his feelings show. Was it challenging to deliver so much pain and hurt with so little?
Well, it always sort of goes back to servicing the playwright. It’s on the page. It’s kind of elusive as an actor – it either happens or it doesn’t. I think if you’re playing the subtext of something, the intention will come across. What I really like about Harry is that he is a guy of few words, and when he speaks it resonates. And those silences, those moments when we find him alone without dialogue, those are some of the things that I like the most.
What was the toughest thing you had to do this season?
Often I hear people say, “Oh, that was risky.” I always say, we’re actors. This is pretend. We’re not fighting wars or jumping out of airplanes. It’s about living under imaginary circumstances, so again I always fall back to that thing of, the playwright’s done a good job, so you just have to really inhabit that world, and be as open and available as you possibly can be. It should happen, and if it doesn’t I never want to be the guy to fabricate it, because it feels false.
What are we liable to see from Harry in the second season?
Well, he’s been under suspension for six months, and he’s brought back to the job. And so you have to imagine that in that period of time he’s been deeply reflective. He’s been spending a lot of time with his daughter, he’s been reacquainting himself with his child after being an absentee parent.
And the fact that the serial killer [in Season 1] was able to place a woman in between them when Harry was finally able to confront him – Harry would obsess over the fact that he wasn’t just able to get in there and take that shot and get rid of him. So what has he done in that time? What changes have transpired?
I think you’ll see Harry as Harry, but operating from a different place. I think he’ll have tried to reclaim his edge. For lack of a better term, I think you’ll see him a bit more fit and a bit more focused, and he’s presented with some very deep challenges. We’re using parts of [the Connelly books] “The Last Coyote,” “The Drop” and “Trunk Music,” so the writers really have their work cut out.
We find Harry back on the job, and he’s investigating the murder of a Hollywood producer, and that’s connected to laundering money for the mob in Las Vegas. So now he’s dealing with people who play by a different set of rules. I think the stakes are even higher than they were in the first season. That’s not saying we’re trying to drum it up and make it sexier and more action oriented, but there is more of that in this season. And I like the idea of the stakes being higher and him coming back a bit more with his edge back to meet those challenges.