Whether you realize it or not, you’ve seen Titus Welliver before. Maybe you saw him in Argo, or The Town, or Transformers 4. Maybe you saw him on TV in “Deadwood”, or “Sons of Anarchy”, or “NYPD Blue”. He’s one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood with almost 100 credits to his name, and now, at the age of 53, he’s finally the star of a production.
Welliver is the titular character of the new Amazon Prime Instant Video series “Bosch” which is based on the series of 17 books by Michael Connelly. The pilot debuted last year and received enough acclaim that Amazon ordered the full series which is set to premiere February 13.
Welliver talked with us about stepping into the role of an iconic character like Bosch, working in a new medium, and what it’s like to finally get that starring role.
– 1 –
SB: Titus, you’ve worked in basically every medium that one can work as an actor, from the stage to movies to television, what is the main difference between those and working for an online streaming show?
TW: The major difference when working with a studio like Amazon studios, which is a totally independent entity unto itself, and a normal TV network, is that the success of a pilot on a normal TV network is predicated on a handful of executives at a network. The people at Amazon still ultimately make those decisions, but [streaming] empowers the people that are paying for Amazon Prime by putting the product out there and allowing the subscribers to view it and rate it and comment on it and share it.
We shoot Bosch very much like shooting a film. We have the luxury of doing things a bit more artistically with a larger scope. What we have done is shoot 10, one-hour movies. It’s much more cinematic.
– 2 –
SB: This is your first starring role, what’s the biggest difference in your day-to-day work?
TW: The biggest difference is the hours that I work. I’m more or less in every single scene of the show. So I’m the first in and the last out of the workday. That being said, there’s really strong writing, so although the show is called Bosch it’s really an ensemble. It’s a different kind of investment I suppose, because when you are a hired gun you are invested in the work you are doing, but in a different way. I find myself as a de facto producer or writer in that way.
However, I’m always invested in the work I’m doing no matter the role.
– 3 –
SB: Bosch is an iconic character and one that people have strong feelings about, like what he looks like and who he is. Did you read all of the books before starting or did you try to make the character your own?
TW: There are deeply dedicated fans of the books and Michael creates these fantastic scenarios and challenges for Bosch to navigate. I had a short amount of time to prepare because I was in the process of filming Transformers 4 which took me all over the country and eventually to Hong Kong. I went to Connelly and asked him where I need to focus regarding the backstory. He gave me all the Bosch books and told me to read The City of Bones and Concrete Blonde and eventually we put in Echo Park as well. I’ve played a fair amount of cops in my career from all over: Boston, New York, LA. Reading the books really got me into the mind of Harry. It’s also interpretive, and you can’t please everybody. People are going to say Titus Welliver doesn’t fit their idea of the character, but there has to be a level of ownership of the character on my part.
– 4 –
SB: The cop-on-the-edge-of-the-law is not a new theme in TV or movies. But with Bosch there does seem to be something more going on, whether it’s his past, his family, and his struggles with faith or a lack thereof. What do you feel makes Bosch unique and different than any other detective or cop on TV?
TW: He’s a very flawed character. He’s human. We see that he is fallible. We see this emotional, inner turmoil that he deals with. From the loss of his mother to the harsh upbringing he had as he came up through the system. It informs his sense of justice, as he is the advocate for the victim. He has a really strong moral compass, but Harry Bosch is a guy who doesn’t suffer fools and has no time for bureaucracy and politics. He’s not a guy who is crooked, but he also knows how the system works. And having been a soldier and a Special Forces operator, he’s a deeply instinctual guy. He takes nothing for granted.
Michael Connelly summed it up for me one time when he told me, “Harry is the guy that walks into the dark alleyway in the rain with low visibility knowing that there’s danger that lurks inside. But he’s almost myopic in his pursuit of that.”
– 5 –
SB: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve gotten in your career? What advice would you give someone else?
TW: I had the privilege to study with the playwright David Mamet and one of the things he said was, “Always show up 15 minutes early and you’ll never be 15 minutes late.”
Also, know your lines because you can’t act with a sheet of paper in your hand and operate with grace and respect. These are things that I think are extremely important.
A work ethic is the core of any type of success no matter what discipline you are in. One should always be a good scout and always be prepared. It’s important to have focus and not be myopic in pursuit of something like acting. It’s important to expand ones horizons. It’s important to watch films, read poetry, listen to good music, and listen to speeches of great orators. These are all studies of the human condition because there’s a large part of acting that has to do with observation.
My advice is that good acting is good listening, it’s really about taking the attention off of yourself and putting it on the other person.