'Bosch' star Titus Welliver: 'Maybe I'm just a cop without a badge'
Titus Welliver isn't the first actor I might have thought of to play LAPD homicide cop Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, hero of 17 best-selling mystery novels and counting by Michael Connelly (plus multiple appearances in Connelly's "Lincoln Lawyer" series). But that's more because the book series started so long ago, and has allowed Harry to age in real time, so my mental image of him is much older than the "Deadwood" alum.
In "Bosch," a new TV series whose first season can be streamed on Amazon Prime starting today, Welliver plays a younger and slightly mellower version of Harry. Connelly and producer Eric Overmyer ("The Wire," "Tremé") adapted the first season from pieces of three different Bosch novels ("The Concrete Blonde," "City of Bones" and "Echo Park"), and tweaks some biographical details. (Over the course of the early books, for instance, Bosch got married, divorced, and had a daughter who's on the verge of finishing high school; in "Bosch," he's already divorced and has a teenage daughter.) The supporting cast includes a pair of "Wire" alums in Jamie Hector (as Harry's partner, Jerry Edgar) and Lance Reddick (as LAPD Deputy Chief Irvin Irving), Amy Aquino (Bosch's commanding officer, Lt. Grace Billets), Annie Wersching (uniform cop Julia Brasher) and Jason Gedrick (Raynard Waits, who takes credit for the murder Bosch and Edgar are investigating).
I've seen the first four "Bosch" episodes, but I'm going to reserve judgment on them until after I've had a chance (hopefully within the next couple of weeks) to watch the other six and see how the arc of the whole season goes. It's more straightforward and conventional than a lot of other series Amazon has debuted so far, but it also seems like a smart choice for a company that has no doubt sold many copies of Connelly's books.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Welliver about the series, his history of playing both cops and dour individuals like Harry, the ways the show had to change the Bosch of the books, and more.
Before the interview proper began, I mentioned to Welliver that he's the star of one of my favorite DVD bonus features, from the "Deadwood" complete series set, where he impersonates David Milch, Al Pacino and other actors auditioning for various roles on the iconic series:
Welliver laughed and said he did it as a wrap gift to Milch, who has put him in four series (as a recurring emergency room doctor on "NYPD Blue," and then as a series regular on "Brooklyn South," "Big Apple" and "Deadwood"). When I asked why no one in the business has ever taken advantage of his gift for mimicry, he said, "Nobody wants me to be funny."
So what do they want you to be? A cop?
Titus Welliver: They want me to just be the sort of austere, intense (guys). That, for me, what's wonderful about playing Harry Bosch is he has a sense of humor, a really good sense of humor. So there are moments of buoyancy and levity that come out of light rather than hitting it too hard on the nose. Harry is a fairly morose character who's very inverted to a certain degree.
Had you read any of the Bosch novels before you read the script for this?
Titus Welliver: My first exposure was I read one novel many many years before I even read the "Bosch" script. The script was completed when I met with Connelly and Overmyer. The pilot script was a small portion of "The Concrete Blonde," which was the civil suit against him, and "City of Bones," and we then added in parts of "Echo Park." I've since read more of them just for pure pleasure, just because I enjoyed them. Certainly, there is a level of education I get, just by reading the books, there might be something that resonates, and I have. I've gone to Connelly and said, "Hey, I like this moment in this book, and there's a tone thing that I'd like to put into the show." And Michael cracks me up, because he's written so many of the books, and he'll go, "Which book was that?" He's very humble.
How would you say your version of the character differs from the Harry of the books?
Titus Welliver: One of the things we obviously had to change was Harry's age and military service. That was the trick for Michael and Eric, because Harry's aged in real time. In the latest book, "The Burning Room," he's on the verge of retiring, at 62 years old. So that was the trick for them. Do we start with Harry at the beginning of his career? Can we track him that way? What they chose to do was come into the middle of Harry's career when he's in his early-mid 40s, and pick it up from there. So while we honor Harry's military service (in the books, he's a Vietnam veteran), we have to relocate it to the first Gulf War, and then had him re-enlisting and re-joining the special forces in Afghanistan, post-9/11, which many police officers did, after 9/11, a lot of cops went into the reserves.