EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Bosch star Titus Welliver on Season 2, fatherhood, and the ‘geriaction’ genre
This time last year I met up with Titus Welliver, who’s acted in too many movies and TV shows to count, to discuss the first season of Amazon’s Bosch; the much anticipated on-screen adaptation of Michael Connelly’s best selling novels. Today I sit down with Welliver as he returns to our shores promoting the sophomore season of Bosch, which sees the show’s writing, direction, and performances going from strength to strength.
Since the actor and I last met, Bosch has garnered a strong cult following, received an Emmy nomination, and, obviously, been renewed for a second season. Yet Welliver is humble about the show’s success so far: “The thing that works well is the fact that it’s not a show that’s being built from the ground up; we’re taking from Michael’s books that already had huge global success and appeal, so in that way there was a built-in audience”, he says.
But an existing fanbase brings with it certain expectations, Welliver tells me; “It’s tricky, because people have preconceived ideas about what the character looks like and what they sound like. We also had to make certain changes regarding Bosch’s age. In the books he served in Vietnam, and I’m a bit young to have served in Vietnam, so we changed his military service to the first Gulf War, and a reenlistment after the attacks on 9/11. But for the most part, we really stay to the core principles of the character, and that’s what makes him interesting and compelling for the audience; that he is a guy who’s very dogged in his pursuit, that he’s relentless and he’s a grinder”.
Dressed in a military style jacket to befit his character’s history in the armed forces, the family man has brought his ten-year-old daughter Cora along with him to our interview, making this reporter hesitant to talk freely about the show’s darker elements in her presence. Yet Welliver himself doesn’t hold back in mentioning ’70s porn and his character ‘being a prick’, so I figure it’s fine to let loose a little bit. Of course, Bosch’s relationship with his daugther Maddy (Madison Lintz) is integral to the new season of the show.
“I’ve got a bit more experience as a parent, because I’ve not been oddly estranged from my kids. But I think that also plays for some very interesting dynamics in the show”, Welliver explains about playing a dad on screen. “The person that [Bosch] cares about most is his child, and his ex-wife. He’s a guy who tends to make friends with some difficulty, but those who he’s close to, he holds fast to. The rest he can kind of pick and choose”.
Bosch’s personal life is seeming a bit more stable in the six episodes I’ve seen of season two so far. Is he turning over a new leaf?
“I think Harry returns from the six month suspension not changed, as such, but sort of making an active choice to keep his elbows in a bit”, Welliver explains. “That lasts for all of about seven minutes into the first episode, when this cop really messes up the crime scene and Bosch is furious. Even [Bosch’s partner] J. Edgar makes a joke, saying ‘I see these six months really mellowed you out, Harry’! Something that I like about him is he doesn’t subscribe to the sorts of societal norms of politeness and always wanting to put out some sort of a public persona; he doesn’t have an inherent desire to be liked. He’s just a guy who says ‘Look, I’m a tiger, and I’m not changing my stripes’. It’s not that he’s actively seeking to be unpleasant, it’s just that he cannot deal with people being inept, particularly when it comes to investigating these crimes”.
“I’m a huge fan of the whole Taken series and The Equaliser. In the states we call them ‘geriaction’ movies.”
A scene from the new season that will surely be a fast favourite among Bosch fans sees Welliver adopting full Liam Neeson mode, as his ex-wife and daughter are ‘taken’ by a bunch of mobsters, whom he must track down and take out. It marks a change from the show’s more internal and slow burning approach. I ask Welliver if it’s a direction he’d like to take more often.
“In the states we call them ‘geriaction’ movies”, he laughs. “I’m a huge fan of the whole Taken series, and The Equaliser, but I don’t know that that was necessarily an active choice, because those circumstances occur in the book. We see Harry in a place of action because he’s dealing with a highly organised criminal organisation, who think that they’re dealing with a cop who would bend – they don’t have the knowledge that this is a guy who was a Special Forces 10th Group operator, and who ‘has a very specific set of skills’, as Liam would say. I wanted to show a bit of a descent of Harry resorting to his training, and also his willingness to do whatever it was that was necessary to get [Maddy and Eleanor] out of harm’s way, without it being a John Woo movie. It’s not him going guns a blazing, but once it becomes personal, then it’s a whole different ball game”.
One member of the aforementioned mob ring is played by Brent Sexton, whom Welliver has previously worked with on Deadwood. How was it reuniting on a different project?
“It was fun! We’re old mates, and we also did another very silly show together called That’s Life years ago. It was kind of a dramedy. But I think he’s great in [Bosch] – we’re very fortunate in that way, that the calibre of actors that have come on to do the show are all top drawer. Jeri Ryan I’d also worked with many years ago, and it’s nice the way that that kind of comes full circle – having people you have this familiarity with, and a level of comfort of working with and trust. That makes it a lot more fun”.
Speaking of Welliver’s past TV projects, which include Lost, The Good Wife, and Sons of Anarchy, I ask him whether working on an Amazon series is any different from network television.
“As far as the project of making the show, there’s no difference at all. The filming process is the same, and the business model in terms of how Amazon operates is still ultimately a decision that’s made by executives, but what Amazon does in the process of streaming the material is it allows the audience to view and rate it, give their comments, and share it. That gives them a much better insight to the audience and what appeals to them. It doesn’t mean that that then dictates how we make our show – we’re still going to make the same show whether they like it or not – but I think it’s empowering for the viewer. In that way it’s a very useful and helpful tool for Amazon”.
“Amazon allows a programme to come, land, gestate with the audiences, and find its way.”
“The biggest issue in network television these days, and for many years prior to this, is if a show doesn’t come out as an explosive hit, it tends not to have much of a shelf life. Its success is typically defined within the first three or four episodes. What Amazon does is allow a programme to come, land, and then gestate with the audiences and find its way. I think it’s much smarter, so we don’t have people saying ‘Wait… where’s my show? It was here, and now it’s gone’! So kudos to Amazon”, he continues.
Before I let Titus go, there’s one thing I have to ask; with so many Connelly books yet to explore, is there any word on Bosch season three?
“There’s no official word whatsoever”, he replies. “We’re still waiting. The show, like a child, has to learn to walk. I would say that in the second season we’re in our toddler phase, and so it would be my hope that we would continue. Based on the reaction from the fans of season two it’s hopefully moving in that direction, but nothing official as of yet”.
If this level of quality and sophistication is Bosch in its toddler phase, we can’t imagine the standard it will reach in years to come.