Guest of Honor

Titus Welliver Explores Darkness and Light on Screen and Canvas

Something seems to draw Titus Welliver back to a certain type of gritty dramas, from his recurring roles on "NYPD Blue," "Lost," and "Sons of Anarchy," to his new starring turn in the crime-thriller series "Bosch."

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Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images Entertainment
Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images Entertainment

Actor Titus Welliver played “The Man In Black” on the television series “Lost” and was a regular on “Deadwood” and “Sons of Anarchy.” Now he is the star of his own series, “Bosch,” based on the bestselling crime novels of Michael Connelly. Titus plays Harry Bosch, a hard boiled L.A. homicide detective trying to solve a murder while also on trial himself for killing a man. The entire first season is now available to stream on Amazon.

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Brendan Francis Newnam: Does playing a genre character make you extra-cautious about avoiding cliche?

Titus Welliver: Definitely. I mean, one definitely approaches it to stay as far away from those traps that have been so firmly established. It’s sort of like rock and roll. It’s all derivative. You’ve got a few chords, but they go a long way. So, it’s just sort of, how do you re-invent the wheel, to a certain degree.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Unlike a lot of shows — many shows are shot in Canada or Michigan — this was actually shot in Los Angeles. Connolly asked for that in his negotiations with Amazon. Was it unusual to work where you live?

Titus Welliver: A little bit, yes, I have to say. But really, a breath of fresh air. And there really isn’t any other way that they could have done it. L.A. is as much a character as Harry Bosch is in this show.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s gorgeously shot. It has this neo-noir quality. There’s one scene in the pilot where you are at a bar with this beautiful young recruit who becomes a love interest, and you’re having martinis, and you ask her, “Why did you get into police work? Because of the glamor?” And, you’re saying it sarcastically. But, when you’re watching it, you’re like, this does look pretty glamorous. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and these two fairly attractive people are having a cocktail.

Titus Welliver: Well, it’s also so analogous, though, to Hollywood in itself, right? We think of it as “Hollywood Boulevard,” the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It’s the facade of beauty. What lurks behind that is some pretty dark stuff.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, your character is a bit of an antihero, and in TV, we’ve been kind of living in the age of the antihero, these conflicted, badly-behaving but partly-sympathetic guys. In light of “Mad Men”, “Breaking Bad,” and those sorts of shows, was there pressure to play Bosch differently, at all? Did you take that into account?

Titus Welliver: Not at all. I thought, to soften him up, to distill him in some way, would be to completely undermine the musculature of the character that was created by Connolly. And so, that’s one of the things I like about Harry Bosch. He’s not a guy who necessarily has an inherent desire to be light. So, stepping out of the norms of societal politeness makes him, I think, a more accessible and realistic person.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. I think people also stay with him because he has this moral compass, despite the fact that he sometimes takes liberties with the rules and makes adjustments to proper police procedures along the way.

Titus Welliver: He breaks from departmental policy, but it’s certainly not him taking the law into his own hands. You don’t see him beating confessions out of perpetrators.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He’s not Dirty Harry.

Titus Welliver: Yeah, exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: He’s not. And, he’s not named after Dirty Harry, but I do want to talk about who he’s named after: Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter.

Titus Welliver: Yes, exactly.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Did Michael Connolly ever tell you why he chose that name for this character?

Titus Welliver: Well, he became very, very taken by the images painted by Bosch, and I think that a great deal to do with it. There’s such depiction of darkness and light and the underworld in Bosch’s paintings, surreal as they are.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you are named after the son of a painter, Rembrandt’s son was named Titus?

Titus Welliver: Yes, yet another Dutch painter.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, there’s almost destiny in this casting decision.

Titus Welliver: So it would seem, so it would seem. I know, it’s a hell of a name to hang on a kid, but as an adult, it’s not so bad.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s pretty cool.

Titus Welliver: Yeah, the derivations of that name on the playground were horrific.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, as a kid, being named Titus might be difficult.

Titus Welliver: Yeah, not easy.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, you, yourself, are the son of a famous painter, Neil Welliver. Aside from the Rembrandt connection, did he give you any other reason for selecting the name Titus?

Titus Welliver: Well, he certainly liked Rembrandt, but he really just liked the name. He and my mother both. I’m glad they proceeded with that rather than Oliver Welliver. Those two don’t go well together.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Titus is better. So, another question I had while watching this show was, how did Harry get such a nice house, right? He has sweeping views of downtown L.A. There’s a wraparound porch. It’s all glass. It’s pretty fancy for an L.A. police detective. Were you envious of his digs?

Titus Welliver: Well, yeah. Who wouldn’t be? I clocked that, also, from the film “Heat.” That was Amy Brennamen’s house in the film “Heat.” That’s a big question a lot of people have asked. “What about that house?” Harry speaks to that in saying that he consulted on a film, based loosely on one of his cases, and that’s where he got the money to buy the house.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. It’s kind of a meta moment. I think that’s one of the qualities of noir. Even though it’s this dark underbelly of cities, the protagonist, you’re listening to jazz, you’re having a scotch, you have a deck, a beautiful woman comes by. It’s kind of appealing, even though it’s a dark world.

Titus Welliver: Yeah. You have to take the perks when you live in the world of neo-noir. A good 12-year-old malt and some Thelonius Monk goes a long way.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, okay. We have a standard request we make of each of our guests on this show, and it is, tell us something we don’t know. This can either be a personal fact about you or an interesting piece of trivia about the world.

Titus Welliver: This is something that relates directly to Bosch, because it’s been brought up in social media, and that is, like Harry Bosch, I too am left-handed, but I do a lot of things with my right hand. One of them being firing a weapon. A couple of people said, “Why isn’t he using his left hand?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, you are actually authentically left-handed, like the character, yet you happen to be a lefty who uses your right hand for shooting.

Titus Welliver: Yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And, of course, all the Bosch maniacs are calling you on that.

Titus Welliver: I know. So, I guess that means in between, god willing, and Amazon, we get picked up for a second season, I try to train to shoot the weapon with my left hand.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Or, you could just hold up your left hand like a stop sign, and say “Enough. This is an adaptation of a book. We’re taking some liberties.”

Titus Welliver: Right. I could do that. Or I could just totally break the fourth wall, look directly into the lens and say “I shoot with my right hand, but I write with my left hand”. Maybe that’s too arch.