Titus Welliver has come to feel a certain amount of personal ownership of the character Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, mystery writer Michael Connelly’s popular L.A. homicide detective, who is now the centerpiece of a much-discussed Amazon pilot.
What makes the steely gray-haired actor of “Lost,” “The Good Wife” and “Sons of Anarchy” fame feel such a profound connection? In a morning’s talk about the new venture, the erudite Welliver answers candidly. “I suppose I have my own haunted qualities to a certain degree. I’ve had a bit more than I would care for of personal tragedies in my life. Three of my siblings passed away and my wife died a little over a year ago from cancer, and that effects you, to say the least. It alters the state of your internal being. There’s a lot of that in Bosch.”
It has been a stunning year, a year overflowing in many ways for Welliver. He’s been exceptionally busy, with not only “Bosch” but Gus Van Sant’s recently-released “Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon as a drilling-rights salesman — as well as upcoming roles in “Transformers 4” and a role in Michael Bay’s forthcoming TNT series, “The Last Ship.” With him have been his three children.
“I’m quite proud of my kids. It’s by no means easy to navigate such a devastating loss as they’ve had to navigate — and yet they have. That which fulfills me as a human being is the love of my children and my love of them.”
Taking them with him to assignments “is tricky, but we are, as I say to my kids, we’re cinema gypsies.”
He’s grateful, he says, “they’ve been so malleable, because, you know, it was very disruptive to their summer vactions to go on several different locations. Although because it was ‘Transformers’ there was not a lot of kicking and screaming, I have to say,” he adds, smiling. In fact, the June 27 release “Transformers: Age of Extinction” Welliver says, has given him the kind of cool movie actor cred he’s never had with the three of them before.
“They were very delighted to be sitting on the set of the film. And Michael and Ian Bryce, our producer, were extremely generous in having my kids be there and giving them a wonderful thrill and a ride, just to observe that. It’s not easy for kids eight, 12 and 14 to understand non-disclosure agreements and things, but I was very proud of the fact that although they’re bursting at the buttons to be able to talk about it, none of them have folded under the interrogation of their peers.”
On the front burner for Welliver is Bosch. The immensely popular books have had a long journey to the cameras — some 20 years and different production entities and stars who were interested in making movies of him. The Amazon project is a result of Connelly himself regaining control of rights to his character.
“It’s a new world. It’s a very diffent way of doing things,” Welliver says. “Because of this new business model Amazon has where they’re streaming it for free, the audience watches it and then they grade it — Watch, Grade and Share.
The audience will be the deciding factor in whether it goes to series. The material is there, because Michael has written so many of the books, but it’s definitely a wait-and-see. My understanding is that thus far the response has been very positive. It’s tricky because when you take an iconic character, you’re not going to please everybody no matter what you do. I’m really hoping that it proves out and is given the opportunity to go to series because it’s a project I’m really, really passionate about and I want to breathe more life into it.”
Welliver likes the fact Connelly was on set and guiding the proceedings. “So many times, films and TV move so far from beloved source material that they lose what was magnetic about it for the audience,” he finds.
Is he tracking responses in real time? “I’m a little bit in the camp of ignorance is bliss. for me, it’s like reading reviews,” Welliver says. “You get a swelled head or a broken heart and neither state is desirable.”
The pilot is a combination of the books “Concrete Blond” and “City of Bones.”
“Michael gave me all the books which was a tremendous gift,” says Welliver, who had only read one of the series before the job came his way. “I’m now a fan that goes beyond my homework. I love the books, and I get why the audience likes this character so much. He’s not a guy with a white hat. There are very many different shades to this character. He’s very, very complex. He’s kind of thequintessential anti-hero, a broken guy to a certain extent. He has this incredible moral compass, that makes him very interesting to play.
“I allowed my eight-year-old daughter — she’s no stranger to bad language, I’m slightly ashamed to admit — I let her watch some of the pilot and she said a really interesting thing to me. She said, ‘Well, it’s a little bit scary,’ and then she said, ‘He’s a sad man.’ And I thought, yeah. There’s a sadness and brokenness to Bosh, which I think informs his drive to right these wrongs. He’s really the ultimate advocate for the victims of these crimes. And there’s a kind of poetic beauty to the character. He’s not just that kind of brutish cop who likes to smoke and drink too much and self medicate. There’s a beautiful drive to him.”