'Bosch' Star Titus Welliver Is a Hungry Boy
Over a huge Italian meal, the actor discussed what it means to be 'Bosch'-pilled, his tattoos, and the overlap between his real life and the 'Bosch'-verse.
When Detective Harry Bosch eats, he typically shovels take-out food into his mouth from a container balanced on the hood of a car. Solving murders doesn't lend itself to leisurely lunches. Titus Welliver, the actor who has played the gruff Los Angeles cop-turned-private eye for nearly a decade, has a number of Bosch-like qualities when you meet him: piercing eyes, a seen-some-shit heaviness, and a tendency to call people "brother." Even with a bushy beard, dressed in baggy jeans, a Boston Celtics T-shirt, and a baseball cap, he exudes an innate Bosch-ness. But, unlike the character he's best known for, he knows how to stop and enjoy a good meal.
Still, the line between Welliver's reality and the Bosch-verse can get blurry. For example, on a recent episode of Bosch: Legacy, the quasi-spinoff that recently wrapped its first season on Amazon's ad-supported streaming service Freevee, our hero rolls out of bed in a T-shirt for Basta Restaurant. That's not one of Bosch's Hollywood haunts like Musso & Frank. No, it's an Italian eatery Welliver suggested for this interview. (It's located in Agoura Hills, not far from the home Welliver recently purchased in Topanga Canyon.) He stumbled upon the place while furniture shopping with his wife, befriended the owners, and now stops by as often as his schedule (and diet) allows. So, naturally, life bleeds into the show.
"I'm imagining Harry will have to make his way out here for a scene," Welliver says between bites of the mussels and the braised short ribs. From the moment he sits down, the dishes don't stop coming. At one point, the chef, Saverio, brings out a sample of a pasta made with fresh duck egg. Welliver approves: "It's fucking crack. It's so rich. Italian crack."
Why not indulge? I'm meeting with Welliver on the day before the last two episodes of Bosch: Legacy will drop, and the show has already been renewed for a second season. According to Welliver, the fan response has been "overwhelmingly good" and Amazon, which launched Bosch as part of its initial "Pilot Season" programming slate back in 2014, appears happy with the viewership numbers. Welliver co-wrote the script for the finale with Michael Connelly, the author who created Bosch all the way back in 1992 with his Edgar Award-winning mystery novel The Black Echo. Welliver has never penned an episode before. (I'm using "pen" literally: He writes longhand and then dictates his chicken scratch.) He's aiming to direct next. "I've directed some theater, but I knew I wanted to get behind a camera and do that," he says. "So, I will do it, for sure."
The specific pleasures of Bosch, the Dirty Harry of dad shows, can be difficult to pin down. Welliver is quick to credit the guiding force of Connelly, who also writes the series of Lincoln Lawyer novels, which now has its own streaming-series version on Netflix, with giving the show depth and a literary connection to the noir of Raymond Chandler, Nelson Algren, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane.
"Michael's books are a throwback to the great writers of that genre and he was inspired by all of them," Welliver explains. "I think now that we've landed with Harry being a private eye, we're serving the genre in a different way and I think it goes back to the thing that inspired Michael to want to write."
For the show to work, Welliver needed to deliver that Steve McQueen-like intensity. Born in Connecticut to a Yale fine-art professor father and a fashion illustrator mother, he found acting early and moved to New York, where he learned how to break down a script under David Mamet at NYU. He decamped to LA in 1989, living in Venice and hanging out at coffee shops between auditions. His first part was as "Redneck in Bar" in the Charlie Sheen action movie NAVY Seals.
During the '90s, he appeared in almost every notable TV drama of the era: L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, New York Undercover, Nash Bridges, The Practice, and Touched by an Angel. Before Bosch, he popped up in movies like Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo, and Transformers: Edge of Extinction, further solidifying his "that guy" status, and after the dawn of TV's so-called Golden Age he had pivotal roles in shows like Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, The Good Wife, and Lost, where he played the puzzle-box antagonist known as the Man in Black. But, in his 50s, when the Bosch pilot was shot, he'd never been the lead of a series before. He saw an opportunity to do something special with the cop show: "You can't reinvent the wheel, but you can tell a different story."
Despite the show's gray-haired star and its proudly old-school affectations, Bosch has cross-generational appeal. Some of that might have to do with the character's relationship with his daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz), now a rookie cop in Legacy. Their bond, built over In-N-Out burgers and Chinese food, forms the emotional backbone of the series. "I was really taken aback the first few times when considerably younger people would express their love for the show," says Welliver. "The funny thing about it is nobody is half in. They're either all in or they're not."
What exactly does "all in" look like? A Bosch obsession usually starts with a recommendation from a family member, colleague, or friend ("Hey, you ever watch Bosch?"), a brief period of soul-searching after the first couple episodes ("Wait, do I really like Bosch?"), and then a frenzy of total immersion that involves finishing the series, reading the books, and, if you're like me, moving to Los Angeles. ("Help, I have a Bosch problem.") Concerned loved ones in your life might question the level of sincerity or irony involved in a Bosch binge, but it's best to drown them out like you're Harry Bosch playing a Thelonious Monk record at ear-splitting volume. They don't get it—yet.
For an audio-visual representation of Bosch mania, I highly recommend watching this interview from 2021's Vulture Fest between Welliver and the hosts of Hollywood Handbook, a comedy podcast hosted by writers Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport. It starts with Welliver meeting Clements' dog named Bosch and escalates from there, with Davenport pitching a new version of the Bosch theme song that's just "a scary version of [Macklemore's] 'Thrift Shop'" and Clements asking Welliver to role-play as his dad saying he's proud of him. "They're fucking funny," says Welliver when I bring up the interview. "They were so fast and loose with it. Those are the most fun things to do, where you feel like you're sitting in your living room and people just happen to be there."
Though Bosch is an often serious show, concerned with matters of justice and institutional rot, Welliver can be funny, and he's also a proud nerd with a vast toy collection and a tattoo of the Fantastic Four's Silver Surfer on his right arm. ("My all-time favorite," he notes.) He likes to do voices (his co-stars, his directors, even his Calabasas neighbors the Kardashians); he tells stories (his trips to Italy, his time playing in bands as a teen); and, like most dads, talk about his three kids, who have all made appearances on the show. His 23-year-old son Eamonn played Bosch in a flashback sequence in Episode 8 of Legacy. Most importantly, Eamonn also introduced his dad to the Deftones, the hard-rock group that inspired the pony tattoo below the Silver Surfer.
As he finishes his meal, packing up food in to-go boxes to bring home to his family, he tells me about a recent trip to see the band at The Greek Theater, where he had a concertgoing experience that probably would have sent the jazz-loving Bosch running for his car. "There's a marine layer that comes over Griffith Park and traps all the weed smell," says Welliver. "My son and I are both sober people, and the friend that was with us is also sober, but we're all laughing because we're going, 'This doesn't count, right? We don't have to worry about this.'" A massive weed cloud can't stop him: He just got tickets for Smashing Pumpkins and Jane's Addiction at the Hollywood Bowl.
Where Bosch tends to play things cool—owning his grumpiness—Welliver can't help himself. Freshly made food, heavy metal, and movies all bring out his enthusiasm. In this season of Bosch: Legacy, he got to share scenes with one of his acting heroes, William Devane of Marathon Man and Rolling Thunder, a 1977 revenge movie Welliver loves so much he named his California estate after it. The 82-year-old Devane plays a billionaire with a possible unknown heir, and Welliver found himself standing across from a guy he's admired his whole career. "I've been doing this a long time," he says. "I have tremendous respect for people, but I don't lose my mind." He pauses. "I have to say I fanboyed a little bit."
At Basta, with a post-lunch espresso in him, the fanboy emerges. He's looking forward to mixing it up with fans on Twitter when the finale drops, but he knows the finale, which ends with a big cliffhanger, is going up against flashier, buzzier shows like the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ and the new batch of Stranger Things episodes on Netflix. In a streaming era that prizes spectacle and novelty, Bosch could be called a grizzled veteran. A wise elder. Or, sure, a dinosaur. You get the sense Welliver takes pride in that: "The one thing that we've been is consistent all these years."