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Titus Welliver on Bosch’s Last Chapter — and Harry Bosch’s Next One

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for New Directions for Veterans

Last week Amazon premiered the seventh and final season of its longest-running show, Bosch, the hit detective series starring Lost and Deadwood alum Titus Welliver. But it’s not a good-bye to the character — in a twist born out of today’s streaming-TV world, Harry, his daughter Maddie, and their lawyer friend/adversary Honey “Money” Chandler will get their own series on the Amazon-owned IMDb TV. As Welliver stresses, the new show is not a spinoff, just a continuation of what Michael Connelly — the author of the books the shows are based on — created, with many of the show’s writers and producers also returning.

[Stop reading now if you don’t want to know how this series ends.] 

Similar to the books, season seven of Bosch ends with Bosch rage-quitting the LAPD and deciding to become a private detective, which will be the basis of the still-untitled next show that begins shooting this month. We caught up with Welliver to learn what it’s like to say good-bye to one show knowing he’s still going to be playing the same character soon, how the “defund the police” movement affected this cop show, and how his film-buff background informed the casting of Bosch’s canine best friend, Coltrane.

What was it like shooting this final season while also learning that you’d be getting a new show playing the same character?
We were 100 percent focused on completing our series, during the pandemic. It was this very odd thing of feeling melancholy, having all worked so hard for so many years together and being excited about going back to work, but also very trepidatious and somewhat fearful. Amazon took the time and money to put together a team of COVID producers and epidemiologists to protect us and put these protocols in place so that we not only were safe but also felt safe. Still, it was completely antithetical to the way you work — there was no social intercourse, which is a huge part of the process of shooting a film or television show. Everybody was kind of isolated, so you ran in and pulled your mask down when they said “action,” then pulled it back up when they said “cut.” We didn’t really have all that much time to think, so that when I got the initial call, which was, “Hey, we’re considering continuing the show but in a different format,” I, of course, was very excited but still going, Well, what does that entail? I wasn’t really able to stop in that moment and absorb that idea.

With the new show, Madison Lintz, Mimi Rogers, and myself are the only existing characters from the original Bosch. I hesitate to say the word “spinoff” because it’s not really a spinoff —  it’s a continuation of the Harry Bosch saga. He’s still the same guy, just in a different place in his life. Maddie and Harry’s relationship really evolved into being very much at the forefront, the pulse and the heart of the show, so it makes perfect sense in the evolution of the narrative.

Did you have any input about what the new show will be like?
That’s one of those things I leave to the experts. It’s not that there isn’t any interaction. We’ve certainly had conversations about ideas about where the character is going, where he’s coming from. That always exists. I read all the books, some of them multiple times, and something that I’ve always said to Mike Connelly is that there’s something [special] about the books when Harry leaves the force. He’s older, there’s a different kind of vulnerability. He’s not part of the police organization anymore. And the thing about Harry Bosch is that the more vulnerable you make him, the more you push him into a corner, where there’s danger, he becomes more dangerous. The idea of that is very appealing to me.

The only chink in his armor is the safety and the protection of his daughter. So that primordial instinct to protect his child makes him formidable and makes for interesting storytelling. And, he can’t pull a badge anymore. He’s made a lot of enemies in the police department because he’s a guy who’s righteous. He might be circuitous in his process, but he is not dishonest and he’s not corrupt. He’s apolitical, which is part of his undoing in this final season. He refuses to magnetize his moral compass based on the political ambitions of people within the government.

Over the course of the show, how has the line between you and the character blurred?
[Laughs.] You’d have to ask my family. I’m certainly not an actor who has to stay in character all the time. I don’t bring Harry’s angst home with me. I think I’ve just become protective of the character and the brand, for lack of a better word. I know this character very, very well. That’s a blessing and a curse for directors and the like, because I know the things he would and would not do. The beauty of the character is that he’s consistent. He stays the same, because he’s a bit of a dinosaur, so he can only evolve so much.

The purest part of his evolution over the course of seven seasons has been his relationship with his daughter and how he has been forced to try to evolve because he has a daughter who is not unlike him, who’s stubborn and opinionated, but who also has a really strong moral compass. It doesn’t always help him in his parenting because he realizes that, in a way, he’s knocking heads with himself. I identify with that because I have that with my own daughter, who’s 15. The similarities between myself and my daughter are very, very palpable. Knocking heads, we both find ourselves going, “Oh, there’s the rub.”

While you were working on this cop show, there were the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder and many other police-based injustices, with calls to defund law enforcement. How did that affect the writing and production? 
We were not like Law & Order. They take things directly from the headlines as a foundation for episodes. Our source materials are the books of Michael Connelly. Within that universe, we represent every aspect [of policing] in a very realistic and truthful manner: good, bad, and indifferent. We are not a recruiting film for the police department.

Of course, there was no way to not be aware and affected, as the entire world has been, by events that are tragically ever-present. It’s not that we think, No, we don’t want to be controversial. We’re controversial in our own way, and the world and life are controversial enough as it is. We depict it in its truest state. Nobody is ever going to accuse our show of pandering one way or the other.

There’s also humor in the show. Like in this season where you have a character talking about bingeing The Wire, and two of your co-stars, Lance Reddick and Jamie Hector, were major characters there. 
We’re bad like that. We’re really shameless, but in the best possible way. We’re all cinephiles and it’s the same as rock ’n’ roll — you only have a number of chords you can play, so how do you compose that song to make it sound different? There are so many Easter eggs we throw in. Harry’s dog, Coltrane — I chose that breed of dog because I love The Road Warrior. It’s one of my favorite flicks. When I approached the writers about having a dog I said, “It needs to be an animal that can survive in a hostile environment, not unlike a coyote. Mad Max’s dog is an Australian cattle dog. It’s post-apocalyptic. So, good enough for Mad Max has gotta be good enough for Harry Bosch.”

And you’ve also had to live up to the expectations of the book fans. You once said your friend Richard Kind couldn’t watch you in the show because he loves the character so much.
Well, he’s hilarious and I adore him, but that’s the thing — you can’t be intimidated or swayed by that. I have my own prejudices. When I’m reading a book, I cast the film. But what I realized was that it was a fool’s errand. It’s not possible to ever please everyone. The most important part of what I had to do as an actor was to express who Harry was, the Harry of the books. I always thought, in terms of three actors that I liked, McQueen, Lee Marvin, or Robert Mitchum would make great Harry Bosches. I’m not any of those guys, so it’s hit or miss. Fortunately, it would seem that people, by and large, have embraced the show. I mean, some people like Swiss cheese, some people like Cheddar. That’s my dairy analogy for the day.

Titus Welliver on Bosch’s Last Chapter—and Bosch’s Next One