Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 115 - TITUS WELLIVER
ACTOR AND PAINTER - TITUS WELLIVER
"In the simplest terms, that for me is what acting is. It's living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. For me, what could be more fun than that?" Titus Welliver, actor, Bosch, Lost, Sons of Anarchy
ABOUT TITUS WELLIVER:
Titus joins the show to talk about his career, his life, and his passion. Currently, he portrays the title character on the Amazon Prime series Bosch and he delves into how he got the role and what it means to him to portray a homicide detective. We also talk about Star Wars, comic books, and some of the other roles he has played including the Man in Black on Lost. Titus also uncovers why he got into acting, his painting, and what fuels him to continue with his craft.
Jeff: Let's start with Bosch, though.
Jeff: That's a perfect place to start in.
Jeff: The question, obviously, you get a lot probably, but I'm dying to know, were you a fan of the material before you were cast?
Titus: Well, truthfully, it's not that I wasn't a fan, but I'd only read one of the books. It had been many, many years before.
Titus: I got the script and I read the script, and I was kind of ... you know, it's the blessing and the curse of a good script when you're an actor because you don't want to want it too much, because of course, sometimes it's like the lottery. You know?
Titus: You can get all the scratch tickets you want and still come up with nothing.
Jeff: Zero. Yeah.
Titus: The script was so solid and the character was so clearly defined, and I just went, yeah, this is what I've been looking for. Ironically, I'd become a little bit ... not disenchanted, but I thought it was time ... it came right at a time when I had just had a horrible tragedy in my life. My late wife had passed away from cancer, and suddenly I was a single father.
Jeff: I'm sorry to hear that.
Titus: I was thinking, I'd been traveling a lot, because prior to that, I'd been doing The Town, and Lost, and Sons of Anarchy, and The Good Wife, all at the same time.
Titus: I was constantly going from one location to the next. My wife was still alive at that point, and she was holding the fort down. I thought, how am I going to ... I have to find something that's local.
Titus: In the interim, I had written a television pilot for myself. I just sat down and thought, let me write something that will have some sort of artistic, intellectual sustenance that will sustain me.
Titus: Of course, that's also a crap shoot. You can write the greatest pilot in the world, and the networks and whoever will just say, "Yeah, it's great, but it's not for us."
Titus: I was just at the point of going out with manager and starting this shop this property when I got the Bosch script. I read it and I went, boy, I'd love to do this. Through a series of mishaps, every time I was trying to make a meeting with Michael Connelly and the producers for the role, I lost my cell phone, and something else happened, and I was shooting Transformers: Age of Extinction.
That was a lot of location stuff. I was in Chicago. I was in Michigan, and then in Hong Kong, and all over the place. I don't know, it seemed like a couple months passed and I got a call from my manager. I was back in LA for a hot minute, and he said, "Hey, you're going to meet with Connelly on Tuesday."
I said, "Oh, well I thought boat sailed. Wasn't that months ago?"
He said, "No, they can't find Bosch. They've read everyone and considered everyone they want, but Connelly will not go forward until they find the guy that suits him."
Titus: Lucky for me, I went in and met with Michael and did my thing. As he tells the story, I left and Mike Connelly turned to the producers and said, "That was Harry Bosch."
And, that was that.
Titus: Then, it became kind of a scramble, because we had a short window because I was finishing up Transformers in Hong Kong to jump in.
Titus: There was no time to really ... I mean, I've played enough cops that I know how they operate, but they're all different.
Titus: Obviously, each character is different. He was LAPD. He wasn't a New York cop or a Boston cop, of which I had played before. There was none of that go for a ride along, hang out with the homicide detectives, do this and that.
I asked Michael what is the best way to get inside this guy's head. Which is the best book? He said, "Well, start with the one that we've chosen for this season."
These are the books. He very kindly sent me over all the books that had been written up to that date, first editions, hard copies, signed by him, which was a treasure trove for me.
Jeff: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Titus: Of course, he said, "I'm sorry about sending you all those books."
I said, "Why?"
He said, "I could have just had Amazon load them onto Kindle."
I said, "I don't read books that way."
Titus: I read books and they go on my shelf because, chances are, I'm going to pull that book off the shelf, and go back and revisit it at some point.
Titus: Hence, the multitude of shelves in this house.
Titus: That's how it all came to be.
Dustin: Wow. I almost thought they picked you right away. Your personality seems to fit the character so well. How much of your own personality is Bosch's personality? How much do you relate to Bosch?
Titus: You're saying that, by nature, a taciturn ...
Dustin: It seems like it.
Titus: This interview is over. No, I mean, I think ... for me, the whole joy of acting for me is to try to disappear into a role.
Titus: The parallel to that is, how do you disappear into a role and when it's something steeped in reality like Bosch, you know, it's not Batman or something, how to make it feel as grounded and real as possible. I never want to get caught acting. I can't stand that.
Titus: Some roles are over the top, and they call for a dramatic flair, and that's fine. But, Bosch is not that character. That's the hardest part about playing him, because he's not really an emotionally demonstrative guy. He's not monosyllabic, but he really only speaks when he has something to say.
Titus: Of course, in the books, it's told through the narrative of what he's thinking. One of the tricks that I said to the guys was, I said, "When you find Bosch so often in the books, and he's by himself, there's a kind of solitude. He's being contemplative, but it's described in the narrative. But, there's no dialogue. Let's do that."
Titus: They, of course, were relieved because they wanted to do that but, of course, the age old story is that actors want as much to say as they possibly can. The challenge to that is, for me, to say as little as possible with dialogue but to try to project that inner emotional life with him, without speaking.
I would say that's the ... you know, he's a guy who doesn't have a lot of affect, which is also the other thing that's really hard. How do you play a guy who doesn't want to be seen?
Titus: But, has to be seen.
Jeff: Has to be.
Dustin: He's the main character.
Titus: And, who is the central character in his universe that he's bouncing off of. That's been the thing. Myself, I'm kind of noisy. I am emotionally demonstrative. I'm a crier, I'm a yeller. It's all kind of out on the plate. Although, my kids will say things, they'll watch a scene and there'll be a look or gesture, and they'll be, oh yeah, that guy's in trouble, I know that look.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah.
Titus: I guess one can't help but have some part of themselves ... you imbue the character with some level of your own affect, not intentionally. My characterization of Bosch is an amalgam of my father and the writer producer David Milch. He is sort of a melding of that, with a little bit of something else thrown in there, here and there.
Jeff: Do you think the other side might be true? Do you think since you've portrayed this character, you've affected the author's take on the character in subsequent stories? Do you think he's changed because of your portrayal?
Titus: I don't think so, but that's a question for Connelly. The one thing that I would say, as it relates to that, is what's nice is that when people who had read the books before the show came along, and since the show has come out, have said in social media and when I meet them on the street will say, "When I read the books now, I see your face and I hear your voice."
Titus: That, of course, is always the daunting thing about playing a character. Though it didn't repel, it certainly didn't deter me in any way. It fell on the heels of Tom Cruise being so maligned for being cast as Jack Reacher, and I thought, because the character's physicality is so specifically detailed in the Reacher books as being six foot, five-
Jeff: Six feet, yeah.
Titus: And 285, and just mass and muscle. Tom Cruise is not a tall guy. He's in phenomenal shape, but I think ... you know, I've read the Reacher books. I'm able to divorce myself, yet we all have that prejudice when we read a book. We create that physicality.
Jeff: Yeah, totally.
Titus: Within the Bosch books, there are very few physical descriptions of him. Connelly describes him as having dark eyes. I don't have dark eyes. I have very light blue eyes. The thing to me is that Harry's a haunted character. However that happens, maybe it's through osmosis that my brain clues my eyeballs to do the right thing, is that there's a ... to bring that quality of a guy who's seen too much. You know?
Titus: It's not the thousand-yard stare, but there's a loss of color, and hence, vibrance to his eyes. He's described as being kind of wiry and having tousled hair, and that's kind of it. I'm sure, and in the beginning, I was asked that question by a lot of interviewers. They would say, "Was that intimidating?"
The truthful answer was, I just though, well, I'm an actor. That's item A. The source material was so good, it wasn't like I needed to re-invent this guy and make him something that he wasn't on the page, because he's well realized.
Titus: It was just take all the essence of that character, his moral code and compass, and bring that to life on the screen. There's always going to be people, and I'm sure they're out there, who absolutely cannot watch the show because they won't accept me as Harry Bosch. I will say, that my experience has been, in contact that I have with the fans of the books, has been really supportive. Really supportive.
That, for me, that makes me feel good. I feel like I'm on point without coming under too much attack.
Dustin: Well, you're definitely on point. I got to tell a little story. Before we left here, I was telling my mother about this trip. She was like, "Oh, who are you going to interview?"
I was bringing up names and she doesn't really recognize anybody. I brought up your name, and she's like, "Oh my God, you're going to talk to the Bosch?"
Titus: The Bosch.
Dustin: She's like, "I'm so jealous!"
She said something that stuck with me. At the time, work gets a little bit stressful sometimes, and it's hard to stay cool all the time. She said something then that kind of resonated with me and I've been keeping with me a little bit. She was like, "Everything gets so stressful for the Bosch, but he just keeps his cool all the time."
I'm like, he does keep his cool. I want to be the Bosch.
Titus: Yeah. I do, too. Yeah.
Dustin: Has it mellowed you out, playing that role at all?
Titus: No, it hasn't. I wish it could, because you know, that's the other thing, is that ... another question I'm asked a lot of times is because Harry deals with the darkest and most tragic moments in the course of peoples' lives. He sees the worst of it all.
Dustin: Totally. Yeah.
Titus: Obviously, I'm not a cop. The subject matter is heavy. The people will say, "When you come home, do you have to have a drink?"
I go, "I don't drink, so I've used up my coupons with that. So, no, I don't."
There's a humanity to that character. If you talk to any homicide cop, they'll tell you that there is some kind of an emotional reserve that they have, internally, that allows them to get through it.
Dustin: Separate themselves, yeah.
Titus: But they all say, you don't do this work and not get touched, hence, you have a high divorce rate, a lot of alcoholism. But, I also know a lot of detectives who are squared away enough in that they have that survival mechanism for their emotional life, that they're able to separate themselves enough from that, so that when they're with their loved ones and navigating every day life, that they're not overly touched by that, that it doesn't allow them to be able to be present.
Dustin: I could be speaking out of turn, but it seems like to me that the one way that they get through that is, they're the one that keep the bad men from the door. Right?
Dustin: That would be the pay off, the equalizer.
Dustin: Dealing with the I have to keep myself separated from this because I need to make sure that this doesn't happen again. That's the feeling I get from Bosch's character through the whole season. He deals with a lot of shit, but he has to keep his cool.
Titus: Well, that's the thing. He doesn't go untouched by it. I remember a line, I think in the first season, where he addressed that. He said, "Homicide work is after the fact. Someone's been killed, and we show up. It's our job to figure out who and how they did it."
There's another line that Bosch says, where somebody makes a reference to closure for the family, and Bosch says, "Closure's a myth."
Titus: And, it's true. All that Bosch can do- and he is the conduit, right? He is that guy. He can obtain justice. He can't obtain closure, because he can't bring the person back to life.
Titus: He can secure justice for the victim and for their families, which will never assuage their pain and their loss, but it will secure that person does not act out that kind of depraved indifference for human life. In that way, I think yes, you talk to homicide guys and they go, "When we get a bad guy or a bad woman, and lock them up for doing something heinous, yeah. We're happy about that."
Titus: They're happy about just that part, that they can prevent that from ever happening again, by that individual. It doesn't mean- but they can't necessarily prevent the architect of some other tragedy.
Dustin: Yeah, gosh.
Jeff: I have to ask this question. Throughout your career, you mentioned, you have played a myriad of different police officers and cops, and detectives, and stuff like that. You've also played some questionable characters, and some criminals.
Titus: Oh, yeah.
JEff: Do you gravitate towards one or the other more? Do you like being able to spread those wings?
Titus: Obviously, I like to mix it up. I think anything, and Bosch is probably the only character that I've ever played that has the kind of sustenance and longevity that I was speaking about before, as an actor.
Connelly, when we first were doing the pilot, he said, "How long do you think you can play this character for?"
I've always talked about that, the pitfall of doing a television series is some people, they get tired of it.
Titus: The character, whatever. The writing can falter. They lose their interest in it.
Titus: I said to Connelly, "I'll do this for as long as they'll have us."
Titus: Because, he is a character, while he doesn't necessarily evolve on some level. He evolves within the circumstances around him. He's not a guy who's ever going to become the happy go lucky, skipping and dancing guy. His daughter, being sort of the anchor, that's the thing that propels him forward outside of his work, because he has something that he can step away from the darkness, something that represents good and purity. That's the thing that sustains him.
I think for the ... the thing about playing bad guys, for me is, there's something really interesting about playing characters who don't play by the rules, who are deeply ... are so narcissistic, that they operate ... at their core, it's all about serving self interest.
Titus: That narcissism creates a level of power, I guess, for lack of a better word. There's something about being a made guy in La Cosa Nostra, who does and says whatever he pleases, and doesn't care. And, doesn't even really care about the consequences. That's kind of interesting stuff to play.
And then, there are characters ... you know, like the Man In Black in Lost. The whole mythology of that program was so rich, that it was kind of, sky was the limit.
Titus: I guess that was a long answer to ... you know, if something is well written, then it intrigues me. I do have a rule that I won't play people that do harm to children.
Titus: I won't do that. I draw the line at that. I think, for obvious reasons, because I'm a father, but I approach my work and invest myself deeply in the work that I do. Those are ideas and images that I don't want in my head.
Dustin: Well, that's really interesting because talking to Ron Perlman about playing Clay in Sons of Anarchy, there was a point where he was experiencing the thing that you're talking about, where he didn't relate to this character anymore. He was responsible for a child's death.
Jeff: The thing at the school that they had to do...
Titus: Yeah. Yeah.
Dustin: Yeah, and he didn't even want to play him for a while, because of the way the writing went. Are you concerned about that with Bosch at all, that it'll go into a direction that you may not agree with?
Titus: No. No, not at all. That character- I mean, I told you guys, I was just finishing recording the ... I think it's like, the 23rd book.
Jeff: Coming out in October.
Titus: Yeah, and he's a guy ... he will approach things in a circuitous manner, but he has a really good moral compass.
Titus: He may bend the rules. In a few seasons ago, he put surveillance equipment to observe this guy that he knew was a serial killer but couldn't catch.
Titus: That's a big no-no. And ultimately, turned away. There was a moment when these guys pulled up in front of this guy's apartment complex, and it was clear that they were coming to kill this guy. And, Bosch turned away.
Titus: He could have called ... there was a moment where he picks up his phone to alert the cops. Some people construed it as him going, well, how am I going to explain these cameras? It wasn't about that. It was about him going, "Fuck it."
Dustin: Yeah. That's very Bosch to me, though.
Titus: But, that's real. It goes against his thing of everybody counts or nobody counts. I think by ... on the same level, to quote a character not from Bosch, but from Deadwood. Al Swearengen said, "There's just people in this world need killing."
Titus: And, I understood that.
Dustin: Do you agree with that?
Titus: I actually do, because this was a guy who was deeply evil. He raped, tortured, and murdered human beings.
Titus: I kind of say, anyone who commits those crimes, it's sort- and, I'm not some huge advocate for the death penalty, although I say, in crimes against children, I'm fine with that.
Titus: It's biblical, and I'm not a religious guy, but I just draw the line, and hence the reason that I can't play those characters. I don't think, no. I don't think he'll ever go down a path ... it would just be so uncharacteristic to take that character down a road where you suddenly go, this is totally counter to every single thing this character has done for all of these years.
Dustin: And, so well lined out with all the novels and everything. I also don't see that going that way.
Titus: Well, it's the Darth Vader thing. As much as I did not love the prequels, the idea of pushing Anakin Skywalker to that place. I was okay, well, he killed sand people. They killed his mom. He killed sand people kids, not really okay with that. When he went to the Jedi temple, and killed the younglings, I was like, oh, yeah. He's Darth Vader, now.
Jeff: Yeah, he's super Darth Vader.
Titus: The play back to him in the original films, and when you get to Jedi, and Luke says I know that there's still good in him, was kind of like, really?
Jeff: Really? Yeah.
Titus: Where is that? But then, because of the beauty of the way that ... it's not like Lucas was able to bring a genuine redemption for that character, but there was a glimmer of light that guy could close in this life because it was his connection to his son that was able to bring some of the light into his soul, into his being, as someone who had been strong with the Force, and hence, had been seduced by the Dark Side. This is a whole other show that we'll have to do.
Jeff: No, This is the show!
Dustin: And it leads me to my next line of question, is that you're very involved in Marvel Universe.
Dustin: The answer seems pretty evident to me after seeing your place, but did being in the Marvel Universe make you a fan of the Marvel Universe culture? Were you already a fan before you became part of the Marvel Universe?
Titus: Oh, long before.
Titus: I grew up on a steady diet of Marvel comics. I was a huge collector. Even back then, the toys that were made, didn't necessarily connect that much to me at that time. There was the Migo stuff, which was acceptable to me at the time, because that was the only option. The DC stuff, some of it, and a few Marvel characters have been kind of well realized by the captain action figure by Ideal. You had Spider-Man, Sergeant Fury, Captain America. I think that was it for the Marvel stuff.
Jeff: I think that was it, yeah.
Titus: One of the greatest toys still in my mind, being able to dress up this figure as all your favorite heroes.
Jeff: Super heroes, yeah.
Titus: I mean. Steve Canyon and Buck Rodgers was slightly lost on me, because I was born in 1962.
Titus: I wasn't of the ... born in the 50s. It didn't necessarily resonate with me. I was a huge collector, and a little bit of a ... I had sort of a savant knowledge of Marvel. My older brother, he was six years older than I was, he was a huge collector. Marvel changed it all. I read Superman and Batman when I was a little boy. Very shortly after that, because my brother was older, I read Spider-Man, and saw the art of Steve Ditko, and then suddenly it was Kirby, and Fantastic Four.
I was consumed. My father, who was not only a painter, but he was an Ivy League academic, would always kind of grouse at us. "You always have your face in those goddamn comic books! They're mindless."
I think he was sort of ... his experience had been that they were like the Sunday funnies.
Titus: I mean, harmless but not necessarily intellectually nurturing.
Titus: My brother in this argument they had at one point, handed my father a bunch of comics. Marvel comics, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and something else. He said, "Just read these comics. It'll take you 20 minutes to read these. Look at them and tell me that they're dumb."
My dad came back and he said, "Yeah, these are kind of deep."
Titus: And he said, and by the way, my father always sort of ... I don't want to say necessarily dismissed it. My mother was an illustrator, so my mother got Kirby and Gil Kane, and also was a huge ... loved Crazy Cat and Happy Hooligan, and the original Tarzan stuff. Prince Valiant, Pogo, Little Nemo. These things were ... my mother was enamored with these things, because these were all great illustrators.
Titus: My mother was kind of stunned by Kirby. She used to make jokes, she would say, "Yeah, the anatomy sometimes, they take huge liberties with the anatomy."
But, she got it. My father, after that, never shit on comics again. He would sometimes say, I remember one time him saying to someone, I don't know what it was apropos, but he was having a conversation with another adult. He said, "My kids read the Fantastic Four. Have you ever read any of those comics? It's lofty stuff."
And, it was.
Jeff: It is.
Titus: It became ... I don't know. You saw guys like ... there was always science that was applied to this. Heavy science.
Jeff: Yeah, tons of it.
Titus: The Hulk, and Spider-Man, and Steve Rodgers, and all these characters were affected by science, whether it existed or not. There was nothing stupid about it.
Titus: For me, I kind of trailed off as I got into high school. I felt like Marvel kind of dipped a little bit in the late 70s. I became disenchanted with some of the artwork that I was seeing. I was a real, Gitko, Ramita, Gil Kane purist when it came to Spider-Man. I think Ross Andrew is a great ... he draws great stuff.
I felt like the villians got a little goofy. Gwen Stacy's clone, and the Jackal, and Mind Worm.
Dustin: The language was weird, too.
Titus: It got dumb.
Titus: It got kind of dumb. But then, there was still stuff that I was hot into. I loved Mike Ploog. Ploog just blew my socks off. Werewolf By Night, to me was ... I was like, really? A werewolf comic? How are you going to make a comic about a werewolf? But, it was Mike Ploog, I loved all the stuff. He was drawing Man Thing, and he was doing ... Marvel ventured out into the magazines for a while.
Titus: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was, and still to this day, I've got all my original issues of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. The Planet of the Apes series was great.
Jeff: So good.
Titus: I love that they have this original series drawn by Ploog, and they would recreate the films. It was just, I don't know ... Marvel, it was on a different level. It was just those guys. It was Stan Lee, and he brought together all these really gifted people, and he created something.
And then, Marvel was doing a lot adaptions of movies, comic adaptations in the 70s. Obviously, you're a teenager, your interest shifts from comics and toys to-
Titus: Girls and marijuana.
In the early 80s, I kind of ventured. The impetus to do that was somebody dropped The Dark Knight Returns on me.
Dustin: Oh, yeah. That's a good one.
Titus: I looked at Frank Miller's writing and the artwork, and I went, oh. Oh. What's this?
Titus: And then, went back to it. Ironically, a lot of the stuff that I had read was still a little goofy. West Coast Avengers, and things like that. I couldn't really connect with that. I kind of liked the X-Men stuff. Then, I ventured back a little bit with the Punisher War Journal series, and things like that.
And then, Romita Junior came on the scene. I went, well, that makes sense that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and yet, there is nothing about his style that's even ... bears any resemblance to what his father did.
Titus: Once again, the artwork got better. The stories got really good. The art of Gene Colan, also for me, and he was, of course, drawing stuff in the 60s. The way he drew Daredevil. Whenever Gene Colan's work came into play, it was filmic. I would look at that stuff ... he would draw the trajectory of a punch coming to hit a bad guy, or when he would draw Daredevil swinging, it had motion to it. His panels looked like still lifted from a film.
Titus: Anyway, back to the 80s. I sort of circled back. By the time the 90s rolled in, you had companies like Dark Horse and Eclipse came on. You had Savage Dragon. The really cool continuation of The Thing, which was one of my favorite movies. John Carpenter's Thing, the thing from another world.
Titus: That stuff with the continuing adventures of McCreedy. Obviously, more adult content. Where, when I was a kid, you got your adult content from National Lampoon or Heavy Metal.
Jeff: Heavy Metal, yeah.
Titus: Rich Corbin and Mobias. You look back at the artwork of- just to name a few. RanXerox and Milo Minara, and all that stuff, which was ... you know, some of it was quasi-pornographic, which of course gave me the impetus to want to look at it. But, it had that Frazetta feel, who was another guy. Frank Frazetta was ... if I had the money and enough skin on my body, I would just cover myself with tattoos as a walking homage to Frank Frazetta.
That also, before I became an actor, I wanted to be a fine artist, like my father and my mother. It was Marvel that really led me down that path. Then, my mind got blown by the paintings of Frazetta. That was one thing my father and I could not agree on. He recognized the stimulation of the work of Frazetta, but my father was a fine artist of a different mindset.
Titus: You know? He couldn't ... he kind of poo-poohed the idea that I thought, well, I want to be like Frazetta. After an uneventful year of art school, which I had formal training with my father for years, and was going to proceed with that, I made the decision based on a conversation I had with my father, to no longer be a painter. My father said to me, after year of just kind of carousing, and drinking, and drugging in 1980 at Bennington College in Vermont, my father, rightfully so, was pretty pissed off with me that I had ... I didn't think I had wasted a year of my life.
JEff: Oh, yeah.
Titus: I still think it was one of the best years. It was clear that I was kind of at sea, and didn't have any discipline.
Titus: My father ... you know, I was 19, and my father said, what is it that you- because I said I'm going to join the Marine Corp because I felt maybe that would straighten me out and give me focus. My father said, "Before you do that, you owe me one because you just pissed away a lot of money on a year of misbehaving."
Although, I didn't think it was misbehaving. Anyway.
Titus: Within that year's time, I was sort of ... kind of held hostage by my father, in which in that period, I was living alone. At 19, I was living in this little cape house out in the middle of the woods, with no telephone and no electricity. I was cutting firewood and living like Thoreau, in keeping a journal and reading a selection of books, which was a couple hundred books, starting with Mesopotamia and working myself up to the complete works of Proust and- my brothers and I joke, we call it Inward Bound.
After that year, my father said, "What do you want to do?"
I said, "Well-"
He said, "Do you still want to be painter?"
I said, "Well, I think so."
To which he said, "When you're not thinking about girls and beer, what do you think about? Do you think about painting?"
I said, "No, I don't."
"Well, what do you think about?"
I said, "I think about acting."
He said, "Well then, that's what you should do."
Titus: If you think about it, if it's what you must do- if you're going to pursue a life in the arts, you do it because you have to do it.
Titus: Not because you think you're going to make a lot of money or become famous, because many people take that road and never achieve even a modicum of recognition for their work.
Titus: Let alone, make any money.
Titus: He said, "The only thing to do is to go back to New York."
Which is what I did. I got on a Greyhound bus and went back to New York with a couple hundred dollars in my pocket, and flopped on peoples' couches until I got enough jobs to pay rent and get my own place, and study acting. And, that's what I did. That was that.
Jeff: Where do you think the impetus for wanting to be a performer came from? Where did that come into your psyche? You were pursuing the idea, oh, I think I want to be a painter, for a little bit there. Where did it come- because, that is a tough thing for a lot of people, to want to do embody a character or perform for an audience, or whatever. Where did that come from?
Titus: It was always in me, to a certain degree. My parents were both cinophiles, so I grew up going to the movies all the time. Of course, that long pre-dates VHS. I went to the movies every weekend, if it wasn't going to see a new movie, it was going to film festivals at the University of Pennsylvania, where they show the complete works of Chaplin over a weekend, or Buster Keaton, or Akira Kurosawa, John Ford, Howard Hawks.
Titus: As a young kid, I had this sort of odd encyclopedic knowledge of film. I was always intrigued by watching actors do these things. I did theater, and there was a film maker/painter named Rudy Burkhardt, who use to make these films. They were ... the people who acted in these films were all well known artists, like my father, and Alex Katz, and Red Grooms, and the poet John Ashbury. These films were populated by non-actors. They were all painters, or poets, or sculptors.
Titus: The first one I ever did, I think I was four or five. I had a scene where the poet dance critic, Edwin Demby, was the stingiest and richest man in the world, had stolen a penny which had fallen out of my pocket, and I had a little scene where I realized that he had stolen my penny and I had to jump all over it. It was fun.
Titus: I did plays in high school. And then, I had a summer, right before I went away to boarding school, my mother was living in Boston at the time. Because I didn't live there and I didn't go to school there, my mother lived right in the center of Boston, I didn't have any friends. I didn't know anybody. My time was spent either watching television, reading comics, and listening to music, or walking to the multi-plex, which was two blocks away.
Titus: My mother came one day, and she said "You know, I really don't want you to spend your summer doing this. I've signed you up for some acting classes at a place called The Actor's Workshop in Boston."
It doesn't exist anymore. It's just a block away from Fenway Park. I went, and it was a three week thing. I would go every day from, say, 9:00 to 1:00 in the afternoon. We workshopped these plays, and then we performed them for a small audience at the end of the summer. That was really the moment when I thought, I see myself doing this. I was also a mimic as a kid. Again, I did cartoon voices and things that I saw on television.
Titus: A lot of the impressions that I did were of artists, and poets, and screenwriters, because those were the people that I was surrounded by.
Titus: I did a mean Red Grooms, but only people in the art world knew who Red Grooms was, right?
Jeff: Ha! Yeah.
Titus: As I got older, it sort of evolved a bit into Brando, and Pacino, and Walken, and things like that. It all kind of came full circle. When my father said that to me, the switch went off. Then, it's the dog years of ... I was at the HB Studios, and then I went, I kind of need to ... I wanted to go back to school and not only get a conservatory type of training, but also do academics. I was curious about other things in the world. I wanted to have some intellectual breadth, and just be some dipshit actor who would sit and talk about the craft of acting, which I honestly find sort of boring.
Titus: I think it's probably ... it may be interesting on some level to the laymen. I'm not saying that it doesn't have value-
Titus: But, I think if you talk to a plumber and said, "When you're hanging out with your plumber colleagues, are you guys talking about-"
Titus: Pipe fittings and things like that. They go, "No, we talk about football and whatever."
Jeff: Yeah. Oh, wow. Okay, this is the question we come to on every show. Through it all, through your career, which has blossomed into over a hundred roles now, and being able to play a myriad of different characters, what fuels you to keep going? What fuels you to wanting to keep creating, and to keep becoming that actor?
Titus: Because it's fun.
Jeff: That's a great answer.
Titus: That's the truth of it. It's fun. There isn't anything else in the world I'd rather do. I mean, I'm a painter, as well. These are my paintings.
Jeff: Oh, nice.
Titus: I love painting, but painting is ... there's a depth of solitude to that, where the relationship is between myself and a blank canvas, and nature, because of what I paint, is my muse. But, it's lonely.
Titus: It's very lonely. I love people. I also ... I play music. In my family, everyone played an instrument. My older brother and I had rock bands, but my father was a five string banjo player. We grew up on a steady diet of blue grass music, and so we played blue grass.
After dinner, my father would say, "You want to rip a couple of tunes?"
Jeff: That's so cool.
Titus: My brother was a great blue grass flat picker. I briefly played the mandolin, but I sang and I played harmonica. After dinner every night, we played music. So, music was also, once again ... I think it all kind of comes back to that connection with other people.
Titus: To me ... you know, it's like when you're observing musicians, and or if you're playing music with a group of musicians. I call it being in the glove, when suddenly it all connects. You find yourself with an involuntary smile on your face. That, to me, is the essence of joy in the creation of art. It's inexplicable.
Titus: It's just inexplicable. When I get to sit across a table and play scene with another actor, who's invested in the same way, and who acts the same way that I do, which is not to service myself entirely, but to service the actor I sit across from, in the process of taking the attention off of myself and putting it on the other person. That which you see, the performance that occurs, because you're giving completely of yourself to this other person, that resonates, and that's when I get that involuntary smile across my face.
Titus: There's a connection there that - I mean, yeah. Technically, I can explain it to you, chapter and verse. But, the joy of it, the fun of it, is inexplicable, and that's why I love doing it and will never- you know, people say, oh when I retire, or when you retire. I say, "I'm not going to retire."
Titus: What would I do?
Well, it's great. Typically, it's when they go, "Oh, so when you retire from acting, you'll go back to painting."
I go, "No, I paint and I act."
Jeff: You can do two things at once.
Titus: You know, my painting gets shelved a little bit when I'm busy working because there's also the reality that I have a family to support and bills to pay, like everybody else in the world.
Titus: There are jobs that are in the service of art, and sometimes in the service of commerce and survival.
Titus: But, it's fun. To simplify it even more, and not to degrade it, because I so often ... actors get so defensive about things, to which I say, "Lighten up."
It all goes back to dress up and to role playing, and to imagination.
Titus: That which we did as kids. The same thing that we did as children when we drew on a piece of paper, or we took our GI Joes or our Major Matt Masons, or our Legos, and took our toy guns, or capes, or whatever we had. You tied a fucking beach towel around your neck and jumped off your bed onto the ground.
Jeff: Yeah. You're Super-Man.
Titus: In those moments, you were ... you fully embodied that which connected to your sense of play, to your sense of imagination. In the simplest terms, that for me, is what acting is. It's living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. For me, what could be more fun than that?
Titus: It's fun. It's also a shit load of hard work. The hours are long. Sometimes, they're ridiculously long. That part of it is not always fun. You get tired.
Titus: You get hungry, you get cranky, and sometimes you get bored. There's a lot of down time in between. The way you sustain and navigate that is, when you're working with a great group of people who you respect and love, other actors, and producers, and writers, and your crew, you become this circus-like organization. You become a family in that period of time when you're shooting. You form ... not always so much with movies, because- but, in that period, in the process of making that film, you make connections and relationships that can be lifelong.
Titus: That's the thing that gets you. It's story telling. You learn peoples' stories. For me, I have the great privilege of being able to travel all over the place, meet people from all different parts of the world. Some of them, we all have really, really different life experiences. You meet other people, and I love people, and I love to observe people. That's part of my whole process as an actor, is ... sometimes I get cornered by young actors and they want the answers. I say, "I got no answers for you. You keep your head down."
You keep your head down and you persevere. You gotta be disciplined. It doesn't mean you can't have a life and you can't have fun. But, you've chosen this journey. If you want to be rich and famous, then become a YouTuber and hope for the best.
Titus: You know? Become a Kardashian. It's fleeting.
Titus: That contribution which you're bringing is not substantive. People would argue and say, "Well, entertainment is entertainment. Even what you do, Titus, isn't substantive. You're just doing make believe."
I go, "Yeah, you're right."
I'm not a doctor. I'm not a medical research person who's going to come up the cure for a disease. I'm not going to come up with a fuel source that's going to rid of us on our dependence on petroleum products.
Titus: If I can make you smile, or I can scare you, or I can move you, or I can make you think for just a moment and have you depart from that experience of having witnessed something that I have been a part of with another group of people, and it's moved you, then I have done my job.
Titus: That's all that it is. That's all that it is. My life is not in danger. You know?
Titus: But, that which we do in the arts, the same as painting, and music, and acting, and entertaining, and film making, lasts forever.
Titus: It lasts forever.
Titus: You know? Long before the three of us are gone, people will still be listening to The Beatles, and they'll still be looking at the works of Picasso. They'll still be watching Scorsese films, and Kurasawa films, and the silent films. They'll still be listening to classic music, and reading books ... reading Michael Connelly's books, and Tolkien, and reading Marvel Comics.
Jeff: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Titus: You know, they're a certain stuff and it's not people- they diminish it, at times. They say, particularly, pop culture gets a bump. People will turn their noses up and say, well, it's pop culture. Well, yeah, but we still ... people are still putting posters, kids are still putting posters up on their walls.
Titus: It may not be Farrah Fawcett and Peter Max, but you know, now it's the Deftones, and Michael Jackson, and whatever.
Titus: The Rolling Stones. You know, I went to see Hall and Oates with my wife and my son a couple of weeks ago.
Dustin: How was that?
Titus: It was amazing.
Dustin: Yeah, I bet.
Titus: I saw those guys over the years quite a few times, in the 70s and the 80s. Daryl Hall is 71 years old. Hall and Oates, I gotta say, the show as amazing. They still play like they got something to prove.
Titus: They're still those guys from Philly, that know ... you know. But, they play from their hearts because it goes back to the thing. It's fun. When you watch them play, they're having fun.
Titus: They're happy. And that's, to me, is what that's all about.
Jeff: That's inspiring.
Dustin: I feel like everybody's doing that, if everybody's doing the thing that makes them happy, and they're just influencing everybody around them, we'll all rise together.
Titus: I think so, and that's always ... particularly in the climate that we're living in right now, where there's such despair, there's so much hatred and ugliness. I have to think of it, because I've gone down the rabbit hole of just being kind of depressed by the state of things.
Titus: But then, I say, well, you know what? The upside of that is, that because people who are filled with hatred, and fear, and ignorance have been emboldened by this administration. It's okay, because now we see these people. We can identify them and call them our for what they are.
Titus: I think that has its own positive effect.
Titus: As ugly and saddening as it is, it's always been there. It's like when people say this pandemic thing of black men being shot and killed by the police, or constantly being misidentified as criminals, and I say, "It's not ... it's been pandemic forever."
Dustin: Since the beginning of time.
Titus: The difference is, everyone has a video camera on their phone now.
Titus: It's being documented.
Titus: And, that's the only difference.
Titus: Black men have been shot, and murdered, and hung, and abused. The Indians, the original Americans, for lack of a better term, they were here first.
We're the illegal aliens.
Dustin: Of course.
Titus: All of us. Without getting heavily political, just to speak to that, I think now more than ever, I think it's one of the reasons why a film like La La Land got so much attention, because we're being bombarded daily with all of this ugliness, and stuff that is, frankly, really frightening. Not just from a societal point of view. That's really disheartening. But, the environment and what's going on all around us. It's frightening.
Titus: People don't want to go see movies. I don't want to go see Geo Storm.
Titus: That's not entertaining to me.
Jeff: Right. It's terrifying.
Titus: This isn't the 70s. The Irwin Allen disaster films were escape because the Vietnam War was going on, and we didn't want to go see war movies, because it was on the 6:00 news with Walter Cronkite every night. We wanted to go see movies about 90 tidal waves, flipping a luxury liner, and it was an adventure.
Titus: Now people, they want singing and dancing. They want something that's going to take them away from the day in, day out.
Titus: In the same way that we've overcome all these other things throughout history, wars, and disease-
Dustin: And genocide.
Titus: And genocide, all this. The human race is resilient and there is a lot of goodness on the Earth that will allow us to move beyond, and grow, and survive. Not without casualties.
Titus: History has provided is with the highest body count we can possibly imagine. It's hope, right?
Titus: I think, if anything, if it gives us all pause to stop in a moment, things that we take for granted that might even see innocuous, that has weight and gravity to it. I find now interesting, if you say hello to a person, a lot of people will just walk by if you say hi, or you open a door for someone, and they just walk in, and they don't thank you.
Titus: In those moments when somebody stops- and, it's not like you do that for recognition. To me, it's just muscle memory. I was raised properly by my parents to treat people with respect and to be courteous.
Dustin: Yep. Same.
Titus: When someone stops, and they genuinely seem almost a little bit knocked off balance by a gesture of kindness, and they say, "Thank you?"
With a question mark.
Titus: You're welcome. In that moment, that nanosecond of connection with another human being, I go, "Yeah, we'll be okay."
Dustin: It's a pendulum, and it swings both ways. I think every time it swings, things get a little bit better, and I just think we're just on this weird swing right now. It gives good people a damn good reason to speak up.
Titus: I agree, I agree. I think the other ... I think one of the things, the fuel for all of this, of course, alas, is a good cup of Death Wish Coffee in the morning.
Jeff: There it is. There it is.
Titus: Because not only does it have the highest caffeine count on the planet, and it's organic-
Jeff: Do tell.
Titus: And, it's organic, and it's clean. It doesn't ... since people are wont to use the word fake. It's not fake coffee. It's real coffee that hasn't been perverted by pesticides, and flavors, and all sorts of stuff. I think now more than ever, people really need to be alert. They need to be awake. And, who better than Death Wish Coffee to keep us all on the righteous pathway? Right?
Jeff: I love it. How many cups of coffee do you consume in a day?
Titus: You're compromising me, because if I say-
Jeff: No, because there's no wrong answer.
Titus: People go, "He's clearly got a problem with coffee."
If I say, "Well, one."
They go, maybe that coffee's not so great. The thing about that which Death Wish Coffee does, which is what I just said, I don't like putting bad stuff- that doesn't mean that I won't go out and eat ice cream-
Jeff: Well, yeah.
Titus: Or, on the odd occasion have an annual In and Out burger with animal fries or something.
Dustin: That was amazing, by the way. It was our first experience at In and Out.
Titus: It ain't bad. It ain't bad.
Dustin: It's a lot of flavor. I didn't know where it was coming from.
Titus: Well, that's the thing. Nobody knows where-
Jeff: You don't know where it's coming from.
Titus: It might be yoga mats and athletic socks, but in the moment it tastes good.
Dustin: That's okay with me.
Titus: It's interesting. I think for me, it's reinventing the wheel to a certain degree. What Death Wish has done, it's gone back to the recipe of it ain't broke, so there's no need to fix this.
Titus: When you create a product, particularly now, because people are tired of putting bad shit in their bodies.
Titus: And having ... we all have ... that's an option, right? If you want to drink Starbucks, and sometimes you have to do that in a pinch. I personally ... the first time I had Death Wish Coffee- and we thank Andy Smith for that, because he's the one that got me, turned me on to you guys. It's kind of like ... you know, when you drink something, and it's good, and you go, "This is really, really good. And it's good for you."
You kind of go, well, that's sort of a no brainer to me. My thing is, that when I find something that's great, I should walk around like the race car drivers. You know, they have all the endorsement patches. I am-
Jeff: We can send you some patches.
Titus: I am- well, you better. I kind of become a stock car racer. I'm always flying the flag. If I'm not wearing a Death Wish Coffee shirt, I got my coffee, and comics, and my favorite Death Wish shirt, of course, is my spin on the Masters of Reality, because I'm a huge Sabbath fan. That was the one I had to have.
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Titus: The first time I wore my Death Wish shirt out in public, somebody thought it was a joke.
Jeff: They always do.
Titus: They just thought, oh, that's kind of a funny- yeah, because we're such a coffee culture now.
Titus: Somebody said, "Oh, that's a really funny shirt. Where'd you get it?"
I said, "Oh, from Death Wish Coffee. You don't know about Death Wish Coffee?"
They didn't know and, of course, they were probably sorry that they asked me because I went on my whole thing-
Titus: About the virtues of Death Wish Coffee.
Titus: That, to me, is ... we live in the world of information. You have to represent. You have to represent properly. Everybody who I turn onto Death Wish Coffee, it's the same thing as ... I'm sure ... the first time I turned my kids on to Hendrix, I remember my son saying, "I really like Jimi Hendrix."
I went, "Yeah, because it's good."
Jeff: It's the truth. It's the truth.
Well, we're really happy that you enjoy it, and in turn, have turned other people onto it, like everybody who's working on the incredible show Bosch, and all that. And, we can't-
Titus: Yeah, I got to interrupt you there and say Death Wish is the coffee of Bosch.
Jeff: Which is incredible to hear.
Titus: And Amazon sells a shit load of Death Wish products.
Dustin: Number one selling coffee on Amazon.
Titus: I hate the word no brainer, but it's sort of ... it's a no brainer.
Jeff: It's sort of a no brainer.
Dustin: It's a marriage made perfectly.
Jeff: And we can't be happier to hear that. We can't be happy enough to have you on the show, and have you sit down, and welcome us into your home, and talk to you. Finally, for our views and our listeners, what's the best way for them to follow you? To follow your journey?
Titus: I do Twitter. I don't remember my Twitter handle off the top of my head.
Jeff: I'll put it right in the show.
Titus: You pop it in there. I do my Twitter. Nobody else does my Twitter.
Dustin: Nice, good.
Titus: Same with my Instagram. I have a private Instagram account, which is just for my buddies, but then I also have another one, which is TitusWelliverOfficial on Instagram. I monitor that, nobody else does that.
Titus: My Facebook is private, but I follow you guys on Facebook. You know, that's ... I'm better about it sometimes than others. Certainly, when I'm involved with a project, when we're shooting Bosch, I'm posting pictures and cluing. I try not to give too much away.
Titus: That's the hardest part about doing Bosch, because we're ... the source material are books that everyone has read, but since we don't follow the books chronologically, we reconfigure sometimes, connect two books. I just try to keep people informed and stimulated with images from the show.
Titus: Just a shout out to the fans of Bosch, thank you for all the support. We are a 10 episode season. We're part of this brave new world of streaming, which I think is no longer necessarily just the brave new world.
Titus: It's the world that we live in.
I don't know about you guys, but if I'm not watching other Prime video shows, I'm on Hulu and Netflix. I'm a huge Stranger Things fanatic.
Dustin: Oh, is that the shirt?
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Dustin: I didn't notice it.
Titus: It's the arcade.
DustinSpeaker 2: I just got that reference. I can't believe I didn't get that earlier.
Titus: I don't know if you guys have watched it, but I have been shouting out to people about this new show on Hulu, Castle Rock.
Dustin: Castle Rock.
Titus: Which is-
Jeff: Yeah, so good.
Titus: Serious, serious crack. I think, like Stranger Things, one of the most original-
Titus: Interesting things. I mean, let's be truthful. Stephen King, certainly read comic books.
Titus: His books have inspired and influenced, obviously not- Castle Rock is his thing. Dustin Thomas and those guys have taken all of his material and melded it into this universe that just doesn't quit. I'll say, also, for those who do not know the collected works of Stephen King, my wife being one of them, I turned her on to Castle Rock. We've been watching.
It's great, because what I do is, I watch it and then I go back and re-watch the stuff with her.
Titus: I've watched the first six episodes of Castle Rock three times through. Stranger Things, I've done both seasons five times through.
Titus: I think we'll be talking about these- once again, I think these shows will fall into Americana in the same way that All In The Family, and NYPD Blue, and Mission Impossible, Hawaii 5-0, you know, whatever. Carol Burnett Show.
Titus: X-Files. You notice that I'm veering from anything that I participated in.
Jeff: Wait a minute, you were in the X-Files.
Titus: I don't want to get caught-oh, I did. That's right.
Jeff: I was going to say.
Titus: Oh, well. So much for humility. But, Duchovny, he'll thank me for that. You know, there's ... yeah, my wife, who's never read a Stephen King book, she doesn't like spooky stuff, is completely enthralled and consumed by ... she's not the target audience, and yet it's undeniable. Same thing with Stranger Things. She was like, "I don't like that spooky stuff."
Well, she's in now.
Titus: We have to save something for the next show.
Titus: For those of you listening and watching, this is a two parter.
Jeff: Yes, for sure. For sure, because we're definitely going to have you back on the show.
Titus: Could be a three or four parter.
Dustin: I'm okay with that.
Titus: As long as they'll have me, and there's coffee and evidence, I'll always be back.
Jeff: We'll have you back all the time. I just, again, I could talk to you for hours. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to talk with us, because when it really comes down to it, I think something that this world is severely lacking, is just the art of conversation and the art of bringing joy to everybody. I think with your career, that's what you do, and I think we try to impart that, as well. When we can all meet in the middle, it's some kind of magic.
Titus: Well, there's kind of ... you know, I always believed that because we don't have Johnny Carson, and Merv Griffin, and the Mike Douglas Show. Sometimes, those shows could be silly and whatnot, but I think you guys, as you get ... podcasts, streaming, this is a whole new thing.
Titus: People don't want to watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Titus: And, I get it. Those things are ... they're entertainment and they're fun.
Titus: You guys want to entertain. This what you do is something for everybody.
Titus: I think, you know, my hats off to you guys.
Jeff: Thank you.
Titus: My Death Wish Coffee hats off to you guys, because we need more, so just keep doing what you're doing. The privilege has absolutely been mine. Thank you for having me on.
Jeff: Thank you.
Titus: It's been really, really fun.
Dustin: Yeah, cheers man.
Speaker 1: Awesome.
Titus: Thank you.
Speaker 2: Thanks, Titus.