Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Titus Welliver on Beverly Hills, 90210, possessing the Cosmic Cube, and many, many comics

Illustration for article titled Titus Welliver on Beverly Hills, 90210, possessing the Cosmic Cube, and many, many comics

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.


When Titus Welliver shifts his expression into a scowl, it provides him with a menacing look that’s served him well over the years, making him into one of Ben Affleck’s go-to guys when Affleck’s playing director—Welliver has been in Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo—and a familiar face on the small screen, turning in memorable performances on Lost, The Good Wife, and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now Welliver is getting the chance to take the lead: He’s starring in the new Amazon series, Bosch. Based on books written by Michael Connelly, Bosch stars Welliver as LAPD detective Harry Bosch and features an ensemble which includes Lance Reddick, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Annie Wersching, and Mimi Rogers. The first season of the series starts streaming on Amazon February 13.

1. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Titus Welliver: Do you mean an acting job or a job job?

A.V. Club: It can be any kind of job.

TW: Doing an episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. [Laughs.] My father [landscape painter Neil Welliver] told me—he called me the day after he had watched—and he said, “What was that show you were on? Hollywood 507?” I said, “No, no, it’s Beverly Hills, 90210.” He said, “Yeah. Don’t do that again. Your work was good, I’m proud of you, but that show was awful. Don’t ever do that again.” I said, “Well, I’ve got to pay my bills.” He said, “Son, I love you. If you need money that badly, I’ll send you some. But don’t do that again. It’s bad for your soul.” So that’d definitely be the worst job I ever had! And I can tell you that I worked on a dairy farm shoveling shit, and that wasn’t nearly as bad.

AVC: IMDB lists the episode you were in as “Cardio-Funk.”

TW: [Laughs.] I had just done a film in which I put on something like 60-something pounds for the role, so I was quite beefy and chunky, being a New York theater actor and the kind of guy that I was. I then came out to Hollywood after doing this film and people were, like, “That’s great! I saw you onstage, and you were a tall, weedy, thin leading man, and now look at you!” I turned into the chubby thug go-to guy for a while. Which was fine. I mean, I was making a living doing that. But after a good year and a half of doing roles like that, I was, like, “Man, I am never doing that again…”

AVC: Just basing this on a quick glance at the episodic description, were you the “abusive, alcoholic boyfriend” in the episode?

TW: [Bursts out laughing.] Yeah, and Luke Perry had to punch me out. Such a nice guy. So when I say it was the worst job, it was not because of the people. It was exactly what my dad said: It was completely idiotic and banal. But he was a sweet guy, and he and I had some good laughs. He had to punch me out, and he’s a few feet shorter than I am. So that was not a high point in my career.


2. When did you first feel successful?

TW: You know, quite honestly, the first time I got paid to act. I did a play called The White Snake in New York, in what is now the Crunch Gym on Lafayette Street. It was a dance performance play, directed by Bob Holman, and I got a whopping $180 a week. And I remember thinking to myself, “Yeah! Okay!” It shut my brother up, because my brother could no longer call me an acting student. I said, “Oh, by the way, I’m getting paid for this now. I’ve got a professional job.” So, yeah, I guess that’s accurate. That’d be it.


AVC: Tell us a bit more about The White Snake.

TW: It was an adaptation of a Chinese myth by the poet Ed Friedman. A very, very avant-garde production. Crazy. But interesting, you know? It was through The St. Mark’s Poetry Project and the Eye And Ear Theater Company. My father used to love to mock it and call it the Ear, Nose, And Throat Theater. [Laughs.] Of course, they were all his friends. It was all poets like Anne Waldman and Ron Padgett and Mark Strand and all those cats.


3. If you were a supervillain, what would your master plan be?

AVC: As a card-carrying member of S.H.I.E.L.D., surely you have a good answer for this one.


TW: My master plan would be… [Exhales.] Well, you know, it would be to gain control of the Tesseract. The Cosmic Cube, as it was always called in the original Captain America comics. Doesn’t every supervillain want that thing now? And how much trouble could it really be to steal it?

AVC: So would your first act be to construct yourself a gold suit of armor to wear while wielding it, like the Red Skull?


TW: [Laughs.] Yeah, right? Exactly. Almost like the one Skeletor was wearing in Masters Of The Universe.

AVC: Hey, if you’re going to wield infinite power, you’ve got to look the part.

TW: Frank Langella was a good Skeletor, by the way. But don’t get me started. See, this is where I start to geek out. I have ADD, so you combine that with Marvel Comics Tourette’s, and I’m in deep shit. I’m more sporadic with my buying now, but I still have a pretty large collection of the stuff from the ’60s and the ’70s. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Newbury Comics, but it’s a fantastic comic-book store, and I hit that place hard every time I go there. Right before Christmastime, they were having a huge sale on the Marvel Platinum Masterworks, and I just went apeshit. I got tons of Avengers and… I mean, look, I get the whole tactile experience of holding that comic from that time, the smell of the comic book and all that. It’s so visceral when you do it, and there are certain issues that I’ve got to go to, one being when the Hulk killed the Thing, when he sucker-punched him in the face, and that whole series with the Overmind [Fantastic Four #113-116], and Captain America, when he and the Skull switched bodies and he created the Falcon [Captain America #116-120]. All that [illustrator] Gene Colan stuff really is supreme. I love Gene Colan.


4. What were you like as a kid?

TW: I was deeply immersed in pop culture. Deeply. I’m like a little bit of a savant. I played with Captain Action. I had all the costumes. You know, the Ideal action figure you could dress up as all the good superheroes. I was heavily into G.I. Joe, and G.I. Joe Adventure Team with life-like hair and kung-fu grip. And comic books galore. Totally dedicated Marvel fan. Hardcore. Captain America, Spider-Man, Not Brand Echh. [Laughs.] And Daredevil, from the [penciler-inker] Wally Wood days up. I also liked Dynamo, if you recall T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. I loved that whole stuff. And Blue Beetle. Some of those Charlton comics were pretty good, too. I was a big Creepy and Eerie fan, and Famous Monsters [magazine]. And Saturday morning cartoons. I had to get in my Jonny Quest. And Clutch Cargo. I was a huge Planet Of The Apes fan. I really loved that whole phase when Marvel was doing the magazine series, like Deadly Hands Of Kung-Fu and Planet Of The Apes and Conan The Barbarian. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. [Laughs.] I was in a stage of arrested development, because I was still playing with Captain Action when I was 21. [Laughs.] Sad but true!

5. Who was your celebrity crush when you were younger?

TW: Let me think. It was not Laurie Partridge, believe it or not. Susan Dey. God, you know, I think it might’ve been Jennifer O’Neill, from Summer Of 42. No, you know, it actually was Raquel Welch. And I had the poster of her from One Million Years B.C. I had that classic picture of her in the rabbit-skin suit, standing. And I had a thing for Linda Harrison when I saw Planet Of The Apes. I was into that primitive but beautiful, voluptuous thing. But, yeah, definitely Raquel Welch.

AVC: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet Raquel Welch?

TW: I met her briefly. And, of course, I didn’t want to be the one-millionth man who said, “If I told you how many hours I spent staring at my One Million Years B.C. poster…” [Laughs.] I was entirely too young to even understand what was going on in my nether regions.


Also, my godfather wrote the script for Barbarella, so I was crazy into Jane Fonda and the whole Barbarella thing. That was a head-turner for me. I dig that, man. They don’t make women like that anymore, with the whole ’60s and ’70s crazy fashion and all that stuff. But that’s a whole other thing. I’ve got to write a book, so I don’t have to bore people like you with my monologuing about my lost youth. [Laughs.]

AVC: Who was your godfather, the one who wrote the script for Barbarella?

TW: Terry Southern. He wrote The Cincinnati Kid, Dr. Strangelove, and also quite a few great novels. Yeah, a super-cool cat and a very brilliant guy.


AVC: He also wrote for a season on Saturday Night Live.

TW: Yeah, that’s right! He came in there during that whole Michael O’Donoghue period [1981-82].


AVC: And he was apparently horribly disappointed by the experience.

TW: I mean, first of all, the thing about Terry is that he really was not a sketch writer. It wasn’t something that he got a tremendous amount of pleasure out of. He needed more time. I know that he had fun doing it, to a certain degree, being “on the scene,” as he would say. But, no, I don’t think it was a rewarding experience for him artistically or intellectually.

6. If you had entrance music, what would it be?

TW: “Let’s Welcome Victor,” from Éric Serra’s score from La Femme Nikita. How’s that for being precise? [Laughs.] It’s actually a really, really cool piece of music.

7. What have you done so far today?

TW: Moaned and complained about my back hurting. Probably sucked my thumb. Wrapped myself in a blanket. Whined a little more. [Laughs.] I fucked my back up. I’ve got a chronic back thing, and of course it decided the morning after the big L.A. premiere to kick out. I’m supposed to get on an airplane and fly to London for the premiere over there, but that’s looking a little sketchy. So, yeah, I’ve sort of spent the morning whining, which I’ll do throughout the day. I embrace my inner child.


8. What other celebrities have you been mistaken for?

TW: None. Although recently people have been saying James Nesbitt and I could play brothers. [Laughs.]

9. If you had to find another line of work, what skills would you put on your resume?

TW: Probably weapons instructor. And short-order cook. You can combine those things, because there are a lot of handy things you’ll find in the kitchen to defend yourself.


10. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?

TW: Like I said, I don’t collect comics so much anymore, and I used to be a pretty huge toy collector, but I do it a little more sporadically now. But I discovered things–like this company Neca that makes amazing Planet Of The Apes figures–and I’m a huge fan of those films, and they’ve been finding their way onto my bookshelf. My wife looks at me as if to say, “Okay, so where are you gonna put those things?”


And I have my coveted Batmobile. A big Batmobile. They put out these new figures from the 1960s television show, and they made a Batmobile for them to ride in, and it’s pretty kickass. It’s got everything. I mean, I still have my Corgi Batmobile from when I was a kid, although the windshield’s a little cracked, and Batman and Robin went down the bathtub drain when I was playing with that and my Yellow Submarine. [Laughs.]

Really, though, I collect films. I’m sort of rebuilding my film library and replacing everything now that I’ve finally broke down—Luddite that I am—and bought a Blu-ray player and an ultra-HD 4K TV. So I’m slowly but surely replacing films that I deem absolutely imperative that they be watched in the high-def format.


AVC: What’s the most recent one you’ve picked up?

TW: The most recent ones I’ve picked up are Yojimbo and Sanjuro, two of my favorite films. Oh, and I also just bought that giant Kubrick Blu-ray box set [Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection]. That’s a Swiss army knife, man: everybody’s got to have one.

11. What would your last meal be?

TW: Lobster. Maine lobster. A pound and a quarter, steamed, and I would have a bushel basket of steamed clams. There’s a particular place I go in Maine, and it’s just… I mean, it’s the crack of the ocean.


12. The bonus question comes from Kathleen Hanna: “What’s your least favorite thing you’ve ever heard an actor say about acting?”

TW: “Let me talk about my process as an actor.” [Laughs.] I’m not kidding. That shit makes me crazy. Do you really think that, when plumbers get together, they talk about pipe-fitting and shit like that? Who fucking cares? You want to talk about anything but pipe-fitting. The same goes for acting. Meryl Streep said a great thing one time. She said, “You know, I don’t really talk about my process very much, because I feel like if I give something away, it might not come back.” And I totally understand that.


AVC: What would you like to ask the next person?

TW: “If you could be a historical figure, who would you be?”

AVC: Do you want add “and why”?

TW: Yeah. Add “and why.” That’s the kind of shit that gets people, too, right? Because they want to be deep. Some people just want to be deep. They’re, like, “Well, I’d like to be Frederick Douglass.” And it’s, like, “Okay, but you’re an overprivileged white person who grew up in the suburbs. So tell me why you’d like to be Frederick Douglass.” Whereas me, I’m such an asshole, I’d be, like, “Shecky Greene! No, I’m sorry: I’d be Buddy Hackett!”