Bosch is back: Crime Scene goes on-set in LA for Series 3.
Having spent 25 years solving murders in the City of Angels in Michael Connelly’s novels, Harry Bosch is doing it all over again in Amazon’s acclaimed TV adaptation. Crime Scene feels the heat on the Hollywood set during filming of Season 3.
When Crime Scene walks onto the LAPD Hollywood Division precinct set used for the Amazon Studios series Bosch, the first thing we see is a statue of Santa Claus. It shouldn’t be that surprising because we’re in November. Yet, it seems out of place when the temperature outside is 29 degrees Celsius and this feels like a perfect day to go to the beach.
Later, we are reminded that this is winter in Los Angeles when we pass through the production offices. In one of them, behind the desk, is a wall of neatly typed Post-it notes relating to the shooting schedule that began in late July. Seeing it prompts us to ask what conditions are like in the LA summer.
“In the second season we did a scene in an old paper mill factory in a really dirty part of downtown,” says executive producer Henrik Bastin, who is leading our set tour. “It was a record day, 118 degrees Fahrenheit [ 48 degrees Celsius] or something like that. It was brutal.”
As uncomfortable as the Los Angeles heat can be, it is part of the city’s character. Raymond Chandler used it to good effect to give his Philip Marlowe stories an unforgiving atmosphere. As a result, the California desert became synonymous with post-war detective fiction many years before gritty Scandinavian mysteries made it cool to invent murders in a cold climate.
Since 1992, Michael Connelly has been helping to keep LA’S history of hardboiled detectives going with his novels about Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. In addition, for the past three years the former LA Times crime reporter has been bringing his LAPD detective to television as a writer and producer on the Amazon TV show that draws on his bestsellers.
“Harry Bosch was tied up for almost 15 years because of a deal I made with a film studio,” Connelly recounts when he joins our tour. “The benefit was that in the 15 years when I wished I had him back, TV changed and really became a place to go if you wanted to tell character stories.”
To protect and serve
If Bosch had been made 20 years ago, it would have been just another mystery-of-the-week show, Connelly believes. The rise of streaming services and the increased international popularity of Nordic noir, however, have allowed the show to be grounded in the same realistic portrayal of the lives of police officers that Connelly’s novels are known for.
“Our goal is to accurately show what this job is like – not just the procedure but internally,” Connelly says. “We talk about how this job takes people into the dark side of humanity every single day. Some of that darkness seeps into a person and you’ve got to figure out what to do with it and how to contain it.”
Harry Bosch himself epitomises the emotional cost of police work, especially when it becomes all-consuming. His obsessive nature leads him to butt heads with bureaucracy on many occasions. Nonetheless, the TV series isn’t just Dirty Harry for the small screen. According to Bastin, the main characters’ experiences reflect what officers on the LAPD’S front line see all the time.
“We portray the rank and file very accurately, the good and the bad,” Bastin explains. “I think that’s what
the policemen and women really respond to. There are many series that show cops as much cooler-looking with guns blazing. Then there’s us. We shine a light on how tedious the job can be sometimes and how hard it can be and how stupid the bosses are sometimes.”
Bastin’s unflattering reference to higher-ups in the LAPD prompts Crime Scene to ask how much cooperation the producers get from the powers-that-be. “They have been nothing but supportive,” Connelly insists.
That backing extends to approving Connelly’s continued use of police contacts who have been giving him the inside scoop for his novels. “We have two consultants who are real homicide detectives from the LAPD. Through the department, we’ve arranged to hire them for the show,” explains Connelly. “They’re helpful on all levels but I think the biggest part is when they come in here and talk with the writers about their experiences.”
One benefit of being in Los Angeles, Bastin says, is that the consultants often describe situations they’ve been in or heard of that are as dramatic as anything Bosch’s writers could come up with. They sometimes come in with tales that sound too tall even for TV.
“We don’t ever feel that we have to come up with these big scenarios for something plausible to happen,” Bastin tells Crime Scene. “It will come naturally through the police officers just telling us, ‘Oh, two weeks ago this happened to a colleague of mine,’ or something so outrageous that we can’t put it into the show. Yesterday one of our officers told us a story where the real-world scenario was so weird that we couldn’t pass it off. People would just be like, ‘No, that can’t happen.’ That happens all the time.”
It isn’t just the LAPD informants’ stories that make them an asset, though. The trust that Connelly has gained after working with them for over a decade has earned him privileges that producers of other shows would die for.
“The detectives that we have are ambassadors for the show,” says Bastin. “They’ve been able to talk us into the crime lab, into the coroner’s office, and we’ve shot in this thing called the ‘big crypt’. It might look on the show like a really cool set we built with all these bodies but it was a real place. They were real bodies.”
The precinct set that we’re taken to provides another example of the level of authenticity in Bosch. Every detail is accurate down to the official-looking forms and mug shots that decorate the cubicles where Harry and the other detectives work. This, we’re told, is because the set is an exact replica, “down to the scuff marks on the floor,” of the interior of the LAPD’S Hollywood Station just a few blocks away.
As we look around we get the signal to be silent because a lengthy interrogation scene is being filmed in one of the side rooms. When there’s a break in shooting, Titus Welliver, who plays Bosch, walks out of the room wearing a brown shirt and his character’s trademark expression of suppressed intensity.
Welliver has been one of TV’S hardest working actors since the early 1990s and is no stranger to crime and legal series. He
This job takes people into the dark side of humanity every day
has appeared in such shows as Brooklyn South, NYPD Blue, The Good Wife, Law & Order: LA, Sons of Anarchy and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He admits that when he got the first Bosch script he had read only one of Connelly’s novels, but it resonated with him.
“I think I understand this character,” he tells us. “He’s a guy who has a very strong moral compass but he’s very human. He’s flawed, he’s haunted, he’s vulnerable but he doesn’t outwardly express his vulnerability to people.”
Welliver says that he has now read almost all of Connelly’s books and narrated three audiobook adaptations. While he’s familiar with Bosch as Connelly wrote him, though, there are aspects of the books that are hard for an actor to convey on screen.
“There’s a lot of times when we find Harry’s thoughts and impulses are being spelled out through the narrative of the story,” Welliver observes. “That was one of the things that I noticed in the script and in the books, like Bosch sitting in his house looking over a murder book, listening to music or looking out of his balcony observing the city. There’s no dialogue there. I find those in some ways the most challenging and also the most interesting things to act.”
Connelly has revealed that the third season of Bosch will be based on his first book, The Black Echo, and his favourite novel, A Darkness More Than Night. The latter puts Harry at what the author calls “a low point”. When asked what this means, Welliver drops a few hints.
“This season we find him definitely moving in a darker direction,” the actor reveals. “He’s doing some things that are technically illegal. They are to serve the greater good but they are illegal and could ultimately get him fired from the police department, if not put in jail. He’s been framed for a murder he didn’t commit. There’s a lot at play and that which he thought he had some resolution in turns out to be something he doesn’t have resolution in.”
Welliver believes that Bosch’s “top drawer” writers under showrunner Eric Overmyer will make viewers fear for Harry’s well-being in Season 3. Connelly, meanwhile, credits Welliver with giving the cantankerous detective a special quality that keeps audiences onside: “Titus carries it in his eyes. That’s something that I can’t even approach describing in words in a book. It is a dimension that really entrances me when I see it.”
Off the page
Whatever happens to Harry in Season 3, we already know that it won’t be his last case because Amazon has ordered a fourth season of the show. That means another summer spent filming these shocking cases under intense heat. Still, that doesn’t make Welliver want to hand in his badge. “Despite the fact that the subject matter I deal with is sometimes terribly, terribly disturbing and dark, the people that I’m surrounded by and I work with make it very pleasurable,” he says.
Before being called away, Welliver expresses the hope that Amazon will greenlight more adaptations of Connelly’s books. As the on-screen lives of characters diverge from what Connelly committed to the printed page, however, the show’s writers are finding they have more freedom to blend fiction with fact.
“The contract was that the first three years have to be based on books, but the fourth doesn’t,” Bastin discloses. “The cops came in one day and started talking about a real case they’ve been working on. It was so interesting that we wound an arc through about six of the episodes of Season 3 that will become a big story in Season 4 and is not based on a book. I’m sure we’ll have something from a book because I think the audience reacts to that. But we do feel more freedom to expand horizons and not be 100 percent book-related.”
Whether the stories come from cops or Connelly, there’s an optimism on the set about the future seasons. As Crime Scene emerges blinking into the unseasonal weather, it seems clear that Bosch’s TV future is as bright as the LA sun.
Bosch Series 3 is on Amazon Prime from 21 April.
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch on set.
Lt Grace Billets (Amy Aquino) is one of Bosch’s closest friends. Detective Jerryedgar (Jamie Hector) lightens Bosch’s darker side.
Bosch is getting to know his daughtermaddie (Madison Lintz).
Jamie Hector is well known to viewers from The Wire.