Readers first met Harry Bosch on the page with Michael Connelly’s “The Black Echo” in 1992, and thanks to Amazon, audiences will now get to see the Los Angeles detective in action. On Friday, Feb. 13, Amazon Studios will launch “Bosch,” with 10 episodes bringing the character to life onscreen, and the cast and creators of the series say that being the drama, the studio’s first, is a perfect fit with Amazon.
Things certainly didn’t start out with that intention, says Connelly, explaining that Bosch was a character he just could not leave alone. After the rights to adapt the novels returned to him in turnaround back in 2011,“It became an obvious choice to go with TV,” he says. “Hopefully if you’ve got a show on TV, you do more – you get more hours to show the character.”
The problem? “I hate pitching,” says Connelly. “I’m not good at it.”
Connelly met with executive producer Henrik Bastin, and the idea was hatched to develop “the right version of Harry Bosch: The TV Series,” Bastin says. Known primarily for Swedish series, Bastin was a fan of the books and was determined to attach Connelly to the project to do the character justice.
“Bosch” stars Titus Welliver as the titular detective as he pursues the killer of a 13 year-old boy. Bosch’s investigation takes a dangerous turn when a killer who has confessed to the boy’s murder escapes custody and begins a rampage in Los Angeles. To create Bosch’s world for the series, Connelly and his team drew on three novels: “City of Bones,” “The Concrete Blonde” and “Echo Park.”
“The concern to me was that you give the concept to a network or wherever and then it becomes their concept and it’ll get changed,” says Connelly. “From the standpoint of a book writer who ventures into Hollywood every now and then, I’ve had that experience, and it’s certainly more nerve-wracking.
“I was in a very rare situation where I didn’t have to do any of this,” he explains. “My books were doing well, I had a nice living, so I didn’t want to see this become what it’s not. I wanted to make sure it was in the book.”
Thankfully for the writer, Amazon was on the same page.
“Amazon was one of the places we wanted to go to, but they called preemptively,” explains Bastin. The two sat down with Joe Lewis, head of original programming at Amazon Studios, “who said in a very cool, Hollywood manner, ‘We want it,’” says Bastin.
Lewis and Roy Price, chief of Amazon Studios, were fans of Connelly’s books. They were the “right people” for “Bosch,” Bastin says. “Not only creatively and giving us lots of resources, but they had an intimate tie with selling Michael’s books.”
“Normally, it only works if the writer hands over the book and then goes back to their room, but they really wanted me involved. That was really one crux of the negotiation,” says Connelly. “There’s no real such thing as script approval, but I knew that if I was involved in the script-writing process, I’d have enough control — and so that was granted to me, and it wasn’t granted grudgingly.”
In fact, Lewis and Price were so on board with Connelly’s series that they were animated about possible stories for the show and suggested plot points, excited at seeing the detective’s story play out onscreen. “That could have only come from someone who knew the books,” Connelly says.
“I think Amazon is in the business of providing what a lot of people are looking for,” he adds. “Now they have a traditional cop show with a twist — it’s serialized, and it very much comes out like chapters of a book. We’re happy to be their first [drama] out.”
Eric Overmyer (“Law & Order,” “The Wire”), who was brought in to write the pilot, “was a little nervous about the whole streaming thing,” he says. “But Michael was like, ‘No, this is the new thing, we gotta do this.’”
“It’s the most interesting business model I’ve ever heard of,” says Amy Aquino, who plays Lt. Grace Billets, of showing the series’ pilot before being officially picked up.
“It was cool,” agrees Annie Wersching, who plays Officer Julia Brasher, Bosch’s love interest. “We shoot a lot of pilots that don’t get picked up, and no one ever sees them at all. So, that in itself is interesting, because whether this goes or not at least you’re going to see what I’ve been doing.”
The idea of being something new for Amazon, now a burgeoning player in the television game, was an interesting and appealing draw when it came to signing on to “Bosch,” cast members admit.
“When my agent first was telling me about it I was like, ‘It’s for what?’ But it’s kind of cool to be their first hourlong drama,” says Wersching.
“It was one of the reasons that I took it,” agrees Aquino, who says she wanted to “be on that ride,” as Amazon explores the world of streaming original series.
To create the perfect universe for “Bosch,” it was necessary to bring the show to Los Angeles, a make-or-break point for Connelly. “It’s Harry’s world — he’s a creature of this city,” says Welliver.
“I’ve been in Boston, Hawaii, Vancouver, Toronto — everywhere but L.A.,” he adds, noting that an overwhelming amount of film and television production takes place elsewhere. “But L.A. is a character in this. You can’t cheat, you really can’t.”
“We’re all dedicated to root it as firmly in realism as we can. So, being able to shoot it in the real city is all part of the show, and the books in some ways are this love letter to L.A.,” says Overmyer.
“And it’s not the L.A. that you get to see typically in movies and TV shows,” agrees Aquino. “It’s the nitty, the gritty, the really interesting things. Interesting bad, interesting good, interesting funky, and the same applies to the characters… They’re motivated by the right things for the most part. Some of them not so much, but there’s no black and white — it’s all this grey area.”
Over the course of the series’ 10 episodes, Bosch comes face to face with ugly precinct politics that interfere with his investigation. He has no time for backbiting and no patience for it — which means he’s harassed by his peers, according to Welliver.
Bosch is a detective who has seen the worst of the worst, he says. “That’s the world that he lives in. He has a sense of humor, but he’s a little morose, and he’s a little prickly, but my defense of Harry would be to say he doesn’t suffer fools,” he adds. “He doesn’t have time for bulls—. He’s a direct guy.”
Bosch’s impatience for politics adds frustration for Deputy Chief Irvin Irving, played by Lance Reddick. “How this case turns out — there’s so much of my character’s focus on how things make the department look, so it’s one of those things where I have a love-hate relationship with Bosch,” Reddick says.
“Harry Bosch perseveres,” says Connelly. “Harry Bosch is relentless. In this story, he makes mistakes all the time, but it’s that saying that if you fall down five times you get up six. Harry just keeps going… You might not agree with his personality and he might make all kinds of mistakes but if you knew somebody who was a victim of a homicide there’d be no other cop you’d want on the case.”
As he pursues the case, Bosch finds himself falling for Officer Julia Brasher, a tough uniform who “wants to be just like Harry Bosch,” says Wersching, who describes her character as an “adrenaline junkie,” interested in dating Bosch even though she’s not supposed to. “She’s definitely a thrill seeker,” she says. “She literally could not give a s—.”
Brasher’s own relentlessness could prove dangerous, Wershing teases, adding that “there’s definitely a situation where she’s trying to take something a little too far.”
Meanwhile, Bosch’s partner Jerry Edgar, played by Jamie Hector, struggles with trusting his partner and challenging him. “Watching my partner go through what he goes through in order to solve this case draws me in…whether I agree or disagree,” Hector says, noting that his character plays devil’s advocate, “trying to push the envelope in terms of challenging the obvious.”
Ultimately, “everybody’s messy, everybody’s complicated and everybody’s flawed,” says Aquino, whose character will deal with wanting to support and scold Bosch for his actions.
“There are some strings that will go forward,” Connelly teases of the season’s finale, suggesting that there is plenty of action in store once Bosch gets into the thick of the two dominant cases in the story. “Justice does prevail, but it’s a flawed kind of justice” that Bosch will have to tackle.
“In my mind, designing a book and designing this season was like holding a slingshot,” Connelly says. “Pull it back slowly, have the patience of the reader or the viewer and then you let the slingshot go.”
“Bosch” premieres on Amazon Instant Video on Friday, Feb. 13.