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INKED EXCLUSIVE: Bosch's Titus Welliver Talks Tattoos

Check out why the TV detective lives an INKED lifestyle

On April 13th, season four of Bosch airs exclusively on Amazon. We got a chance to catch up with the show's star, Titus Welliver, to learn how ink has played a role in his life as an actor, has influenced Hollywood at large, and impacts his character's narrative.


When did you start getting tattooed?

Far too young.

What was your first tattoo?

My first tattoo is the symbol of my martial arts dojo. The two koi circling a rock represents strength and fluidity.

What are the meanings behind each of your tattoos?

I have almost thirty tattoos, and each one represents something personal. Some of them are the names and birth dates of my children, and others relate to my Irish and Native American background.

How did you find your tattoo artist(s)?

When I came to Los Angeles in 1990, I wanted some work done and Charlie Sheen suggested going to Sunset Strip Tattoo, where he had had quite a bit of his work done over the years. So, I have going back there over the years. Three years ago, I connected with an artist there named David Huet. He’s done quite a bit of work for me as well as Paul Timman, who is also at Sunset Strip.

What do your children think of your tattoos?

They seem to like my tattoos, although my daughter a few years ago made a statement along the lines of, “I thought you wouldn’t get any more tattoos and wouldn’t ride motorcycles. Now you have more than 20 tattoos, and 3 Harley Davidsons. Is there something wrong with you?” I believe she thought motorcycles and tattoos at my age were indicative of a mid-life crisis.

How has the perception of tattoos changed since you were a young adult?

When I was a kid, I saw people with tattoos by and large as out-laws, old sailors, and bikers. People now, however, are no longer negatively stigmatized by having tattoos. It’s a form of self expression. Some people choose to have them where people can’t see them, and it’s still considered self expression. So it’s really dramatically changed. Growing up, I believe tattooing was even illegal in certain states. I remember when I was spending a summer in Maine, there were these tattoo tents in fairs, and there was a brawny big guy, making a horrific face as he was giving tattoos. As a kid, as much as I wanted tattoos, I thought, “I’m never getting it from that guy.”

How has Hollywood accepted your ink?

There is only one time that I had to put on make up to cover up my tattoos. It was not for a paying job actually, and it was for a short film I did thirty years ago. If I’m playing a character that shouldn’t have tattoos, I just wear long sleeves. I deal with it accordingly.

Do you think that Hollywood needs more tattooed actors?

I know lots of actors that have tattoos. I don’t think Hollywood necessarily needs more actors with them, but body art is now more common, and now we can see more characters in television and in film that aren’t just bad guys or special forces soldiers. Hollywood still uses tattoos as a way to depict badass-ery though.

How do your tattoos play a role on Bosch?

Harry Bosch has scars on his knuckles where he had the words “Hold Fast” tattooed when he was a teenager. When he was in the army, his drill instructor had Bosch punch brick walls until his hands turned into hamburgers. When I was cast as Bosch, I said to Michael Connelly, I have these tattoos, and if we have to cover them, it would take an extra hour with the makeup brush each day. So we decided to keep the tattoos. I have gotten more since I started the show. You see people of all walks of life have tattoos, so there’s an interesting irony that he has these tattoos.

My tattoos aren’t always evident on the show, and you can’t really see what they are unless we screen capture or zoom in on them. We never feature them, and we never talk about them. In the last season, there are scenes where the new captain played by Brooke Smith, says something like,“roll down the sleeves detective. Or get a wire brush and scrape off those things in your arms. There’s no ink in my house.” I think LAPD has a policy that if you’re a uniformed officer and have tattoos that can be seen, then you have to roll your sleeves down. You can’t wear short sleeves in the summer. They want to make a differentiation between cops and the gangs they deal with.

Why do you think viewers should tune into season 4?

Same reason as they were tuning in for Seasons 1 through 3. It’s a well written show based on the powerful novels written by Michael Connelly. Season 4 is an especially compelling season. It deals with racism and excessive use of force by police officers, and it gets very topical. We did not set out to choose Angels of Flight because it was topical though. Racism and police brutality aren’t necessarily topical because they’ve been going on forever and are still going on. But, that being said, these are real topics that should be addressed in society, and I think we handled it quite well.