In Amazon’s BOSCH, currently streaming its entire ten-episode first season, Titus Welliver stars as Harry Bosch, an LAPD homicide detective investigating a long-ago murder that is somehow connected to a string of present-day serial murders. In the series, adapted by show runner Eric Overmyer from Michael Connelly’s acclaimed novels, Lance Reddick plays Harry’s boss, Irvin Irving, whose political aspirations dictate his every move.
Reddick, a native of Maryland, is known to FRINGE fans as Philip Broyles, to THE WIRE watchers as Cedric Daniels, to LOST lovers as Matthew Abaddon and to OZ aficionados as Detective John Basil. Additionally, Reddick played the otherworldly Papa Legba in 2013’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN and was a regular on last season’s INTELLIGENCE.
In person, Reddick is imposing, though much less intimidating than he often is onscreen as he talks about Irving and other characters.
ASSIGNMENT X: Were you familiar with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels when you were first presented with BOSCH?
LANCE REDDICK: Actually, when the project was presented to me, I didn’t know who Michael Connelly was [laughs].
AX: Have you read the books now?
REDDICK: I’ve read four books.
AX: Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the books, isn’t Irvin Irving white and sort of racist?
REDDICK: He is white. In the books that I read, I don’t remember thinking that he was racist.
AX: Maybe just elitist?
REDDICK: I don’t know that he’s elitist in that he comes from money – he started as a street cop. The other thing that’s interesting about that question about the character is that Irving is actually based on a person who is African-American. The fictional white person in the books is based on a real-life black person.
AX: Who is being played by a real-life African-American person. Did they tell you who he really is and have you researched him?
REDDICK: Yes, they told me who he is and, yes, I have researched him. I don’t know if I can say [his identity]. He’s City Council.
AX: Is he aware that Irving is based on him?
REDDICK: I don’t know. That’s why I don’t feel at liberty to say. I know from my experience with THE WIRE, because so many characters were based on real people, that we’re varying it – although that show was meant as a socio-political debate, but I know that sometimes certain people got offended [laughs].
AX: How did you become involved with BOSCH?
REDDICK: I was offered the role. When I was originally offered the role, I was told it was a recurring character. I was originally reluctant to say yes, because I didn’t want to play another cop. I said yes basically because Eric Overmyer asked me, because of my relationship with Eric, and because he promised me that it would be a great role. I was less afraid when I initially said yes, because once I researched Michael and found out who he was and also Eric gave me the opportunity to speak to Michael about it, I spoke to him, and also, because originally it was just supposed to be a recurring role first season. I knew that they were planning on making it a series regular second season, but I figured, “Well, I’m going to have a year and a half to really think about it, and I’ll just come in and do as recurring.” And then once we got picked up to series, they asked me to come on as a series regular for first season. I know Eric. I trust him. It was that simple.
AX: Did they say to you why you went from recurring to regular? Was it because the script couldn’t do without Irving, or because they realized, “Lance Reddick is bringing so much to this that we don’t want to do without him”?
REDDICK: I don’t know. I mean, I think – I don’t want to speculate too much, because I don’t want to put words in other people’s mouths. Part of it may have something to do with – I work a lot [laughs], and knowing how important it was going to be, as quickly as second season, they didn’t want to risk me not being available.
AX: Because they’re both in charge of the people under them, can you compare Irving to your character in FRINGE, in either universe?
REDDICK: Well, here’s what’s tricky about the Broyles thing, because the way the character was written changed so much from the first season to the second season. I think that once [Broyles] became entrenched at the beginning of the second season, Irving is much more – I was going to say “duplicitous,” but I don’t think that’s the right word. He’s much more Machiavellian than Broyles was. And although I think that both characters really believe in what they’re doing, Irving uniquely has a great thirst for power. He really, really wants to be police commissioner, and I think that if he were to become police commissioner, he would go on to want to become mayor. But I will says that, when he says to Bosch, “I care about what’s in the best interests of the department,” I think that he means it, it’s not just a line.
AX: At least in the books, Irving has extremely adversarial relationship with Harry, but we don’t see that so much in the series. Does Irving see himself as having an adversarial relationship with Bosch, or is that just how Bosch sees it?
REDDICK: “Adversarial?” I think that Bosch sees it that way more than Irving, but I think part of that is because in order to consider your relationship somewhat adversarial, you have to consider yourselves equals at a certain level, and at a certain level, I don’t think that Irving considers Bosch his equal, simply because as a commander, even though he has tremendous respect for Bosch’s brilliance and I even think that he recognizes him as a detective as a genius, he just thinks that, “What I do as a commander, as a brilliant commander, takes so much more and I’m so much more important. You’re just a cog. I’m the guy that’s holding everything together.”
AX: Did you have to learn anything to play Irvin Irving in BOSCH, or by now, you’re like, “I know how to be in charge of people”?
REDDICK: No, I feel like I’m actually still in the process of researching, because I feel like, because he’s such a political animal, because he’s such in some ways an egomaniac, it’s different than the things that I’ve done in the past.
AX: What do you do when you’re not working as an actor?
REDDICK: I still try to keep up with my music. I was a musician before I was an actor. I sang and played piano. I grew up studying classical music; when I went to college, I actually went to conservatory. I majored in composition. I thought I was going to be a classical composer. I went to the Eastman School of Music.
AX: How did you transition from that to acting?
REDDICK: Completely by accident. I left music school because I realized that I was in denial. I really wanted to be a rock star, I didn’t want to be a classical musician. I got married straight out of school, and we moved to Boston, because my wife had a job there and I didn’t have a job. And also, her family was from there. So I just started doing odd jobs there, trying to make it as a musician.
About a year after my daughter was born, I found myself holding four jobs, seven days a week. I worked as a singing waiter on lunch and dinner cruise ships in Boston Harbor. I delivered newspapers from three to five in the morning, and I also delivered pizzas and sub sandwiches. I also worked as an artist’s model, because there are a lot of art schools in Boston. And then I had a back injury that just laid me out and made me reevaluate what I was doing. And because I’d acted in college for fun and I knew that I was good at it, I thought that that was a way to help make my musical career happen. And so I just started going on local auditions in Boston and getting cast and doing theatre. Then I applied to drama school on a lark. First I went to musical theatre auditions. That didn’t work. So I’d go on straight acting auditions. And I just started getting cast, and before I knew it, acting took over my life. Then I applied to the drama school at Yale, really on a lark, and got in. So at almost thirty years old, with a wife and kid, I went back to school.
AX: Is there anywhere people can hear your music?
REDDICK: I have an album on Amazon, my CD, CONTEMPLATIONS AND REMEMBRANCES. It’s mostly jazz. It’s all songs that I wrote.
AX: Do you have other projects we should know about?
REDDICK: Interestingly enough, I was actually working on developing a comedy series when this came up, which is another reason why it was difficult. I was working with a writer that I’ve had a relationship with for the last [four] years. He actually wrote a skit that I did on FUNNY OR DIE called “Toys ‘R Me.”
AX: Like “Toys ‘R Us”?
REDDICK: Yes, exactly. It’s about a small business owner who owns this very small, specialty children’s toy shop, and he’s basically a psychotic tyrant. Uou can still see it on FUNNY OR DIE.
AX: Any other projects?
REDDICK: There’s a film that I did called THE GUEST starring Dan Stevens from DOWNTON ABBEY. I did a film that was written and directed by Scot Armstrong, who wrote the second HANGOVER movie, called SEARCH PARTY. It’s about three guys, they’re three best friends. One of them is getting married, and on his wedding day, one of the three friends does something that makes it go horribly wrong, his friend takes off to Mexico, and then they have to go find him, because he gets in trouble. It stars Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Adam Pally. And I play Adam Pally’s boss, who’s this kind of crazy corporate executive.
AX: You seem to play a lot of authority figures …
REDDICK: With those two roles, I got to do something very different. I mean, in THE GUEST, I’m also an authority figure, but I get to run around with a bunch of commandos, shooting guns [laughs]. And I also did JOHN WICK, starring Keanu Reeves. I play an African concierge at a hotel. It’s actually set in New York.
AX: Speaking of other projects, were you happy with the way FRINGE wrapped up?
REDDICK: People keep asking me that. I didn’t have a problem with it. I didn’t watch the show – even though I read all the scripts, I didn’t watch the show that much. I think the way that they ended it, especially given the constraints that were put on them, that they only had twelve episodes, I thought that it was very brave. I thought it was very cool.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about BOSCH?
REDDICK: No. I saw the pilot. People should watch the show.
This interview was conducted during Amazon’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
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Article: Interview with BOSCH star Lance Reddick on his new Amazon series and the end of FRINGE