BOSCH, adapted from Michael Connelly’s best-selling novels, is now in its fourth season on Amazon Prime and renewed for a fifth. Titus Welliver stars as the titular LAPD homicide detective, who is pursuing the cold case of his mother’s murder at the same time he’s trying to solve several contemporary killings.
Amy Aquino plays Bosch’s immediate supervisor, Lieutenant Grace Billets. Billets was passed over for promotion in Season 3, but in Season 4, she’s been made temporary captain, which just puts salt in the wound.
Aquino, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier. Besides greatly enjoying playing Billets, she is spending part of her hiatus as one of the leads in the Costa Mesa South Coast Repertory production of Wendy Wasserstein’s THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG, which runs through June 2.
Winner of a Q Award for her recurring role as Dr. Joanna Diamond on PICKET FENCES, Aquino has often been cast as authority figures: judges (JUDGING AMY, BOSTON LEGAL, SHARK, HARRY’S LAW, THE WHOLE TRUTH, THE MENTALIST, SUITS) , a rabbi (THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW), law enforcement (Detective Lois Carver on CROSSING JORDAN, the captain on HEIST, ADA Valerie Nichols on CSI, Warden Alice Simms on PRISON BREAK ), and more doctors (ER, ALLY McBEAL, GIDEON’S CROSSING, FELICITY, BROTHERS & SISTERS), plus a powerful witch on the U.S. version of BEING HUMAN. She also works often in films and on stage.
In a phone interview, Aquino talks playing Billets and much more.
ASSIGNMENT X: You play a lot of characters who are in charge …
AMY AQUINO: A lot of doctors and judges, man. I guess I come across as relatively smart and somewhat bossy [laughs], so I play that well. It’s not me at all.
AX: Do you draw on any of those earlier characters for Billets?
AQUINO: I think all the things I’ve done kind of feed into everything you do. In CROSSING JORDAN, it was less multi-dimensional, because they didn’t have the back story with her, I was just coming in to solve the crimes, but it gave me some familiarity, a little comfort with wearing a gun. Billets is not super-close to me, personality-wise. I think I did draw on my natural ability to be bossy, but also keep my humanity. I’m not good at being really bossy. I’m kind of waylaid by how I feel I’m affecting people.
AX: Did you do any research for the role in BOSCH?
AQUINO: Most of the research I did for Billets, I did through the BOSCH company, taking advantage of the technical advisers that we have. I spend a lot of time with Detective Mitzi Roberts. “What would Mitzi do?” was my mantra, even when she wasn’t on set. “Would I really be giving him the choice to do this?” Mitzi and Tim [Marcia, another technical consultant] brought each of us [actors] downtown. We got some training in how to deal with situations with use of force, which was unbelievably useful and enlightening. It was right at the time when Ferguson was happening and hit the news, and it was fascinating to have a gun in your hand, with a full-sized screen. [A police technician] is working the computer, and they played different scenarios. Your gun is a laser gun, but it has the heft and feel of a real gun, and they played scenarios, and you’re in the scenario, and you speak to the screen, and you make moves, and they can change the outcome at any time with what they want to do and what you do. It was fascinating, knowing just how little time you have to make a decision about whether or not this person is a threat. [In the computer simulation], I killed many innocent people, but only after I was shot dead multiple times, and it gave me an entirely different perspective on the sorts of things that law enforcement officers have to contend with, and the amount of time they have to make a decision.
AX: Were you familiar with the Michael Connelly books before you got involved in the BOSCH series?
AQUINO: I wasn’t. I had certainly seen his name around, but I hadn’t read any of his books. I was a biology major in college, and had books on a lot of science, so I was way behind in my reading, so when I did finally start reading, I decided, “Okay, I’m going to start with the classics.” So I’ve been going through the classics, and finished MOBY DICK, but when this came up, I ran out and got one and started reading, and found it just beautifully written, and so accessible, so respectful of readers’ intelligence. He brings you into the life of a police officer without pandering, without over-explaining. Once I got the job and started telling friends and relatives that I had the job, so many people said, “Oh, my God, Michael Connelly – I love Michael Connelly.” I would say literally a good fifty percent of the people I mentioned it to – and this is everybody, from a guy who refinishes furniture to a guy who’s made partner in a big law firm to a woman who does interior design. It was fascinating to me to know how much a part of American culture Michael was. And I know people are watching it because of how many people stop me and tell me how much they like the show. Anywhere I travel, we travel a lot, people will stop me and, “Oh, I love the show.” It’s getting watched. Some way, people are finding this show. I don’t need Amazon to release the numbers for me to know that people are watching and loving this show.
AX: Both the BOSCH series and the books are also really good about Los Angeles geography …
AQUINO: [Connelly] so specific, too. [Bosch is] going to go down to visit [his daughter] Maddie at college in Orange, and it’s like, “Well, honey, I’ve got to go down there – you know what, I’m not going to want to come back anyway, because I’m going to have to sit out the traffic, so why don’t I come and have dinner with you.” Yup. [laughs] There’s no way you’re going to get on the road at four o’clock. This is not going to happen.
AX: To back up, how did you get from biology major to actor?
AQUINO: [laughs] I was always doing both. I loved the acting, but I also loved the challenge of figuring out the puzzles, and analyzing, and understanding the world around me that I got through biology. Also, as much as I loved acting, it was not a reasonable way to make a living – I loved to act and I was doing shows all the time in high school, and I was doing shows all the time in college, but I was pre-med. I figured I’d do that as a living. And then, by my junior year in college, I reassessed and realized I was spending forty hours a week doing theatre at a college with no theatre program. And I was spending pretty much the minimum amount of time that I needed to on my biology major, so I determined that I needed to at least give [acting] a try. I completed my degree in biology, because I still loved it, and I knew that it was something that I definitely do down the line if the acting didn’t work out. I was sanguine about the fact that it was a complete crapshoot.
It was fascinating for me to be on ER for as long as I was. I was in the first season, and I was in the fifteenth season, so I ended up having a tremendous amount of experience in a white coat, and dealing with patients. So that was enough for me [laughs]. I love this, because I do love figuring out puzzles and doing analysis. I probably would have been a terrible doctor, because there’s so much that you have to [contend] with rote stuff.
AX: Does Grace exist as a character in the Bosch books?
AQUINO: She does. It’s clear in the books that they’ve been friends for a long, long time. I’m not sure it says it in the books, but I determined that they actually came up together through the ranks, they went to cop school together. And then she went the administrative route, the managerial route. But she definitely does exist. She’s gay, and her girlfriend exists as well in one of the books. She was Bosch’s partner for a little while in the books, and then she goes on to have a political career, which I [as Billets] always feel, “Okay, I got used.”
AX: Is there something different in playing someone who’s the boss of other people than playing somebody who’s a subordinate or on their own?
AQUINO: There absolutely is. It’s something that I had in life – we briefly, for about seven years, owned a hotel in Palm Springs, along with a group of friends, but my husband and I were the ones who had our hands on it, we were the ones who would manage it, and I realized, “Oh, my God, I’m just a terrible manager.” And I love the fact that Billets is so good. I like understanding how you manage people. You make sure that they feel respected, but you also make sure that they respect you, trying to help them do the best that they can do. Of course, in this environment, because it’s a pretty male-dominant environment, that works its way into it as well. It’s not so easy with my subordinates to have a handle on it. But yes. It is different. I’ve played a judge, [where] you’re dealing with people, but as a judge, you can get away with being kind of a jerk, and you don’t really see the folks that you manage, you’re not directly managing them. This is definitely the most management-heavy role that I’ve done. And I like it. I like understanding how that dynamic works.
AX: Are there things that you do for that dynamic, either physically or vocally, or you just put yourself in the mindset, and everything follows from there?
AQUINO: More the latter. Especially in law enforcement, you need to project strength and power. It was one of the first things that I learned from Mitzi. There were two very important points that she made. I went on a drive-along with [Roberts and another detective]. We talked for a long time, and then I was dropped off for my first costume fitting. They had chosen all these shoes, for me. But the shoes were all flat. I said, “No, I need a bit of a heel.” And they said, “Well, you’re a police officer.” I said, “No, I need a little bit of a heel. I need a chunky heel. Mitzi was wearing heels.” And they were very resistant to it. [The detectives] picked me up after the costume fitting. I said, “You’re wearing a heel. Would I be wearing a heel, or would I be wearing flats?” She said, “If you’re a woman, you would absolutely be wearing a heel. You’d be wearing heels to make yourself bigger, so people would respect you. Because it’s not a given when you’re a woman in that environment that you’re going to get the respect that you need.” The other question was, “I’m sitting at a desk. I’m rarely going out. Would I be wearing a gun?” “A male LT would not be wearing a gun, a woman LT would absolutely wear a gun all the time.” Again, because you have to make the extra effort to make sure that everybody knows you mean business. Those two tidbits were incredibly helpful and incredibly telling.
AX: Is lesbianism an issue for Billets, or real-world female police in general?
AQUINO: From what I can tell, it’s accepted. I’ve gotten to know the folks at the Hollywood station some, because it happens to be my division, it’s where I live. I’ve actually worked with the LAPD on and off since I’ve lived here. We helped set up a drop-in [police] station, on a corner, and I was on a policing advisory board, et cetera. So I’ve been there a fair amount. And each year, Michael Connelly and Fabrik Entertainment, our [BOSCH] producers, have a Christmas party for the police station. It’s great, and they invited me, and I get to hang out with people. And there is a couple, both [LAPD], one is retired, and one’s not, and they came up to me and thanked me, those two women, for my portrayal of Grace. There were completely out, they were married, and I didn’t sense ever that there was an issue with that, so I don’t play that there’s a real issue with that.
AX: Are there any episodes of BOSCH you find especially memorable?
AQUINO: One of the more memorable ones was the scene in the very first episode where I talk to Bosch up on the roof. It said so much to me about our relationship. Grace goes from being his boss, telling him what he needs to do, and then at the end giving him support for what he’s doing. And there was a follow-up, when I go to his house, again, to tell him that he needs to stop with his pursuit of the case of the children’s bones that he finds, when he actually gets more vulnerable, and lets you know that he needs it. Because that really is Grace’s role in all this is, her talent throughout the show is balancing this interpersonal relationship and her duties as a lieutenant.
AX: And without getting spoilery, can you tease anything for Grace in Season 4?
AQUINO: Well, we all know that she was turned down for captain last year because of her indiscretions with her subordinate. She gets dinged for it and he doesn’t, but that’s a talk for another day, I guess. So she had the rest of the season to deal with that and settle it in her mind, and this is okay, and she loves what she does [as a lieutenant], and that’s fine. In this season, she ends up with insult kind of added to injury. The other captain is out, and there’s a big hesitation in dealing with the potential for real civil unrest, and Irving [the police chief played by Lance Reddick] appoints her as the temporary captain. So she gets the privilege of having to take the responsibility and take s*** from the other lieutenants without getting paid any extra, without any real hope that it’s going to lead to her being captain. So that’s a big struggle for her in this, and Bosch’s situation psychologically goes from bad to worse as he starts getting more information about his mother’s case, and he also has a lot of responsibility in the main thing this season, which Grace is not on, because she’s in an awkward place there, but as Bosch’s friend, she knows what he’s going through psychologically, and gets concerned about where it might take him. She’s trying to manage that at the same time she’s trying to manage her relationships at the station as captain.
AX: To go in the Wayback Machine for a moment, can we talk about your BEING HUMAN experience?
AQUINO: Oh, it was so much fun. First of all, it was in Montreal, which is such a beautiful city. Second, it was with wonderful, great, lovely people, and I got to have all those magic powers that I would love to have. What I would like to say is, after years of telling people to go to hell, I was finally in a position to send them there! Woo-hoo! [laughs]
AX: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?
AQUINO: I did a couple of scenes with Steve Carell and Maura Tierney in a movie that’s coming up called BEAUTIFUL BOY, based on the book, and that should be a beautiful movie. And I’m doing THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG by Wendy Wasserstein down at South Coast Rep. I’ve been doing plays through my hiatus. I did one after the first season, I did one after the third season. I’ve done two of [Wasserstein’s] plays with her, first THE HEIDI CHRONICLES, which was on Broadway, and then her very last play [THIRD]. She died while it was still running. This is one that I had not been right for all this time, and now I’m finally there. So I’m excited to do it. I think it’s a terrific challenge for me, the lead role. She goes through a lot, and it’s very different from what I’m doing here [on BOSCH]. It’s not going to make me more famous, but it will help make me a better actor. And that’s important. I love being on stage, I love having the relationship with an audience.
AX: And what would you most like people to know about BOSCH Season 4?
AQUINO: It’s going to take you places, both in Bosch’s mind and in Los Angeles, that nobody’s had the opportunity to go. We think of Los Angeles as being like a character in BOSCH, and we get to see a side of Los Angeles literally that no one sees, and it’s fantastic.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your career overall?
AQUINO: As a woman who is my age, who doesn’t have the Emmy or the Oscar, I am incredibly grateful and stunned to have this opportunity at this point in my career, to have such a great character, and to have multiple years to develop her over. It’s been a real gift. We know what women are dealing with in this business, and typically, you get to forty and your career is going to start petering out. Mine – I was always a character, and I know that, but my struggle has always been that it’s terrible for all women, and so I tend to end up competing with women who do have Emmys and Oscars, because they’re ready to do TV, and they would love to do TV, because they would love to have an opportunity to work, and they don’t get the opportunity. So this was a real gift, and the fact that they cast us all, and they didn’t go and put a big fat star in there, they cast people who have been working a long time, and developing their craft, and who they know can deliver, regardless of how famous they may or may not have gotten. And I think that’s pretty special.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: BOSCH – Amy Aquino on playing Captain on Season 4