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INTERVIEW: Voyager Guest Star Titus Welliver

INTERVIEW: Voyager Guest Star Titus Welliver

Veteran character actor Titus Welliver counts among his 25-plus years of credits Deadwood, NYPD Blue, The Good Wife and Argo, as well as many dips into the sci-fi and horror realm. Among them are the upcoming Transformers: Age of Extinction, as well as Tales from the Crypt, Kindred: The Embraced, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Total Recall 2070, Lost, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Grimm and… Star Trek: Voyager. Star Trek fans will recall that he portrayed Lt. Maxwell Burke in the Voyager two-parter, "Equinox." recently had the chance to chat with Welliver about his Trek experience, Transformers: Age of Extinction, which will open nationwide on June 27, and his other future projects. Here’s what he had to say…

How did you land your role on Voyager?

WELLIVER: Brannon Braga had been writing on that show, and he’d been a friend of mine. He said, “Would you like to come and do Voyager?” I said, “Of course.” I mean, what actor doesn’t want to get on the bridge of a Star Trek ship? Less than a month later I got a call saying that Brannon had written this really cool season finale/season opener arc for me to play second in command to this sort of Ahab-esque captain. I said, “Sign me up.” It really dawned on me when I went in for my costuming fitting and they put the costume on me. I was looking at piles of Klingon costumes all around me. I really can’t explain it. It just gave me a chill.

And then getting on the bridge?

WELLIVER: That was interesting. Although a lot of the instrumentation on the bridge is practical, as far as there’s writing and it’s illuminated and all that stuff, they typically put the graphics in after the fact. But just to be there on those sets, on that bridge, it was amazing. And it was just such a great group of actors.

You spent a lot of time on that episode with fellow guest star John Savage. What do you remember of Savage?

WELLIVER: I was Burke and John Savage was my captain. Savage was lovely and, on some level, he’d really, really inspired me. I saw him do American Buffalo on Broadway when I was a kid. It was him with him, Robert Duvall and Ken McMillan. I remember just being blown away. It was the first play I’d seen that had profanity, but the experience of it was that it wasn’t a musical. There was a real kind of voyeurism to it, which was a testament to their performances. I told that to John that the first time I met him on the set of Voyager. He laughed and said, “Aaaah, that was a long time ago,” but for me it was a privilege to work with him.

Did you watch the episodes with your family and friends when it premiered?

WELLIVER: I did. My eldest child at that point was only a couple of months old, actually, but I watched it with a couple of my buddies. We were serious fans of The Original Series. So that was a big thing. They were a little bit jealous that I got the opportunity to don the costume and get out there and shoot it out and, ultimately, get mummified. It was interesting to have shot it and then see everything that happens in post-production. But, shooting it, you didn’t have to use your imagination that much because the sets were so detailed. So doing Star Trek was a dream realized from my childhood, because I’d watched Star Trek as a kid religiously. I can even admit to the fact that I have a fully operational phaser and med kit in my toy collection.

Toy collection?

WELLIVER: I have some Star Trek stuff and I have a Han Solo blaster from Master Replicas, and the Jango Fett blaster. I was a toy collector for a few years, so… There you go; that’s the first time I’ve ever gone public with that information. I’m way out of the closet with Star Trek and Star Wars. I have a pretty formidable collection, I have to say.

We’ll next see you in the Michael Bay-directed Transformers: Age of Extinction. How on your radar was the Transformers franchise?

WELLIVER: Hugely. I have three children, two sons who are 15 and 12, and so I’ve been hip to the Transformers movies from the get-go and have always been a big, big fan. And I’d watched the cartoon when I was younger. I had younger brothers who were more into the cartoons, but that’s how I was initially introduced to the whole Transformers franchise. Then, when the films starting coming out, that’s when I got really pulled into the universe.

Is your character, Savoy, a villain or just a guy doing his job, which makes the audience not like him?

WELLIVER: I don’t think he’s a bad guy. I never really stigmatize characters that I play, even if on the page they might be doing awful things, being villains. Ultimately, there is a change in Savoy. I think that he’s a very righteous guy who is in the service of right, but in that process, to complete his task, his moral compass gets a little too close to the magnet and it bends and shapes him in a different way. But he’s also a very driven and hard-ass character. I’d say he should have the dun-dun, dun-dun-dun music behind him whenever he shows up because whenever he shows up, sh-t happens and it’s not always pleasant.

How involved were you with on-set explosions, and what was the ratio of practical effects to green screen work?

WELLIVER: There was a fair amount of green screen, but I will tell you, not nearly as much as I had anticipated. Michael really wanted it to be practical. I’m kind of stunned and amazed how much of it (Mark) Wahlberg and Nicola (Peltz) and Jack (Reynor) and everyone participated in that stuff. There were some things I can’t talk about that increased the pucker factor exponentially. They would sort of chide me that, for me, in my career, there were many first working on this film. But there was not as much green screen as I had anticipated. Those explosions are real. They’re happening. And I can tell you right now, having been in the proximity of them, they give off a lot of heat.

Age of Extinction is meant to kick off a second trilogy. Assuming you survive this film, how open would you be to reprising Savoy in sequels?

WELLIVER: Oh, I would love the opportunity to play Savoy more. I think he’s a really, really complex and interesting character. Just to participate in the one film alone, the learning curve was huge, just from the technical aspects of all this stuff. It was the most physically demanding role that I’ve ever played. I also just really adored the crew and Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammer, Stan Tucci, Nicola, Jack Raynor, just to name a few. Most of the crew had worked with Michael on all of these Transformers films. It’s a tight machine. Ian Bryce is a fantastic producer. And I liked Bay’s energy. You don’t sit down a lot when you’re working with Michael. You’re on your toes just watching and learning. So I’m very excited and interested to see the stories that will come after this.

And before we let you go, what else are you working on at the moment?

WELLIVER: It was officially announced that the pilot I did, Bosch, has been picked up by Amazon, and we will go into production sometime this summer. I’m extremely thrilled about that. I play Harry Bosch, who is a LAPD robbery-homicide detective. In our pilot episode and first season, he’s being sued for wrongful death. He was exonerated by the police departed, but is being sued in a civil court for the killing of a serial rapist and killer. And while that’s happening, he’s following the case of a child who was found buried in a shallow grave. It’s the most rewarding character I’ve played to date and we have a fantastic cast and wonderful writers. And it’s based on Michael Connelly’s books, which are really powerful. So the source material for the show is really fantastic. I’ve also done a few episodes of Michael Bay’s new show, The Last Ship. And then I’m looking at material for the next gig.