Up in Smoke: Titus Welliver

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He made his bones as a fixture on the hard-bitten David Milch dramas NYPD Blue, Brooklyn South, and Deadwood, along with guest-starring gigs on, well, everything. Now Titus Welliver finds himself cornering the market on dark roles: the Machiavellian prosecutor Glenn Childs on The Good Wife; Lost’s smoke-monstrous “Man in Black”; and a troubled former sailor in the indie film Handsome Harry. He spoke to Mike Flaherty.

You have such a wonderfully weird name, and I was surprised to learn you were born with it. When you’re a kid with a name like that, do you think to yourself, Well, I’m going to have to either be an actor or find a time machine and sign the Declaration of Independence?
Either that or a world-class boxer, because I took an inordinate amount of torture as a kid with that name: Tit-Ass, Tit-Is. So I quickly rose through the ranks as a kid not to be trifled with.

Perhaps this is why you’ve become the go-to guy when producers say, “Get me a douchebag!”
I guess there’s an overall impression that because I’m a self-confident individual, I’m not afraid to jump into those places.

It worked, because you are currently playing two of TV’s most compelling villains.
Actually three, if you include Sons of Anarchy, because my character on that, Jimmy O’Phelan, is a serious badass. But they are all so different. What’s interesting about Glenn Childs is that he’s very manipulative, a creature of the political world, but I don’t know that he’s a villain. He and Florrick [Chris Noth] are cut from the same cloth.

You play a bad guy in spiritual hiding in Handsome Harry. You’re only in the film for about six minutes, but it’s a very tense six minutes.
My character’s guilt [over his part in a savage attack on a gay shipmate in the Navy] is so overwhelming, and his nerve endings are still so raw all these years later, that he’s become a born-again Christian as a way to get some absolution. When he’s forced to revisit the event by Harry [Jamey Sheridan], he’s enraged to realize that all he’s done as an elixir is bullshit, ultimately.

Tell me everything you know about what happens on the Lost finale, please.
I would if I had the money to afford an extremely good entertainment lawyer.

Are you regularly buttonholed by people with picayune questions about the show?
Yeah, but nobody’s intrusive or rude. And I’ve discovered that the demographic of the Lost audience is all over the place. I literally had a very articulate, though highly impaired, homeless man say to me, “Smokey! I love you! What’s happening with Jacob?” Here’s a guy living on the street, but he finds a way to watch Lost! And I’m looking at him, thinking, Your priorities are completely ass-backward!

Handsome Harry
Worldwide Entertainment. NR.

Up in Smoke: Titus Welliver