Fan Fest Exclusive Interview-‘BOSCH’: Sarah Clarke shares intel on her character Eleanor Wish
While fans anxiously await the arrival of Bosch season 4 on Amazon Prime, we welcomed the opportunity to chat with Sarah Clarke who plays Eleanor Wish on the popular crime thriller. We were thrilled to learn that Eleanor will be joining Harry on a case in the upcoming season.
Sarah Clarke has an impressive resume of acting roles in popular series like 24 and the Twilight movie franchise. She has also been known to work alongside husband, actor, and fellow 24 alum, Xander Berkeley. But in her role of Eleanor Wish, Sarah teams up with actor Titus Welliver who plays her ex-husband Detective Harry Bosch.
While Harry Bosch and Eleanor Wish play a divorced couple, they are very much united in their love for daughter Maddie played beautifully by Madison Lintz. And it sounds like the former husband and wife will also be joining forces to solve a new mystery in the next season of Bosch slated for release this spring. While Harry works for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Eleanor is revisiting her career with the FBI after a stint as a professional poker player.
The television series is adapted from the wildly popular Harry Bosch book series written by best selling author Michael Connelly. Each season of Bosch on TV brings a unique mixture of the books that keeps even the readers guessing about the show.
Sarah and I delved into several different topics regarding Eleanor, past roles, her upcoming documentary, and what it’s like to work on a series that is released all at once versus weekly episodes.
Eleanor and Harry’s partnership
Exes Harry and Eleanor seem very supportive of one another. What do you think still binds Eleanor and Harry together the most aside from their daughter Maddie?
SC: “It’s a good question and I think its something in season 2 that they really try to mine the potential of. I think what binds them is the love of the hunt and the seeking of justice and figuring something out. I think you’ll see in season 4 that sort of rekindled between the two of them because Eleanor comes back and helps with an investigation.”
The mystery of Eleanor Wish
Do you enjoy the mystery surrounding Eleanor’s return at the end of season 3? Do you prefer to know your characters’ storylines (on Bosch and other productions) in advance or rather as the story unfolds?
SC: “I enjoy the mystery of any character. I think it’s always fun to hold the secret where you slowly sort of give clues to to the audience. And certainly Eleanor is full of many secrets and has a very rich backstory that I’m always grateful when they start to show. As far as knowing things in advance, sure its always nice to know and try to prepare for things that are coming down the pike. But like in life we can only know so much, so its sort of thrilling to have things revealed to you as well. You can’t hold everything at once anyway in life. We know where we came from and where we are trying to go, but at any given moment we’re holding only so much. That’s sort of how I approach it.”
Eleanor does not like keeping secrets from her family, but apparently she does it quite well!
SC: “She says she doesn’t. I think if anything, with Maddie in her life, she realizes the consequences of her actions more and more. When it was just her, and even just her and Bosch, they could sort of live this risky lifestyle and sort of take care of themselves or each other. But with a child in the picture, it becomes a whole different thing to hold. It’s a risky undertaking and that’s what she’s speaking to. She doesn’t like keeping anybody in the dark and putting anybody’s life in danger.”
What other special skills does Eleanor bring to the FBI?
SC: “Based on her profiling background, it’s definitely skills of observation and patience and the ability to sit with a bunch of ideas and wait for the answer to present itself. Not being too impulsive to say ‘oh, it’s this’ and being closed off to other ideas that could be useful. It’s certainly what helps in her second career of poker playing because of the ability to observe people and see the tells that they give at the table. It’s why she’s so skilled at poker playing.
I think, if anything, her having Maddie is a detriment to her ability to be as good at law enforcement as she wants to be. It’s something where she again weighs the outcome or weighs the risk and might not be as gutsy to take something on, at least in the past. Although it’s a big deal for her, they only mined it a little in season 2, but the reason she was taken out of the FBI in the books was a much bigger story or a much edgier reason than on the show. They sort of watered it down a little, maybe for simplicity’s sake. I’m not sure why they did.
Eleanor is frustrated because she’s sort of this thoroughbred that wants to run and she’s like ‘give me something to do, give me something to do’. And the poker playing is waning as far as losing its appeal. It’s getting more dangerous. It’s getting unsavory.
I think where Harry puts himself at risk for seemingly noble causes, it’s different for Eleanor. There is that speech Harry gives Eleanor asking her if it counts. Eleanor claims she’s doing the best she can but that he’s right, it’s not enough. I think that’s the rub she has and the life she wants to get back to.”
Keeping that BIG secret on 24
Speaking of keeping secrets, your portrayal of Nina Myers as the turncoat on 24 was one of the best played surprises in television history. How difficult was it to keep that under wraps?
SC: “It was exciting that I had such a big reveal and all the times when you want to tell someone you get to hold on to that feeling of ‘but when it happens, its just going to be great!’.
They didn’t actually tell me for a long time. I didn’t really have too much trouble, but I was living with Xander [who played George Mason on 24] and when I finally told him, I think it was a week or two before it aired. I had held it for myself for a couple of weeks and then when it was time, I was like ‘So this is what’s happening’ and he’s like ‘Oh, that’s great!’. So it was fun because I had him to experience it with.
You never think about in terms of job security. At least I didn’t, but I was pretty new to the whole TV thing anyway. Where some people might have been like ‘Oh, great what does this mean now?’, I was like ‘Oh, this is fantastic! This means I get to go in a whole new direction.'”
Sarah talked about the complexity of Nina Myers and becoming the villain we did not expect her to be.
It was interesting. I’ve had a lot of people who have said, ‘You know I really was sort of heartbroken by Nina’ because I think they were really with me as a character. I believe that’s a testament to the writing and the storytelling. That’s why it had to be me. And that was something that, at first, they had one story as to why it happened. Through the first season it was ‘You did it for the money’ and it became so cold. I had to really pave a path of empathy for Nina, for myself, because everybody has a reason.
There are many more characters [in television] now that show you the unsavory sides of themselves. And we tolerate it more. I don’t know if it started with Don Draper in Mad Men and then Walter White in Breaking Bad, but it’s something that you see, the sort of break down of a character happen. And certainly with Nina I had a whole story as to how it was sort of the lesser of two evils and then it just kept spiraling. She made one bad choice, and then another bad choice.
But then they had a way of kind of pulling all this stuff after I’ve gone like ‘Nina also did this and she also did this’, and I was like ‘What? Wait a minute, that’s crazy’. They had to make her uber bad. But I think its really interesting when we see the fallibility of people and how they are struggling to be that person.”
New ways to watch and film a series
What thoughts might you have on filming a series that airs weekly versus a streaming series that is released all at one time like Bosch? Are there some major differences for you as an actor?
SC: “It makes it hard to sort of talk about it because some people are like ‘I haven’t seen it yet’. So if it’s week to week you can talk about the progression and have more time to relive these moments and sort of think about what’s going to happen and how they are going to deal with this.
And then when it’s a binge thing, as a viewer, I’ll get lost – just one more, one more. And I’ll get really invested with these people for the next 36 hours.
But it’s also shorter orders [as an actor] as well. Like with 24, it was 24 episodes which is typically about 8 to 9 months to shoot. And then they started airing probably 3 months before we finished. So it was exciting because each week people would tune in and then you would go to work and it would get you excited because of the hype and you’re sort of in it.
Working on Bosch is more like making a movie and it’s just about whether viewers have seen the movie. You don’t get the satisfaction of going through each episode when it airs weekly. But then again people get to go on this journey that is very satisfying.”
I shared that I watched the first 2 seasons of Bosch rather quickly. But with season 3, I made sure that I blogged about each episode before watching the next one. I told Sarah I was glad I did it that way. It took discipline, but I really appreciated each episode for what it was. It is such a great story and I treated myself to making it longer.
SC: “Yes, exactly!”
“And I feel like when you have fewer episodes, whether the season order is just 7 or 10, you really can spend the time to really finesse and flesh out things. They don’t have to extend stories too long. For example, not having to just ‘check in’ with a character because they will be strung along until episode 18 when a revelation is finally made about them.
Yeah, I think as an actor you always want more, I guess. But I’ve been very satisfied too with arcs that have been very rich and full. And so I do my thing and then go do something else. I think it can be sort of frustrating if you don’t get to do very much and you’re still there day to day just in the background.”
If she were not playing Eleanor
Disregarding gender as a factor, which character would yo most like to portray on Bosch if you were not playing Eleanor and why?
SC: “Well, it’s so funny, it’s hard not to think of the actor portraying [the character] but I have to say Harry Bosch. I mean, come on, you want to be the one that’s going and getting to do everything and figuring everything out. So I’d have to say Harry.”
I shared that I think being Harry Bosch would be tough.
SC: “I have to say, I feel like I won the jackpot playing Eleanor. She’s enough Harry Bosch with a lot more glamour and the skill set, the poker is really fun. I really had a good time learning about that.”
I reminded Sarah how fun it is to see Eleanor coming in and out of the stories. I remind her that as readers, it is just so exciting to see the characters jump off the page. It’s like being a kid again and seeing your favorite stories come to life!
SC: “It is thrilling. I have to admit I was not aware of the books before the series, so the series introduced me to the books. And so it’s been all one experience together. But I will say, for example, the very first book I read was Trunk Music and that was because of what we were sort of establishing in season 1. But it quickly became confusing because I was like ‘Stop reading the book, it’s not going to go in that direction’. But it’s certainly helpful to fill out and flesh out certain parts.”
Lady Los Angeles
I spoke with Sarah about Los Angeles feeling like a character of her own in the Bosch television series. The show films on location quite a bit introducing viewers to famous landmarks, restaurants, and more. In fact, Bosch season 4 draws upon the Michael Connelly novel Angels Flight. The title refers to Angels Flight, the historical funicular railway that runs up and down a small stretch of Los Angeles.
SC: “It is so great to see LA come to life in a whole different way to me through these stories. I’ve been here since 2001 and have my story of LA, but this is a whole other side. For example, Angels Flight, I never even knew it existed and now I do.”
I told Sarah that I am a little nervous about season 4 as the Angels Flight novel involves some particularly dark subject matter. Then again I do not know what to expect as the television series often switches up parts of the story from the books.
SC: “Absolutely, and they do a really good job, so don’t think you know what’s ahead, they are very masterful in making it a whole new experience for everybody. But those that know the books can enjoy seeing where they pull certain things.”
I interjected that I believe the television series has been the perfect mix of combining different books with new twists.
SC: “I think it’s what we’ve been saying. It’s the fact that it is shedding a light on a city that people know so many different ways. So many people in LA aren’t born in LA. They come here from other places. And though the movie business sort of dominates people’s first idea of LA, you start to see that it’s this wonderful fabric of so many different stories.
You get to see sort of how complex the LAPD is and the service they provide for the city. Well I guess I still don’t know so much about how they do what they do. I’m learning as I watch the show about the politics that are involved and the sort of games they have to play to get what they need to get done and the sort of straight up common sense that they are having to employ to navigate the city and all the things that come in it and the crime and everything else.
It really does humble me to see the jobs that they have. It’s very nerve-wracking as a viewer, but at least I know I don’t have to be living that, I cannot even imagine going out each day and saying ‘OK, I’m going to take this on’. It’s a humbling thing.”
A different “direction”
Sarah welcomed the opportunity to spend some time shadowing famed director Ernest Dickerson during Bosch season 4. She raves about his talent and the many insights she gained from spending time behind the camera as well.
SC: “Ernest Dickerson is such a master and not only this huge talent, but he’s just such a pro. He knows exactly what he wants and knows how to assess. And [for the episode I shadowed] it was all locations. He did very little on the stage.
Ernest is a master of the screen in terms of, he really knows how to create a picture, and to create a mood, and he does it beautifully. He has such a good knowledge of camera and light.
He directed the episode in season 2 where Maddie and I get kidnapped, where Bosch comes and gets us. And he has just a really easy way too of articulating what he needs and keeping a calm cool head on set so that everyone can be their best.
It was amazing to just see this incredible production team of Pieter Jan Brugge and Henrik Bastin and just how they have learned to navigate the city themselves and capture it. Everything ran so smoothly, they made it look so easy, and it can be crazy complicated.
And just to be able to sit there and watch everybody do their thing and all be so talented in their individual departments and come together, it was a true example of genius. It’s something that people talk about, not just one but the collective genius of a group. They really exemplify it.”
I asked Sarah if she thought she may spend some time directing in the future.
SC: “I mean, I don’t know. It’s a very specific mind set to be a director. I am interested in it, but i will say I really enjoy the process of acting. If anything it has taught me more about it and taught me more about the process as a whole for some of the projects I’m involved in.
I’m developing a script and actually producing a documentary right now. And just watching this production of Bosch in action behind the scenes really gave me some insight on how to approach these projects. So it was more sort of a gathering of information. I don’t have the bug to direct per se. I just wanted to know more, its always a good opportunity to learn.”
Documenting an inspirational story
Sarah spoke excitedly about a new project she is working on with the Blackfeet Nation in Montana.
SC: “I am producing a documentary right now called Buffalo Resurrection with filmmaker Daniel Glick. Daniel has already done three films with the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. And one was about their buffalo population and it sort of spurned the idea for this documentary. After Daniel told me about the idea for the project, I went out to Montana to observe for myself.
I told him I would love to work on this with him. It seems to talk about so many themes that are important to me. From its preservation, to first nations, to how they are acclimating to the devastation that they went through in bringing forth new powers to themselves and their situation, and the situation with the Blackfeet, in particular.
For generations they lived with and for the buffalo. They survived on it. The gains that they had with the land and the animals were just so profound, that when it was taken away, they almost perished as a people, and they had to really go through a whole transformation towards trying to acclimate to this Western white civilization, so to speak.
And I think as they found a way back to bringing buffalo back into their lives, they are reclaiming a rich part of their culture and their spirituality and their power again, which is really exciting to see. It’s a beautiful thing in this one community that we have sort of been following, how much industry and enlightenment and just inspiration these animals have brought.
And so that’s what we’re trying to show and we’ve written a narrative script to go along with it and hope to shoot that about three Blackfeet women and how they bring buffalo back.
It’s already happening and we are just trying to capture it. The Blackfeet people are just sort of in this Renaissance now of rebirth and it’s exciting to be there to capture it.”
(A subject from Buffalo Resurrection, Blood Tribe member, Paulette Fox ~ Sarah Clarke taking stills on Buffalo Resurrection and riding an ATV behind the buffalo ~ the beautiful buffalo in Blackfeet territory)
Who’s got game?
We finished our time talking with a little lighthearted fun. We pitted Harry Bosch against Maddie Bosch in a series of tasks and asked Sarah who would be the most successful. Here’s what she had to say!
(1) You send both Harry and Maddie to the grocery store to pick up 5 specific things. Who is more likely to return with everything exactly as requested. Harry or Maddie?
SC: “Harry. Harry is very all about I’m going to do this right. I think Maddie is a little more spaced out. She relies on me a little too much.”
(2) You are trying to decide where to go for dinner. Who is the most decisive in selecting a locale? Harry or Maddie?
SC: “Harry is the most decisive, but Maddie agrees more with what I like to eat.”
(3) You can select one of them to create your playlist of songs. Who do you choose? Harry or Maddie?
I asked if Sarah’s a jazz fan.
SC: “Yes, but with Maddie, I just fear more that I don’t like what young kids are listening to these days.”
(4) One of them gets to be solely in charge of the thermostat? Who would you put in charge? Harry or Maddie?
(5) One of them gets to name your next pet. Who gets to choose the pet’s name? Harry or Maddie?
Finally, I asked Sarah which tasks real life husband Xander Berkeley would be better at performing.
SC: “1 through 3 he could do. The last 2, no.”
Well, there you have it! It looks like the men win this game. But Maddie is the champ for naming pets and keeping the temperature just right.
It was so much fun talking with Sarah Clarke. She was very generous with sharing details about her work. It’s wonderful to know that her character Eleanor Wish will be back in action on season 4 of Bosch. And I cannot wait to see Eleanor and Harry in collaboration.
You can catch up or revisit Bosch seasons 1 through 3 on Amazon Prime. And stay tuned to Fan Fest for my own investigation of each episode of season 4!
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