It’s always a fun call when Bones (Fox, Mondays, 9/8C) showrunners Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan are at the other end of the line. With upheaval in the lives of the show’s characters – forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, FBI Special Agent Booth Seeley and their infant daughter are living together following Tempe’s flight from a murder charge (framed by the psychopathic Christopher Pelant); FBI psychologist Dr. Lance Sweets has broken up with his fiancée and is living in his office, and other relationships are about either happen of get shaken up – there’s plenty for Hanson and Nathan to talk about and a variety of ways to talk about them without giving away too many spoilers.
The following is what happened when the usual group of bloggers/journalists took part in a conference all Q&A with Hanson and Nathan, late last week, about the show’s first new episode following three weeks of pre-emptions.
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Hart Hanson: Thank you for having the question. I’m always scared that we’re just going to sit here in silence for 15 minutes.
So first, can you tell us at all about when we’re going to get back to the Pelant story, because obviously we haven’t seen that for a while.
Stephen Nathan: The Pelant story will reappear in January. Pelant is always going to be hanging over their heads in all of the episodes, but he comes back in earnest—we’re actually shooting the episode now and it will air in January.
Hanson: It’s being directed by Rob Hardy and it’s one of the biggest episodes we’ve ever shot; very exciting. He will probably make another—two more—and perhaps we’re starting to talk about what our season ender will look like. He may or may not be a part of that.
Okay, great. Is there anything you can tease us about for the future with Angela? Is she going to maybe be moving elsewhere or—
Hanson: We have no plans to move Michaela off the show. Angela, this is her season to start to think that her life was meant to be bigger than just recreating crimes and living in a life of murder. She’s feeling antsy, but I’m very speedy to say we have no plans to diminish Michaela’s involvement in the show.
So the first question is now that you’ve got Booth and Brennan together and back together and they have a baby, what are you planning to do to keep the tension between them going?
Hanson: Well so far, knocking on wood, this has been a very, very rich load for us to mine; the two of them living together with a baby and continuing to live lives and solve crimes. So far we don’t have to do anything big to throw a wrench into that machine anymore. It’s working just fine; lots of new stories. As many, I think, as we had at the beginning when there was just actual tension.
Nathan: I think what we’ve done this season, hopefully, is kind of give them stories that are overwhelming emotionally so we see how they react as a couple, so that we see how their relationship is tested. We’re doing that by keeping Pelant alive, by adding somebody to their household, which will happen soon, and also really putting themselves in situations that neither of them ever expected themselves to be in.
We have an episode coming up where Brennan has a near death experience, which really kind of causes her to reevaluate her life and see everything a little bit differently. So we’re just trying to move them along and have these characters evolve and not stay in the same place. So hopefully it will be surprising for everybody.
Great! And you mentioned someone moving in with them into their home. What can you say about their reaction when Sweets moves in?
Hanson: What, it’s Sweets? That sounds great.
Nathan: Not like a hotel suite.
Hanson: You know what, it was started out as something that we were going to play out through one episode where Sweets needs—when he busted up with Daisy, he let her have the apartment. So he’s been kind of a bit of a nomad since then and they say come on in and you can stay with us for a few days. We were going to do that for one episode, but it was just too much fun. If Stephen and I have one fault out of many, it is that if something’s fun we’re going to stick there for a little while.
Nathan: It’s so rich because you have Sweets who’s the psychologist, Brennan who disdains psychology now in a house together where Brennan can kind of use psychology against her guest, which is—
Hanson: She keeps reading his books.
Nathan: She keeps reading his books which he leaves in the bathroom and then comes out armed with all this new information, which drives him insane.
Stephen, you recently tweeted about roller derby. Can you shed a bit more light on some of the mayhem?
Nathan: Yes, I’ve joined a roller derby team. That was kind of a personal tweet.
Hanson: It was very brave given your brittle bone disease.
Nathan: That’s right. No, there’s murder at a roller derby team. It’s just another world that we’re entering into that we’ve never been in before. It should be fun.
Hanson: Also, I think it’s fun to say that Angela has a little bit of experience in this area.
Nathan: That’s right. Angela’s been roller skating a lot more than anybody knew. So she’s helping out in a case in a way that she wouldn’t normally otherwise.
Hanson: And short shorts.
Nathan: This is somebody who’s been a little frustrated with her job. She feels that her life is being—she’s lived her life a little too safely lately and she wants to kind of break out a little bit. So getting slammed into a wall in roller derby seemed a good way to let that happen for her.
Can you talk about how the season was approached from the standpoint of the reunion and then post-reunion? Will Brennan’s absence haunt the rest of the season at all?
Hanson: It keeps coming up. In fact, it’s a factor in the episode that Stephen referenced, which is Brennan’s near death experience. I think it’s a lot of fun for us, as storytellers, to keep referring to—someone makes a very rational decision. It’s a very smart decision; it’s the right thing to do. It can still carry bad effects with it, resentment.
This season is them coming to grips with the fact that Brennan up and went with the baby, but it was the right thing to do. But there are consequences to everything.
Nathan: Also, Pelant is not going anywhere. They know he’s still there, they know his threat exists. So that’s kind of a cloud that hangs over the entire season. I guess in a way all of our people have their own version of PTSDs. They’ve all been completely changed by this war with Pelant and that won’t go away easily.
First off, I guess there’s been what some people would say an excess of Sweets this season. Is there a reason for that?
Nathan: Well, personally, I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s probably eight people on Twitter.
Hanson: I think you’re being kind with eight. I’d guess one.
Nathan: You know what, and we actually know this because it’s one person who constantly signs up on Twitter with new names all the time and has zero followers and one tweet. So it’s somebody who’s constantly going, why are you doing Sweets so much? Why are you doing Sweets so much? I suggest that one person not close their eyes when Sweets comes on because it’s not true.
There are a few different reasons. Sweets is great, we love him, and he’s a terrific addition of the FBI to handle suspects and the victim survivors from a psychological perspective and help Booth out with the cases. It’s the same thing as people saying why do you have to have those interns in the lab? It’s part of the show and we think it’s very, very helpful, even though that one person is very upset.
Hanson: John Frances Daly has information on the head of the network.
Nathan: Yes, and if we don’t put him in the show we can get canceled.
That explains everything. Okay, not this upcoming episode, the next, is the 9/11 episode and –
Nathan: That’s actually the second one. The first one back is “The Method in the Madness,” which is sort of our artisanal murder, and then the one after that is the 9/11 episode.
It has all of the male squinterns together. Was there a reason you didn’t put Daisy in there, not that I mind?
Hanson: We wanted a team thing. It’s Brennan dealing with her team of males, is part of the story in there.
Okay, because it had sort of said her best squinterns and I wasn’t sure if there was anything—
Nathan: No, we love Daisy, we love Carla. It was just how it turned out because we needed five interns and I think there was also an availability issue, if I’m not mistaken. But we can’t play favorites with the interns because we love them all.
Okay, wonderful. I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any issues there with girls being a problem.
Hanson: No, one of my many failings as a showrunner is when I went up to Carla to say that just because Daisy was breaking up with Sweets didn’t mean that she wouldn’t be on the show at the same amount. The relief on her face, I thought, oh, I really should’ve talked to her beforehand, but I figured it was a—she would just know. But no, that’s not true. Actors never know anything. But we have no plans to lose Daisy.
So they go undercover again. What can you preview about the ballroom dancing episode?
Hanson: Stephen’s been up there cutting it for two weeks so go, Stephen.
Nathan: I’ve been cutting that. Apparently, there’s a lot of dancing. No, it’s terrific. We have Mary Murphy and Tyce Diorio in it. It’s just a lot of fun.
Our undercover episodes are sort of gifts to the hardcore fans where we all get goofy. It’s sort of like doing shots every time somebody says something. That’s what our undercover episodes are. We just have a good time and David and Emily just love doing them and this one’s no exception. It’s a murder at a ballroom dancing competition and we find out in this that Booth actually taught ballroom dance when he was in college to make money.
Hanson: Well, that’s what he thinks he was doing.
Nathan: Yes, he thought he was doing that. Sweets points out that he was probably just a gigolo for old women. But we have that from Booth’s standpoint. From Brennan’s standpoint, because of her phenomenal knowledge of kinesiology and anatomy, she believes that as long as she can look at someone dance, she can replicate that exactly. I can just tell you that’s not true.
Hanson: I’ll tell you something weird about that episode. I watched David Boreanaz learn how to rumba in five minutes. He’s gifted. He’s a physically gifted guy.
Nathan: Seeing them move is really funny, and then we also have populated the episode with tons of winners and runners up from So You Think You Can Dance, so the dancing is really kind of remarkable. I mean—
Hanson: If you like dancing, which apparently some people do. I don’t think enough dancers died, personally.
Nathan: Hart’s not a big dancer. I try to get him to dance once a day in the office and it’s very difficult. I twirl him around once and then he says that’s enough.
Hanson: I throw up.
Nathan: I don’t know what his problem is.
I have a question in particular about the “The Patriot in Purgatory,” which I thought was a really moving story actually, but it seemed for the characters it was a very personal story and I wondered was it a personal story in one way for you guys too?
Nathan: I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who doesn’t have a very, very personal story about 9/11 and what happened on that day and how they were affected. I think we’ve been trying for a long time to do an episode that revolved around that event. We haven’t really found a way to do it up until this point and partly because the reality of that event should be revisited, and also, our characters were there. Brennan, in the first season we had heard that she was one of the forensic anthropologists on the scene and worked there for two weeks identifying remains as did Cam as a coroner in New York.
So we just wanted to try to approach this subject from a completely different point of view and from a very personal point of view rather than a political point of view. Also to deal with really not only the civilians that died but since that point, all of the service men and women who have been deeply affected by the events of that day and those people who had sacrificed their lives. The ones that we know of and the ones we still don’t know who they are.
Hanson: Stephen had a great way into the story. It’s one of my favorite scripts that Stephen wrote, and his way into the story was to make the memories of 9/11 come from our squinterns. Where were they and what happened to them? That finally gave us a way into the story that didn’t seem exploitative or goofy.
Really, every single year we’ve talked about what is the 9/11 episode that we can do this year from the first year. We started in 2005 and finally here in the eighth season Stephen found a way to get in. I think it’s just super.
Nathan: Also what I think we found in that is that from the interns’ point of view, they were all very young. You don’t usually hear that and we do hear it from Cam and from everyone else and clearly it changes Brennan in a very, very significant way at the end of that episode, but it was really hearing what kids went through as well as adults. Of course we touch on religion a bit as we always do. It was a very important episode for all of us.
Hanson: One of our squinterns is Muslim.
Yes, well that was great. I love that scene where they were gathered in the room and everybody had their own personal story to tell and I just thought it was fantastic. It also made me look at the—we learned a little bit more, I think, about all these squinterns who are very often—they come and go but we saw them, I think, at a deeper level. It was great.
I know this might be a slightly more trivial question to ask, but do you guys have a favorite intern? I think a few minutes ago you might have said you didn’t, but is it impossible to choose—
Nathan: No, we really love them all.
Hanson: I definitely have a favorite intern. I would never say …. It’s like having a favorite child. I think right now my favorite intern is Vincent Nigel-Murray because he’s gone and we miss him, but we really do love them all and we’re shocked every year that we get to have them again because they always go up for network testing for pilots. They’re always just an inch from having their own shows, so we’re very lucky to have every single one of them.
Well you guys are far into the planning of this season at this point. Has there been any word as to whether we’ll see some of the family that has been teased for a long time, whether it’s Hodgins or Booth’s mother?
Nathan: We’re actually going to see someone that we don’t expect to see, a family member of Brennan’s that we would never expect to see. We’re prepping that episode now, but we will be seeing other family members. We haven’t worked those stories out. We’re in the process of working them out, but hopefully we can deal with Booth’s mother this season.
… a family member of Brennan’s that we’ve met in the past that we wouldn’t expect to see or someone that—?
Nathan: No, well actually we saw her in passing in the past.
This is going to be the cue for all the Bones fans to go watch their DVDs again.
Nathan: That’s right. Buy the DVDs—now you can go back and buy the Blu-rays.
Okay, and I know you mentioned that you want another squintern to add onto the roster. Is that going to happen this season, or you guys pushing it off another year?
Nathan: We’re developing another intern now as well and that script is being written so we have to see how that turns out. But we definitely do want to add another face on the show. Then we also have some people who we haven’t seen in a while who we might want to bring back too.
Hanson: Pilot season’s coming up and our normal squinterns, we always have scheduling issues around pilot season with them so it’s behooves us to have one more in our quiver.
Nathan: We have a quiver? Wow, we have a quiver. I love that.
My one question is, you talked a little bit about the 9/11 episode. How will the discovery of the victims affect the whole crew, aside from the squinterns?
Nathan: Well, I think the reality of, without giving anything away—
Hanson: Be very vague, Stephen.
Nathan: The reality of the victim has a profound effect on everybody because this is someone who has been previously undiscovered. This is someone who has been in the Jeffersonian bone room for many years and has been anonymous up until this point. So giving someone an identity, someone who died, everyone’s life is worthy of respect and reverence and to have someone who was up to this point anonymous be given their identity back, their life back, is a profoundly moving thing for everybody.
Hanson: We know that on 9/11 there were acts of great heroism done, great, great heroism that nobody knows about. We just wanted to take a look at that, pull the veil back on one of those possible stories. That kind of thing has a huge effect on characters.
You guys were talking about dancing and choreography and we get a little bit of dance in this next episode, which I don’t necessarily want to spoil it because it’s a nice moment, but was there choreography in that or was that just some of your actors letting loose—?
Nathan: That was letting loose. Yes, I would think that any choreographer would look at that and say that was letting loose. The other episode: choreography. That was letting looser-ography.
Hanson: I think one of the adjectives that describes our cast is irrepressible.
I would agree with you. That’s awesome. I think, if I know this right, 805 is when we’re going to meet Cam’s boyfriend, or who she’s been dating at least. Is that correct?
Now my question is, is this somebody that we already know or is this going to be a new person?
Hanson: It’s somebody we know.
Nathan: Somebody we know.
How shocked is everybody going to be when it’s revealed?
Hanson: There’s some surprise.
Nathan: There’s some surprise and it’s not necessarily true that everybody knows.
Okay, and it’s not one of the corpses.
Hanson: It’s a very active corpse. That’s a whole different show, my friend.
Nathan: We’re really talking about an afterlife here.
Hanson: The walking dead.
I love it. I love it.
Hanson: Maybe that would boost our ratings. Cam dates a zombie…
Okay, last question real quick. How far towards the end of the season are you guys? Are you guys already thinking about wrapping up the season as far as where you’re going or are you not quite there yet?
Hanson: Yes, we’re thinking about it. We’re starting to shape it. I mean, we sort of knew the end of the season as we came in, but everything changes as you work through the season and we’re shaping the end of the season. We’ve got some ideas.
Nathan: Yes, we can tease that it will revolve around the Dharma Initiative, but that’s all we can say at this point.
Can you tell us anything about any more upcoming guest stars this season?
Hanson: Every time that question gets asked my brain literally goes blank. I just look at Stephen and gape.
Nathan: My brain goes blank, too, because we have our recurring characters like Ryan O’Neal and Reed Diamond, Billy Gibbons and all of these people—
Hanson: Cyndi Lauper is coming up.
Nathan: Cyndi will be coming back. All these people will be coming back, but the nature of Bones is that it doesn’t really provide a lot of big stunt casting because everybody’s dead.
Hanson: Yes, everybody’s always dead. We’re having some fun talking about who might play Booth’s mom and David is very, very—he’s interested in that, too. But I don’t think we have any big stunt casting coming up.
Have you ever—my follow-up question to that was have you ever tried to get any David Boreanaz’s former Angel/Buffy co-stars?
Hanson: No, not that we’ve said hey, let’s do this. I imagine if we were to do something like that—stuck up on our wall are things like what if we got back a bunch of the Freaks and Geeks band to come and what if we got a bunch of the Buffy people to come and what if we got a bunch of the Angel people to come, but we just haven’t done that yet. It’s in the bin on the wall, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
Stephen wants Godspell people. Aren’t you the only survivor, Stephen? Aren’t you the lone survivor?
Nathan: Dave will be very ….
Hanson: Two guys from the Civil War and you?
Nathan: That’s right. Guadalcanal and Godspell.
Hanson: That’s right. We have a script coming up written by Dave Thomas, who was in the Canadian version of Godspell.
Well I’m glad Reed Diamond’s coming back. I love him.
Hanson: We love Reed Diamond.
So, I’m really loving seeing baby Christine this season and I was wondering if there was anything else more that you guys had to tease about that what’s in store.
Hanson: With the baby?
Hanson: That poor baby is terrible with dialogue. We can’t give that baby any dialogue.
Nathan: We were told the baby was trained in England, and I think the agent was totally lying to us because we give these huge emotional scenes between her and Brennan and we just have to cut them out. It’s like Brennan says something and the baby goes, goo, goo, goo and it’s just unusable.
Hanson: Now that we’ve been hilarious on the subject, the baby—we have avoided having, for example, the baby be part of a murder investigation. But the fact that they have a baby, we always have to turn to each other and say, okay, where’s the baby, what’s happening now? They can’t just stay out all night. They just can’t do what they used to do. So the baby is sort of woven into the fabric of the show.
We don’t have any plans to, for example, give the baby a horrible disease or any of those things. We’re not using the baby as a source of that kind of plot. We’re just using the real stuff of raising a child through our stories.
Nathan: Christine will be in the episodes—actually we’re doing one now where Brennan’s a little concerned that maybe she isn’t developing quickly enough, but it’s not a serious concern. It’s more just Brennan being competitive with other parents.
Hanson: Brennan wants her baby to be a genius, genius, genius baby, and she might take after Booth.
Nathan: It revolves around her ability to enjoy peek-a-boo, so you can tell it’s not that intense.
Awesome! Sounds very cute. Thanks, guys.
Hanson: Thank you.
Photos by Ray Mickshaw and Patrick McElhenney/Courtesy Fox Television