Bones’ Creator and Showrunner Talk Baby Bones, Context And So Much More

Hart & Stephen - David Livingston-Getty Images

One of the best things about the return of Bones [Fox, Mondays, 8/7C] is the opportunity to chat with series creator Hart Hanson and showrunner Stephen Nathan. As you might expect from the series itself, these are two funny, charming guys – and with the birth of the show’s lead couple’s baby, with all its attendant potential for the funny, they certainly didn’t let us down when they spoke with a group of journalists/bloggers last week [one day prior to learning of the series’ renewal for an eighth season].

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Stephen Nathan: Thanks for calling.

I’ve spoken with both of you a few times now and it’s always a pleasure. I follow you guys both on Twitter, too, and that’s quite a bit of fun, actually.

Hart Hanson: Who do you like better? You can start a fight between us now.

Nathan: I have a knife, by the way.

I am certainly not taking sides. Okay, well, let’s see. My first question is I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a definitive answer you had on this. How is the number of episodes that we’re going to be getting going to play out?

You haven’t heard a definitive answer, because there isn’t one yet. All we know is that we have a season ender, and that will leave us with four extra episodes that have to be able to be slotted anywhere at any time without notice. That’s all we know.

Hanson: There’s been no word from Fox when they want to air it, whether they want to air them in the summer, or whether they want to save them for next season or slot them in next season.

Nathan: We just don’t know, so that actually made from some four kind of interesting episodes.

Hanson: Yes. I mean it might be that the executives at Fox just watch them at lunch just amongst themselves. We haven’t been told.

Fair enough. Okay, my follow-up is I got this on Twitter. Will the FBI become an obstacle for Booth and Brennan at work, especially now that they’re going to have the baby, and they’re living together, and all that?

Hanson: We’re not planning a storyline in which the FBI says you can’t be partners. We discussed it and then we thought, God, if we tell that story, there isn’t a single audience member who’s going to go, oh my God, I wonder if they’ll never be allowed to work together again. So we just decided not to do—it may come up time to time, especially from Sweets that it’s odd to have a couple working together, but it’s not the oddest thing in the world. So, Stephen, you do you have anything more?

Nathan: No, I think the most important thing for us is to keep the show on the same footing it’s been for seven years, which is this is a murder show, and Booth and Brennan are always going to be working together to solve these murders. So we don’t ever intend to take that away. That’s not to say that it won’t be incredibly difficult for them, but it won’t be because of any bureaucratic nonsense that it will make it difficult. It’ll just be them working together, the difficulties they have working together as they always have.

So in the spring premier Daisy is back and then the following episode, it looks like Finn Abernathy returns, when working on an episode, when in the process do you decide which intern is be used?

Hanson: It’s a twofold thing. One is we figure out who we haven’t seen for a while. Two, we figure out who would best fit the story, and then three, we find out if that person is available. Usually all three of those things don’t occur at the same time.

Nathan: Sometimes we have finished a script, are very, very excited that the intern of our choice is going to be in it, only to find out that they’re unavailable, so we have to rewrite the script. But we’ve been very fortunate, because these stories were very, very specific. We wanted Daisy, definitely wanted Daisy to be in the episode where the baby is born, and things are starting an arc in the episode following, so we were glad that worked out, too. She’s just been a phenomenal addition to the show.

With the arrival of the baby, can we still expect the same format of primarily focusing on that case of the week, or will there be more time spent on showing the new parents and what it’s like at home for them?

Nathan: There’s always been that balancing act in the show of their personal life and the cases, but we’re a murder show, so that will not change. But when we do go home, they have a new arrival, which changes their lives, so the baby will be a part of the show, because it’s a part of their lives. But somebody is still going to be murdered in a heinous and cruel way, and we will be revolted at the beginning of the show as we always have been and hopefully we’ll catch them.

Hanson: The balance won’t change, but the context will.

Nathan: Oh! That was great!

Hanson: I had the time to think up a succinct response while you were talking.

Nathan: No, that was one great sentence. I’m going to use that.

So the arrival of the baby has to change Brennan in some ways. Can you address that a little bit?

Hanson: Well, sure. We’ve always seen Brennan as a character who, because of her upbringing, was kind of afraid of life, did not want to engage with life, or had to be protected by a veneer of rationality and logic and science. The first thing to come and challenge to breech those walls was Booth who made her confront, lead a more dangerous life, at least emotionally in that her happiness is contingent upon another person’s happiness. And now she has a child, and you might be able to avoid a lover as someone whose happiness, your happiness is contingent upon, but definitely not a child. So that’s what she is contending with, she is now a big open bruise because of another human being and she will find that very disorienting.

One sentence, Stephen. That was really good.

Nathan: You’re on fire today. Brennan is so objective even about herself that she is caught off guard by all these new feelings. I think that’s what’s great for us in terms of writing the show. We get to see a character who is as astonished by these new feelings and this new behavior as the audience is. We saw that in the first six episodes when the hormones were going crazy and she was crying, which she had never done before. She has different emotions that she’s unaccustomed to, so all of that will continue.

Hanson: There’s a story in one of our four hanging chad stories. One of the victims is a kid, and Brennan turns to Booth and says in a very shocked way, “I find I have a great need to go see Christine,” and it makes no rational sense; and that’s sort of what Stephen is talking about is she’s just shocked that someone has gotten so deeply into her heart.

Nathan: We’ve done that actually in the second episode back. It’s the first time she is going back to work, and she has to deal with leaving Christine for the first time. Emily just did a wonderful job. It’s a great new area for us to explore.

Booth has been a father before. He has a son, but he was really kind of chauvinistic in that he didn’t want them to buy a house and use her money, so they found this house. Is the house going to be ready, and is he going to give at all on the issue of the fact that she makes more money, and she can do more for this child maybe financially?

Nathan: They’re dealing with it. It’s back and forth. It’s what happens in any couple. The need to compromise and the ability to do so are not always the same.

Hanson: I’m really glad you said that because a lot of feedback that we get is that Booth is perfect and Brennan isn’t, and Booth is not perfect. He’s not perfect, and he has to, in his own way, has to give up as much as she does in this new life, and that is an ongoing, what is it, field between them that they have to plow. It’s like how much is she going to pay for and how much is he going to pay for? We get a lot of comedy out of it, as well as character stuff. It’s a good, fertile field for us. I’m going to leave the field metaphor alone now.

Nathan: But you got a plow, you got a field. The next answer has to with the harvest.

Hanson: I got to lay fallow for a month.

Nathan: But the house is not in the shape it was in the last episode.

Because that could be comedy as well as they try to fix that, so—

Nathan: Yes, it’s comedy, but it’s a little too dangerous. It requires a tetanus shot.

So can you talk about the decision to reveal Brennan’s pregnancy before you kind of revealed that Booth and the—

Nathan: Are you on a speakerphone? I’m sorry, are you on a speakerphone, because it’s really hard to hear you.

Hanson: I think I heard it.

No, I’m not.

Hanson: I think I heard the question. It was the whole question of revealing that Brennan was pregnant before revealing that Booth and Brennan were lovers.

Hanson: Or had ever had sex, I can’t stand the word lovers. I can’t stand it. I think only English people can say that.

We always knew that the end season six would be the reveal that Booth and Brennan had slept together. We knew that they were going to sleep together. What changed everything was when Emily confided in us that she was pregnant, and we decided to adjust the storyline for season seven accordingly. So season seven would have been the story of how Booth and Brennan come to grips with the fact that they are now intimate and sexually involved. We threw out probably a half a season there, perhaps more and inserted that they were going to have a child.

So really the only thing that changed in season six was the very last scene where she turns to Booth and says, ‘I’m pregnant and you’re the father.’ That scene, of course, would not have existed. Otherwise mostly that season would have been intact as it was. What we have to do now is show the romance in a couple that’s been together and has a child. What America is going to miss is the unfolding courtship of Booth and Brennan and we could not be happier to avoid that.

Okay. The other thing is you talk about Brennan going back to work and that. Is this going to be, though, like a big space of time, or does she not really want to take maternity leave once the baby is born?

Nathan: You mean is it going to be a lot of time before she goes back to work?

Right.

Hanson: It’s actually a short amount of time.

Nathan: No, it’s a short amount of time. There’s probably six weeks or so, maybe eight weeks between the time the baby arrives and she goes back to work.

Hanson: She gets oddly about the same amount of time as Emily had.

Nathan: Yes.

Hanson: We did not want to do a story where our main crime solver was at home for a number of episodes. That seemed to us to be a really good way to lose a ton of viewers and momentum, so it’s right back into the fray. Mind you, we do contend with, as Stephen said, we have to contend with who’s going to take care of the baby, and how is Brennan going to juggle her being a mom living with Booth, how is Booth going to juggle her and the baby and do their jobs. But they’re still doing their jobs.

Nathan: Yes, we didn’t want to turn the show into some sort of domestic show where the murder was a secondary aspect. The murder is still the primary focus of the show, and their domestic lives are crucial and important and what we love about the show, but people are still dead.

I was wondering with the shortened season and the four episodes that have to stand alone, where there any character arcs or some more serialized storylines that you had to push off until next year?

Nathan: The four actual episodes will not be arc related. They have to be able to stand on their own, so those four episodes we were able to do stories that we wouldn’t have normally done in a regular lineup of—

Hanson: Very, very standalone and maybe even a bit odd with the gags to them, what’s the word, they have conceits to them or—

Nathan: Yes, they’re more stylized than we normally would do, and we were able to try to tackle stories that we might not normally have tackled, because we don’t know how old the baby is going to be. We don’t know what’s going to happen between relationships between people, so these really were standalone.

Hanson: We have to hope that Hodgins’ hair doesn’t change too much.

Nathan: Yes, that’s right and the baby could be in college.

Hanson: Were you asking also if we had to jettison any arcs because of a shorter season?

Yes, were there any like more serialized or character heavy arcs that you had to push off?

Hanson: Yes, but we knew what was coming when we started the season, so it’s not like we started some and then withdrew them; but we have many, many arcs and ideas, a bin-full of ideas for them that we simply didn’t pull out, because it wasn’t going to go in this year. I’m pretty sure the one that we would’ve gotten to, had we had a normal length of a year would be some more Booth family stuff. I still want to do a Hodgins family surprise. But those just went away, because of the shortened season and because we had these strong B stories, character stories connected to the baby.

Did I interrupt you, Stephen?

Nathan: No, no, I was going to say—

Hanson: I wasn’t apologizing, I was gloating.

Nathan: I enjoyed it. There are five fewer episodes, so that’s a lot of missing arcs, but they’ll be back if we’re back.

That kind of goes into my follow-up question when people have babies, usually it brings in extended family. Are we going to be seeing any of that on the show?

Nathan: Yes, yes, we will. We’ll certainly see some of the people, we’re going to see Brennan’s dad. He’ll return. We’ve already seen Booth’s grandfather this year under sad circumstances. Certainly going into next year, we’re going to see the extended families.

Okay, … at the June finale Pelant that is going to scare the crap out of people with the season finale, so can you guys … it up.

Hanson: Pelant is going to scare the crap out of people in the season finale.

Nathan: Yes, there will be no crap in people anymore after Pelant’s episode. He really is going to turn the series on its head for a little bit. He has much more power than any of our serial bad guys have had in the past.

Interesting. I know obviously Cam has a storyline coming up. Her daughter is dating a squintern, but is there anything else aside from that in the last batch of episodes?

Nathan: She’s been very heavily involved this season in the lab with our people kind of as the boss. She’s sort of taken that role, that role has been expanded a bit, so you’ll see that in subsequent episodes. We have a lot planned for Cam personally, but as Hart said earlier, our hands were a little bit tied this year because of the five fewer episodes, we weren’t able to give some of the other characters that we love, Hodgins and Cam, more extensive arcs. We will be doing that if we get picked up.

Hanson: We’ll get picked up, Stephen.

Nathan: We will?

Hanson: Yes.

Nathan: And we’re so heavy.

Okay. Early seasons, seasons one and two, Angela and Brennan were very, very close, always had heart to hearts and fans really seemed to enjoy those. Are there going to be more now that they’re both sort of in the same place in their life, new mothers in very strong relationships?

Hanson: Stephen, I’m looking at you with consternation in my face. There are two episodes that we’ve done in the last month that have good Angela and Brennan stuff in them. It’s not all over the baby, by the way, not all over the fact that they are moms. That’s certainly helps, but—

Nathan: But we’ve had a few, especially one where Angela and Brennan kind of leave the lab and play hooky. We do have them, and Cam is also now involved in sort of that kind of relationship. She’s become a bit closer to Angela and Brennan. But Angela and Brennan do, we do see them quite intimately in a few episodes.

Hanson: Angela has her own issues with how she’s changed, being a married woman with a child that we explore a little bit; and so she is better situated to understand what Brennan is going through feeling that she’s changed, although Angela is more nostalgic for who she used to be I think than Brennan is. She’s more reflective. But yes, in my mind it’s come up at least three times in the last six episodes and, in fact, at least one really strong storyline.

I think in the season ender the audience will get a very good feeling for how close Angela and Brennan are. In some ways Angela knows Brennan better than Booth does in that way that another friend of the same sex can understand you more than your partner.

Nathan: And she knows Brennan better than Brennan does.

Hanson: That’s true, yes. That’s a good line, Stephen.

Nathan: You can have that one. I’ll take that context one. I like the context one because it sounds smarter.

Okay, great. Now in the episode coming up on April 2nd, we find out that Brennan gives in to Booth and allows the baby to be baptized. Are there going to be any other concessions, like will—

Nathan: The baby is not baptized in that episode.

Well, yes, but she allows that it can happen.

Hanson: Yes, my glib response is every single episode where they have anything to do with home and kids is a constant trade-off between the two, as to what they are willing to give up for the other one for the other.

Nathan: We’ve seen seven years of these two people having such a different view of life and that will not change.

Okay, and really quickly, is stapes a reference to the 100th episode?

Hanson: What, …

Yes.

Hanson: That’s very good. It’s a little echo. It’s a little hello and echo, very good.

Oh, you’re lying. You just thought of that because I said it.

Hanson: No, we give little waves. We give tons of little waves, and I have to say a ton of them come down from the writers’ room, and we don’t even know they’re there until they’re there.

Nathan: The pause you heard was because there stapes does appear again, and we’re working on that actually as we speak as we were this morning.

Hanson: So we thought you knew something that wasn’t yet out.

No. I’m not that good. I’m not that privileged.

Hanson: No.

I’m working on it.

Hanson: This is scary.

I didn’t expect to get back in.

Hanson: You’re back again. Everything we told you before, not true.

Nathan: It was just a big lie.

Oh, okay, well darn. Now I just had a quick question. Who is the brilliant mind, I’ll let you two fight it out, who is the brilliant mind behind the storyline about where Brennan is giving birth? I don’t want to give it away for the people who haven’t watched the episode yet, but I watched it and it is pure brilliance.

Hanson: We had a discussion about it, but I think we got it handed, Stephen, am I wrong, that was your idea?

Nathan: You know what, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it was. I think Jon might have had a huge—I think Jon Collier I think came up with that. We had many, many, many discussions. There were so many things thrown into the hopper, and I think Jon Collier who wrote that episode, you know what, it’s so funny after doing what we’ve done now is 713 episodes and it’s very difficult to—

Hanson: We don’t always remember.

Nathan: Yes, sometimes I go home and I wake up. I’m in bed with Hart’s wife, he’s in bed with mine. I don’t know. We don’t know what the hell is going on anymore.

Well, just tell everyone involved that it was like you said, it was just pure brilliance.

Hanson: There’s a ton of, Jon Collier wrote that episode and he’s a terrific writer and there’s a ton of my pal Stephen Nathan in there.

Nathan: It all runs together. The overlap is appreciated. Thank you.

A quick question for Hart Hanson. I guess your work or schedule, … and Bones because you have a new show The Finder. So my question is did the cast of Bones feel concerned that your attention would not be 100% focused on the original show?

Hanson: Yes. Bones is a pretty tight theatre company. We’re a pretty tight bunch. We’ve been together a long time, and there was concern, but it was of that nature. I don’t think they thought the show was going to fall apart. Stephen Nathan has been here since the first episode, and it’s not like if I died, the show would go on. There might be more jokes in it and more references to bagels, but otherwise, Stephen is perfectly capable.

So they weren’t worried on a professional level. It’s just like what is going to happen to our plucky gang. It’s mostly a pleasure to work on Bones and we like each other, so I think it was more like as if I was moving a block away or something.

But my office is in the same place. Both shows are shot on the lot. Stephen and I, we share a, what do you call this thing, Stephen, a porch? Our offices share this ugly little porch. We cannot get away from each other, and the actors are just a stage away, so they wander into my office. I think they mostly realized that since I wasn’t physically going anywhere, that they had nothing to worry about.

And as I say, Stephen Nathan is a very confidence inspiring guy. He just stepped into the gap that I left. Now The Finder hasn’t been shooting for how long now, Stephen, a month, maybe more. We’re enjoying working more closely again, but did that answer your question?

Yes, perfectly. Why only John Francis Daley and TJ Thyne have been guest starred on The Finder, why only these two actors from the original show?

Hanson: We, being Bones, Bones shut down for a period of time and wasn’t shooting. It was during that time that we could use Bones actors on The Finder, so we figured out very quickly, John was the first one, because the story of having someone down to look at Walter’s mental competency was a good storyline for us and a really natural fit. And then the next story that suggested TJ was a conspiracy theorist story.

If it had been another kind of story, then we would have brought down Cam or Angela. Of course, Emily couldn’t be in it because she was busy having a baby. David, we could have had him in an episode, but he very much wanted to direct an episode, so that’s when he directed was during that downtime. I hope, I’m knocking on wood, we have an uphill climb, but if The Finder comes back, then eventually everybody will be on it.

Okay, French director Francois Velle is back for the first time to direct episode 14 of that season, what does he bring to the show when he’s directing?

Nathan: This is Stephen. Francois has been a fabulous addition to the show and he’s perfect for the episode that he’s directing now. It’s one of our most serious episodes, and he just has a tremendous sensitivity and a beautiful connection with the show and he’s just a wonderful director.

Hanson: Also a French accent.

Nathan: Yes, and the French accent is very good. It make everybody hungry.

Okay, my last question, where does the station number 447 come from?

Nathan: We can’t tell you.

Hanson: We can’t tell you that yet.

Nathan: All will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Series Photos by Patrick McElhenny and Ray Mickshaw/Couretsy Fox; Hanson/Nathan photo by David Livingston/Courtesy Getty Images