Whenever you get Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, the co-showrunners of fox’s hit series Bones (Mondays, 9/8C), talking about their show, you can planning on both learning something new about the show and being grandly entertaining by them.
For the eighth season, Hanson and Nathan were in fine form – riffing on short-term memory loss; when to get Booth and Bones back together; hinting at the continuing spectre of some computer genius Big Bad; the new guy in Cam’s life, and writing together (among many other things).
Hey, guys, thanks for taking the time today.
Congratulations on Season 8 and congratulations on the subtle update to the opening credits and theme music. Why did you guys decide to do that? It’s only been seven seasons.
Hart Hanson: You know it’s just like most things, the change on Bones, I just woke in the middle of the night and thought the Crystal Method basically invented the concept of remixing. Here we were going into an eighth season and Stephen and I had discussed just a slight almost unsee-able, unhear-able to the sense of tone change. I thought let’s see if the Crystal Method guys, Ken and Scott, would be up to doing a little remix for us, and they were. Someone is banging on their telephone.
Stephen Nathan: They really did a phenomenal job, because we didn’t want to lose what the theme was, what the original was, but they just managed to take it and update it and make it fresh. We usually update the visuals every year, and this was just gravy. They just did a phenomenal job. I love the new song.
Hanson: Yes, the Twitter world has already told us how much they hate it, so we know we’re on the right track, something changed.
And then as a follow-up, boy, that’s a guy, Pelant, he’s like a bad rash, he just won’t go away. Is he going to continue and be at the forefront as a criminal this season, or have you guys got somebody else lined up?
Nathan: He’s going to be around all season. He’ll come and go, but Hart and I both hate serial killers as a rule; but we loved this guy, and he’s just the most interesting multiple murderer that we’ve ever had on the show. He’s going to kind of color Season 8 a bit.
Hanson: Color it red.
Nathan: Yes, no one is going to be able to rest easy in Season 8, that’s it.
One thing I wanted to touch base about is there was a little bit of a flurry on Twitter earlier this year, and other things about David and his contract. I wanted to know what is the status of David and Emily’s contracts, and are we going to see them for a Season 9?
Hanson: I think yes, I think so. They are currently negotiating through Season 9. Well, I shouldn’t say that, because I don’t know how many years beyond that the studio is negotiating with them. Generally it comes in chunks. It might be three. It might be seven. I don’t know, and that’s part of the negotiations is already how many years it is. But they are currently in negotiations with the studio through at least Season 9 and some retro. But I’m sure we’re pretty confident that they’ll come to an agreement.
Nathan: As far as the details of the negotiations and everything, we don’t really know anything about that. That’s between the studio and the actors.
Just as a follow-up, do you worry about this kind of negotiating in public about how it affects the show?
Hanson: No, do you worry, Stephen? I don’t worry at all.
Nathan: I don’t worry at all.
Hanson: David is a mischievous guy. He loves lobbing hand grenades out. I think he really gets a kick out of all the stuff I would try to avoid, which is people hollering on Twitter. David kind of—it’s all part of the game to him, but I don’t think there’s any serious angst or bile behind it. He’s just—
Nathan: I think the undercurrent of all of David’s Tweets or anything he does online or in the press is that he loves doing the show. He’s better than ever on the show, and I think he wants to come back as much as we want him back as much as we want it to work out. There doesn’t seem to be a real issue.
Hanson: That’s really what it is.
Hello, thanks so much for taking the call. I got to say I really love the episode, but I was yelling at my TV at the very, very end.
Hanson: Hey, you know why? The TV didn’t do anything. Your TV is going to put on a lovely next episode of some other show soon. You got to love your TV.
Nathan: I think that’s good, Jamie. I think it’s good you felt that way. It’s always good to have a reaction.
Yes, I was curious. How long did you plan that twist with the character? I won’t say what it is, but how long did you like have that decided?
Hanson: We know what happens, well, of course, it’s our job to know what happens, and that was the natural end for us of that episode of the first episode is to extend the Pelant story and raise another question. How’s that for obfuscation? But it’s like does he have help? We don’t know what the motive is of … to do what he did. It’s just it’s little—it’s a gulch hanger, not a cliff hanger just to keep that story alive in people’s minds.
Nathan: It’s just to raise questions.
Nathan: There are many different answers to questions.
Hanson: You sounded like a rabbi there.
Nathan: May we all now read the responses ….
As a follow-up, are we still going to keep seeing like interns of the week, or are we going to be seeing more of Clark now?
Hanson: We’re going to keep our revolving gang of interns. It just really works for us, and we always check on their availabilities, because these are very, very talented people; and they’re going to be sucked away into their own TV shows. But as long as we can have them, we’re going to hang on to them.
Nathan: Also we will be meeting new interns at some point this season and also revisiting interns that we haven’t seen as much as we want to, so we’re still open to that. We just love having that revolving door in the lab. It works very well for us.
Great, thanks so much guys. I got to say thank you for dying Brennan’s hair back.
Nathan: I actually expected that to be the first question and an interesting fact – I washed it, but Hart dyed it back.
Hanson: That’s going to totally creep out Emily, Stephen. I thought we did an excellent job.
Are there any returning characters coming up, family members or otherwise?
Hanson: You mean are we going to see any more of people’s extended families this year?
Yes, or any other characters that have been on before.
Nathan: Oh yes. Yes, definitely. Brennan’s dad will be back and we hope to have Booth’s grandfather, and maybe even meet a couple of other family members.
Hanson: I hope Billy Gibbons will be back because that’s just total fun for us to play, Angela’s dad. Also we are looking at storylines that—still in nascent storylines we have a story for Hodgins’ brother that we may visit; and we’ve very interested in the back nine somewhere in meeting Booth’s mom and having Booth’s mom meet Brennan. But we haven’t figured out that story yet, but it’s in our bin. It’s about time to see Booth’s family a little bit.
Everybody always asks if we’re going to have Brennan’s cousin, Margaret, who is played by Zooey Deschanel back, but she seems very, very busy on her own show.
Nathan: She has a show?
Hanson: She has a show, yes.
Nathan: Oh my God.
Hanson: It’s an amusing half hour.
Nathan: Oh, I’ve got to watch that.
Hanson: Yes. We have some ideas for Booth’s mom, so we’re investigating all that. We want to make it good.
Speaking of Cam as we know, what can you say about Cam’s love interest?
Hanson: Oh, nothing. That’s not quite true. It is not someone you won’t recognize. That’s about all we’re saying about it. It’s not a brand new person. It’s someone that the fans will recognize, and if we’re good, they didn’t see it coming. If we’re not, they’ll see it coming.
Nathan: I didn’t see it coming. I still don’t know who it is.
Hanson: That’s you – short-term memory loss.
Nathan: Oh, that’s right. Who are you?
I understand that the reunion scene between Booth and Brennan is quite physical. Could you tell us maybe a little bit about that, and did David and Emily have some fun filming that and whether Emily had any training.
Hanson: They did have fun. In fact we had written one reunion, and they came and said can we go a little farther with this, and so we upped, let’s say, the energy of them seeing each other again. It’s one of those things that you discuss at great length is how mad is Booth at Brennan? How anxious are they to see each other, and how does all of this manifest in one split second?
So we ended up talking to them about it and to the director, Ian Toynton, who’s our directing producer, and that is where we got, and we were pretty pleased with—there’s nothing better than having actors come to you and say they want to do more and not less, especially going into the beginning of Season 8. So we were tickled with it.
So they said they wanted to kick each other a bit more.
Hanson: Yes, they just wanted to wreck a little more furniture.
Were there any injuries?
Hanson: I don’t think so. We would have heard about them, no, there were no injuries.
Nathan: No, there were no injuries. They just had a great time doing it.
Hanson: David is really strong, and Emily is extremely limber and strong herself. They are mighty, those two, so—
Nathan: We were happy they broke furniture.
O. Sims That’s great, thanks very much.
H. Hanson Thank you.
I wanted to know, Stephen you said at … that Booth was going to be maybe a little bit mad at Bones for kind of just leaving him in the dust. In the first episode we see that he’s a little bit standoffish at first, but I want to know how that’s going to play out over the next couple of episodes.
Nathan: You know, initially you’re very happy to see somebody, but all of the three months of being abandoned essentially doesn’t go away. So that’s still kind of bubbling inside, and in the second episode we’ll see some evidence of that. There are things that they have to get past. Even though they understand what happened to each other, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to move on and to go back to what they had before. Everything will have changed a bit.
Hanson: We loved the idea that just because a decision is right and good and the most sensible rational decision, that it’s still painful for people, and they have to get by that. Maybe it’s even tougher when no one was in the wrong. Yes, Stephen is right. The second episode addresses that head on.
How did the rest of the people feel like? Obviously Angela knows that it was the best thing for Brennan to do was to leave, but how about everybody else in there? Like they obviously care about Brennan, but they don’t have that deep emotional connection that Booth and Angela do to her.
Hanson: And also they are, except for Angela, two of our people are not scientists. Angela and Sweets are not scientists and tend to recognize that people are more complex than simply rational; doing what’s right. So Sweets and Angela stand a little to the left of the others, who get it, who simply go that was the smartest thing to do. I would have done the same thing, meaning Hodgins and Cam especially as scientists. But yes, it splashes all over everybody, but mostly Booth, Sweets and Angela are the—for us it’s fun that her being away caused trouble between Booth and Angela as the two most I’m going to say human.
Stephen is there a better word, the two most human? I want to say emotional people. They actually end up being angry way at each other when the more rational people are going yes, that’s what had to happen … there.
Nathan: I think the other people who aren’t so intimately involved understand. They understand, and they’re just happy to have her back. As we deal with those issues in the first episode, you see how everyone is affected at the end.
Hanson: I think that Hodgins, for example, thinks he’s okay with it, but if you’ve seen the first episode, he does something that is very un-Hodgins-like, the very, very aggressive, and we think it stems out of what happened to his friends.
Hanson: I hope the audience gets all that, too.
Now I just want to know like obviously the Pelant storyline is going to continue throughout the season, but is that going to kind of go on the back burner while they solve some cases?
Hanson: Oh, yes.
Nathan: We’re going to be, we’re probably focusing more on kind of trying to do great murders this season than we have in the past. We just want to get the show back to the basics. However, all of their personal lives have been altered by what happened with Brennen being gone, and with sort of the honeymoon period of our series being over. Now they have to deal with the realities of their relationships and their lives, as well as Pelant, as well as this kind of dark cloud that hangs over them. But it won’t be dealt with in every episode, but Pelant is not going away.
I just wanted to say watching the show over seven years, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It’s just been such a great trip with so many great characters and the cast. I wanted to know what was the biggest challenge in maintaining all those realistic characters, and having the relationships develop over so many seasons without it either stagnating or crossing into some kind of jump the shark territory?
Hanson: Gee, I hope you’re right about all that. I would say Stephen, am I right? Stephen and I spend every morning, we have a cup of coffee, and at first we argue about politics and our families and anything else and movies and books, because we don’t agree on everything. Then we segue from that life stuff into what we’re going to do on our show.
I like to think that out of that half hour every morning, a half hour or 45 minutes conversation that we have that stuff we send it up to a writers’ room that, oh my God, Stephen, would you like to rhapsodize a little about the writers’ room? They’re just so good this year.
Nathan: Yes, we have an extraordinary group of writers led by John Collier, who they just see the world in such a unique way. They’re giving us murders and body finds that we’ve never seen before. I think if the characters stay fresh, the show stays fresh, because they lead the way, and these writers understand that. We try to follow the characters’ leads. I think that’s the only way for it to stay fresh.
Hanson: We listen to the actors, too, by the way. These people have been playing the face of these characters for seven seasons. Every hiatus, we meet with each one of them one-on-one and say who do you like being in scenes with and have a hanging and dreaming conversation. We get a lot of ideas from that, and we want them all connected, invested in what they’re doing. We’re very lucky to have that group of people on our show.
Nathan: You know what? I think Hart and I are both old married men. We’ve been married for so many years to our wives. Bones is another wife, and it’s a very, very, very good marriage. It’s not boring. It’s still alive. We still have sex and that’s …. These are the wives.
Along those lines, can you speculate at all on whether or not there might be a wedding in Bones’ and Booth’s future?
Hanson: There might be.
Nathan: There might be, but you know it’s only Season 8. We’re just beginning. We’re only beginning.
Hello, I’m going to follow up on that sex talk; awkward.
Hanson: That’s Stephen.
Nathan: What, we’re having sex with Bones. What’s crazy about that? I know it’s not the Republican platform, but maybe it should be.
Anyway, hopefully a less … topic, what’s to say about the arc of Flynn in Season 8, because it seems like what we might have thought about him might not exactly be what is the actual truth of him.
Hanson: We would never tell you, but yes, there’s an arc with him, and it’s complicated and fun and we have an end plan with that. But is he good or is he bad? It was really fun talking to Reed Diamond about that, too, because after that last scene, he said, ‘So what’s the story?’
I’m pretty sure I didn’t tell him either, but we know what it is. But you know it’s one of those things that is he a threat or is he supportive, and that’s our story we’ll find out.
Okay, what can you tease about episode 805?
Hanson: You just expect us to know immediately which one 805 is.
Nathan: Oh, wait, I know it. I know it.
Hanson: Do you?
Nathan: Yes, wait, hold on.
Hanson: Wait a minute. I got it here.
Nathan: I know what it is.
Hanson: It’s crime scene clean-up.
Nathan: Yes, really good.
Hanson: That’s where we find out who Cam is with.
Nathan: We’re going to find out who Cam is with, which will be a big, big surprise. Brennan and the squints go up against someone whose entire life is devoted to—
Hanson: Wiping out evidence.
Nathan: Eliminating evidence and theirs is discovering it, so it’s really; it’s spy versus spy.
Hanson: That’s good, Stephen.
Before I ask some questions, I want to say you guys are my first interview that’s not affiliated with my college.
Hanson: Wow, what’s your college?
Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.
Hanson: Well, hello and we are honored, and we will try to live up to it; especially Stephen.
Great, thanks, guys. One thing I would like to say one of my favorite parts about the dynamics of the characters in Bones is that Dr. Brennan and Booth, they have a pretty interesting relationship with one being very scientific and atheist, and the other kind of relying on faith and God and things like that. Do you see that there maybe as a metaphor for life that these two schools of thought can work hand-in-hand together?
Hanson: Definitely, and from the beginning, part of the thing that really appealed to me about Bones was that I would get my chance to do a series that the engine is rationale thought versus humanism and emotion versus empiricism and all that stuff. It’s definitely we owe a huge debt to many, many pairings through storytelling history who have had that dynamic; Holmes and Watson, Spock and Kirk, the X-Files, any number of … from the Patrick O’Brien novels are my personal favorite of this kind of –
Nathan: And Abbot and Costello.
Hanson: Abbot and Costello are yours. I think that it is something, I don’t want to go on about this, but I think it’s something that we face politically, religiously. Our whole western world is a huge conflict between the absolutely rational and scientific mode and the religious/superstitious/emotional mode, and most people meet in the middle. So the fact that we can have two polar opposites end up together raising a child while solving violent crimes, I think that’s a great engine for a series and so far—
Nathan: I think it’s also a little important to both of us to take on this sort of a religious debate, where you can have people of faith and people, who I guess would be described as secular humanists or atheists or something that can live, work together, and most of all love each other and have successful lives together without constantly being—without being at war.
Nathan: Everybody has got to get over themselves a little bit, and I think that’s what we see.
Hanson: I’m quite proud. Quite a religious person came up to me, and said that he was very grateful that the religious people in our show were not portrayed as morons; as superstitious morons. I was very glad to hear that, because we don’t want to come down on one side or the other. We’re all about the debate and all about the questioning, so that’s the engine of our series as much as solving crimes is.
Okay, going back to the premiere how will—how am I going to phrase this so as to not really spoil anything? How will Pelant, or the twist with Pelant, affect Brennan’s work, or will it affect her at all?
Hanson: Well, Brennan has an ability that to put her head down and concentrate on what’s in front of her. Some would call it her retreat. When the world gets too complicated, she simply stares at what’s in front of her and works that, so she is not someone to brood and worry. That’s Booth’s area. He is the one who’s always looking around.
The most common visual on Bones when they’re standing over the body, and I have to give this to the actors again, when they’re standing over the human remains, Brennan is usually on the ground with her nose about an inch from something disgusting looking at details. He is flicking around; his eyes are flicking around looking around to see what’s out there, what threats are out there and what answers are out there. So the Pelant thing is more a haunting for Booth than it is for Brennan until it’s something that she has to face; until it’s put in front of her nose in other words. Does that answer your question in any way?
Sort of, I guess the other part of it is will it affect I guess the charges being dropped against Brennan?
Hanson: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. By the end of the, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that by the end of the season opener, Brennan is able to go back to work at the Jeffersonian.
Nathan: I think it’s important she’s able to go back to work. She’s back home, but nothing is safe. No one can rest easy.
Hanson: Yes, yes. He’s still out there.
Let’s see. My first question is when you were coming up with this episode, what kind of, I guess, writing challenges or plot challenges did you come across?
Hanson: For me it was the first time I had co-written a script with Stephen Nathan and it was just an absolute nightmare.
Nathan: Actually, that’s not true.
Hanson: What? We’ve co-written before?
Nathan: Yes, we have a few times.
Hanson: No, I mean we’ve divvied things up, but have we actually like written by Hart and Stephen?
Hanson: I have no memory of that.
Hanson: I have no memory.
Nathan: No, no, we have, it’s just so horrible we put out of our minds.
Hanson: Actually, I’m being very, very facetious, because I really am not a good co-writer. I fail at it constantly, and it goes very, very well with Stephen because we just toss things back and forth, back and forth, back and forth creatively and, Stephen please, you can give your take on it.
We had to figure out a bunch of things. One was how long is Brennan going to be on the run, and Stephen and I, I think it took about ten minutes for us to discuss alternatives, but the gold in our show as far we’re concerned – and I think the audience – is Booth and Brennan being together. So it’s not a good plan to start out a season with them apart for any length of time. Also I think an audience goes come on, we know they’re going to get back together; what are you taking so long for, so there’s that.
Then we discussed at great length the question that has come up a couple of times, which is what happens when they see each other, and what’s the hangover from their three months separation from each other.
Stephen, do you remember where our plot notion of having Brennan help solve the first murder, Pelant’s first murder, came from?
Nathan: It was difficult to find a way to do what is essentially a standard episode of Bones were we discover a body, find out who the murderer is, and yet have that be the reintroduction of Brennan.
Nathan: So the only way we could think to do that was to have Brennan actually find the remains and bring our squints and Booth into that story, so it was that and that was done of course with the help of the writers’ room. But it seemed to be the only way to get Booth and Brennan together immediately.
Hanson: She got some advice from her dad, look for the first killing. That’s where a serial killer makes his mistakes is the first killing, so that set us off on the trail of Pelant.
Nathan: Then since she was involved, we could bring our people into it and, of course, Booth within an act and a half was going to find Brennan. Then we have our couple together again—still on the lam, but they’re together.
Okay, my second question is if you were in Brennan’s spot, like Brennan has her dad and her team to help her with her … from the FBI, but if you were in her spot, how do you think you would go about trying to stay away from the FBI?
Hanson: I think I would fail miserably. Going on the lam and being off the grid is so hard when you do any kind of research into it. I think they’d catch me the first time I stopped to get gas.
Nathan: I think you’re making too a big a deal, because I know exactly what I would do.
Nathan: I would call the writers and ask them how the … am I supposed to get out of this.
Hanson: Stephen, what would you do if you couldn’t go to your ATM to get money?
Nathan: If I couldn’t go to my ATM to get money?
Hanson: You can’t use your credit cards. That’s it, you’d surrender. You’d surrender.
Nathan: No, no, no, nuts and berries.
Hanson: …sleeping on the beach.
Nathan: Nuts and berries, I’m sleeping on the beach and you can always eat a squirrel.
Hanson: You know what, I know one undercover—a guy who worked as an undercover cop for 25 years, a Mountie, who’s a really good friend of mine. What I would actually do is go to him and hope that he decided to help me and then I’d be okay, but otherwise I …. I’d bring you with me Stephen, don’t worry.
Nathan: I’m calling the writers.
So this season you guys reached the amazing 150th episode milestone. Do you have anything special planned for that episode?
Nathan: A massage. That’s a lot of episodes. I ache.
Hanson: Who are you kidding? That’s not special for you.
Our 150th episode to air is kind of, yes, it’s a weird episode. It’s going to be an episode told where we see everything from the point of view of the victim. It’s been very tricky. It was very tricky to shoot, because it could be claustrophobic. We needed a very, very heart tugging story, so that the person who we are experiencing, whose death we are solving is an actual character, and it’s a boy.
We don’t usually use kids, because we can’t laugh, and it’s not a funny episode. It’s an outsider’s view, very single view of our team at work. In a way, it shows what the camera doesn’t usually show. It shows how each of our characters interacts with a victim when no one else is looking, but the victim. So it’s a little bit elegiac and melancholy, Stephen.
Hanson: Cyndi Lauper is in it as our resident psychic who knows that the victim is watching us and is trying to help find out what the victim needs, so that they can go on, move on. By the way, it’s not to solve the murder. The victim needs something else before he can move on.
Nathan: It’s a very unique episode both how it’s shot, the tone of it, and it’s been a real challenge to put together and a challenge like that always kind of gives you the most satisfaction. Everybody has come together for this one not only it was a great script, it was beautifully directed. The actors were terrific, and now our visual effects team is working on it, as well as the sound mixers. It’s really a very rich episode and should be unique for the 150th. Now, of course, now we’re planning the 300th.
Hanson: It’s going to be a wild romp.
Nathan: Yes, it’ll be from Hart and my perspective.
Hanson: We heard that there were 30 of you out there. We don’t take it for granted. We’re very appreciative that you’re still interested in Bones as we go into our eighth season. Thank you for taking a morning, and thank you for asking us questions and putting up with our hijinks.
Nathan: Yes, we’ll do our best to live up to your standards, so thank you very much.
Photos by Brian Bowen and Justin Stephens/Courtesy of Fox Television