There are two things you can count on when you take part in a conference call Q&A with Bones (Fox, Mondays, 9/8C) showrunners Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan: they (and you) will have a good time, and the call will go long. Hanson and Nathan love what they do and they love to share that love with press, the show’s fans and anyone else who will listen to them.
Most of the core characters on Bones began the season in a miserable state, which makes the much talked about Bones/Booth wedding (due before the end of the calendar year) hard to imagine – especially with serial killer Pelant (the reason for everyone’s misery) still on the loose. The progression from one state to the other occupied most of the call. The call began inauspiciously with a prolonged silence that prompted one of them to opine that maybe the press was sick of them.
Hello, guys. I’m not sick of you. Glad to talk to you again.
Hart Hanson: I find that hard to believe.
Stephen Nathan: We’re sick of us.
Hart: Yes, we’re sick of each other. We just assume that’s catching.
No, no, and I really did enjoy the premiere. I like how you kind of resolved Brennan finding out without him actually telling her, so I enjoyed that. Obviously, though, Pelant is going to at some point come back to the forefront again on the show. Can you talk about that? Is that soon or do you not have any of that done yet to even know?
Hart: Well, Pelant will definitely figure in their lives quite heavily in the first few episodes. We will see him again. We’ll see him in a way we haven’t before. It’ll be a far more intense episode and it’ll be them confronting him in a way we haven’t seen before. That’s probably vague enough.
Stephen: You know they’re going to get married, and they can’t really get married until the issue of Pelant has been dealt with one way or another.
Stephen: We’re doing all that fairly quickly. We’re not teasing this out through the whole season.
Hart: We’ve strung along the audience for eight years. Season 9 we’re starting to resolve things, not everything because there will be a Season 10 through 14, but at this point, we will be moving things along.
Awesome. Can you tell us anything about the wedding that you can tease?
Hart: There will be vows.
Stephen: That’s always like what do we want to say? (barking in the background) I think that the wedding, do you have a dog?
Yes, I have three dogs. I’m sorry; UPS is here.
Hart: No, the dog is really excited about the wedding. I talked to him earlier.
Stephen: We put a lot of effort into giving the audience what they want, which is a wedding in the way they don’t expect it. I hope that we’ve been successful with that.
Okay, so there’s another undercover episode coming up. What can we expect from Roxy and Tony this time around?
Stephen: David and Emily love doing Roxy and Tony so much that it’s a little disturbing.
Hart: We haven’t seen Roxy and Tony since the second season.
Stephen: Yes, and they love Wanda and Buck Moosejaw, but man, they really like Tony and Roxy. What they’re doing is going to a marriage counseling retreat, which is ironic since, A, they’re not married and, B, they have this issue hanging over them. Tony and Roxy are louder than Brennan and Booth, so they get to work out some stuff undercover while trying to catch a murderer. It’s pretty fun.
Hart: Yes, their mouths are uncensored, so Roxy and Tony get to a lot of things that Booth and Brennan might not get to. It’s always great to see the two of them do these undercover episodes. It’s a hilarious situation they’re in. We have a phenomenal guest cast. Certainly having a couples retreat with various couples interacting with Tony and Roxy gives us a lot of great stuff.
Stephen: There’s a fat suit involved.
Hart: Yes, there is a fat suit that is sort of like a balloon.
How much will Booth’s ex-priest be in this season?
Hart: We’re going to have him back a few times, Aldo Clemens. It’s played by Mather Zickel. He’s an appealing guy and he has kind of a vibe that no one else on Bones has, so we’ve been seeing him at work and I think you saw, too, in the first one, he has pretty good chemistry with both David and Emily. We’ll have him back a few times, which I shouldn’t say, because there’s always a chance that people will be killed by Pelant, so now I kind of let that cat out of the bag. We’re going to have him back. Let me say this. He’s part of the wedding episode.
The past couple seasons you guys have been really good about giving us really different or really out of the box episodes. What can you say about what you might have planned in that regard for the Season 9?
Hart: I’ll tell you something. We front loaded the season with, I’m going to call them obligatory episodes, things that we’ve set up that we have to do. The weirder episodes or out of the box episodes, if I’m hearing your question correctly, are going to happen in the back end of the season. I don’t even mean the back end. Let’s say after Christmas.
Stephen: We do have some planned that are odd and unique and aren’t necessarily just a regular Bones. We want to do it more and more the older we get the older the show gets.
Hart: It’s one of the great things about a show that’s going into its ninth season, you can do that. People are with you and you can be a little bit weird. We like them the most and they’re often I think our best episodes.
Okay. I know a million and five things have been said about the wedding so far, but one thing that seems to kind of not have been touched upon yet is what’s the status of Gordon Gordon Wyatt. I know you guys love Stephen Fry and I know he’s very, very busy, but have you guys talked about either bringing him back for that episode or for an episode sooner, so we can see how happy—
Stephen: We’ve talked about it, but he’s very, very—
Hart: He’s very, very busy. He would love to do it, but Stephen Fry is, as you know, busy running, I think it’s Britain and most of France. It’s very tough to get him, but we promise to keep trying and certainly he is more than willing.
Stephen: We certainly have assembled quite an extraordinary group of people for the wedding.
Hart: It’s our biggest cast ever.
Stephen: Yes, biggest cast ever. I don’t think we’ll miss too many people.
Hart: You shouldn’t have said that, Stephen.
Stephen: I said too many. I didn’t say anyone. We’re always going to miss somebody.
I really enjoyed the premiere.
Stephen: Thank you.
It kind of reminded me of something a showrunner said and it might have been one of you guys, something to the effect of loving to make their characters miserable. I was wondering, because in the season premiere pretty much all of the core cast is miserable to some degree, how hard was it to do that without losing the show’s unique tone and how much fun was it?
Hart: That’s such a good question because we think it’s a good question, because we agonize about it. We agonize about the tone and grabbing the right—walking that tightrope. I’ll tell you it’s fun for us to write a drama that’s a little bit melancholy, but it’s also a lot of fun to bust back out of it into our usual world of the crimedy. That’s why we moved pretty quickly in the pilot to get out of the melancholy place. When we’re in editing or scoring it or even watching dailies and directing and we know the actors, it’s kind of sad, those scenes where Brennan and Booth are not connecting and we’re so used to seeing them connect that it’s odd when they don’t.
Stephen: I think it makes the show more enjoyable to see them go through real situations. We put them in a very difficult position at the end of last season and in dealing with that, they have to work through the misery before they come out the other side. I think that gives the audience something to root for. I think that’s why we care about these characters so much. It’s not easy. Life isn’t always easy for them no matter how beautiful they are, and they are beautiful.
Yes. As someone who was a huge Lost fan, numbers have become very scary to me, so I’m wondering if there was any significance to 4:47 and 7:35 and, if so, how long will we have to wait for it to pay off?
Hart: Well, 447, we talk a lot about paying that off and there are two schools of thought and I won’t tell you who’s winning. One is that we finally pay it off in the final episode and the other is that we don’t wait that long. That being said, there are a few things that we are paying off fairly quickly at the beginning of this season. For example, what did Brennan write when she was buried alive with Hodgins? Who did she write to and what did she write? Stephen, what other, there are other things we’re paying off?
Stephen: We’re paying off a couple of things that we can’t really talk about—
Hart: What is Angela’s real name is another hanging chad that we haven’t paid off yet. There’s another one in my mind and it’s just seems to be gone. Then there’s always what is on page 187, which is Hodgins’ miraculous sexual technique. I don’t know if we could pay that off on network TV.
I was just curious, once Pelant is taken down, will there be a new single threat that will kind of take over?
Hart: We—how do we say this, Stephen? Pelant actually is part of uncovering our next Big Bad.
Stephen: There will be someone else who looms over our people in a way we have yet to see on Bones. It’s someone who is far more ephemeral than any of our other big, bad guys. As Hart said, it’s somebody who comes to our attention because of Pelant.
You guys mentioned Christmas earlier. Is this the year that we’re finally going to get a Booth and Brennan’s family Christmas episode?
Stephen: We have a really tough time doing holiday episodes because Bones is traditionally moved around a lot. I think we’re sort of like those movable missiles, so that we can’t be shot down. They move us all over the place—
Hart: Is Syria on your mind at all, Stephen?
Stephen: I don’t know. Wait a minute. I got to put on a Kevlar vest for the next question. We just don’t want to be caught in a situation where we have a Christmas episode that they want to air in February. We like doing the holiday episodes, but the scheduling is always a bit up in the air for Bones. We’re still not absolutely certain whether we’re on Monday or Friday around that time of year, so it’s a little bit of a crap shoot and we don’t want to disappoint the audience.
Hart: We don’t want to do a Christmas show at Thanksgiving or after Christmas, so we’ll have a greater sense of the schedule very soon and then we’ll know whether we’re doing one or not, but it’s tough for us.
First question, you guys’ experience with Pelant and how you crafted his whole story and his part in the show, has it changed how you approach villains or future big bads?
Hart: Pelant, when we said before Stephen and I don’t really like serial killers, but we know America does, so we always have these big bads that come along, the serial killers. Pelant gave us a great amount of joy to play with. There was something—we got something right at least as far as we’re concerned with Pelant, so that we kept him around a long time. He’s kind of set the bar, so when we’re talking about this next big bad, it has to be someone who’s as—we’re spoiled now. It has to be someone who is as interesting to us as Pelant was and we think we’ve got that. Now we have to find out if our audience agrees.
Okay, I like it. We know there are a lot of different wedding guests. I know some people asked about it already. I want to know if any of those wedding guests are plot devices. Are they going to be part of the plot or the case, or is it merely just to see a family of past faces in the audience at the wedding?
Hart: I think certainly some people are involved in the case, but we’re not inviting the murderer to the wedding.
Stephen: No. In fact there’s a group of people who are at the wedding because of the case, but that’s about all I would say about it.
You guys are, of course, also known for the gross, exotic, crazy discoveries of all these dead bodies and such. How do you feel like you guys have done this year in that regard?
Hart: Oh, man, I think we are hitting on all cylinders. We’ve done those hideous things.
Stephen: We’re really good. All I can say is that our bar is how contentious our conversations are with standards and practices. If we feel we have a lot of negotiating to do with standards and practices, we’ve done our job. We’ve really had some great ones this year and also we have some coming up that are amazing.
I have to say one episode coming up has something, which seems to be one of the most revolting things, and I say that with great delight and pride, that we’ve ever had on Bones, and it has nothing to do with a dead body.
Stephen: I think we’ve outdone ourselves.
Hart: We think there should be a disclaimer that says do not eat during the first seven and a half minutes of Bones.
Absolutely. I have definitely learned to not eat. I’m not eating when I’m watching Bones. That’s definitely; I’m going to finish first and then watch Bones.
Stephen: That’s true. Pizza is really not the food of choice.
Hart: Or anything with noodles.
How do those conversations with standards and practices usually go? Have there been things that you guys have had to pull back from a little bit, or it more…
Stephen: Oddly enough, we have a great person who is our representative with standards and practices in all truth … who is a great person and works very hard for the show and tries to help us as much as she possibly can. In the eight and the some change years we’ve been doing the show, we’ve only had, I think, two or three times when we were told no; this has to be cut back or you have to trim it back, and another couple of times we’ve done it ourselves when we look at the cut and go even for us, that’s a little too much.
Hart: The worst thing we ever did, they didn’t stop us from doing, which was the first time we were on after American Idol, one of our serial killers, the gravedigger, was taken out by a sniper and her head exploded. It was the first time we were on after American Idol, so there was a bunch of kids watching. Usually we have gross, but ultimately amusing things. That wasn’t funny. It was like someone getting their head blown off.
Stephen: We actually scaled that one back a little bit; and then there was one other—the thing that turns our stomach a little bit is when it’s a recognizable person or it’s somebody getting killed; that’s not what we do. We like them already digested.
Okay, so I watched the first episode and I loved it. I want to talk about it as well. What I liked most is that we don’t see Pelant, but he’s present all the time. My question is, are you going to be playing with this, like fearing what you can’t see, maybe a bit of paranoia going on?
Hart: Yes, he’s going to be a presence until that storyline is resolved in some way. We’re close to resolving it, but probably not in the way everybody expects.
Stephen: As one of our characters says, you don’t even know for sure if Pelant is watching, but just the sheer possibility makes you have to be paranoid.
Exactly, right. Okay, and then obviously we have the wedding. The new pressure of what comes next? They’re going to be married. They already have a child?
Stephen: The reason that we didn’t hold it off till the end of the series or something is that Booth and Brennan getting married is just sort of a natural extension of their evolving relationship. Now they’re not going to be all that much different. They’re still Booth and Brennan. Their differences remain and now they’re just going to settle into one aspect of their life while being tested all the more. We kind of wanted them to get married and then put them in the most extreme situations we possibly could for the remainder of the year to test that relationship.
Hart: Between the two of us, Stephen and I have been married for 50 years, so something we know is that just because you get married doesn’t mean that everything goes simply.
Stephen: Yes, and especially if we can come up with—
Hart: Not to each other, we haven’t been married to each other for 50 years.
Stephen: No, that’s only been like 40. The fact that what we’re trying to do is come up with murders that we’ve never seen before, crimes, motives, clues that will test them, that will sort of increase the tension in that marriage and to see how two people you love deal with that.
Are we going to see more of Booth’s mom soon? Because there’s a lot of I think unresolved issues going on there still.
Stephen: We will see her relatively soon, but—
Hart: She’d like very much to sing at the wedding, but we have someone else who is going to sing at the wedding.
Stephen: Yes, we have someone else singing at the wedding, but we want to have her back. We definitely want have the family back, because we’re incredibly lucky to have Joanna Cassidy and Ryan O’Neal. These people you really want to see.
Hart: You want to put them on the screen.
Stephen: We have every intention of having family reunions
Hart: Every time Ryan O’Neal comes to be on our show, we realize again that that’s a huge movie star on our show, a huge, huge movie star. He’s really great. It’s good for everybody when he’s here.
Also I’m curious in the premiere episode Freddie Prinze Jr. is in it and everything. Will his offer that he gives to Booth, is that going to play out more through the rest of the season at all?
Hart: Yes. That’s a fun dynamic to play out is that he thinks that the CIA is the ultimate organization to belong to. Booth has belonged to the FBI for a long time. Those agencies actually have a bit of a rivalry and so we’d like to play that out a little bit as the season goes on.
The premiere was great and I loved how Aldo dealt with Brennan and got across to her to keep the faith in Booth. That was terrific. To Pelant, can you hint to us at all if he’s killed or if he’s arrested? I’m supposing he—
Hart: I blurted something out at Comic-Con and here’s what the question was that was sprung on me, which was do we know how Pelant dies and I said oh, yes, so there you go. It’s a matter of public record. I could have been wrong, though. I could have been wrong.
Stephen: If I can just interject, we do know how he dies, but we also know when he dies, so there’s a little bit of a monkey wrench in what Hart says.
Hart: Good one, Stephen.
Stephen: I wish it was as simple as he dies and everything and everything is great.
Yes, there’s always a monkey wrench with you guys.
Hart: Well, we’re monkeys.
Of course, we’re so excited about the wedding. Is there going to be a honeymoon and will there be a case involved with it at all?
Hart: There’s a honeymoon and of course there is murder. Should we say more about it, Stephen?
Stephen: You know what, somebody did tease something about it, so it’s out there. They go to Argentina. They go to Buenos Aires on their honeymoon.
Hart: And, you know, Buenos Aires has a certain history that demands someone like Brennan and Booth. Also we’ll tease this one little thing that they do go on their honeymoon and it turns out that the entire country of Argentina is madly in love with Brennan’s books and it takes a turn that even Brennan didn’t see coming.
I loved the premiere and the thing that made me most sad about it, I mean, yes, Booth and Brennan being all upset made me sad. The saddest was the relationship with Booth and Angela is still broken.
I feel like she’s going to hold a grudge longer than Brennan.
Hart: Yes, don’t you think? They both love Brennan and don’t step between sisters, which Booth has done, and that’s going to take a while to play out because hurtful things were said and they don’t immediately fix themselves overnight.
Stephen: Best friends are relentless and they will defend a friend to the death. Booth has to get past that; Angela does, too, she has to understand what’s going on, but she doesn’t have the information yet.
Hart: Yes, Angela is the ultimate shipper.
I know, that’s what I said.
She’s like the voice of all the crazy shippers.
Hart: That’s right, and you know what? The shippers are mad at Booth and so is Angela.
You sort of touched on this that before Booth and Brennan can get married the Pelant situation has to be resolved.
Stephen: Yes, it has to be resolved.
Is it going to be completely resolved in like five, four or five episodes, or whenever the wedding is?
Stephen: It’ll definitely be resolved.
Hart: You notice how I clam up on these questions and Stephen just sallies forth. Thank God. I say I’m not going to tell you.
Stephen: I know. I wish we could give you more information, but I think it’s safe to say that whenever they think they know what Pelant is doing, they’re thrown a curveball by him. As simple as it would be to just go in and kill him, it might not be that simple.
Hart: I’d like to point out that you got a sport’s metaphor out of Stephen Nathan. That is really, really rare.
Stephen: What was the—
Hart: Curveball. You said curveball. That’s a baseball term.
Stephen: Oh, baseball, oh, okay.
I have two questions. My first one is just you guys have managed to balance out a long arc of criminal stories with Gormogon and The Gravedigger and now Pelant and then episodes where everything is solved within one episode at a time. I want to know how you guys manage to continually balance this as you’re going into Season 9.
Hart: It’s a nightmare because at our essence we are an episodic show. We’re a network, 22 episodes a year episodic show where we solve a crime each week. When we go to more serialized stuff, it’s always difficult. You’re always juggling that. If it’s working for you, then we’re incredibly delighted. All I can tell you is that it’s a lot of discussion and a lot of input not only from the writers on the show, but from the network and the studio as to how to balance all these things.
Stephen: It’s much easier on one hand to do a serialized show, because you’re just continuing with one story with the characters; but to do a case that has to resolve every week is very labor intensive. Fortunately we have a great, great writer’s room led by Jon Collier, and they come up with astounding stories, but it is after almost 200 episodes. It’s very difficult to continue to give the audience murders that are worth their loyalty.
Hart: That they haven’t seen before, and clues that they haven’t seen too many times
Stephen: And bodies and all of that stuff, so it’s what is ultimately very, very satisfying to us and also when we’re on for so long now. Now we’re in Season 9, so at that point you are allowed to add a serialized element to the show, so we can have character arcs. We can have things that do sustain us and give a through line to the series, so it’s not just the case of the week.
For (another website), we’re doing a special kind of Bones month for the premiere, so I was lucky enough to speak to Michaela and TJ. When I spoke to them, they both brought up the same thing and I said I would ask you guys. They both mentioned that they would love to do their own undercover episode.
Hart: Oh believe me—
Stephen: We have that, we’ve been mulling that over. Michaela actually has—
Hart: The roller skater—
Stephen: She’s done it twice. She actually went undercover with Sweets to our chiropractor’s office and then she went roller skating—
Hart: In very short shorts—
Stephen: She actually has done it. TJ, Hodgins’ character is someone who always wants to go undercover or get a gun or go out with Booth and all that stuff, so that’s a lot of fun for us, because it’s something that Booth doesn’t really want to happen. When it does happen, it’s going to be a big event.
Hart: By the way, TJ totally has earned himself something like that, something fun. We owe the guy. He’s fantastic.
Okay, great. I promised that I would ask you guys.
Hart: When you talk to them, tell them that you bullied us into it, so you get the credit.
Stephen: That’s right.
I’ll definitely let them know. I’ll tell them to send me thanks.
Hart: All right.
You said you were wondering if it’s working. Guys, it is working. It always works for you guys. Fabulous premiere.
Hart: So kind of you; thank you.
What other than Pelant precipitates Sweets’ reexamination of his life choices?
Stephen: Oh, well, you know what? There are two things, I think. Certainly Pelant, all of his research, all of his psychological insights and discoveries in this relationship have been turned against him, that’s probably one of the main things; but also Sweets is a young man. Everyone in their 20s reevaluates their life choices that they’ve made and wonders whether or not there are other things out there. I think it’s a natural thing that occurs in a character like his to take some time and look at things before it gets too late.
Hart: We only have two characters who are doing what they set out to do, and that’s Hodgins and Brennan. Everyone else has been pulled into their orbit and Sweets, here’s a guy whose intention in life as a foster kid is to help people, to help actual human beings and instead he’s in a situation where he’s helping society. Just juggling those two things are tough for him. He has to figure out which direction he wants to go in. Do you help a lot of people a little or a few people very, very much? It’s a good thing for a guy in his 20s to deal with.
Stephen: On a very mundane level, these people never take a vacation ever and when you’re 24, 25 years old, you want to take a vacation. He wants to do—
Hart: Stephen, I so think that you are projecting our situation.
Stephen: .., right now, my bag is packed.
Hart: I just think you’re really projecting. You’re revealing way—
Stephen: I’m getting the … out of here. My bag is packed. Oh my car is here. I got to go.
This is great because you’re hitting on two different stages in life. Here we’ve got Sweets in his 20s and he’s young and he’s kind of saying who the heck am I and what happened to my dream. Then in the same way that’s kind of an echo of what Booth is going through, here I am in my 40s, the CIA, that’s an opportunity very interesting. Now I know—
Hart: Yes, how many times am I going to chase armed people down alleys now that I’m a family man? You’ve got to juggle these things.
Okay, so my single question has turned into a complicated one here then. How does Sweets go about figuring out his course and will we see an echo of that in how Booth goes forward in his course of making a decision with this bone out in front of him?
Hart: Yes, what a good showrunner would do would have Sweets face a situation or situations which somehow told him, which are signs to him which way he should go that gives him the most satisfaction. With Booth it’s the same thing, although in a way the corollary or the shadow of it, which is he has to face dangers that make him rethink what are his responsibilities to Christine.
I love the paternal relationship between him and Sweets that doesn’t always come out; but like when Sweets was going to leave their home, that was fantastic. It’s a great side … you guys have so much. Thank you.
Hart: Those are the actors. Thank you.
Fox Representative: Guys, unfortunately I think we have to wrap it up there. I’m sorry if there’s anyone else in the queue, but we have run over our allotted time. Joan, do you want to give any other wrap-up instructions to anyone?
Stephen: Thank you so much.
Hart: Thank you all, bye.
Photos by Brian Bowen, Jeff Lipsky, Patrick McElhenny and Ray Mickshaw/Courtesy of Fox