Find Out About The Finder – Series Creator Hart Hanson And Star Geoff Stults On Making FOX’s Newest Thursday Night Series!


Tomorrow evening the Bones spinoff, The Finder [FOX, Thursdays, 9/8C], makes its debut. Last week, I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with series creator Hart Hanson and star Geoff Stults – who plays Walter, the titular finder of stuff both wanted and not so much [he always wants his clients that the process of finding someone/something might lead to learned something best not learned in the first place].

Hello, good talking to you guys.

Hart Hanson: Hello.

Geoff Stults: Good morning.

I guess my question would be for both of you, the first one anyway. What is it about The Finder that you think will attract viewers?

Stults: I’m going to tell you what I can. It’s fun. My favorite thing about the character in the show when I first became aware that it was the kind of show that didn’t take itself seriously, at least the character doesn’t take himself seriously and it allows you, the viewer, just to enjoy the ride. It’s just fun and entertaining and that’s I think what our goal is. We’re just trying to have a nice 43 minute enjoyable show that people can tune in at any point and any part of the series and any part of the episodes and enjoy themselves and understand what’s going on. Hart?

Hanson: At the beginning of this season, everyone is trying to figure out the most economic way to make TV. And the head of production at 20th Century Fox TV told all the line producers in order to prioritize what made it to the screen that they should ask their show runner what was first and foremost. And without a doubt I didn’t even have to think about it; it was entertainment; we just want to entertain an audience for an hour once a week.

Geoff, in your words tell me a little bit about your character’s background and what do you think is what makes him tick?

Stults: Well, at the root of Walter, he’s a former military policeman who suffered a little brain trauma when he was serving in Iraq, so that’s what allows us the entry point into the series and also into Walter. We certainly think it’s very important to hardenize it and in no way are we trying to make light of PTSD and those people that actually suffer from it because it’s a very real disease and a very real problem for our troops and other people for many other reasons. But it allows us this really interesting dramatic license too, it’s like the focal point for all these different things that Walter does.

And his PTSD, it manifests itself into a little bit of a, he lacks social grace. He’s a little paranoid. He’s not very trusting of people. And he isn’t the perfect dinner guest, but he’s fun. If he’s thinking in terms of what he may say, he never intends to be insulting, but it’s just matter of fact to him. And those kind of behaviors will get you in trouble, but they’re also really fun to watch if we do it in a way that we’ve done it, that Hart has done it and the rest of the writers, which is in a way that is light-hearted and entertaining and fun.

I know you have some Bones people coming over to the The Finder, but I’m wondering if maybe we’ll see some Finder people back on Bones when it comes back from the hiatus.

Hanson: Oh, man that would a high class idea for that to happen. Oh, you mean during this season or next season?

Either one.

Hanson: Definitely this season we haven’t considered it yet. We just don’t know how The Finder is going to do, so it hasn’t been in our wheelhouse of things to think of, but that’s a good idea now that you’ve said it. Geoff, do you want to go be on the Bones show again?

Stults: Hey, buddy, anything I can do to get to work with you. That was a politically correct answer, ladies and gentlemen.

Well, the show also affords you a great opportunity to have a lot of fun guest stars. Can you talk about some of the names we’ll be seeing?

H. Hanson: Yes, Bones we never had a chance to have really great guest stars because the way it’s structured is there’s a dead body and then we try and figure out who killed that person and everybody is a suspect. The Finder is a little different. A client comes through the door. It’s a bit of a throw-back, so we have opportunities for guest stars then. And then, Geoff, help me, we’ve had John Fogerty is in the first episode, the great singer/songwriter from Credence and Eric Roberts.

Stults: 50 Cent.

Hanson: Yes, we have opportunities to have all these great guest stars come onto the show and we’ve been really glad of who’s come to be on the show.

Stults: Yes, it’s been great. Gosh, it escapes me who is playing Ice Pick?

Hanson: Oh, 50 Cent, no, not Ice Pick. Ice Pick is Michael Des Barres.

Stults: That’s right.

Hanson: And then we had 50 Cent, Curtis Jackson came to play a hip hop mogul. Who else have we had?

Stults: Yes, now it’s starting to escape me.

Hanson: That’s why everything drops out of my head immediately.

Stults: It’s just like studying for finals.

Hanson: Yes. I’m going to have this list in front of me from now on, but we’ve had some really good guest stars that we’ve, Amy Aquino plays Willa’s probation officer.

Stults: That’s right.

Hanson: Who played the serial killer, Geoff?

Stults: Oh, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe.

Hanson: Yes, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe.

Stults: Jamie Murray, yes, there’s been some great guest stars.

Hanson: Oh, good, yes, yes, there you go, Jamie Murray, just a lot of fun with guest stars, oh, two of my favorites I think.

Stults: Oh, yes, of course.

Hanson: Greg Evigan and Mario Van Peebles are playing a version of the well-known Miami cop duo from the ‘80s. Those are two very funny, there’s a reason those guys are stars and that was a lot of fun. Have I missed anyone, do you think, Geoff?

Stults: Gosh, I think that’s pretty much it.

I wanted to ask Geoff a little bit of the back story about getting this part. Was it just a straight audition or how did it come about for you?

Stults: It turns out that Hart has had this long-time man crush on me that none of us knew about. And it’s just like the weirdest thing when I finally went in the room, he threw himself at me, and it was awkward, so I felt bad and I was like all right, I’ll do this.

The way it really happened was—

Hanson: I like that version. I think we should go with that.

Stults: It was a great version. I had met with Hart. The long story short is that I was a little apprehensive after coming off of a couple of dramas that it’s just an interesting lifestyle. It’s definitely, you live there when you’re the lead of the show. And I made a decision that I was only going to do a half hour. So when this got sent my way, I didn’t read it and it got sent my way again and the casting director had been a fan of mine and had been helpful to me in my career and asked me to read it as a favor to him. He just said, “If you like this at all, just do me the favor and sit down with Hart Hanson.” I was like. “Who the F is Hart Hanson?”

So I read it and I was like, ah, man, I like this. All right I’ll at least meet with him. I purposely grew out a beard. I didn’t shave. I tried to look as rough as I could because my goal was to walk in there and have Hart be like “this isn’t the guy.” And everything I did backfired on me.

I need to probably take that technique into more of my career, just like that episode in Seinfeld when George Castanza realizes that every decision he makes is wrong, so he has to start going with the exact opposite of his gut reactions, so that’s kind of what happened. And the next thing you know we’re doing a show together.

You’ve acted with your brother before and I know you guys are close. Any chance we’ll see your brother on this show or any chance you guys will be on screen together any time soon?

Stults: You crystal ball reader, it’s possible.

Hanson: A very, very, very good chance.

Oh, we’ll find out … brother.

Stults: That’s right. That’s always been very fun and I’m very lucky to have a brother who happens to be actor and who, as a codependent adult, we sometimes live together. So, yes, we get along and to work together would be, again, would be a blast.

I was wondering what happened, what you guys did with the Saffron Burrows character and how you phased her out after the pilot.

Hanson: Well, we really didn’t. If it was a normal pilot, if we’d done the show as a normal pilot, then what we would have done is looked at it and decided what changes we were going to make and do a bunch of re-shoots; and the world would never have known or it would have been a byline that we’ve made casting changes. You’ve seen that many times. In our case everything we did was out in public and we had no time because our, I’m hooking my fingers…, “pilot,” was a special episode of Bones. So there was just no chance of that happening, and the decisions were made after the pilot aired, the spin-off crossover pilot aired.

So poor Saffron was in the unenviable position of everyone seeing her and then now we’re going to wonder where she was and it’s a good question. The reasons decisions are made are spread over a studio and network, lots of arguing and lots of fighting that I’m not really too interested in getting into.

But in the end the decision was made to go in a different direction to expand the show with two characters instead of the one character, Ike, and we made the change. We never explained the change in our series. We never say what ever happened to that woman who used to be here. We just move on, so it’s just one of the costs of doing the show the way we did it. Did that answer your question?

I think so. And also just because it was in the news yesterday, I was wondering 50 Cent had been Tweeting a lot about foreseeing his death. I was just wondering how he was when you guys shot with him.

Hanson: Oh my goodness.

Stults: 50 Cent has been Tweeting about foreseeing his death?

He’s saying I feel like I’m going to die soon and it was accompanied about a lot of stuff about him being disenchanted with his label and that’s why he’s working on his new drink to have a legacy.

Hanson: Oh, I missed all that. I can tell you that when he was on our show, and Geoff can tell you more, he was delightful, upbeat, delightful, very serious about acting. Geoff?

Stults: Oh, God, of all the people that I’ve worked with, he was—I was the most apprehensive just because you don’t know, again, you expect an entourage and he’s got, well, let me tell you the mogul, it cost him money to do our show.

Hanson: Yes, it cost him money to come to work on our show.

Stults: Yes, and he literally was fantastic. He was maybe my favorite. He never left the set. He was there. He made his lines. He was a pleasure to work with. He was entertaining. He’s one of the most charismatic men I’ve ever met in my life, people, there’s a reason he is as successful as he is. So I also think that he’s smarter than everybody, so if he’s Tweeting about foreshadowing his death, then he is a marketing genius, and you fell for it.

I did, I did, we all did.

Hanson: That episode was directed by David Boreanaz.

Stults: Oh, that’s right.

Hanson: I spent New Years with David and he had an absolutely wonderful time with the guy and one thing that David is really good at is mimicking people. It’s a sign of fondness with him, so I hope Geoff is right. I hope Geoff is right and he’s a marketing genius.

A quick question for you guys: it’s clear through casting and promotion that Fox is relying on the Bones audience to tune in. How does The Finder stand on its own?

Hanson: I think it’s important to make a distinction between the creative and the marketing. And I know, believe me I know, that they are counting on the Bones audience being—it’s a measured decision to go after the Bones audience to try and get them to come over. There’s a big experiment in this way of making a pilot.

Creatively this show stands on its own in my opinion. It lives in the same universe as Bones, meaning that it’s a heightened reality. I hope largely humorous for people, we’ll make you cry; we’ll make you think a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of laughs. Unlike Bones we won’t try and make you throw up, but it lives totally on its own, but you’re dead right. We are all trying to get the loyal kind of audience that Bones has, a nice chunk of people who followed Bones from time slot to time slot. If we can get a part of that audience on The Finder, then it benefits everyone.

Stults: I can tell you from my perspective as just a cast member of The Finder, I guess I’ll also say that of Bones and our own little spin-off way, we’re aware of that. We’re aware that we’ll be mixing, hopefully, obviously we’re going to be counting on some people coming over. We realize that there are some die-hard Bones fans. We realize that there’ll be criticism because we are not the same thing. Like Hart said, we were born in the same world.

I guess we come from the same world, but the way that I look at it is, and I actually called Bones the varsity team and The Finder is the JV team. We’re born from Bones. We exist, The Finder and the 200 crew members of The Finder, exist because of the success of Bones and David and Emily and the rest of the cast, John Francis Daley and T. J. were both on our show. But even before that T.J. and Michaela they were all part of the spin-off, so we really exist because of them and we’re grateful to that and we understand that without Bones, The Finder doesn’t exist, but yet we are different.

It’s a little quirkier I would say. The actors on Bones are smarter than the actors on The Finder. We couldn’t even say the words that the actors on Bones do, so we have to have a lot more action to fill in for the lack of intelligence …. So there’s one difference there and it only begins there.

The Bones vocabulary helps my job, too. I sound smarter, too.

Stults: Oh, yes, it’s unbelievable. I have to have a thesaurus with me.

One other question, whose brilliant idea was it to cast Michael Clarke Duncan because I think I love him?

Hanson: Michael Clarke Duncan was, the original character of Leo Knox was Sam Sheppard, an elderly, skinny white cowboy. I believe that the person who first said to me “is there a role for Michael Clarke Duncan on the show?” was the head of casting, Sharon Klein, at the studio. I believe that’s where it came from. Whoever it was, I don’t think she got through Clarke before I said, “Yes, there’s a role for him” and I just totally rewrote Leo.

If you have a chance to get someone like Michael Clarke Duncan, you don’t stop and say “does that really match the character?” You write a character to match him. He has his aura and charisma and his whole being that you want to go running at, so that’s what we did. So you can thank the studio.

Thank you, studio.

Hanson: They don’t hear that a lot.

Hart, actually can you describe the origins of this series creatively and why did you cast Geoff?

Stults: It’s a great question.

Hanson: I have an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV. I owe them a pilot each year. I was actually thinking this year of trying to weasel out of it; I’m busy on Bones and everything. One of the executives at 20th Century Fox, Lisa Katz, brought me a novel called The Locator by Richard Greener and they sucked me in. First she said, “Do you think this would make a good series? How do you think it would make a good series? Why don’t you just write the pilot? How about you just produce the pilot? How about you just get the series up and running?” I thought it was a very, very clean way into a network series that a guy who can find anything. Everyone is always looking for a way to do a PI series and no one wants to do a PI series, and I just jumped at the chance to do that.

Casting Geoff was in a way very much like casting Michael Clarke Duncan. I had a darker, quieter more internal character in mind when I first wrote the piece, just someone not as voluble, not someone who was as accessible. Geoff came in for his meeting and I don’t know if you’ve seen Geoff Stults in person, but he’s very tall and ridiculously good looking. And he came through the door—

THE FINDER:  The one-hour procedural centering on a remarkable man with an extraordinary ability to help people find the unfindable premieres Thursday, Jan. 12 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  Pictured L-R:  Mercedes Masöhn, Geoff Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Maddie Hasson.  ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Patrick Ecclesine/FOX

Stults: Go on, go on.

Hanson: He came in to meet with us. He wasn’t going to read. He was going to meet with us and he had his beard. He looked like Mountain Man. And the first thing I thought was, oh, man, I already cast Leo. This guy would have been perfect. About 30 seconds in—this just sounds like I’m kissing Geoff’s butt, you know when you’re with a leading man. I’m an old fart in this business and there are actors and there are leading men and there are leading men who are actors. If you get that number three, you know what, you jump at number two. You get a leading man who can’t act, you jump at that guy. You get a leading man who can act and you’d do anything to get them.

And then the third element was that Geoff, he’s a very good looking guy, he could just get along on that. He’s self-deprecating. He’s funny and he’s goofy when he wants to be. And all of a sudden I started right in that meeting five minutes in I think I grabbed Dan Sackheim, our directing producer on the show, was sitting next to me. I think I grabbed his knee and started squeezing because we’d been casting for a long time and it’s a very difficult process. And I just thought this guy is a TV star. He will be funny. I honestly thought he was a mix between Tom Selleck and Timothy Olyphant and what TV guy would not run at him.

So Geoff is right, hearts came out of my eyes and I really wanted him to come and be Walter. And if The Finder doesn’t work and Geoff is out of work, I heartily recommend that someone else immediately make him a star. He’s a big TV star.

Nice. And I’ll finish off, Geoff; I know you worked with Michael Clarke Duncan before in D.E.B.S. Can you describe briefly the chemistry between you guys?

Stults: You mean my twin brother? I’ve known Mike for a long time. We did D.E.B.S. together. He was coming off of a giant thing and I was at that point D.E.B.S. was my biggest job yet. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t even know of really like where to stand or what a DP, I didn’t know what a grip was. I didn’t know what a DP was. I just knew that there were four hot girls in that movie and I wanted to do it.

So Mike showed me the ropes a little bit. All we did the whole time was laugh like junior high kids; we got separated by the director. We got yelled at for not being able to stop laughing. And once I figured out that I could get him laughing, because he is a …, he is a giant kid. He has a giant sense of humor and he likes to laugh. He’s a goof ball and it’s the easiest thing in the world to just get him going. And he likes to tease people and I mess with him like he is my big brother. I like to annoy him. It’s like we grew up together and he gets mad and he laughs, so we have a lot of fun.

In a network drama, the days get long and you have to be able to get along with people you work with. And for me, it’s just very important for me to laugh and have fun and I want it to be an enjoyable experience from the lowliest day … crew member on up to our senior Hart Hanson, and we all have fun and I try to set that tone and he’s right there with me. He ….

I’m one of the people who thoroughly enjoyed the backdoor pilot on Bones and was a bit sad when I heard that Saffron Burrows wasn’t being carried over to the series. I liked the characters that you have in her place, the Deputy U.S. Marshal and the probationary juvenile delinquent. I think they have a lot of potential. But it seems like they don’t quite have the same zing, and I’m thinking that they’re going to be developed a little bit differently than anything we’ve probably seen before. I’m wondering, this is kind of a nit pick, but how is a probationary juvenile delinquent working in a bar? Wouldn’t that be kind of a no-no?

Hanson: It comes up quite often in the series, you’ll be glad to know, is like what she is and is not allowed to do in a drinking establishment that serves food.

That was actually what I was going to ask.

Hanson: Yes, she can’t serve drinks, but she can serve food and she can’t go behind the bar and we actually make a huge deal of the fact that she can’t go behind the bar for two reasons. This is boring already. I’m being boring, but two reasons. One is legally she can’t be back where the alcohol is poured and the other is Leo doesn’t want her anywhere near the cash register. And her probation officer is quite vigilant about making sure that she—her probation officer would love to see her back in juvie and so poor Willa has to—well, poor Willa, she lies a lot, she deserves what she gets, but she has to watch her Ps and Qs very carefully, so we are trying very hard to be within the realm.

I worked on Judging Amy, so that would be a whole arc in the story, Judging Amy. I’m not sure it’s as interesting to the audience of The Finder.

Oh, cool, that was exactly what I was getting at. Also something that really struck me and that I really liked is the way that Walter makes no bones about the fact that if you’re going to look for something that may lead to learning stuff that the client would rather not have ever known and we get to see how that happens in the premiere in a very dramatic way. Which leads me to ask how do you balance, like this is a fun show in the tradition of it’s not exactly like Bones. How do you find the right mix of light and dark to make the show fun, but at the same time keep the stakes seeming real?

Hanson: You just put your thumb on the gaping open wound of our everyday existence on The Finder. It’s a juggling. It’s a tough go and we have tons of debate about almost every scene at every level. Is this working? If you raise the stakes too much, does it make this scene not funny anymore? How much lightheartedness can you get away with before the story becomes too light to sustain over 43 minutes? All I can tell you is it’s what we wrestle with on The Finder.

We always had the equivalent on Bones, too. For example, we found out in the first season of Bones, that if the remains were of a child, you weren’t going to have a very funny episode and in The Finder there are certain moments.

And you’ll tell us at the end of 13 episodes if we were successful in juggling a sentimental and melancholy or dramatic scenes with the lightheartedness of our characters trying to find things. But if we do this right, and I hope we are in every episode, people find things they don’t want to find, and that’s the world Walter lives in. And that’s why he’s a bit callous about it. People think they want something, but they don’t. They want something else and he’s always blundering into that. He’s very literal.

I’m wondering one of thing fans love so much about Bones is the creative way that you always have people end up dead. And I’m wondering if that creativity has carried over to The Finder in some of the cases that you guys are working on.

Hanson: Well, I hope so. An ongoing discussion with the network has often been “what starts the case?” I’m a big fan of having a guy come into the bar carrying Cinderella’s shoe and saying, “I have to find Cinderella,” and it leading somewhere else.

Another of our stories starts with a magician coming in and saying, “I’ve lost my lovely assistant. My lovely assistant actually disappeared during my trick. You have to find my lovely assistant,” and it taking a fast left turn into some other world. I think that’s the equivalent, if there is such a thing, between The Finder and Bones.

Stults: That’s a whole new show itself. I like that.

Hanson: I hope so is the answer, I hope we do.

Okay, great thank you.

Stults: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay, thank you, any closing comments, gentlemen?

Stults: Hart, you’re doing a great job, close. I would just want to say on behalf of Finder and Bones, that we appreciate you guys writing about it and we’re excited for six days from now, I guess, to the premiere that will change television as we know it.

Hanson: That’s a very good statement. Thanks for being interested, everyone

Photos by /courtesy FOX Television