Although tonight’s episode of Bones (Fox, Mondays, 8/7C) doesn’t take up much space in our latest conversation with showrunners Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, they definitely seemed happy to be back on Monday nights (or, maybe, they had one cup of coffee too many…).
When they chatted with a group of bloggers/journalists on Friday, there was a great deal of laughter and a wide range of topics – ranging from Wendell’s cancer to the gross remains that kick off each episode and even Hanson’s new series, Backstrom (premiering on Fox next season). Stephen Nathan even played Kevin Reilly for a completely unauthorized bit faux scheduling. It was one of the liveliest Q&As of the season. If there are showrunners out there who love talking with the press more than these guys, I’ve yet to encounter them.
Hi. Thanks for doing this call, and congratulations on the return to Mondays.
Hart Hanson: Thank you.
Stephen: Thank you very much.
So what’s coming up with the Ghost Killer? Is that going to be part of the season finale?
Stephen: It will be tangentially a part of the season finale. We’ll be revisiting the Ghost Killer in Episode 20. And we will find that the Ghost Killer is just the tip of an iceberg.
Hart: You’re being so forthcoming.
Stephen: I know I am. And we’re going to have an actual iceberg on the show, and those are big. We’re celebrating the tenth season with using a real iceberg. But it is going to lead us into a big conspiracy that appears as if it goes back to the F.B.I. So the Ghost Killer—it’s no secret that Hart and I are not madly in love with serial killers, so it’s a way for us to do a continuing story that doesn’t revolve around one murderer. It takes us down the rabbit hole in a way that’s a little more complicated and a little darker than we have in the past.
Okay. Are there are any returning guest stars coming up in these remaining episodes?
Stephen: Well, the one that’s on Monday night has Freddie Prinze Jr. He’s back as Danny Beck.
Hart: That’s a good one to fall on the return to Monday nights, too. We’re really pleased.
Stephen: Yes, it’s a wonderful episode. Ian Toynton directed that. It’s a great way to return and to come back to our old home Monday night. Although, it was nice to visit our summer home on Friday—
Hart: With our pals from Enlisted.
Stephen: —with our pals from Enlisted. We all had a great time.
Hart: We just go to know each other and then we were wrenched apart again.
Stephen: That’s right. We got to stay up late and drink, and now we have to go back to Monday.
Hart: They liked us. We got some credit for raising their numbers. So they liked us, but now back to Mondays we go.
This question is for Hart Hanson, and actually I wanted to ask you about Backstrom.
Hart: Okay. If that’s allowed I’ll answer.
Okay. Well, I understand that it’s set in Portland, but I guess it’s filming in British Columbia. I just wanted to ask about how that decision came about?
Hart: It was very simple. The incentives to shoot in Vancouver are too good to pass by. Rainn Wilson comes from Seattle and his wife, Holiday Reinhorn, comes from Portland. And we tried very hard to figure out a way to shoot in Portland because it’s always best to shoot in the place that you are pretending to be, but the incentives up in Vancouver— it’s a familiar story for everyone. But the incentives in Vancouver were just too good to pass by, and sadly Oregon could not compete just on a financial level. So that’s what it comes down to.
And the reason we’re not shooting in L.A. is that we really wanted—unlike BONES the outdoors is a bigger part of Backstrom, and we wanted the look of the Pacific Northwest: a little bit of weather, some gray skies, and all that atmosphere. So we’re shooting in Vancouver.
And is there a premiere date for the series yet?
Hart: There’s a premiere week, which is the same as the premiere week for Bones. So right now it’s the week of September 15th. Stephen and I cannot help but conjecture that it will be Bones and Backstrom on Monday night, but so far we have not had any official word that that’s true.
Stephen: I’ll confirm that, right now. I have no power to do that whatsoever, but I’m going on record right now that that’s what’s going to happen. Completely making it up, but if I figure if you’re definitive enough you can make things happen.
Hart: Stephen believes this.
Stephen: I want Bones to be with Backstrom. Hart wants Backstrom to be with Bones. And I’m making it happen right now, right on the telephone.
So, how much has what you originally planned in the very beginning with Bones—how much has that changed as what you have now?
Hart: I knew when I wrote the pilot what the ending to Bones should be. It’s something I have to do to know what a series is. I know what the end of Backstrom is, too. It’s just something I have to aim at.
So far, so good. We did not in any way expect to get this amount of time. So we strung out how long Booth and Brennan would be together for as long as we could. We’re very pleased with the number of stories that are generated by them being together. But every single season right from the get-go we have been ready, if it looked like it, to end our series. And Stephen and I were just talking about this the other day, I think that if Season 10 is our final season then at least the macro version of what I had in mind, we’ll be able to use. If we go past Season 10, the series will need a bit of an invention. We can’t tread water, a reinvention.
Stephen: I think throughout these nine years, it’s always the best laid plans. We have an idea of where we want it to go, but since the finish line keeps moving all we can really do is continue to examine the characters and follow them where they lead. And so far they’ve surprised us often, and it’s changed the course of the show. But we do know where it’s going. We ultimately know where it’s going. I mean it’s not the Dharma Initiative.
Hart: We know where it’s going unless it goes past Season 10. Then we have to rethink where it’s going.
Stephen: And it very easily could go past Season 10.
Hart: Well, wait a minute; are you making that announcement too?
Stephen: Wait, you know what? I did reschedule the show. I’m now picking it up for Season 11 and 12. It might end in Season 12, but I’m going on record right now.
Hart: I want you to think about how much work that is, Stephen, before you—
Stephen: I’m not going to do it. I like how I just became Kevin Reilly.
Hart: You’re very important.
Stephen: I’m giving you a back nine on Backstrom right now.
I just want to ask as a follow up, are we going to get to see at some point how Caroline and Booth met? Because I think that’d be fun.
Hart: That’s a fun idea. Let’s pretend the answer to that is yes we’ve been planning that for years, and not give (her) any credit for the notion.
Stephen: We have been toying with the idea for quite a while of visiting the past with Booth and Brennan and with the other characters. We did have something in the works, but we couldn’t really do it because you can’t do too many weird ones in one season. But next season, especially if it’s the last season, I think we can do a couple.
Hart: And we have to be careful for our very loyal fans, which many of them are, Caroline first appeared as the federal prosecutor in New Orleans. And we just loved her so much that we dragged her up to D.C. So we’re going to have to see how well they knew each other there, if they did. Well, I can’t remember. So we’ll have to take a look at that.
Stephen: I think Booth was in New Orleans though when he was in the army. Maybe they dated.
You guys are in fine form today.
Hart: We’ve each had a cup of coffee.
Stephen: Yes, a little caffeine will do wonders.
Sure, coffee. Let’s call it coffee.
Hart: Sadly, that’s the kind of exciting men we are. We had coffee.
Stephen: That’s right. Coffee and a donut. The donut puts you over the top.
So let’s see. The episode for this coming week is great, but my question is more general. What can you tell us about Wendell and the cancer storyline?
Hart: Nothing. Don’t say anything—
Stephen: Wendell will be coming back this season. He’s coming back. I think it’s in Episode 18.
Hart: It’s an unfolding story.
Stephen: Yes, we will not tell you how it ends, but we will revisit Wendell. And he will come back mid-treatment and be working at the Jeffersonian still in his old job. Although, that will get very, very complicated, and it will not unfold the way, I think, we expect it to.
Hart: Well, maybe the way we expect, but not the way the audience expects.
Stephen: Well, I don’t know. I forget the episodes, and then when I watch them I’m shocked.
As a follow up to that, why did you choose to go with the cancer route?
Stephen: Well, Wendell is sort of the most all-American guy, and he and Booth are so close. To have two guys who are so strong deal with a vulnerability that intense, just seemed to work for the two of them. And it really did in that first episode, that scene in Booth’s office was just so moving and so rich for those two characters. And then now to continue with it with everyone on board, it just gave us a lot. And it was also a way to explore that disease on the show. I mean, not to be exploitive, but we have had a lot of feedback from people who are cancer survivors or families who have been dealing with that, and it meant a lot to them. And if we could do that every now and then on the show, it means a lot to us to be able to do that.
Hart: Wendell’s one of our most sympathetic characters. And he has the most relationship with Booth and Brennan, so he was the best candidate to do a sad and intense story.
Well, there’s some information that Clark’s going to be working on his own book coming up. What can you say about that storyline and how Brennan will be dealing with it?
Stephen: Well, it’s not going to land directly on Brennan, but it is a new wrinkle within the politics of the lab. So I don’t want to say too much about that story.
Hart: It’s such a part of the story, what’s going on there.
Stephen: I can tell you the name of the book is Murder Made Me Do It, so you can imagine what Clark has done.
Okay. On a more serious note, you guys did introduce Hodgins’ brother recently and that was really a serious storyline. Do you have the room to bring him back at the end of the season, or are you guys just going to overlook it with finale shenanigans and such?
Hart: I don’t think he’s coming back before the end of this season, but he’s definitely someone we would consider dealing with again.
Stephen: We will definitely see him next year, but there’s just no time. There’s so much going on at the end of the season because really the end of the season is going to take place over four episodes. And it’s peeling back the layers of the onion, so it’s difficult to deal with that.
Hart: Not a lot of extraneous stuff getting in, there’s a lot of story.
My question is, I don’t want to mangle his name, but I heard Ignacio Serricchio is guest starring in a future episode, and he’s going to play—
Stephen: Yes. He’ll be a week from Monday.
And he’s going to play a character who’s actually Brennan’s equal. How’s that going to work for her?
Stephen: Well, it’s really great. He’s playing a Cuban defector who was the chief forensic anthropologist in Havana, but his credentials don’t work here. As often happens with people who come from another country, they have to get accreditation again.
Hart: So the idea of your taxi driver sometimes was a brain surgeon in another place.
Stephen: So the Secretary of State has asked the Jeffersonian to give him the position because he needs an internship before he gets his accreditation. So he essentially is an equal with Brennan, but Brennan is his boss. And he is in fact an intern. Yes, and Ignacio’s fantastic. He’s just terrific. We can’t wait to have him back. He will return.
A couple of times you both mentioned the word Season 10 and the end. So does it feel as though to you guys Season 10 might be the end? And then as a follow up, who makes that call? Is it you guys telling Kevin Reilly that that’s the end or working in collaboration with him? Because the ratings are still there for the show, so it would seem strange for them to okay you guys leaving after its tenth season.
Stephen: No, we don’t make that decision, but as is always the case, we approach each season as if it’s not going to be the last.
Hart: Well Stephen, I actually approach it as though it is going to be the last.
Stephen: I guess that shows you a little bit about our personalities.
Hart: Yes, that’s it right there. They can’t possibly go another season. We have to be ready, and then Stephen has been proven right nine seasons in a row.
Stephen: You have to write the unfolding story, and then if someone tells you to fold it up; you fold it up. But we’re not approaching this season as if it’s the end.
Hart: I am.
Stephen: Well, it’s the end for you. You’re off doing Backstrom. But I just gave you the back nine pick up, so you really going to have a lot of work.
Hart: Yes, thank you. I’ve got to get to work.
There are other forces too. We have deals, or I should say the network and studio have deals with the actors through Season 10, so those would need to be renegotiated. It’s whether or not the actors are still motivated. So far it appears they are, but you can’t speak for them. And renegotiations can be the reason something goes away. The network can just not want it anymore, which is a reason it would go away. Or there are plenty of shows where the show runners and the actors get together and talk about whether or not they want to keep going. It’s just the end of Season 10 is a natural place either for us to end or for us to make a decision to get over all those hurdles to go for another season or two.
Okay. And then can you just briefly talk about the dynamic between you two next season? Because, Hart, you’re going to be doing the lion’s share of work on Backstrom, so Stephen, will you take over the day-to-day show running duties? Or are you already doing that?
Hart: He’s doing it. The last time I did, Stephen, correct me if I’m wrong, the last time I did a pass at a script was the Wendell Gets Cancer script, I think. And then since then Stephen’s had his grubby little fingers all over it.
Stephen: We’ve always shared it. Hart and I are next door to each other, so even when he went off to do The Finder and I was doing Bones, we still talk all the time. We have coffee in the mornings, so that we get all hyped up. We’ve been down this road before. So yes, basically I’ll be doing the day-to-day stuff here, and Hart will be doing the day-to-day stuff on Backstrom. And if we get bored we’ll switch.
Hart: We do. And yes, we might do that. We share a little terrace…terrace is kind of grand…it’s more like a little walkway between our offices. And we talk a lot every day about the show, but Stephen will be the heavy-lifter for sure on BONES. It’s weird for me, but that’s the way it goes. And he’s good at it, and he’s been doing it a long time.
So do you have anything yet planned for the 200th episode?
Hart: We’ve been talking about stuff, but we haven’t landed on anything yet. And one of the things that would really help is if we actually figured out exactly which episode it was. It’s in the first ten of—
Stephen: No, it’s twelve I think.
Hart: Is it twelve? See, we don’t know.
Stephen: I think it’s twelve, but it keeps changing— because I don’t know why, but we’ll get there. There’ll probably be a murder.
Yes, I kind of figured that. That’s what you should do, try to do one without a murder and see how it goes.
Hart: We have a few ideas. We’d love to do something special. Like the 100th episode, it would be great to do something that was really, really aimed at our very loyal, crazily noisy, and invested fans. Another love letter to them, but we have to figure out what it is. We have a few ideas.
And is there anything that you can tease specific about the season finale?
Hart: Yes, Stephen will do this sort of thing. I always go no.
Stephen: The season finale will redefine—
Hart: Television in the 21st century.
Stephen: Yes, it will redefine television. You’ll be watching it from behind rather than in front this time. No, it will redefine Booth’s relationship with his crime-fighting. The heroes and villains will be reversed, and they will not be operating the way they have for the past nine years. Now how long that will sustain is something that will be answered the beginning of Season 10, but really all bets are off at the end of Season 9.
Hart: Well done, Stephen.
Stephen: I didn’t say a thing.
Hart: I know, but it sounded—
Stephen: I basically didn’t say anything. I thought I was saying something and then—
Hart: I was afraid you were going to say something, but you came through, man.
Alright. Will there be a new love interest for Sweets?
Stephen: We’re toying with that for Season 10. Certainly not at the end of Season 9, but Sweets’ life is interesting. So we’re going to examine him and all of our characters. We’re ending this year with—not ending, ending, but we’re going to examine Cam and Arastoo in a way we haven’t before when we meet Arastoo’s parents. So we try to give all the characters their due. They’re all interesting to us. They all vie for attention, and we try to do as much as we can.
Hart: Of all the characters on the show Sweets has changed the most. I mean, we watched him go from—every once and a while we have to remind ourselves he’s a full grown man now. He started as a wunderkind, a boy wonder, Jimmy Neutron type of guy. And now every once and a while you look at him, and go holy crap, John is leading man handsome. So we got to give him a grown up, big boy love interest.
Right, right. And then my last question is, and I think I remember reading somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember so I figured I ask, are you guys planning on anything to show that Booth’s grandfather died or?
Hart: I’ve got to tell you that we started being asked that question on the very day that Ralph Waite died. I have to tell you, I myself personally was just horrified because here’s this lovely man. I guess people forget that actors exist outside of their roles, at least for the team that they’re on. So we’re all like “Ralph is gone…,” and America is going “Pops is gone…”
I’m sure we will, in Season 10, deal with it. But, I don’t know about Stephen, but I have to tell you I quailed at the thought of somehow it felt exploitive or something to immediately—so we’ll deal with it in Season 10 in some way, but he’s a real person to us. And it was very painful to lose him, and it was unexpected. I mean he is an old guy, mission accomplished. He was an old fellow in the best possible way for an actor. He died in the traces. He was a working man and still in demand.
But I’m sure we’ll do something in Season 10. We’ll figure out something. I know David is very keen of course. He was really, really fond of Ralph. And so we will deal with it, but we have to do it when we’re not still going “aww…” about Ralph.
And I certainly didn’t mean ….
Hart: No, it’s long enough now. Your question is very valid. I was really commenting on the very day that he died that we were getting these questions on social networking and stuff. It’s a fair question now I think.
Stephen: We were asked whether we were going to do it by the end of the year, but really all the scripts were in the works. And the last thing you want to do is shoot from the hip or brush something off. He meant too much to us.
Right, it needs to be a tribute.
Hart: Yes, it has to be a real—yes, exactly.
You guys were talking a little bit earlier about Sweets. I’m just wondering is there a character on the show where you’ve been particularly proud of the evolution of the character over the last nine seasons?
Hart: Wow. One of the great things about Bones has been our secondary characters. Every single one of them is plumbable, if you know what I mean, useable. So, wow.
Stephen: I don’t think there’s any one character.
Hart: I have a slight—I’m really pleased with where Clark went from the beginning to the end. But I have to say really the queen of change as a character over Bones has been Emily Deschanel – playing this incredibly tough part of a bifurcated human being: one part very, very rational and the other part volcanically emotional to very slowly come along to let her kinder, gentler, sweeter, human part leak through the exterior. I’m amazed by it. So there I’ll stop talking. So everybody is my answer.
I have to ask, since this seems to be a staple. Stephen, you always delight at the grossest bodies. So what do we have coming up, which case delights you the most for its disgustingness?
Stephen: Oh my. I don’t know. We try to make them all equally revolting. It’s hard to choose. The season finale has a delightfully revolting body. I don’t know. We have somebody coming up who has been discovered wrapped in kudzu. But really I think one of the most revolting places we find some remains coming up is in a septic tank.
Hart: It is. We are still amazed that it got by standards and practices.
Stephen: I mean it was a little tough for us to watch, but—
Hart: Did you not actually cut back on it yourself on that one?
Stephen: I did a little bit.
Hart: I mean think of that. Stephen Nathan said this is too much before standards and practices did.
Stephen: I’ve only done that one other time… two times in the history of the show. One was when the reporter, that was The Gravedigger, when the reporter was brought down from the flagpole, and his face had been shot off or something. We don’t do fresh, live bodies, so when we see them it’s just too terrible.
Hart: When there’s gushy parts it’s even worse.
Stephen: Yes. We like a nice animal to be able to crawl out of the remains.
Hart: I still maintain— I mean sadly every once and a while doing research you look at actual, real human remains or from the body farm. Nothing we’ve ever done on Bones comes close to the reality of just how awful human remains can be.
Stephen: We frequently have to change them a bit to make them more enjoyable to watch because sometimes they’re just too gross.
Hart: There has to be a tinge of comedy to it, strange as that sounds. That’s why Stephen, for a while, he was very keen on eyeballs falling out because that’s just funny.
Stephen: Yes. And we sit in a production meeting, and we have a forensic anthropologist on staff who is our technical advisor. And she’ll go, “Oh hey, look at this; this is exactly what you’re talking about.” And you go, “Oh great, I’d liked to— OH MY GOD!” And it’s horrifying.
Hart: I stopped looking. She cannot make me look at anything.
Stephen: I don’t want to see anything. We just have her talk to other people.
Hart: She’s a very sweet-faced woman, and she’ll say, “This could help you in the burn story” and don’t look. Don’t look. You won’t eat for two days.
Well, that’s a good diet in Hollywood …. Thanks, guys.
Hart: Thank you.
Stephen: Alright, thanks.
Kim (from Fox): I don’t want to temper anyone’s excitement for upcoming programming, but I did just want to say that we haven’t officially announced any premiere dates for any of our shows. So, I know that there was one potentially discussed earlier that we would like to just not have anyone use, just because we haven’t officially announced anything.
Hart: And if they do, credit it to Stephen Nathan.
Stephen: Oh yes, and I just made it up anyway. See, what I do for a living is make stuff up. So I made that up too.
Photos by Greg Gayne, Ray Mickshaw and Patrick McElhenney/Courtesy of Fox