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Q&A Interview with Emily Deschanel of BONES

Maj Canton - December 5, 2010



TV Tango recently participated in a conference call with Emily Deschanel of BONES. She dished about the Brennan-Booth-Hannah triangle, future storylines, and Thursday's episode. Plus, she talked about her upcoming directorial debut. BONES currently airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on FOX.



Question: In the next episode ["The Doctor in the Photo," airing Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 at 8PM on FOX] Brennan feels a strong connection to the victim. How did it feel?

Emily Deschanel: It's hard because you have to go through all of the emtions that she's going through. At the same time it's refreshing because it's a very different episode than most episodes of the show. It's kind of strange. It's a different episode. It's one of my favorite scripts. I haven't seen the final cut yet, but hopefully it's one of my favorite episodes. It's very unique.

It's very personal to Brennan. She's facing her own mortality and also looking at her life, seeing what she would be leaving behind when she dies. You don't see that side of Brennan very often. She becomes very vulnerable trying to solve this case.


There is a woman who is killed and she's a doctor. When they started listing the qualities of this person, Brennan thinks they sound very familiar -- whether they're physical or personal qualities. And then even looking at the photograph of the person who died, it looks like Brennan when she looks at it. It's from Brennan's perspective, this episode. It's very interesting, but very terrifying for Brennan. Confusing.


Then she's visited by a night watchman, who we're not really sure if he exists or not in real life. Enrico Colantoni plays that part, who I've always loved as an actor; so it was fun to work with him.


It was definitely hard to go through that. I was in every single scene of this episode. There were absolutely no breaks whatsoever

Question: Does it ever get exhausting playing Brennan since your personality is so different than her's?

Emily Deschanel: Yes and no.


I think that Brennan has become a lot more open over the years. You get to see her dorky/quirky side at times, which is fun. I  kind of hang on to those moments like that and try to incorporate thiings like that in every episode.

My favorite thing about people in general is that they have contradictions, and Brennan is no exception to that rule. I love exploring the contradictions of her character.


I'm an actor, too; so playing a character very different from myself is one of the best things to happen to me. Especially in a television series, so many times people are hired to play something very close to who they are in real life. It's a wonderful opportunity to play this character who is very different.


I can't say that I don't possess some qualities that are similar or sometimes I don't remind myself of her when I play a real nerd -- and I say that in the most affectionate way. I'm very different. I love the fact that I'm different from the character.


It's true sometimes, especially when you're doing certain episodes, you take it home a little bit with you. I have tried to make boundaries for myself where I leave work at work. If I have lines to learn. I do all my acting work on the weekends, then I learn my lines the day before. If there's any work that needs to be done the next day, I do it at work. I don't leave work until I finish that. I don't like to take work home with me. That means staying late even after working 15 hours. I'll stay late an hour or two just to make sure I get everything right.


I try to set those boundaries so I don' t take things home. That said, it does leak into your personal life sometimes.


That was a really answer to your question, but maybe I answered like 10 more.

Question: In the next episode, how did you prepare for the somber moment in the car with David?

Emily Deschanel: We always want to affect people emotionally. It's one of those scenes that you know is there, and you prepare for it, acting-wise. You know it's coming up. It's one of those things where it says that you're crying in the scene, and then you say "It's OK if I don't cry; I don't have to cry."

Then walking in, everyone's expecting that. There's a lot of pressure of that. It's one of those things as an actor, you kind of dread those scenes in a way because you'd rather it just not be written in and see if your emotions go to that place or not. At the same time it's good to have those markers as an actor to know where your breaking points are for the character -- where in the story are the low points.


I'm going backwards. In the scene Brennan has to face her own life because this women has died. She doesn't have much of a personal life. The only people who listed her missing are her people at work. She doesn't have friends. She kind of had some kind of romance with a guy, but nothing ever happened. No one really missed her. Isn't that every almost human's worst fear -- dying and no one misses you and no one notices? This affects Brennan greatly, and she starts relating to the character, believing that it's her. She starts seeing her own life and seeing that she made a mistake when she said "No" to Booth last year. She kind of goes out on a limb and says to Booth, "I'm here."


I don't know how much I should reveal. It forces Brennan into a place where she is bold and is aware of her feelings in a way she hasn't been before. It takes a huge, very strange experience for her to become aware of her feelings.


Hart [Hanson, series creator,] and I have always talked about how Brennan may have these feelings for Booth, but she's the last person to know. Here it takes a very strange experience for her to face her feelings and to see them.

Question: Do you feel the episode ends on a positive note?

Emily Deschanel: I think so. I think that she realizes that she isn't that woman. She has friends. She has people who love her and she loves. She's not as extreme as this person.


It's always good to have those reminders in life. Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Am I working my whole life away and not spending time with people who are important? Am I not taking a chance on something that I'm going to regret on my death bed? If I die tomorrow, will I be happy with my life as it is right now?

Doing this show and doing fake death and Brennan's fake real death, you are aware of your own mortality. You can't help thinking about that. 


You have to become bold in your life, and take chances. I think that's what Brennan is doing. I think that's not a bad thing. I think that's a wonderful thing to make the most of our lives while we have it. We're not here that long.


Brennan took that chance. Whether or not it worked out or not is not an important as the fact that she did take that chance. I think it is a happy ending in that way -- even if it's hard and sad, but life is hard and sad at times. The whole point is we get through those times. She still has all those people in her life and she still has all those friends and those people who care about her. That's what really matters.

Question: Will Brennan be left with any lasting change after this episode?

Emily Deschanel: Brennan's the kind of person, who the closer she gets to opening her feelings, the more closed off she becomes. After that [episode] she becomes more closed off in a way. There is a reaction, but it may not be the reaction people want. She rarely is predictable in that way.


I think you'll see Brennan becoming more protected than she has been even, but at times she's open. It affects her, but it affects her in many different kinds of opposing ways that you'll see in episodes to come. We're still reading and shooting episodes to come, but we're only a few ahead.


Question: Does the situation between Hannah and Booth get more serious?

Emily Deschanel: Yes, it actually does get more serious. That creates a whole situation for all of them.


One thing I love about this dynamic between Hannah and Booth and Brennan is that Hannah is not a bad person. So many times you see a character come in as a love triangle. The two leads -- people want them to get together -- you have to like her. That's not in order. [sounding like she knows she's being confusing]

Brennan certainly likes her and respects her. I think the conflicts -- there's a lot of internal conflicts rather than there being external conflicts. There's internal conflicts in Brennan because she loves Booth. She wants to be with Booth. Because she loves Booth, she wants him to be happy. Booth is happy with Hannah now, but that's really hard to see. She wants him to be happy because she cares for him, but she also sees that Hannah is a wonderful, smart, tough, cool, beautiful woman, and you can't really blame Booth for falling in love with her.


There's all these conflicting emotions, just within one character alone. I just love that. I think it's great to have conflict between characters and within characters, where no one's intending bad things. It's just life. It's just what happens. I've seen this happen in life so many times where there are feelings for people, but they don't feel the same way. I think it's a wonderful kind of push and pull -- a dance if you will -- between the characters. I really like that dynamic.


It does get more serious with Hannah.

Question: Will Hannah ever find out what went down with Booth and Brennan last season?

Emily Deschanel: Yes she will.


It's going to be revealed in some way to Hannah about the situation with Brennan and Booth -- Brennan revealing her feelings. It creates a situation with Hannah and Brennan and their friendship. It's an interesting dynamic between these two that you don't see very often. It does definitely create some issues and conflict.


Question: Will Booth doubt his decision about Hannah?

Emily Deschanel: It's hard for me to say. So far I haven't seen that yet, but I can't say it won't come. We're only a few [episodes] ahead of this episode. I don't want to speak for another character and what he's feeling while he's doing scenes, but in terms of the actual scripts I haven't seen that yet.


Question: Why do you think the show is doing so well?

Emily Deschanel: It's hard for me to say what the success is. It's hard for me to be objective about something I'm absolutely in the middle of right now.


When people come up to me and they're fans of the show, a lot of people say "It's the only show I can watch with my husband" or "It's the only show I can watch with my family" or "my wife." Everyone likes different things.

One of the qualities of our show that may have been a detriment at times and may have not made us the huge hit right away that some other shows have been is the fact that it's so many different things. We have science, forensics, we're solving crimes, but we also have humor and we have character and relationships, which are kind of the backbone of the whole show. You have episodes that are more poignant and mroe serious and then some that are more action-filled. You never know what you are going to get.


There are certain things that you know they will have -- relationships and those dynamics, great characters, witty dialogue. There's so many elements that different people are drawn to for different reasons.


Kathy Reichs has a huge, huge following of people reading her books. We had from the beginning, it helped us to (a) have that and (b) to have David Boreanaz and his incredible success. So many people are such huge fans of his from ANGEL and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. We had some fan base going in, and that may be why we've had such loyal fans. Certainly from the beginning people who followed us through so many different time slots

Question: What kind of foundation did Kathy Reichs give to the series?

Emily Deschanel: So many people love her books. It was hard at the beginning because we had to explain that this Temperance Brennan was based on Kathy Reichs, not Temperance Brennan in the books, and it's only loosely based on Kathy Reichs. If you're a fan of the books, then you'll be a fan of the show. This Temperance Brennan is a different Temperance Brennan, but there are definitely similarities between the book and the show.


Question: How long do you want to go with the show? Is the show at its peak?

Emily Deschanel: It's such a good question. It's so hard to know. I wish I had that perspective.


It's something I don't really have control over. I have a contract for eight seasons; so I can't say "I'm done now." I'd rather not say "We're peaking, I'm done" because I'd be in trouble for breaking my contract. I'd rather just think we're going for at least eight seasons.

It's something as an actor that you only have a certain amount of control over. You look at certain shows that last for 10 years, and that's just incredible.


I can't believe we've been here for six seasons -- not because I don't believe in the show and I don't love it and I don't think it deserves the huge audience -- but there's so many wonderful shows that get canceled in the first season. There's so many wonderful shows that don't get picked up in the first place. I'm so lucky to be doing the show and the show I love doing and the character I have such affection for. I'm just incredibly lucky.


When we first started, I thought "Three seasons; that's the most." That's such a long time, and I'll be exhausted by then. I will be done and move on to other things. It's keeps going. I've never thought "Oh, we got picked up for another season, oh darnit. I wish that hadn't happened." I've ALWAYS been excited when we've been picked up for another season and I think that will continue.


But who knows. Maybe we'll go for 11 years, and maybe I'll be like "I'm done with this show, I'm sick of it." Right now I'm enjoying myself and loving it and counting my lucky stars.

Question: Will the case in this next episode make Brennan question her job again?

Emily Deschanel: Yeah, it does come up a bit, but not as much anymore.


Brennan realized when was away from it, how much she missed it. It's a small factor, but not a big one. She realizes that she's good at this and that she enjoys this. She loves solving crimes and she loves doing it with the team she does it with.

She loves seeing the results of her work immediately -- well, not always immediately. You can actually affect the world when you're solving crimes as opposed to identifying ancient remains. Sure it can impact science in such a huge way. Right now, you're solving a crime, you're putting people behind bars, you're stopping new crimes from happening and you're bringing some tiny bit of peace family members.


I think she likes being that person. I think she recognized that when she was away from it.

Question: Do you have any teasers about cases in future episodes?

Emily Deschanel: We have an episode about daredevil BMX bikers. We have an episode about people who are polygamists. We have an episode like that which seems to be very popular right now with different reality shows and BIG LOVE.


What did we just shoot? Sometimes I have no memory. The daredevils are in episode 13, and I'm on 12. What was 11?

Wait, we have one with The Grave Digger, which is action-packed. There's a sniper loose in DC, and David directs an episode about that which is a great, great fun action-packed episode. Just love the episode. That's a really exciting one.


The BMX daredevil biker episode which I'm just starting reading right now, and then there's the one I'm doing now. We're just a few ahead.

Question: Does anything about Brennan still surprise you?

Emily Deschanel: [laughing] Yeah. I think I was surprised when she started to open up more.


A couple seasons ago, I just love the scene where she asked Sweets to help her learn facial expressions. She's kind of almost on the autistic spectrum -- almost Asbergery, not quite -- but has some characteristics that fit into that. She doesn't really understand how to read people's emotions. I love that she recognized that she didn't know how to do this and get better at it.

I loved the Jersey Shore episode. That surprised me. How much Brennan had studied this culture of the Guidos and how seriously she took it.


In a way, things surprise me and in a way they don't. Of course, she studied the Guidos. She takes it very seriously as an anthropological study. She gonna throw a guy the crap, doing a bodybuiding pose to scare someone away.


It's a lot of fun. Yes and no is my answer. I love so many of her qualities, especially when she's trying to grow as a person and open up.

Question: What advice to you have for young actors?

Emily Deschanel: Study acting. Do theatre. Do as many plays and different kind of characters as you possibly can. Stretch yourself as far as you can. Make it about the acting. So many people get caught up in your looks, the agents, and the business of it all and who you know. If you concentrate on the acting, I can't say that everything will fall into place because I know so many incredible actors who are struggling.


I heard someone say once that it's 95% perserverence and 5% talent. I think that's so true.  Concentrate on the acting. That's all I can say. Concentrate on the acting.


Question: Was it a relief to go back to case-of-the-week episodes after this next emotional episode?

Emily Deschanel: Absolutely. It was an exhausting episode physically. outside in the rain at night. I'm not saying "Poor me" in any way. I'm just saying it was a relief to come back and do episodes about sister wives and things like that.


Definitely a relief. We have an episode coming up, which I was supposed to direct. It was reported that I was supposed to direct an episode about a wedding planner, which I'm excited to read, but I'm not directing that episode after all. Because it turned out they'd have to write me out of the episode before so much and the episode I'm directing so much that I'd be so light in these episodes.


It turns out that we're now after IDOL, and we didn't know that. It's just a wonderful opportunity to be after AMERICAN IDOL. They were worried that if we had two episodes very soon -- early on after IDOL -- in which I'm just not very present in the show, then it might take away. I don't know if that's true. Maybe the audience would rather I not be in the show that much, but Hart was concerned about it.


We are talking about moving me to the end of the season.


That was just one thing I wanted to clear up because it was reported that I was directing this episode, but I am not directing that episode.


It's nice to do -- fluffy may not be the right word for it -- but it's on the fluffier side of things. Doing an episode about a wedding planner and things like that.

Question: What kind of extra work did you need to do for this episode?

Emily Deschanel: I don't know. I hate talking about the acting process. It's a lot of creating, thoughts and memories and all that.  When it's such a heavy episode, you're facing such serious emotions as a character. It's just more demanding; so it takes longer to do. You just work harder on that. It's stuff I love. I love doing that. I like the challenge. I don't think I could do it every single episode. Maybe I'd get used to it. It demands a lot.


Question: Does directing demand even more from you?

Emily Deschanel: Yes, absolutely.


So much has happened in my life recently. There's a lot going on. In a way I was disappointed that we had to move the directing episode, but I was also relieved. I'm going to be able to take some time in the Christmas break to do things I want to do, spending time with family and stuff and not having to work as much because I'd be preparing while I was on Christmas break if I was directing the next episode.


Since I'm not doing that, I can spend time preparing but in advance whatever I can about directing and anticipating things I'll want and need for the episode.


I probably won't know entirely what it will demand of me physically and mentally and everything until I get to the point where I'm actually directing. I think it's one of those kinds of jobs that you can't completely prepare for until you're in it -- certainly until you get the script for the actual episode.


I'm sure it's going to demand a lot of me. I'm excited for that challenge, but I'm also happy to push it a little longer because there's a lot going on right now.