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Q&A Interview with Hart Hanson & Stephen Nathan, Executive Producers of BONES

Mike Vicic - March 29, 2012




TV Tango recently participated in a conference call with Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, executive producers of BONES. Hanson and Nathan dished about the next two episodes, discussed the Booth-Brennan relationship, and talked about upcoming guest stars for the rest of Season 7.

BONES returns with new episodes on new night and time -- Monday, April 2, 2012 at 8pm on FOX.






Question: What's the definitive answer for how the episodes will play out this season?

Hart Hanson: You haven't heard a definitive answer because there isn't one yet. All we know is that we have a season ender, and that will leave us with four extra episodes that have to be able to be slotted anywhere at anytime without notice. That's all we know.

Stephen Nathan: There's been no word from FOX when they want to air them -- whether they want to air them in the Summer or whether they want to save them for next season.

Hart Hanson: We just don't know. That made for four kind-of-interesting episodes.

Stephen Nathan: It might be that the executives at FOX just watch them at lunch amongst themselves; we haven't been told.


Question: Now that Booth and Brennan have a baby together, will the FBI become an obstacle at work?

Hart Hanson: We're not planning a storyline in which the FBI says "You can't be partners." We discussed it, and then we thought if we tell that story, there isn't a single audience member who's going to go, "Oh my god, I wonder if they'll never be allowed to work together again?" It may come up time to time, especially from Sweets, that it's odd to have a couple working together. But it's not the oddest thing in the world.

Stephen Nathan: The most important thing for us is to keep the show on the same footing it's been for seven years, which is: This is a murder show and Booth and Brennan are always going to be working together to solve these murders. We don't ever intend to take that away. That's not to say that it won't be incredibly difficult for them, but it won't be because of any bureaucratic nonsense that will make it difficult. It will just be the difficulties they have working together, as they always have.


Question: When do you decide which Squintern you use for an episode?

Hart Hanson: It's a three-fold thing: (1) We figure out who we haven't seen for a while; (2) We figure out who would best fit the story; and (3) We find out if that person is available. Usually, all three of those things don't occur at the same time.

Stephen Nathan: Sometimes we have finished a script, are very excited that the intern of our choice is going to be in it -- only to find out that they're unavailable. So we have to rewrite the script. We've been very fortunate because these stories were very, very specific. We definitely wanted Daisy to be in the episode where the baby is born, and Finn's starting an arc in the episode following. We were glad that worked out to; he's just been a phenomenal addition to the show.


Question: With the arrival of the baby, can we still expect BONES to primarily focus on a case of the week?

Stephen Nathan: There's always been that balancing act of their personal life and the cases, but we're a murder show. That will not change. But when we do go home, they have a new arrival, which changes their lives. The baby will be a part of the show, because it's a part of their lives, but somebody is still going to be murdered in a heinous and cruel way. And we will be revolted at the beginning of the show, as we always have. And hopefully, we'll catch them.

Hart Hanson: The balance won't change, but the context will.


Stephen Nathan: Oh, that was great!

Hart Hanson: I had the time to think up a few different thoughts while you were talking..

Stephen Nathan: That was one great sentence. I'm going to use that.


Question: How will the arrival of the baby change Brennan?

Hart Hanson: We've always seen Brennan as a character who, because of her upbringing, was kind of afraid of life. She did not want to engage with life, or she had to be protected by a veneer of rationality, logic and science. The first thing to come and challenge -- and breach those walls -- was Booth, who made her lead a more dangerous life, at least emotionally and that her happiness was contingent upon another person's happiness. Now she has a child, and you might be able to avoid a lover but definitely not a child. That's what she is contending with. She is now a big, open bruise because of another human being, and she will find that very disorienting. One sentence, Stephen? [laughing]


Stephen Nathan: That was really good; you're on fire today. Brennan is so objective, even about herself, that she is caught off-guard by all these new feelings. I think that's what's great for us in terms of writing the show. We get to see a character that is astonished by these new feelings and this new behavior, as the audience is. We saw that in the first six episodes when her hormones were going crazy and she was crying, which she had never done before. She has different emotions that she's unaccustomed to. All of that will continue.

Hart Hanson: In one of our four hanging-chad stories, the younger victim is a kid. Brennan turns to Booth in a very shocked way and says, "I find I have a great need to go see [baby's name removed] and that makes no rational sense." She's just shocked someone has gotten so deeply into her heart.

Stephen Nathan: Actually, the second episode back, it's the first time she's going back to work and she has to deal with leaving her baby for the first time. Emily just did a wonderful job. It's a great new area for us to explore.


Question: Is the house going to be ready? Is Booth ready to give in on the issue that Brennan makes more money and can maybe do more financially for the baby?

Stephen Nathan: They're dealing with it. It's back and forth. It's what happens with any couple. The need to compromise and the ability to do so are not always the same.

Hart Hanson: A lot of feedback that we get is that Booth is perfect and Brennan isn't. And Booth is not perfect. He has to, in his own way, have to give up as much as she does in this new life. That is ongoing -- how much is she going to pay for and how much is he going to pay for. We get a lot of comedy out of it as well as character stuff. It's a good fertile field.

Stephen Nathan: The house is not in the shape it was in the last episode. It's comedy, but it's a little too dangerous -- it requires a tetanus shot.



Question: Can you tell us about the decision to reveal Brennan's pregnancy before you revealed that Booth and Brennan were together?

Hart Hanson: Before revealing they were lovers... I can't stand the word lovers. I can't stand it. I think only English people can say that. We always knew that the end of Season 6 would be the reveal that Booth and Brennan had slept together. We knew they were going to sleep together. What changed everything was when Emily confided in us that she was pregnant, and we decided to adjust the storyline for Season 7, accordingly. Season 7 would've been the story of how Booth and Brennan come to grips with the fact that they are now intimate and sexually involved. We threw out half a season, perhaps more, and inserted that they were going to have a child.

  Really, the only thing that changed in Season 6 was the very last scene, where she turns to Booth and says, "I'm pregnant, and you're the father." That scene would not have existed, but mostly that season would've been intact, as it was. What we have to do now is show the romance in a couple that's been together and has a child. What the audience is going to miss is the unfolding courtship of Booth and Brennan, and we could not be happier to avoid that.


Question: How much time will Brennan take for maternity leave once the baby is born?

Stephen Nathan: It's a short amount of time. It's probably six weeks, maybe eight weeks, between the time the baby arrives and she goes back to work.

Hart Hanson: She gets, oddly, about the same amount of time as Emily had. We did not want to do a story where our main crime solver was at home for a number of episodes. That seemed, to us, a really good way to lose a ton of viewers and momentum; so it's right back into the fray. Mind you, we do contend with who's going to take care of the baby, and how is Brennan going to juggle her being a mom living with Booth, how is Booth going to juggle her and baby, and do their jobs. But they're still doing their jobs.

  Stephen Nathan: We didn't want to turn the show into some domestic show where the murder was the secondary aspect. The murder is still the primary focus of the show, and their domestic lives are crucial and important and what we love about the show, but people are still dead.


Question: Given the number and timing of the episodes this season, were there any character arcs or storylines that you pushed off until next year?

Stephen Nathan: The four episodes will not be arc-related. They have to be able to stand on their own. In those four episodes, we were able to stories that we wouldn't normally have done in a regular lineup.

Hart Hanson: Very stand-alone, and maybe even a bit odd, with gags and conceits to them.

Stephen Nathan: They're more stylized than we normally would do, and we tried to tackle stories that we might normally have tried to tackle. We don't know how old the baby's going to be. We don't know what's going to happen to relationships between people. These really will be stand-alone.


Hart Hanson: We hope that Hodgins' hair doesn't change too much.

Stephen Nathan: And the baby could be in college.


Hart Hanson: Were you asking if we also had to jettison any arcs because of a shorter season? Yes, but we knew what was coming when we started the season. It's not like started some and then withdrew them, but we have many arcs and ideas -- a binful of ideas -- for them that we simply didn't pull out because it wasn't going to go in this year. I'm pretty sure the one that we would've gotten to had we had a normal length of a year would be some more Booth family stuff. And I still want to do a Hodgins family surprise. But those just went away because of a shortened season and because we had these strong B-character stories related to the baby.

Stephen Nathan: There are five fewer episodes, and that's a lot of missing arcs, but they'll be back if we're back.


Question: When people have babies, it usually brings in extended family. Are we going to be seeing any of that on the show?

Hart Hanson: Yes.

Stephen Nathan: We'll certainly see Brennan's dad. He'll return. We've already seen Booth's grandfather this year, under sad circumstances. Certainly going into next year, we're going to see the extended families.


Question: [BONES writer] Carla Kettner teased that Christopher Pelant is going to scare the crap out of people in the season finale. What can you tease about that?

Hart Hanson: Pelant is going to scare the crap out of people in the season finale.

Stephen Nathan: I think, yes, there will be no more crap left in people anymore after Pelant's episode. He is really going to turn the series on its head for a little bit. He has much more power than any of our serial bad guys have had in the past.


Question: Besides her daughter dating a Squintern, does Cam have anything else coming up in the last batch of episodes?

Stephen Nathan: She's been very heavily involved this season in the lab with our people, kind of as the boss. She's sort of taken that role...that role's been expanded a bit, and you'll see that in subsequent episodes. We have a lot planned for Cam personally, but as Hart said earlier, our hands were a little bit tied this year. Because of the five fewer episodes we weren't able to give some of the other characters that we love, Hodgins and Cam, more extensive arcs. We will be doing that if we get picked up.

Hart Hanson: We'll get picked up, Stephen.

Stephen Nathan: We will? But we're so heavy.


Question: Are there going to be more Angela-Brennan heart-to-hearts, like in Seasons 1 and 2, now that they're both new mothers?

Hart Hanson: Yes, there's two episodes that we've done in the past month that have good Angela and Brennan stuff in them -- not all over the fact that they are moms, but that certainly helps.

Stephen Nathan: We've had a few. One where Angela and Brennan leave the lab and kind of play hooky. We do have them, and now Cam is also involved in that sort of relationship. She's become a bit closer to Angela and Brennan. But Angela and Brennan, we do see them quite intimately in a few episodes.


Hart Hanson: Angela has her own issues on how she's changed, being a married woman with a child, that we explore a little bit. She's better situated to understand what Brennan is going through, feeling that she's changed -- although Angela is more nostalgic for who she used to be than Brennan is. She's more reflective. In my mind it's come up at least three times in the last six episodes, and at least one really strong storyline. I think in the season ender, the audience will get a very good feeling for how close Angela and Brennan are. In some ways, Angela knows Brennan better than Booth does, in that way another friend of the same sex can understand you more than your partner.

Stephen Nathan: And she knows Brennan better than Brennan does.

Hart Hanson: That's a good line, Stephen.

Stephen Nathan: You can have that one. I'll take that context one. I like that context one because it sounds smarter.


Question: Will Booth and Brennan be making any concessions about the baby?

Hart Hanson: My glib response is: every single episode, where they have anything to do with home and kids, is a constant tradeoff between the two as to what they are willing to give up for the other.

Stephen Nathan: We've seen seven years of these two people having such a different view of life, and that will not change.


Question: Is Stapes a reference to the 100th episode?

Hart Hanson: [long pause] It's a little echo. We give tons of little waves, and a ton of them come down from the writers' room and we don't even know that they're there until they're there.

Stephen Nathan: The pause you heard was Stapes does appear again, and we're working on that again as we speak.


Question: Who is the brilliant mind behind where Brennan is giving birth?

Hart Hanson: We had a discussion about it, but Stephen was that your idea?

Stephen Nathan: To be perfectly honest, I don't know if it was. I think John Collier came up with that after we had many, many discussions. There were so many things thrown into the hopper. It's so funny, we've done now 713 episodes [laughs] and it's very difficult.

Hart Hanson: We don't always remember.


Stephen Nathan: Sometimes I go home and I wake up with Hart's wife and he's in bed with mine [laughter]. We don't know what the hell is going on anymore.

Hart Hanson: John Collier wrote that episode, and there's a ton of my friend Stephen Nathan in there.

Stephen Nathan: It all kind of runs together; the overlap is appreciated.


Question: Was the BONES cast worried that you would be too busy on THE FINDER?

Hart Hanson: Yes. BONES is a pretty tight theater company. We're a tight bunch. We've been together a long time. There was concern, but I don't think they thought the show would fall apart. Stephen Nathan has been here since the first episode. If I died, the show would go on -- there might be more jokes in it and more references to bagels, but otherwise Stephen's perfectly capable. They weren't worried on a professional level; it's just like what is going to happen to our plucky gang.


It's mostly a pleasure to work on BONES, and we like each other. It's more like I was moving a block away or something, but my office is in the same place. Both shows are shot on the lot. Stephen and I share a porch -- our office share this ugly little porch. We cannot get away from each other. And the actors are just a stage away; so they wander into my office.


I think they mostly realized since I wasn't physically going anywhere, they had nothing to worry about. As I say, Stephen Nathan is a very confidence-inspiring guy. He just stepped into the gap that I left.


Now THE FINDER hasn't been shooting for a month, maybe more, we're enjoying working more closely again.


Question: Why were only John Francis Daley and TJ Thyne guest stars on THE FINDER?

Hart Hanson: BONES shut down for a period of time and wasn't shooting. It was during that time that we could use BONES actors on THE FINDER. John was the first one because the story of having someone down to look at Walter's mental competency was a good storyline for us and a really natural fit. And then the next story that suggested TJ was a conspiracy theorist story. If it had been another kind of story, then we would've brought down Cam or Angela.


Of course, Emily couldn't be in it because she was busy having a baby. David, we could've had him in an episode, but he very much wanted to direct an episode; so that's when he directed -- during that downtime. I hope -- I'm knocking on wood, we have an uphill climb -- that if THE FINDER comes back, then eventually everybody [from BONES] will be on it.


Question: What does French director Francois Velle bring to the show?

Stephen Nathan: Francois is a fabulous addition to the show, and he's perfect for the episode he's directing now. It's one of our most serious episodes, and he just has a tremendous sensitivity and a beautiful connection with the show. He's just a wonderful director.

Hart Hanson: Also, a French accent.

Stephen Nathan: And the French accent's very good; it makes everbody hungry.