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

Mike Vicic - September 5, 2012




Earlier today, TV Tango participated in a conference call with BONES Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, who discussed how Booth and Brennan will be reunited, revealed how Pelant will affect Season 8, and shared their plans for the show's 150th episode. We transcribed and edited their full phone call and added some photos from Season 8 so you could get the full impact of any scoop.



FOX presents the Season 8 premiere of BONES on Monday, September 17th, at 8pm ET.

Question: Why did you update the theme music for the new season?

Hart Hanson: It's like most things that change on BONES. I just woke up in the middle of the night and thought, "You know, Crystal Method basically invented the concept of remixing." Here we were going into an eighth season, and Stephen and I had discussed a slight, almost unhearable, tone change. And I thought we'd see if the Crystal Method guys, Ken [Jordan] and Scott [Kirkland], would be up to doing a little remix for us. And they were! 

Stephen Nathan: They really did a phenomenal job, because we didn't want to lose what the theme was -- what the original was -- but they just managed to take it and update it and make it fresh. We usually update the visuals every year, and this was just gravy. They just did a phenomenal job. I love the new song.

Hart Hanson: The Twitter world has already told us how much they hate it; so we know we're on the right track [laughing]. Something changed.

Question: Will Pelant be at the forefront in the new season?

Stephen Nathan: He's going to be around all season. He'll come and go.


Hart and I both hate serial killers as a rule, but we love this guy. He's just the most interesting multiple murderer that we've ever had on the show.


He's going to color Season 8 a bit.


Hart Hanson: Color it red. [laughing]

Stephen Nathan: No one is going to be able to rest easy in Season 8.


But we're probably focusing more on doing great murders this season than we have in the past. We just want to get the show back to the basics; however, all of their personal lives have been altered by what happened with Pelant and with Brennan being gone. With sort of the honeymoon period of our series being over, now they have to deal with the realities of their relationships and their lives, as well as Pelant and this dark cloud that hangs over them.


It's not going to be dealt with in every episode, but Pelant is not going away.

Question: What is the contract status for David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel?

Hart Hanson: They are currently negotiating through Season 9. Well, I shouldn't say that because I don't know how many years beyond that the studio is negotiating with them. Generally, it comes in chunks -- it might be three; it might be seven. I don't know. Part of the negotiations is how many years it is.


They are currently in negotiations with the studio through at least Season 9. We're pretty confident that they'll come to an agreement.


Stephen Nathan: As far as the details of the negotiations, we don't really know anything about that. That's between the studio and the actors.

Question: Do you worry about the effects of negotiation when it's public?

Hart Hanson: No, I don't worry at all. David is a mischievous guy. He loves lobbing hand grenades out. I think he really gets a kick  out of all the stuff I try to avoid, which is people hollering on Twitter. It's all part of the game to him. I don't think there's any serious angst or bile behind it.


Stephen Nathan: The undercurrent of all of David's tweets or anything he does online or in the press is that he loves doing the show. He's better than ever in the show, and I think he wants to come back as much as we want him back and as much as we want it to work out. It doesn't seem to be a real issue.

Question: How long did you plan the twist in the first episode of Season 8?

Hart Hanson: We know what happens -- well, of course we do, it's our job to know what happens. That was the natural end for us for that first episode -- to extend the Pelant story and raise another question. How's that for obfuscation? Does he have help? We don't know what the motive is. It's a gulch hanger, not a cliffhanger, just to keep that story alive in people's minds. 


Stephen Nathan: It's just to raise questions. And there are many different answers to questions.

Hart Hanson: [laughing] You sounded like a rabbi there.

Question: Will there still be an intern of the week?

Hart Hanson: We're going to keep our revolving gang of interns. It just really works for us. We always check on their availabilities because these are very very talented people, and they're going to be sucked away into their own TV shows. As long as we can have them work, we're going to hang on to them.


Stephen Nathan: Also, we will be meeting new interns at some point this season, and also revisting interns we haven't seen as much as we want to. We're still open to that. We just love having that revolving door in the lab. It works very well for us.

Question: Will we see more of people's extended families this season?

Stephen Nathan: Brennan's dad will be back. We hope to have Booth's grandfather, and maybe even meet a couple of other family members. 


Hart Hanson: I hope Billy Gibbons will be back -- because that's just total fun for us -- to play Angela's dad. We are looking at nascient storylines for Hodgins' brother. And we're very interested in the back nine somewhere meeting Booth's mom and having Booth's mom meet Brennan. We haven't figured out that story yet, but it's in our bin. It's about time to see Booth's family for a little bit.


Everybody always asks if we're going to have Brennan's cousin Margaret, who is played by Zooey Deschanel, back, but she seems very very busy on her own show.

Stephen Nathan: [jokingly] She has a show?


Hart Hanson: Yeah, an amusing half hour.

Stephen Nathan: [still jokingly] I gotta watch that. We have some ideas for Booth's mom; so we're investigating that. We want to make that good.

Question: What can you say about Cam's love interest?

Hart Hanson: Oh, nothing. That's not quite true.


It is not someone you won't recognize. That's about all we're saying about it. It's not a brand-new person. It's someone the fans will recognize. If we're good, they didn't see it coming. If we're not, they'll see it coming.


Stephen Nathan: I didn't see it coming. [laughing] I still don't know who it is.

Hart Hanson: That's your short-term memory loss, though.

Question: What can you tell us about the reunion scene between David and Emily?

Hart Hanson: They did have fun. We had written one reunion, and they came and asked, "Can we go a little farther with this?" So we upped the energy [laughing] of them seeing each other again.


It's one of those things that you discuss at great length. How mad is Booth at Brennan? How anxious are they to see each other? And how does all of this manifest in one split second? We ended up talking to them about it -- and to the director, Ian Toynton, who is our directing producer -- and that is where we got. And we were pretty pleased.

Hart Hanson: There's nothing better than having actors come to you and say they want to do more, not less, especially going into the beginning of Season 8. We were tickled with it.


They just wanted to wreck a little more furniture. [laughing] There were no injuries.


Stephen Nathan: No, there were no injuries. They just had a great time doing it.


Hart Hanson: David's extremely strong, and Emily's extremely limber and strong herself. They are mighty, those two.


Stephen Nathan: We were happy they broke furniture.

Question: How will Booth's reaction to Brennan's return evolve during the first few episodes?

Stephen Nathan: Initially, you're very happy to see somebody, but all of the three months of being abandoned, essentially, doesn't go away. That's still kind of bubbling inside. In the second episode, we'll see some evidence of that. There are things they have to get past. Even though they understand what happened to each other, that doesn't mean that's it's easy to move on and to go back to what they had before. Everything will have changed a bit.


Hart Hanson: We loved the idea that just because the decision is right and good and the most sensible, rational decision that it's still painful for people. And they have to get by that. Maybe it's even tougher when no one was in the wrong. Stephen's right, the second episode addresses that head on.

Question: How do the others respond?

Hart Hanson: Two of our people, Angela and Sweets, are not scientists and tend to recognize that people are more complex than simply rational and doing what's right. Sweets and Angela stand a little to the left of the others who get it, who simply say, "That was the smartest thing to do, and I would've done the same thing." -- Hodgins and Cam, especially, as scientists.


It splashes all over everybody. For us it's fun that her being away caused trouble between Booth and Angela, as they are the two most human -- I want to say emotional -- people, and they actually end up being angry, in a way, at each other. The more rational people are going, "Yes, that's what had to happen."

Stephen Nathan: The other people who aren't so intimately involved understand. They understand and they're just happy to have her back. As we deal with those isses in the first episode, you see how everyone is affected at the end.

Hart Hanson: I think that Hodgins, for example, thinks he's OK with it, but in the first episode he does something that is very un-Hodgins like. It's very very aggressive, and we think it stems out of what happened to his friends. I hope the audience gets all that, too.

Question: What was the biggest challenge keeping the characters and their relationships fresh during the first seven seasons?

Hart Hanson: Stephen and I spend every morning. We have a cup of coffee. First we argue about politics and our families and movies and books, because we don't agree on everything. Then we segue from that life stuff into what we're going to do on our show. I like to think that out of that half-hour or 45-minute conversation that we have, we send it up to a writers' room...they're just so good this year.

Stephen Nathan: We have an extraordinary group of writers, led by John Collier, who just see the world in such a unique way. They're giving us murders and body finds that we've never seen before.


I think if the characters stay fresh, the show stays fresh, because they lead the way. These writers understand that. We try to follow the characters' leads -- that's the only way for it to stay fresh.

Hart Hanson: And we listen to the actors, too, by the way. These people have been playing the face of these characters for seven seasons. Every hiatus, we meet with each one of them one-on-one and ask, "Who do you like to be in scenes with?" and "What do you think your character..." and have a hanging and dreaming conversation. We get a lot of ideas from that. We want them all connected and invested in what they're doing. We're very lucky to have that group of people on our show.


Stephen Nathan: Hart and I are both old married men. We've been married for so many years to our wives. BONES is another wife and it's a very very good marriage. It's not boring. It's still alive. We still have sex. [both laughing]

Question: Can you speculate whether there might be a wedding in the future of Booth and Bones?

Hart Hanson: There might be!


Stephen Nathan: There might be. But it's only Season 8, we're just beginning. [laughing] We're only beginning.

Question: Will Flynn have a story arc in Season 8? Is he good or bad?

Hart Hanson: We would never tell you....but, yes, there is an arc with him. It's complicated and fun, and we have an end plan with that.


Is he good or is he bad? It was really fun talking to Reed Diamond about that, too, because after that last scene he said, "So what's the story?" I'm pretty sure I didn't tell him either, but we know what it is.


It's one of those things -- is he a threat or is he a supportive? That's our story. We'll find out.

Question: What can you tell us about Episode 805?

Hart Hanson: It's crime-scene cleanup. That's where we find out who Cam is with.


Stephen Nathan: We find out who Cam is with, which will be a big big surprise, and Brennan and the squint go up against someone whose entire life is devoted to eliminating evidence. Their's is discovering it. So it's SPY VS. SPY.

Question: Can you talk about how Booth and Brennan represent emotion versus rational thought?

Hart Hanson: Definitely, and from the beginning, part of the thing that really appealled to me about BONES was that I would get my chance to do a series where the engine is rational thought versus humanism and emotion versus empiricism and all that stuff.


We owe a huge debt to many many pairings through storytelling history who have had that dynamic: Holmes and Watson; Spock and Kirk; THE X-FILES; Aubrey and Maturin from the Patrick O'Brian novels are my personal favorite.


I think it's something that we face politically, religiously. Our whole Western world is a huge conflict between the absolutely rational and scientific mode and the religious / superstitious / emotional mode. Most people kind of meet in the middle; so the fact that we can have two polar opposities end up together, raising a child, while solving violent crimes -- I think that's a great engine for a series. 

Stephen Nathan: I think it was also a little important to both of us to take on this sort of religious debate, where you can have people of faith and people who can be described as secular humanists or atheists or something, that can work and live together and most of all love each other -- and have successful lives together without constantly being at war. Everybody's got to get over themselves a little bit.

Hart Hanson: I'm quite proud. Quite a religious person came up to me and said that he was very grateful that the religious people in our show were not portrayed as superstitious morons. I was very glad to hear that, because we don't want to come down on one side or the other. We're all about debate and all about questioning.


That's the engine of our series, as much as solving crimes is.

Question: How will the twist with Pelant in the season opener affect Brennan's work?

Hart Hanson: Brennan has an ability to put her head down and  concentrate on what's in front of her. Some would call it her retreat. When the world gets too complicated, she simply stares at what's in front of her and works that. She's not someone to brood and worry. That's Booth's area. He's the one that's always looking around.


The most common visual on BONES is when they're standing over the body -- and I have to give this to the actors. When they're standing over the human remains, Brennan is usually on the ground with her nose about an inch from something disgusting, looking at details, and his [Booth's] eyes are looking around to see what's out there -- what threats are out there and what answers are out there.

The Pelant thing is more a haunting for Booth than it is for Brennan, until it is something that she has to face -- until it's put in front of her nose, in other words.


I don't think it's a spoiler to say that by the end of the season opener, Brennan is able to go back to work at the Jeffersonian.


Stephen Nathan: I think it's important that she's able to go back to work and go back home, but nothing is safe. No one can rest easy.

Hart Hanson: He's still out there.

Question: What were your writing challenges for the season opener?

Hart Hanson: For me, it was the first time I had co-written a script with Stephen Nathan, and it was just an absolute nightmare. [laughing]


Stephen Nathan: Actually, that's not true!

Hart Hanson: We've co-written before?


Stephen Nathan: Yes, we have a few times.

Hart Hanson: We've divvied things up, but have we written by Hart & Stephen? I have no memory of that.


Stephen Nathan: We have. It's just so horrible that we put it out of our minds. [laughing]

Hart Hanson: I'm being very very facetious because I'm really not a good co-writer. I fail at it constantly, but it goes very very well with Stephen, because we just toss things back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.


Creatively, we had to figure out a bunch of things. One was how long was Brennan going to be on the run, and I think it took about 10 minutes for us to discuss alternatives. The goal in our show, as far as we're concerned and I think the audience, is for Booth and Brennan being together; so not a good plan to start out a season with them apart for any length of time. Also, I think an audience goes, "Come on, we know they're going to get back together. What are you taking so long for?"


Then, we discussed at great length the question that has come up a couple times, which is "What happens when they see each other?" and "What's the hangover from their three-month separation from each other?" Stephen, do you remember where our plot notion of having Brennan help solve Pelant's first murder came from?


Stephen Nathan: It was difficult to find a way to do what is essentially a standard episode of BONES, where we discover a body, find out who the murderer is, and yet have that be the re-introduction of Brennan. The only way we could think to do that was to have Brennan find the remains and bring our squints and Booth into that story. That was done, of course, with the help of the writers' room, but it seemed to be the only way to get Booth and Brennan together immediately.

Hart Hanson: She got some advice from her dad: look for the first killing. That's where a serial killer makes his mistakes. That set us off on the trail of Pelant.


Stephen Nathan: Since she was involved, we could bring our people into it. And, of course, Booth within an act and half was going to find Brennan. And then we have our couple together again, still on the lam, but they're together.

Question: If you were in Brennan's spot, how would you personally stay away from the FBI?

Hart Hanson: I would fail miserably. Going on the lam and being off the grid is so hard...when you do any kind of research into it. I think they'd catch me the first time I stopped to get gas.


Stephen Nathan: I think you're making too big a deal about this. I know exactly what I would do. I would call the writers and have them tell me how the hell to get out of this fix.

Hart Hanson: Stephen, what would you do if you couldn't go to your ATM to get money? And you can't use your credit cards. That's it. You'd surrender. You'd surrender!


Stephen Nathan: No, no. Nuts and berries. Nuts and berries and sleeping on the beach, and you can always eat a squirrel.

Hart Hanson: I know one guy who worked as an undercover cop for 25 years, a mountie who's a really good friend of mine. What I would actually do is go to him and hope that he decided to help me. Then I'd be OK, but otherwise I'd be doomed. I'd bring you with me, Stephen, don't worry.


Stephen Nathan: I'm still calling the writers.

Question: What do you have planned for the show's 150th episode, which airs this season?


Stephen Nathan: A massage..[laughing]...that's a lot of episodes.

Hart Hanson: Who are you kidding, that's not special for you.


Our 150th episode to air is a weird episode. It's going to be an episode told where we see everything from the point of view of the victim. It was very tricky to shoot, because it could be claustrophubic. We needed a very heart-tugging story so that the person whose death we are solving is an actual character. It's a boy. We don't usually use kids because we can't laugh, and it's not a funny episode.

Hart Hanson: It's an outsider's view -- a very single view -- of our team at work. In a way, it shows what the camera doesn't usually show. It shows how each of our characters interacts with a victim when no one else is looking but the victim. It's a little bit elegiac, melancholy.


Cyndi Lauper is in it as our resident psychicic, who knows that the victim is watching us and is trying to help find out what the victim needs so they can move on -- and, by the way, it's not to solve the murder. The victim needs something else.


Stephen Nathan: It's a very unique episode -- how it's shot, the tone of it. It's been a real challenge to put together. A challenge like that gives you the most satisfaction. Everybody's come together for this one. Not only was it a great script, it was beautifully directed, the actors are terrific, and are visual effects team is working on it as well as the sound mixers. It's really a very rich episode, and it should be unique for the 150th.


Now, of course, we're planning the 300th [deadpan].

Hart Hanson: It's going to be a wild romp.


Stephen Nathan: It will be from Hart's and my perspective. [laughing]