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

Mike Vicic - November 1, 2012



Earlier today, TV Tango participated in a conference call with BONES Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, who discussed the next two episodes, teased upcoming relationships, and revealed what's in store for baby Christine. We transcribed and edited their full phone call and added photos.


BONES returns with new episodes on Monday, November 5th at 8pm ET/PT with "The Method in the Madness," followed one week later by "The Patriot in Purgatory," an episode about an anonymous victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Pelant in Season 8 opener.

Question: Can you tell us when we're going to get back to the Pelant story?

Stephen Nathan: The Pelant story will reappear in January. Pelant is always going to be hanging over their heads in all of the episodes, but he comes back in earnest -- we're actually shooting the episode now, and it will air in January.


Hart Hanson: It's being directed by Rob Harding, and it's one of the biggest episodes we've ever shot. It's very exciting. And he [Pelant] will probably make two more episodes. We're starting to talk about what our season ender will look like, and he may -- or may not -- be a part of that.

Angela in "The Patriot in Purgatory"

Question: What about Angela's future? Will she be moving elsewhere?

Hart Hanson: We have no plans to move Michaela [Conlin, who plays Angela] off the show. For Angela, this is her season to start to think that her life was meant to be bigger than just re-creating crimes and living in a life of murder. She's feeling antsy. I'm very speedy to say that we have no plans to diminish Michaela's involvement in the show.

Booth & Brennan in "The Method in the Madness"

Question: What are you planning to do to keep the tension between Booth and Brennan going?

Hart Hanson: So far, knocking on wood, this has been a very, very rich load for us to mine -- the two of them living together with a baby and continuing to live lives and solve crimes. So far we don't have to do anything big to throw a wrench into that machine anymore. It's working just fine. Lots of new stories -- as many, I think, as we had at the beginning when there was just sexual tension..

Stephen Nathan: I think what we've done this season, hopefully, is kind of give them stories that overwhelm emotionally so we see how they react as couple. We see how their relationship is tested. We're doing that by keeping Pelant alive, by adding somebody to their household -- which will happen soon -- and also putting themselves in situations that neither of them expected themselves to be in.

We have an episode coming up where Brennan has a near-death experience, which really kind of causes her to re-evaluate her life and see everything a little bit differently.

We're just trying to move them along and have these characters evolve and not stay in the same place so, hopefully, it will be surprising for everybody

Booth & Sweets in "The Method in the Madness"

Question: What can you say about Booth and Brennan's reaction to when Sweets moves in?

Hart Hanson: It started out as something we were going to play through one episode, where Sweets needs a place. When he busted up with Daisy, he let her have the apartment; so he's been kind of a nomad since then. They say, "Come on in. You can stay with us for a few days." We were going to do that for one episode, but it was just too much fun. If Stephen and I have one fault -- out of many -- it is that if something's fun, we're going to stick there for a little while.

Stephen Nathan: It's so rich, because you have Sweets who's a psychologist and Brennan who disdains psychology -- now, in a house together, where Brennan can use psychology against her guest. She keeps reading his books, which he leaves in the bathroom [laughing] and then comes out armed with all this new information, which drives him insane.

Angela in the Season 8 premiere.


Question: Stephen, you recently tweeted about roller derby. Can you shed some light on the mayhem?

Stephen Nathan: I've joined a roller derby team. That was kind of a personal tweet.

Hart Hanson: That was very brave, given your brittle bone disease. [laughing]

Stephen Nathan: There's murder at a roller derby team. It's just another world we're entering into that we've never been in before.

Hart Hanson: Angela has a little bit of experience in this area.

Stephen Nathan: That's right. Angela's been roller skating a lot more than anybody knew. She's helping out on a case in a way that she wouldn't normally otherwise. This is somebody who's been a little frustrated with her job. She feels she's lived her life a little too safely lately, and she wants to kind of break out a little bit. Getting slammed into a wall during roller derby seemed like a good way to let that happen for her.

Brennan in Season 8 premiere.


Question: Will Brennan's reasons for being on the run earlier now affect the rest of the season?

Hart Hanson: It keeps coming up. It's a factor in the episode that features Brennan's near-death experience. It's a lot of fun for us, as storytellers, to keep referring to [that]. Someone makes a very rational decision, a smart decision, and it's the right thing to do, but it can still carry bad effects with it. This season is them coming to grips with the fact that Brennan up and went with the baby. It was the right thing to do, but there are consequences to everything. 

Stephen Nathan: Also, Pelant is not going anywhere. They know he's still there; they know his threat exists. That's kind of a cloud that hangs over the entire season. I guess, in a way, all of our people have their own versions of PTSDs. They've all been completely changed by this war with Pelant. That won't go away easily.

Sweets in "The Gun in the Garage"


Question: Some might say that there is an excess of Sweets this season. Is there a reason for that?

Stephen Nathan: Personally, I don't think that's true. I think that's probably eight people on Twitter.

Hart Hanson: I think you're being kind with eight. I think it's one. [laughing]

Stephen Nathan: And we actually know this because it's one person who constantly signs up on Twitter with new names all the time and has zero followers and one tweet. [mocking voice] "Why you doing Sweets so much? Why you doing Sweets so much?" I suggest that one person not close their eyes when Sweets comes on, because it's not true. There are a few different reasons: Sweets is great; we love him. He's a terrific addition to FBI to handle suspects and the victims' survivors from a pyschological perspective -- and help Booth out with the cases.

It's the same thing as those people saying, "Why do you have to have those interns in the lab?" It's part of the show, and we think it's very, very helpful even though that one person is upset.

Hart Hanson: Plus, John Francis Daley has information on the head of the network.

Stephen Nathan: Yeah, and if we don't put him in the show, we can get cancelled. [laughing]

Question: The 9/11 episode [which airs on November 12] features the male interns as her "best squinterns." Why not Daisy?

Hart Hanson: We wanted a team thing. It's Brennan dealing with her team of males, as part of the story in there.

Stephen Nathan: We love Daisy. We love Carla. It's just how it turned out because we needed five interns. I think there was also an availability issue, if I'm not mistaken.

We can't play favorites with the interns because we love them all. 

Hart Hanson: One of my many failings as a showrunner... I went up to Carla to say, "Just because Daisy was breaking up with Sweets didn't mean that she wouldn't be on the show at the same amount." The relief on her face...I thought, "Oh, I really should've talked to her beforehand," but I figured she would just know -- but that's not true, actors never know anything. We have no plans to lose Daisy.

Mary Murphy & Tyce Diorio on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE


Question: What can you preview about the episode the team goes undercover in the ballroom dancing episode?

Hart Hanson: Stephen has been up there cutting it for two weeks.

Stephen Nathan: Apparently, there's a lot of dancing! It's terrific. We have Mary Murphy and Tyce Diorio in it. It's just a lot of fun.

Our undercover episodes are sort of gifts to the hardcore fans, where we all get goofy. It's sort of like doing shots everytime someone says something. [laughing] That's what our undercover episodes are. We just have a good time.

David and Emily just love doing them, and this one's no exception. It's a murder at a ballroom dancing competition, and we find out in this that Booth actually taught ballroom dance when he was in college to make money.

Hart Hanson: Well, that's what he thinks he was doing.

Stephen Nathan: He thought he was doing that; Sweets points out that he was probably just a gigolo for old women.

We have that from Booth's standpoint, and from Brennan's standpoint -- because of her phenomenal knowledge of kinesiology and anatomy -- she believes that as long as she can look at someone dance, she can replicate that exactly. I can just tell you that that's not true.

Hart Hanson: I'll tell you something strange about that episode: I watched David Boreanaz learn how to rumba in five minutes. He's gifted. He's a physically gifted guy.

Stephen Nathan: Seeing them move is really funny. And then we also have populated the episode with tons of winners and runners-up from SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE; so the dancing is really kind of remarkable.

Hart Hanson: If you like dancing, which apparently some people do. I don't think enough dancers died, personally.

Stephen Nathan: Hart's not a big dance person. I try to get him to dance once a day in the office, and it's very difficult. I twirl him around once and then he says, "That's enough!" I don't know what his problem is

Booth in "The Patriot in Purgatory"


Question: Was "The Patriot in Purgatory" episode about 9/11 a personal story for you?

Stephen Nathan: I don't think there's anyone in the country who doesn't have a very, very personal story about 9/11 and what happened on that day and how they were affected. We'd been trying for a long time to do an episode that revolved around that event. We hadn't really found a way to do it up until this point -- partly because the reality of that event should be revisited and also our characters were there. In the first season we had heard that Brennan was one of the forensic anthropologists on the scene and worked there for two weeks identifying remains, as did Cam as a coroner in New York.

Stephen Nathan (cont): We just wanted to try to approach this subject from a completely different point of view -- and from a very personal point of view rather than a political point of view. Also, to deal, not only with the civilians who died, but all of the service men and women who have been deeply affected by the events of that day -- and those people who sacrificed their lives, the ones who we know of and the ones who we still don't know who they are.

Hart Hanson: Stephen had a great way into the story; it's one of my favorite scripts that Stephen wrote. His way into the story was to make the memories of 9/11 come from our squinterns -- where were they & what happened to them. That was what finally gave us a way into the story that didn't seem exploitative or goofy.

Every single year we've talked about what is the 9/11 episode that we can do this year -- from the first year. We started in 2005, and finally here, in the eighth season, Stephen found a way to get it in. I think it's just super.

Stephen Nathan: Also, what we found from that, was from the interns' point of view, they were all very young. They were young, and you don't usually hear that. We do hear it from Cam and from everyone else -- and clearly it changes Brennan in a very, very significant way at the end of that episode, but it was really hearing what kids went through, as well as adults. Of course, we touch on religion a bit, as we always do. It was a very important episode for all of us

Question: Do you have a favorite intern?

Stephen Nathan: No, we really love them all. It's like having a favorite child.

Hart Hanson: I definitely have a favorite intern. Right now, my favorite intern is Vincent Nigel-Murray, because he's gone and we miss them. We really do love them all. We're shocked every year that we get to have them again, because they always go up for network testing for pilots. They're always just an inch from having their own shows. We're very lucky to have every single one of them.

Question: This season, will we see any of the family members that you teased about in the past?

Stephen Nathan: We're actually going to see someone that we don't expect to see -- a family member of Brennan's that we would never expect to see. We're prepping that episode now. We saw her in passing in the past.

We will be seeing other family members. We haven't worked those stories out -- we're in the process of working them out -- but hopefully we can deal with Booth's mother this season.

Question: Will you be adding another squintern this season?

Stephen Nathan: We're developing another intern now as well. That script is being written, and we have to see how that turns out. We definitely do want to add another face on the show, and we also have some people we haven't seen in a while who we might want to bring back in.

Hart Hanson: Pilot season is coming up, and our normal squinterns -- we always have scheduling issues around pilot season with them -- so it behooves us to have one more in our quiver.

Stephen Nathan: We have a quiver? Wow, we have a quiver.

Hart Hanson: Katniss, baby

The team in "The Patriot in Purgatory"

Question: In the 9/11 episode, how does the discovery of the victim affect the characters?

Stephen Nathan: The reality of the victim has a profound effect on everybody, because this is somebody who, until recently, had been undiscovered. This is someone who has been in the Jeffersonian bone room for many years. Giving someone an identity -- someone who died -- everyone's life is worthy of respect and reverence. To have someone, who up until this point had been anonymous, be given their identity back -- their life back -- is a profoundly moving thing for everybody.

Hart Hanson: We know that on 9/11, there were acts of great heroism done -- great, great heroism that nobody knows about. We just wanted to look at that, pull the veil back, on one of those possible stories. That kind of thing has a huge effect on characters.

Question: The next episode also features dancing. Was that choreographed or were the actors just letting loose?

Stephen Nathan: That was letting loose. I would think that any choreography would look at that and say that was letting loose. The other episode [with Mary Murphy and the murder at the ballroom dancing competition], that was choreography. That was letting-loose-ography.

Hart Hanson: I think that one of the adjectives that describes our cast is "irrepressible."

Cam in "The Patriot in Purgatory"

Question: Is Cam's boyfriend going to be someone we already know or is this going to be a new person?

Hart Hanson: It's somebody we know.

Stephen Nathan: It's somebody we know. There's some surprise, and it's not necessarily true that everybody knows.

Question: Are you thinking about the end of this season?

Hart Hanson: Yeah, we're thinking about it. We sort of knew the end of the season as we came in, but everything changes as you work through the season. We're shaping the end of the season. We've got some ideas.

Stephen Nathan: We can tease that it will revolve around the Dharma Initiative, but that's all we can say at this point.

Question: Can you tell us about upcoming guest stars this season?

Hart Hanson: Every time that question gets asked, my brain literally goes blank. I just look at Stephen agape.

Stephen Nathan: My brain goes blank, too, because we have our recurring characters, like Ryan O'Neal, Reed Diamond, Billy Gibbons, and Cyndi Lauper. All these people will be coming back, but the nature of BONES is that it doesn't really provide a lot of big stunt casting because everybody's dead.

Hart Hanson: We're having some fun talking about who might play Booth's mom. And David is very, very interested in that too. [laughing] I don't think we have any big stunt casting coming up.

Question: Have you ever tried to get David's co-stars from BUFFY or ANGEL as guest stars on BONES?

Hart Hanson: No, it's not that we said, "Hey, let's do this." I imagine that if we were to do something like that, stuck up on our wall are things like: What if we got back a bunch of the FREAKS AND GEEKS? What if we got a bunch of the BUFFY people to come? And what if we got a bunch of the ANGEL people to come? We just haven't done that yet. It's in the bin, on the wall, and it just hasn't happened. And Stephen wants GODSPELL people. Aren't you the only survivor, Stephen? Aren't you the lone survivor? Two guys from the Civil War and you.

Stephen Nathan: Guadalcanal and GODSPELL.

Question: What's in store for baby Christine the rest of the season?

Hart Hanson: That poor baby is terrible with dialogue. We can't give that baby any dialogue.

Stephen Nathan: We were told the baby was trained in England, and I think the agent was totally lying to us, because we give these huge emotional scenes between her and Brennan and we just have to cut them out. It's like Brennan says something, and the baby goes, "goo goo ga ga goo goo," and it's just unusable.

Hart Hanson: Now that we've been hilarious on the subject, we'll avoid having the baby, for example, be part of a murder investigation. But the fact that they have a baby, we always have to turn to each other and ask, "OK, where's the baby? What's happening now?" They just can't stay out all night. They just can't do what they used to do; so the baby is sort of woven into the fabric of the show. We don't have any plans, for example, to give baby a horrible disease or any of those things. We're not using the baby as a source of that kind of plots, we're just using the real stuff of raising a child through our stories.

Stephen Nathan: Christine will be in an episode we're doing now, where Brennan is a little concerned that maybe she isn't developing quickly enough -- but it's not a serious concern. It's more just Brennan being competitive with other parents.

Hart Hanson: Brennan wants her baby to be a genius-genius baby, and she might take after Booth.

Stephen Nathan: And it revolves around her ability to play peek-a-boo; so you can tell it's not that intense