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Q&A Interview with BONES EPs Hart Hanson & Stephen Nathan About Season 9

Mike Vicic - September 13, 2013




Earlier today, TV Tango participated in a conference call with BONES Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, who dished about Pelant and the next big bad, revealed a few details about Booth and Brennan's wedding (and honeymoon!), and discussed what's in store for Angela, Hodgins, Sweets, and a few fan-fave guest stars



Season 9 of BONES debuts on Monday, September 16, 2013 at 8pm ET/PT, and will then move to Fridays at 8pm ET/PT starting November 8. (Note: BONES will not air Monday, November 4.).


NOTE: We've rearranged the order of the questions and answers, grouping together multiple questions about these themes and topics: Pelant; the wedding; Booth and Brennan in Season 9 and beyond; other regulars in Season 9 and beyond; guest stars in Season 9; and general questions about the show.

Question: Can you talk about how Pelant will come to the forefront again?

Stephen Nathan: Pelant will definitely figure in their lives quite heavily in the first few episodes. We will see him again. We will see him in a way we haven't before. It will be a far more intense episode -- it will be them confronting him in a way we haven't see before.


Hart Hanson: They're going to get married, and they can't really get married until the issue of Pelant has been dealt with one way or another. We're doing that fairly quickly; we're not teasing this out through the whole season.

Stephen Nathan: We've strung along the audience for eight years; Season 9 we're starting to resolve things. Not everything, because there will be a Season 10 through 14. [laughing] But at this point, we will be moving things along.



Question: Because of the presence of Pelant, will characters be fearing what they can't see?

Stephen Nathan: Yes, he's going to be a presence until that storyline is resolved in some way. We're close to resolving it, but not in the way that everybody expects.


Hart Hanson: As one of our characters says, "You don't even know for sure if Pelant is watching, but just the sheer possibility makes you have to be paranoid."



Question: Will a new single threat take over for Pelant?


Hart Hanson: Pelant is part of uncovering our next big bad.

Stephen Nathan: There will be someone else who looms over our people in a way we have yet to see on BONES. It's someone who is far more ephemeral than any of our other bad guys. As Hart said, it's someone who comes to our attention because of Pelant.



Question: Can you give a hint as to whether Pelant is killed or arrested?


Hart Hanson: I blurted something out at Comic Con. Here's what the question was that was sprung on me: "Do you know how Pelant dies?" And I said, "Oh, yeah." So there you go. It's a matter of public record, but I could've been wrong, though.

Stephen Nathan: If I could just interject. We do know how he dies, but we also know when he dies. That throws a little bit of a monkey wrench in what Hart said. I wish it was as simple as "He dies and everything's great."



Question: When will the situation with Pelant be resolved?

Stephen Nathan: It will be resolved. It will definitely be resolved.


Hart Hanson: You notice how I clam up on these questions and Stephen just sallies forth.

Stephen Nathan: I wish we could give you more information, but I think it's safe to say that whenever they think they know what Pelant is doing, they're thrown a curveball. As simple as it would be to just go in and kill him, it might not be that easy.


Hart Hanson: I'd like to point out that you got a sports metaphor out of Stephen Nathan. That's really, really rare. You said "curveball." That's a baseball term.



Question: Has your experience with Pelant changed your approach to villains or future big bads?


Hart Hanson: Yeah. Stephen and I don't really like serial killers, but we know America does, so we always have these big bads, these serial killers, come along. Pelant gave us a great amount of joy to play with. We got something right, at least as far as we're concerned, with Pelant, so we kept him around a long time. He's kind of set the bar. When we're talking about this next big bad -- we're spoiled now -- it has to be someone as interesting to us as Pelant was. We think we've got that, and now we have to find out if our audience agrees.

Question: What can you tell us about Booth and Brennan's wedding?

Stephen Nathan: There will be vows. [deadpan]

Hart Hanson: We put a lot of effort into giving the audience what they want, which is a wedding in a way they don't expect it. I hope we've been successful in that.

Question: Are any of the wedding guests [link to TV Guide story about wedding guest list: spoilers] going to be part of the plot?

Stephen Nathan: Certainly, some people are involved in the case, but we're not inviting the murderer to the wedding.

Hart Hanson: In fact, there are a group of people who are at the wedding because of the case, but that's about all I would say about it.



Question: Is there going to be a honeymoon and will it involve a case?

Hart Hanson: Yes, there's a honeymoon, and, of course, there is murder. Can we say more about it, Stephen?

Stephen Nathan: Somebody did tease something about it, so it's out there. They go to Buenos Aires on their honeymoon.

Hart Hanson: Buenos Aires has a certain history that demands someone like Brennan.

Stephen Nathan: ...and Booth. We'll tease this one little thing. They do go on their honeymoon, and it turns out that the entire country of Argentina is madly in love with Brennan's books -- and it takes a turn that even Brennan didn't see coming.

Question: What's next for Booth and Brennan after the wedding? They already have a child?

Stephen Nathan: The reason we didn't hold it off to the end of the series is that Booth and Brennan getting married is just a natural extension of their evolving relationship. Now, they're not going to be all that much different. They're still Booth and Brennan. Their differences remain. Now, they're just going to settle into one aspect of their life, while being tested all the more. We kind of wanted them to get married and then put them in the most extreme situations we possibly could for the remainder of the year to test that relationship.

Hart Hanson: Between the two of us, Stephen and I have been married for 50 years, so something we know is that just because you get married doesn't mean that everything goes simply. Not to each other; we haven't been married to each other for 50 years.

Stephen Nathan: What we're trying to come up with murders we've never seen before, [and] crimes, motives, clues that will test them -- that will sort of increase the tension in that marriage -- and to see how two people you love will deal with that.



Question: What can we expect from Roxie and Tony in the next undercover episode?

Hart Hanson: David [Boreanaz] and Emily [Deschanel] love doing Roxie and Tony so much that it's a little disturbing.

Stephen Nathan: We haven't seen Roxie and Tony since the second season.

Hart Hanson: They [David and Emily] love Wanda and Buck Moosejaw, but they really like Tony and Roxie. What they're doing is going to a marriage counseling retreat, which is ironic since (a) they're not married and (b) they have this issue hanging over them. Tony and Roxie are louder than Brennan and Booth, so they get to work out some stuff undercover, while trying to catch a murderer.

Stephen Nathan: Yeah, their mouths are uncensored. Roxie and Tony get to a lot of things that Booth and Brennan might not get to. It's always great to see these two do an undercover episode. It's a hilarious situation they're in. We have a phenomenal guest cast. Certainly having a couples retreat with various couples interacting with Tony and Roxie gives us a lot of great stuff.
haven't seen Roxie and Tony since the second season.

Hart Hanson: And there's a fat suit involved.

Stephen Nathan: Yes, there is a fat suit that sort of is like a balloon.

Question: What will happen to the broken relationship between Angela and Booth?

Hart Hanson: They both love Brennan. Don't step between sisters, which Booth has done. That's going to take a while to play out, because hurtful things were said and they don't immediately fix themselves overnight.

Stephen Nathan: Best friends are relentless and they will defend a friend to the death. Booth has to get past that; Angela does, too. She has to understand what's going on, but she doesn't have the information yet.

Hart Hanson: Angela is the ultimate shipper. You know what, if the shippers are mad at me, then so is Angela.



Question: Will Hodgins and Angela have their own undercover episode?

Stephen Nathan: We've been mulling that over. Michaela [Conlin, who plays Angela] has. She's done it twice. She went undercover with Sweets to a chiropractor's office, and she went roller skating. She actually has done it. TJ [Thyne, who plays Hodgin] always wants to go undercover or go out with Booth. That's that's a lot of fun for us, because it's something Booth doesn't really want to happen. When it does happen, it's going to be special.

Hart Hanson: By the way, TJ has totally earned himself something like that. Something fun. We owe the guy. He's fantastic.



Question: What, other than Pelant, is making Sweets re-examine his life choices?

Stephen Nathan: There are two things I think. Certainly, Pelant. All of his research, all of his psychological insights and discoveries, have been turned against him. That's probably one of the main things. But, also, Sweets is a young man. Everyone in their 20s re-evaluates the life choices they've made and wonders whether or not there are other things out there. I think it's a natural thing that occurs in a character like his -- to take some time and look at things before it gets too late.

Hart Hanson: We only have two characters who are doing what they set out to do: Hodgins and Brennan. Everyone else has been sort of pulled into their orbit. And Sweets, here's a guy whose intention in life, when he was a foster kid, was to help people -- to help actual human beings -- and instead he's in a situation where he's helping society. Just juggling those two things are tough for him. He has to figure out which direction he wants to go in: does he want to help a lot of people a little or a few people very, very much. It's a good thing for a guy in his 20s to deal with.

Stephen Nathan: At a very mundane level, these people never take a vacation. Never. And when you're 24- or 25-year old, you want to take a vacation.

Hart Hanson: Stephen, I so think that you are projecting our situation.

Stephen Nathan: My bag is packed. Oh, my car is here. I gotta go. [laughing]



Question: How does Sweets figure out his course, and will that echo with how Booth decides his future?

Hart Hanson: What a good showrunner would do is have Sweets face a situation, or situations, which somehow told him -- which were signs to him -- about which way he should go to give him the most satisfaction. With Booth, it's the same thing. He has to face dangers to make him rethink what are his responsibilities to Christine.

Question: Will Freddie Prinze Jr. character's offer to Booth play out more throughout the season?

Hart Hanson: Yes, that's a fun dynamic to play out. He thinks the CIA is the ultimate organization to belong to, and Booth has belonged to the FBI for a long time. Those agencies actually have a bit of a rivalry, so we'd like to play that out as the season goes on.

Question: How much will Booth's ex-priest be in Season 9?

Hart Hanson: We're going to have him back a few times. Aldo Clemens, played by Mather Zickel, is an appealling guy, and he kind of has a vibe that nobody else on BONES has. We've been seeing him at work, and, I think you see in the first episode, he has pretty good chemistry with both David and Emily. We'll have him back a few times, which I shouldn't say, because there's always the chance that people could be killed by Pelant; so now I kind of let that cat out of the bag. We're going to have him back -- he is part of the wedding episode.




Question: Are we going to see more of Booth's mom, like at family reunions?

Stephen Nathan: We will see her relatively soon, but...

Hart Hanson: She'd very much like to sing at wedding, but we have someone else who will sing at the wedding. [laughing]

Stephen Nathan: We definitely want to have her back. We want to have the family back, because we're incredibly lucky to have Joanna Cassidy and Ryan O'Neal. These people you really want to see; you really want to put them on the screen. We have every intention of having family reunions.

Hart Hanson: Every time Ryan O'Neal comes to be on our show, we realize again that that's a huge movie star on our show. A huge, huge movie star. He's really great. It's good for everybody when he's here.




Question: Will we get a Booth and Brennan family Christmas episode this season?

Stephen Nathan: We have a really tough time doing holiday episodes, because BONES is traditionally moved around a lot. We're sort of like those moveable missiles so that we can't be shot down. They move us all over the place. We just don't want to be caught in a situation where we have a Christmas episode they want to air in February. We like doing the holiday episodes, but the scheduling is always a bit up in the air for BONES. We're still not absolutely certain whether we're on Monday or Friday that time of year. It's a little bit of a crapshoot, and we don't want to disappoint.

Hart Hanson: We don't want to do a Christmas show at Thanksgiving or after Christmas. We'll have a greater sense of the schedule very soon, and then we'll know if we're doing one or not. It's tough for us.




Question: Will we see Gordon Gordon Wyatt, played by Stephen Fry, in the wedding episode or maybe sooner?

Stephen Nathan: We've talked about it, but he's very, very busy.

Hart Hanson: He's very busy and would love to do it, but Stephen Fry is busy running, I think, Britain and most of France. It's very tough to get him, but we promise to keep trying. Certainly, he is more than willing.

Stephen Nathan: We certainly have assembled quite an extraordinary group of people for the wedding.

Hart Hanson: It's our biggest cast ever.

Stephen Nathan: Yeah, our biggest cast ever. I don't think we'll miss too many people.

Hart Hanson: You shouldn't have said that, Stephen. [laughing]

Stephen Nathan: I said "too many." We're always going to miss somebody.

Question: When can we expect for the out-of-the-box episodes this season?

Hart Hanson: We front loaded the season with, I'm going to call them obligatory episodes. Things that we setup that we have to do. The weirder episodes or the out-of-the-box episodes are going to happen in the back-end of the season. I don't even mean the back-end; let's say after Christmas.


Stephen Nathan: We do have some planned that are odd and unique and aren't necessarily just a regular BONEs. We want to do it more and more, the older we get.

Hart Hanson: It's one of the great things about a show going into its ninth season. You can do that. People are with you, and you can be a little bit weird. We like them the most, and they're often I think our best episodes.



Question: How long do we have to wait to learn the significance of the numbers 447 and 735?

Hart Hanson: 447. We talk a lot about paying that off. There's two schools of thought and I won't tell you who's winning: one is that we finally pay it off in the final episode; the other is that we don't wait that long. That being said, there's a few things we are paying off quickly at the beginning of this season. For example, what did Brennan write when she was buried alive with Hodgins? Who did she write to and what did she write? "What is Angela's real name?" is another hanging chad that we haven't paid off yet. There's another one in my mind, but it just seems to be gone. There's always "What is on page 187?," which is Hodgins' miraculous sexual technique, but I don't know if we could pay that off on network TV.



Question: How have you done this season with gross and exotic dead bodies?

Hart Hanson: We're hitting on all cylinders.


Stephen Nathan: All I can say is that our bar is how contentious our conversations are with Standards & Practices. We feel if we have a lot of negotiating to do with with Standards & Practices, then we've done our job. We've really had some great ones this year, and we have some coming up that are amazing. One episode coming up has what seems to be one of the most revolting things -- and I say that with great delight and pride -- that we've ever had on BONES and it has nothing to do with a dead body. I think we've outdone ourselves.

Hart Hanson: We think there should be a disclaimer that says "Do not eat during the first 7.5 minutes of BONES."


Stephen Nathan: Pizza is not the food of choice.

Hart Hanson: Or anything with noodles.


Stephen Nathan: We have a great person who is our representative for Standards & Practices. Janelle is a great person and works very hard for the show and tries to help us as much as she possibly can. In the eight-and-some-change years we've been doing the show, we've only had two or three times when we were told "No, this has to be cut back or you have to trim it back." Another couple of times, we've done it ourselves. When we look at the cut, we go "You know, even for us, that's a little too much."

Hart Hanson: The worst thing we ever did, they didn't stop us from doing, which was the first time we were on after AMERICAN IDOL. One of our serial killers, The Gravedigger, was taken out by a sniper, and her head exploded. It was the first time we were on after AMERICAN IDOL, so there were a bunch of kids watching. Usually, we have gross but ultimately amusing things. That wasn't funny -- it was like somebody getting their head blow off.


Stephen Nathan: We actually scaled that one back a little bit. The thing that turns our stomach a little bit is when it's a recognizable person or somebody getting killed. That's not what we do; we like them already digested.



Question: How difficult was it to make the characters miserable in the season opener without losing the show's tone? And how much fun was it?

Hart Hanson: That's such a good question -- well, we think it's a good question -- because we agonize about it. We agonize about tone walking that tight rope. It's fun for us to write a drama that's a little bit melancholy, but it's also fun to bust back out of it to our usual world of the crimedy. That's why we moved pretty quickly to get out of the melancholy place. When we're in editing, or scoring it, or even watching dailies and directing and we know the actors, it's kind of sad, those scenes where Brennan and Booth are not connecting. We're so used to seeing them connect that it's odd when they don't.


Stephen Nathan: I think it makes the show more enjoyable to see them go through real situations. We put them in a very difficult position at the end of last season, and in dealing with that they have to work through the misery before they come out the other side. I think that gives the audience something to root for. I think that's why we care about these characters so much. Life isn't always easy for them, no matter how beautiful they are. And they are beautiful.



Question: How do you manage to balance the longer serial-killer storylines with the weekly murders?

Hart Hanson: It's a nightmare, because at our essence we are an episodic show. We're a network, 22-episodes-a-year, episodic show where we solve crime each week. When we go to more serialized stuff, it's always more difficult. You're juggling that. If it's working for you, then we're incredibly delighted. All I can tell you is that it's a lot of discussion and a lot of input, not only from the writers on the show, but from the network and studio, as to how to balance all these things.


Stephen Nathan: It's much easier on one hand to do a serialized show, because you're just continuing with one story for the characters. To do a case that has to resolve every week is very labor intensive. Fortunately, we have a great writers' room led by Jonathan Collier, and they come up with astounding stories. But after almost 200 episodes, it's very difficult to continue to give the audience murders that are worth [their time].

Hart Hanson: ...or that they haven't seen before, and clues that they haven't seen too many times...


Stephen Nathan: It's what is ultimately very, very satisfying to us. Also, we're on for so long now -- now we're in Season 9 -- so at that point, you are allowed to add a serialized element to the show. We can have character arcs and things that do sustain us and give a through-line to the series so it's not just a case of the week.