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Q&A Interview with BONES EPs Hart Hanson & Stephen Nathan About Rest of Season 9 & Season 10

Mike Vicic - March 8, 2014




Yesterday afternoon, TV Tango participated in a conference call with BONES Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan, who dished about the Ghost Killer and the end of Season 9, revealed guest stars and possible storylines for Seasons 9 and 10, and dropped some hints about the show's 200th episode and its future beyond Season 10



On March 10, 2014, BONES returns to Mondays at 8pm ET/PT on FOX. In the first episode back, guest star Freddie Prinze, Jr. teams him with Brennan and Booth in "The Source in the Sludge," which explores a murder involving national security and some personal relationships which cause awkward and dangerous conflicts of interest. Plus, this episode also marks the beginning of the trajectory toward the season ender.

Question: Will the Ghost Killer be part of the season finale?

Stephen Nathan: It will tangentially be part of the season finale. We'll be revisiting the Ghost Killer in episode 20 when we find that the Ghost Killer is just the tip of an iceberg.


Hart Hanson: Oh, you're being so forthcoming!


Stephen Nathan: And we're going to have an actual iceberg in the show -- and those are big. We're celebrating the tenth season using a real iceberg. It is going to lead us into a big conspiracy that appears as if it goes back to the FBI. It's a way for us to do a continuing story that doesn't revolve around one murderer. It kind of takes us down the rabbit hole in a way that's a little more complicated, a little darker than we have in the past.

Question: Are there any guest stars in the remaining episodes this season?

Stephen Nathan: Well, the one that's on Monday night has Freddie Prinze Jr.; he's back as Danny Beck.


Hart Hanson: That's a good one to fall on the return to Monday night, too. We're really pleased about that.


Stephen Nathan: It's a wonderful episode -- Ian Toynton directed that. It's a great way to return and come back to our old home: Monday night [at 8pm ET/PT]. Although it was nice to visit our summer home on Friday...

Hart Hanson: ...with our pals from ENLISTED.

Stephen Nathan: With our pals from ENLISTED, we all had a great time.

Hart Hanson: We just got to know each other, and we were wrenched apart.

Stephen Nathan: We got to stay up late and drink, and now we have to go back to Monday.

Hart Hanson: They liked us. We got some credit for raising their numbers, so they liked us, but now back to Mondays we go.

Question: Why did you decide to shoot BACKSTROM in Vancouver instead of Portland?

Hart Hanson: It was very simple. The incentives to shoot in Vancouver are too good to pass by. Rainn Wilson comes from Seattle and his wife, Holiday Reinhorn, comes from Portland, so we tried hard to find a way to shoot in Portland -- because it's always best to shoot in the place you are pretending to be. It's a familiar story for everyone, but the incentives in Vancouver were just too good to pass by. Sadly, Oregon could not compete just on a financial level. That's what it comes down to. The reason we're not shooting in LA is that we really wanted, unlike BONES, the outdoors as a bigger part of BACKSTROM, and we really wanted the look of the Pacific Northwest -- a little bit of weather, some grey skies, and all that atmosphere -- so we're shooting in Vancouver.

Question: Is there a premiere date for BACKSTROM yet?

Hart Hanson: [At the end of the conference call, Fox public relations made it clear that any dates mentioned in Hart's answer are conjecture, because the network has not yet released any official information regarding the premiere dates of Season 10 of BONES or the new series BACKSTROM.] There's a premiere week, which is the same as the premiere week for BONES. Right now, it's the week of September 15. Stephen and I can't help but conjecture that it will be BONES and BACKSTROM on Monday night, but so far we have not had any official word that that's true.

Stephen Nathan: I'll confirm that right now [Laughing, because there is no official confirmation.] I have no power to do that whatsoever, but I'm going on record right now that that will happen. I'm completely making thing up, but if you're definitive enough you can make things happen. I want BONES to be with BACKSTROM; Hart wants BACKSTROM to be with BONES. And I'm making it happen right now, right on the telephone.

Question: How has what you planned at the beginning of BONES changed now?

Hart Hanson: I knew when I wrote pilot what the ending to BONES should be. It's kind of something I have to do to know what a series is -- I know what the end of BACKSTROM is, too. It's just something I have to aim at. So far, so good. We did not in any way expect to get this amount of time, so we strung out how long Booth and Brennan would be together for as long as we could. We're very pleased by the number of stories that are generated by them being together. But every single season, right from the get-go, we have been ready, if it looked like it, to end our series. Stephen and I were just talking about this the other day, and I think that if Season 10 is our final season, then at least the macro version of what I had in mind, we'll be able to use. If we go past Season 10, the series will need a bit of a re-invention -- we can't tread water.

Stephen Nathan: Throughout these nine years, it's always the best-laid plans. We have an idea of where we wanted to go, but since the finish line keeps moving, all we can really do is continue to examine the characters and follow them where they lead. So far, they've surprised us often, and it's changed the course of the show. We do know where it's going. We ultimately know where it's going -- I mean it's not the Dharma Initiative.

Hart Hanson: We know where it's going, unless it goes past Season 10 and then we'll have to re-think where it's going.

Stephen Nathan: It very easily could go past Season 10.

Hart Hanson: Well, wait a minute, are you making that announcement, too?

Stephen Nathan: I did reschedule the show; I'm now picking it up for Seasons 11 and 12. [Joking of course. There is no official confirmation of any BONES seasons beyond Season 10.] It might end in Season 12, but I'm going on record right now.

Hart Hanson: I want you to think how much work that is, Stephen, before you...

Stephen Nathan: Oh, I'm not going to do it. I like how I just became Kevin Reilly [entertainment chairman of the Fox Broadcasting Company]. You know what? I'm giving you a back nine on BACKSTROM right now [there is no official word on any pick up or additional episodes for BACKSTROM].

Question: Are we going to see how Caroline and Booth met?

Hart Hanson: Let's pretend the answer to that is "Yes, we've been planning that for years and not give any credit for the notion."


Stephen Nathan: We have been toying with the idea, for quite a while, of visiting the past with Booth and Brennan and with the other characters. We did have something in the works, but we couldn't really do it because we can't do too many weird ones in one season. But next season, especially if it's the last season, I think we can do a couple.

Hart Hanson: To be careful for our loyal fans, which many of them are, Caroline first appeared as a federal prosecutor in New Orleans. And we loved her so much that we dragged her up to DC, so we're going to have to see how well they knew each other there -- if they did. I can't remember.

Stephen Nathan: I think that Booth was in New Orleans when he was in the Army. [Hart laughing] Maybe they dated. [Laughter]

Question: What can you tell us about Wendell and the cancer story?

Stephen Nathan: Wendell will be coming back this season. He's coming back, I think, in Episode 18.


Hart Hanson: It's an unfolding story.


Stephen Nathan: We will not tell you how it ends, but we will revisit Wendell and he will come back mid-treatment and be working at the Jeffersonian still, in his old job, although that will get very, very complicated. It will not unfold the way I think we expect it to.

Hart Hanson: Well, maybe the way we expect, but not the way the audience expects.

Stephen Nathan: Well, I don't know. I forget the episodes, and then when I watch them, I'm shocked! [Laughter]


Question: Why did you choose the cancer storyline?

Stephen Nathan: Wendell is sort of the most all-American guy, and he and Booth are so close. To have two guys who are so strong deal with a vulnerability that intense, just seemed to work for the two of them. And it really did in that first episode -- that scene in Booth's office was just so moving and so rich for those two characters. Now to continue it with everyone on board, it just gave us a lot. It also gave us a way to explore that disease on the show. Not to be exploitive, but we have had a lot of feedback from people who are cancer survivors or families who have been dealing with that and it meant a lot to them. If we can do that every now and then on the show, it means a lot to us to be able to do that.

Hart Hanson: Wendell is one of our most sympathetic characters, and he has the most relationship with Booth and Brennan, so he was the best candidate to do a sad and intense story.

Question: What can you say about the storyline with Clark's book and Brennan's reaction to it?

Stephen Nathan: It's not going to land directly on Brennan. It is a new wrinkle within the politics of the lab, so I don't want to say too much about that storyline. I can tell you the name of the book is "Murder Made Me Do It," so you can imagine what Clark has done.

Question: Will you be bringing back Hodgins' brother this season?

Hart Hanson: I don't think he's coming back before the end of this season, but he's definitely someone we would consider dealing with again.


Stephen Nathan: We will definitely see him next year, but there's just no time -- there's so much going on at the end of this season. The end of the season is going to take place over four episodes, and it's kind of peeling back the layers of the onion.


Hart Hanson: Not a lot of extraneous stuff. There's a lot of story.

Question: Ignacio Serricchio is going to guest star as a character who is Brennan's equal. How's that going to work for her?

Stephen Nathan: He's on a week from Monday [on the episode airing March 17]. He's playing a Cuban defector, who was the chief forensic anthropologist in Havana, but his credentials don't work here, which often happens with people who come from a different country. They have to get accredited again.


Hart Hanson: The idea that sometimes your taxi driver was a brain surgeon in another place.

Stephen Nathan: So the Secretary of State has asked the Jeffersonian to give him the position, because he needs an internship before he gets his accreditation. He essentially is an equal with Brennan, but Brennan is his boss.

Hart Hanson: Merry mix-ups ensue.

Stephen Nathan: Ignacio is fantastic. He's so terrific. We can't wait to have him back; he will return.

Question: Does it feel to you like Season 10 might be the end of BONES? Who makes that call?

Stephen Nathan: We don't make that decision. As is always the case, we approach each season as if it's not going to be the last.


Hart Hanson: That's Stephen. I actually approach as if it is going to the last. [Laughter]

Stephen Nathan: That shows you a little bit about our personalities.

Hart Hanson: [I'm thinking,] "They can't possibly go another season, we have to be ready," and Stephen has been proven right nine seasons in a row.

Stephen Nathan: You have to write the unfolding story, and if somebody tells you to fold it up, you fold it up. We're not approaching this season as if it's the end.

Hart Hanson: I am. [Laughing]

Stephen Nathan: Well, it's the end for you. You're off doing BACKSTROM!

Hart Hanson: There are other forces, too. The network and studio have deals with the actors through Season 10, so those would be renegotiated. It's whether the actors are still motivated. So far, it appears they are, but you can't speak for them. Renogotiations can be the reason something goes away. The network could just not want it anymore, which is a reason it could go away. There's plenty of shows where the showrunners and the actors get together and talk about whether they want to keep going. It's just the end of Season 10 is a natural place for us to end or for us to make a decision to get over all those hurdles to go for another season or two.

Question: Stephen, with Hart doing BACKSTROM, will you take over the day-to-day duties? Or are you already doing that?

Hart Hanson: Oh, he's doing it. The last time I did a pass at a script was the Wendell-gets-cancer script, I think. Since then, Stephen has had his grubby little fingers all over it.


Stephen Nathan: We've always shared it. Hart and I are next door to each other, so even when he went off to do THE FINDER and I was doing BONES, we still talked all the time. We have coffee in the mornings so we get all hyped up. We've been down this road before, so basically I'll be doing the day-to-day stuff here and Hart will be doing the day-to-day stuff on BACKSTROM. If we get bored, we'll switch! [Laughter]

Hart Hanson: We share a little terrace -- terrace is kind of grand; it's more like a little walkway between our offices -- and we talk a lot everyday about the show, but Stephen will be the heavy lifter, for sure, on BONES. It's weird for me, but that's the way it goes. He's good at it, and he's been doing it a long time.

Question: Do you have any plans for the 200th episode?

Hart Hanson: We've been talking about stuff, but we haven't landed on anything yet. One of the things that would really help is if we actually figured out exactly which episode it was. It's in the first ten.


Stephen Nathan: No, it's 12, I think.

Hart Hanson: See, we don't know.

Stephen Nathan: It keeps changing, but I don't know why. But we'll get there. There will probably be a murder. [Laughter]

Hart Hanson: We have a few ideas. We'd love to do something special. Like the 100th episode, it would be great to something that was really, really aimed at our very loyal, crazily noisy, and invested fans -- another love letter to them, but we have to figure out what that is. We have a few ideas.

Question: What can you tease about the season finale?

Stephen Nathan: The season finale will redefine Booth's relationship with his crime fighting. [Hart laughs] The heroes and villains will be reversed, and they will not be operating the way they have for the past nine years. Now, how long that will sustain is something that will be answered in the beginning of Season 10. Really, all bets are off at the end of Season 9.


Hart Hanson: Well done, Stephen.

Stephen Nathan: I didn't say a thing. I thought I was saying something.

Hart Hanson: I was afraid you were going to say something, but you came through, man.

Question: Will there be a new love interest for Sweets?

Stephen Nathan: We're toying with that for Season 10, certainly not at the end of Season 9. Sweets' life is interesting, so we're going to examine him and all of our characters. We're ending this year -- well, not ending ending -- but we're going to examine Cam and Arastoo in way we haven't before when we meet Arastoo's parents. We try to give all the characters their due. They're all interesting to us; they all vie for attention, and we try to do as much as we can.


Hart Hanson: Of all the characters on the show, Sweets has changed the most. Every once in a while we have to remind ourselves he's a fully grown man now. He kind of started as a wunderkind -- kind of a boy wonder, a Jimmy Neutron type of guy. Now, every once in a while you look at him and go "Holy crap!" John is a leading man, handsome. We gotta give him a grown-up, big-boy love interest.

Question: How will you handle the death of Ralph Waite, who played Booth's grandfather?

Hart Hanson: I've gotta tell you, we started being asked that question on the very day that Ralph Waite died. I, myself personally, was just horrified, because here's this lovely man. I guess people forget that actors exist outside of their roles. So we're all kind of like, "Ohhh, Ralph is gone," and America is going, "Oh, Pops is gone." I'm sure that in Season 10 we will deal with it. I don't know about Stephen, but I quailed at the thought [of doing it too soon]; it felt exploitive to do something too immediately. We'll deal with it in Season 10 in some way, but he's a real person to us. It was very painful to lose him, and it was unexpected. He's an old guy; mission accomplished. He was an old fella, and in the best possible way for an actor, he died in the traces. He was a working man and still in demand. I'm sure we'll do something in Season 10 -- we'll figure out something. I know David [Boreanaz] is very keen, of course. He was really, really fond of Ralph. We will deal with it, but we have to do it when we're still not going, "Awwww... [sadness]" about Ralph.

Stephen Nathan: We were asked if we were going to do it by the end of the year, but all these scripts were in the works. And the last thing you want to do is to shoot from the hip or rush something off. He meant so much to us.

Question: Over the show's nine seasons, which character's evolution are you most most proud of?

Hart Hanson: One of the great things about working on BONES has been our secondary characters -- every single one of them is plumbable, if you know what I mean. Usable.


Stephen Nathan: I don't think there's any one character.

Hart Hanson: I'm really pleased with where Clark went from beginning to the end, but really the real queen of change, as a character over BONES, has been Emily Deschanel, playing this incredibly tough part of a bifurcated human being -- one part very, very rational and the other volcanically emotional. To very slowly come along and let her kinder, gentler, sweeter human part leak through the exterior, I'm amazed by it. I'll stop talking. "Everybody!" is my answer. [Laughter]

Question: Stephen, in the upcoming episodes, which dead body is distgustingly delightful to you?

Stephen Nathan: Oh my, I don't know. We try to make them all equally revolting. It's hard to choose. The season finale has a delightfully revolting body. We have somebody coming up that is wrapped in kudzu. Really, one of the most revolting places we find some remains is in a septic tank.


Hart Hanson: We are sort of amazed that it got by Standards & Practices.

Stephen Nathan: It was a little tough for us to watch.

Hart Hanson: Did you not actually cut back on it yourself?

Stephen Nathan: I did, a little bit.

Hart Hanson: Think about that. Stephen Nathan said, "Oh, this is too much" before Standards & Practices did.

Stephen Nathan: I've only done that one other time. Two times in the entire history of the show. One was when the reporter was brought down from the flagpole and his face had been shot off. We don't do fresh, live bodies, so when we see them, it's just too terrible.

Hart Hanson: When there's gushy parts, it's even worse.

Stephen Nathan: We like a nice animal to be able to crawl out of the remains.

Hart Hanson: Sadly, every once in a while doing research [when] you look at actual human remain or you look at the body farm, nothing we've ever done on BONES comes close to the reality of just how awful human remains can be.

Stephen Nathan: We frequently have to change them a bit to make them more enjoyable [questioning voice] to watch.

Hart Hanson: Sometimes they're just gross. There has to be a tinge of comedy to it, as strange as that sounds. Stephen, for a while, was very keen on eyeballs falling out, because that's just funny.

Stephen Nathan: We sit in a production meeting and we have a forensic anthropologist on staff, who is our technical advisor, and she'll go, "Oh, hey! Look at this! This is exactly what you're talking about." You go, "Oh great! Oh my god...." It's horrifying.

Hart Hanson: I've stopped looking. She cannot make me look at anything.

Stephen Nathan: I don't want to see anything. We just have her talk.

Hart Hanson: She's a very sweet-faced woman, and she'll say, "Oh, this can help you in the burn story." Don't look. Don't look. You won't eat for two days.