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Q&A Interview with BONES Executive Producer Stephen Nathan about Season 10

Mike Vicic - September 30, 2014





Earlier today, TV Tango participated in a conference call with BONES Executive Producer Stephen Nathan, who dished a few details about Sweets' death and pending funeral, discussed the rest of Season 10, and talked about the show's upcoming 200th episode.






On Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 8pm ET/PT, FOX will premiere the "Lance to the Heart" episode of BONES. To find out who framed Booth for murder, the Jeffersonian team, with the help Special Agent James Aubrey, continues to investigate who is behind a conspiracy within the Federal Government that dates all the way back to J. Edgar Hoover. Then, when foreign DNA is found in a previous victim linked to the scandal, the team is able to narrow down the number of suspects, leading them closer to cracking the case. Meanwhile, the Jeffersonian team lays their beloved friend and colleague Lance Sweets to rest after his tragic death, but not before he helps them solve the case from the grave. Carla Gallo guest-stars.

Question: Can you talk about having Booth and Brennan with Sweets when he died?

Stephen Nathan: The entire situation for us was very, very painful and we tried to treat it with as much respect and truth as we possibly could, and to really focus in on what was going to be best for the show and most emotionally truthful for the characters. It seemed that Sweets and Booth & Brennan had grown so close over the past three or four years, especially, that it seemed as if they were the people who should be there when he died. It was also a very complicated situation, because Booth was having a huge crisis himself -- and also Booth and Brennan as a couple with Booth coming out of prison. It really was a testament to Sweets -- and kind of the nobility of the character, really -- that his last words were about Booth and Brennan. His last words were of concern for his friend, not in any way thinking of himself. He was concerned for Daisy, and at that moment concerned for Booth that Booth didn't lose faith, that Booth didn't lose hope in the world and that the world actually was a good place, even as he was dying.

Stephen Nathan (continued): I think it really encapsulated Sweets as a character, as well as Sweets' relationship to Booth and Brennan. And as I said, it was very painful for us to lose John [Francis Daley] and to lose his character, Sweets. This is what happens, not only on a television show, but it happens in life. You get thrown a curveball and you don't know what's happening the next moment in anybody's life, and you just have to pick up and move on and try to learn from the experience and make the best of it and hopefully make everyone's life a little richer and better for it.


Question: What did you want to do with the funeral scene in the next episode?

Stephen Nathan: Really, this is a two-parter in a very classic way -- not only for the primary plot with conspiracy, but more than that a two-parter dealing with one of our most beloved characters leaving our family. So we wanted to send him off in a way that honored his memory and showed how much our characters have changed and grown because of their contact with Sweets. We really wanted to show that and show what this family is made of and how they pull together in the most horrible circumstances and get through.


Question: What are your plans for the upcoming 200th episode?

Stephen Nathan: I'm going to be very, very vague and circumspect. It will be an episode unlike any we've done before. We're going to have as many people who have crossed our path as we possibly can -- there are limitations to that, of course. There are some limitations that we can't possibly get around. We wanted to kind of give a little gift to the fans, to the people who have watched BONES for ten years -- or even three or five or six. Give them a little gift showing our characters in a situation they would normally never find themselves in, and see our characters from a different perspective. It's not a dream show, but it is unique. It is going to be visually something we've never seen before on BONES, and stylistically something we've never seen on BONES before.

Question: Can you talk about Aubrey and whether Booth will warm up to him?

Stephen Nathan: As they recover from the end of Season 9 and the beginning of Season 10, for Booth and Brennan and the squints, life has to go on. It's a very difficult hurdle for Booth, especially. His foundation and his trust in the institution that he's devoted his life to -- and risked his life for -- has been shaken. He has some big trust issues moving forward, and Aubrey is the focus of that initially. Booth will be getting over this in a way that only he can with Brennan and Brennan's help. This will not drag on for a long time. BONES is not going to turn into a dark show where they're dealing with all of these demons all the time, but we have to deal with what has occurred. Within the first three or four episodes, Booth is going to have to learn to trust Aubrey, and Aubrey is going to have to earn Booth's trust, so it's really a two-way street, and we will be doing that. 

Stephen Nathan (continued): We're going to be back on our traditional BONES footing very, very quickly -- certainly episode #3 and episode #4, the show is back. Yes, we're a procedural. Yeah, people get murdered, but it's funny, it's romantic, it's bizarre. And all of that -- the oddities and the unique nature of the show -- will return. We will be getting to know Aubrey in these first five or six episodes, because he's going to be a very valuable member of the team and slowly become a member of the family, as well. He's a strange guy, but he's a brilliant agent, who is unintimidated. Sweets was very deferential to Booth. Being so young when he started, he wanted to fit in. He wanted to make sure he was doing the right thing. Aubrey is somebody who, socially, will just blunder into things, but at the same time, Booth will learn to trust the fact that he is a great agent.

Question: After Pelant, the Ghost Killer, and the conspiracy, is anything else lurking out there?

Stephen Nathan: There's always something lurking out there. I can safely say that there is going to be something else lurking out there. I don't think the world ever exists with simple murders, no matter how horrible. I think we need something a little more evil, and that will be coming our way. It might be in the second half of the year when we come back in January, but we'll be getting involved in another case where there's someone who's not nice, not a good person.

Question: Last season Max hinted to Brennan that he was involved in things she didn't know about, will that story come up again or was it a throwaway?

Stephen Nathan: It's not a throwaway. We try not to throw anything away. It's something that we're in the process of developing now more fully. The first half of the season, especially leading up to the 200th [episode] and finishing the conspiracy, was something... this story with Max is something we wanted to devote a good amount of time to. That's going to have to be in the second half of the season. We didn't want to go from conspiracy into some other big backstories. Max will be back and will be back dealing with that issue.

Question: How will the conspiracy affect Booth and the way he thinks about the government?

Stephen Nathan: We will deal with that. Initially, it will be resolved reasonably quickly, but the residual elements will always be there. I think he's a very resilient guy. He's been through war. He's been in covert operations. He was a Ranger. He's seen a lot of stuff and he has bounced back from a lot of very difficult -- sometimes tragic -- circumstances and found a way to move on. This will be no different. That doesn't mean there aren't some residual emotional issues that he will be confronted with, really at a time when he thought everything was OK. It's really going to kind of ebb and flow throughout the season. We will see this initial issue of trust and kind of challenged idealism be dealt with in first few episodes -- and dealt with pretty successfully -- but there's a lot underneath that will keep bubbling to the surface throughout the season. As I said, it's not going to be some kind of weird, dark season, but that doesn't mean that people don't have difficult things that they have to deal with that surface when they least expect them. Brennan, as well as Booth, will be dealing with a lot of residual fallout from what's happened and what will happen in the future.

Question: Will we see more of Daisy?

Stephen Nathan: Oh, yeah. Oh, definitely. Daisy will be in the second episode, clearly -- we have to say goodbye to Sweets and send him off as only this group can. But Daisy's also pregnant. And we heard in that episode that she's alone really. I don't think people who have grown close to her and really grown to love her in their own way over these -- I don't know how many years -- five or six years, they're not going to send her out into the world alone. When this baby is born, this baby will born and cared for.

Question: Will the same squints come back this season?

Stephen Nathan: All of our regular squints will be coming back to visit and work. These are characters we've grown to love. They have become such an integral part of the show that we're able to really treat them as more than just functionaries within the lab. They really have full rich lives of their own, and that's what we're going to be contending with. Wendell is dealing with his cancer. Cam and Arastoo are dealing with their relationship. Daisy now is going to be dealing with the baby. We're bringing back Oliver Wells. We're bringing back Clark. All of these people have very rich lives that will be explored, and since they've all become so close to the other squints, everybody gets involved in each other's lives, as happens in most workplaces. We'll be learning a lot more about these characters that were initially just temporary help in the lab. They've become permanent members of the BONES family.

Question: Is there a concern how the show will unexpectedly be affected when you get rid of a character as beloved as Sweets?

Stephen Nathan: Oh, absolutely. We deal with the events that confront us, and that's what we had to do in this circumstance. It's more than what's going to be good or bad for the show. Really, it's the difficulty, the challenge and, to be honest, the pain of losing a character like Sweets and an actor like John. We love John. It's always difficult, and you never really know how the audience is going to respond. You can only hope by treating this in a realistic way -- in a way that respects character -- that will also show how much we respect the audience. We did not do this in a cavalier or callous way. We tried to do it and integrate it into the show, and hopefully it makes the show better in a way. If the show was continually running in place, I don't think we'd be on for 10 years. I think a show has to change and evolve. Sometimes the change is painful, but that doesn't mean it's not good or correct.

Stephen Nathan (continued): We have to trust that if we treat the situation truthfully, it will enhance the show no matter how difficult or painful it is. There's no way really of ever knowing how the audience is going to respond to any episode or any change. We didn't know how they were going to respond when Booth and Brennan got together. We didn't know how they were going to respond when they got married, when they had a child, when people leave the show. You just never know; you just hope that everybody's along for the ride and that the ride is satisfying and honest.

Question: Will you address the passing of Ralph Waite this season?

Stephen Nathan: We're still talking about that. We probably will and we're trying to figure out how to do that without kind of bringing it all up again and being exploitive. We don't want to be cheap about that, especially after dealing with such an enormous loss as the loss of Sweets. So we're in a pickle there, but we're dealing with it.

Question: What's still challenging about BONES after ten seasons?

Stephen Nathan: Well, it's all a challenge ten years later. Going into our 10th year, clearly one of the most difficult things is finding cases that are new, clues that are new, worlds that are new and unique, and ways of dealing with the science that are new and keep up with technology. Technologically the show has changed dramatically over ten years. Primarily, it's where are these new body finds going to come from? What are the new murderers? What worlds can we go into that we haven't gone into before? The miraculous thing is that he writers keep coming up with new, completely unique ways to kill people and locations and worlds in which to kill them that are constantly amazing. We're going to be doing a murder at a forensics convention, filled with forensic experts. How did we not do that before? But over nine years we never have, so we're gonna do one. It's just really a testament to the writers. John Collier, who is an executive producer on the show and kind of runs the writers' room, is just phenomenal and kind of leads the writers through the dark forest into the light. And what comes out of there is just amazing.

Question: Can you address the rumors about Gavin MacIntosh playing Parker?

Stephen Nathan: As a show evolves, especially with young actors, sometimes changes occur. We've been in the situation before. There was one actress who was initially playing Michelle, Cam's adopted daughter, and that actress changed for that character. Christine also changed, partly because we wanted someone in that part who could do more. Christine's age kind of accelerated a touch -- her maturity kind of accelerated a touch -- so we could have someone do dialogue and hopefully stay with the show for the long haul. In terms of physical changes, I think that there was a consideration with that as well, as far as Parker is concerned. Again, it's kind of the evolution of the actors -- of the young people -- who come through the show. Maybe it's in the long and wonderful tradition of BEWITCHED. We get a new Darrin.