Q & A with Bones Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan

By , Contributor

Fox Television

Season seven promotional poster for Bones starring Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz

Over the past six years, forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) have formed an extremely effective, albeit unlikely, crime-solving partnership in the successful FOX TV show Bones.

In the show’s seventh season opener, “The Memories in a Shallow Grave,” (which aired Thursday, November 3 @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST on FOX) the Jefferson Institute Forensic Sciences Department and the FBI found themselves right back in the thick of things and investigating not one but two missing persons reports. Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) and Booth’s (David Boreanaz) personal relationship also took a step forward in a very different direction as the couple began to contemplate the eventual arrival of their new baby.

Last week series creator/executive producer Hart Hanson and executive producer Stephen Nathan generously spent some time via a conference call speaking with myself along with other journalists about Bones’ seventh season. The following is an edited version of our Q & A (there are some spoilers ahead, so beware). Enjoy!

In the first couple of episodes this season we get to see how Booth and Brennan are interacting and how it’s affecting the show. Can you talk about approaching that and how you made sure the balance of the series remained intact by adding that relationship in?

STEPHEN NATHAN: Well, I think to us, it was somewhat organic. We just continued to write Booth and Brennan in the same way, which were as two completely disparate characters who agreed on very little on the surface. Now, however, they’re dealing with a pregnancy and a relationship. So it really seemed to be a natural extension of the previous six years of Bones.

HART HANSON: Our big worry — and Stephen and I used to talk about this all the time — is that we knew that Booth and Brennan would get together euphemistically in season six. We also knew that it would be over the death of a beloved “Squintern” and then we sort of got this big gift (Emily Deschanel’s real-life pregnancy). After that, Stephen and I had to talk all of the time about, “Well what happens next? What interesting dynamic replaces unrequited sexual tension?”

That was a tough one. As I said, we talked about it at great length. Then the gods intervened and Emily came to us and said, “I’m pregnant.” At that moment we knew what replaced sexual tension was an actual human [relationship].

SN: Also, I think what we really wanted to avoid more than anything was to have a couple that was madly in love with each other. That to me is always like going out to dinner with a couple who’ve just met and make out all through dinner. You want to ‘kill’ them and never have dinner with them again. We wanted to avoid that dinner and successfully did. Now we have a couple who we can invite over every week for dinner and they’re great company.

Bones5.jpg

Could you also talk about supporting character back stories, especially Dr. Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne) and if we’ll be seeing more of his past this season?

HH: [jokes] T.J. is angling to be the lead of the show. He’s a really good writer and director - you should check out his work on YouTube. T.J. has had tons of ideas and as an actor, he’s up for anything. So what do we want to admit to, Stephen?

SN: Well, we can admit that we’re going to hear a little bit about Jack’s grandfather, and see Jack kind of dive in as only Hodgins can in episode six with our new resident villain.

HH: We also have a story in our pocket about Hodgins’ brother, and Stephen may talk me out of this, but in my mind it’s attached to a certain piece of casting. Without that piece of casting, though, my interest level in it drops. So, we’ll have to wait and see if that happens.

SN: There’s actually lot of Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins in the first six episodes. So we also learn more about them than we ever have before, and [musician/actor] Billy Gibbons returns [as Angela’s father] as well.

HH: Babies also tend to drag relatives out of the woodwork, and in the first six episodes this year we look at Booth and his grandfather and his father’s story. It’s maybe one of the best episodes of Bones ever, and certainly an amazing performance by David Boreanaz. I’m dying for everyone to see it. That has family attached to it. Also, Stephen, I don’t know if we should admit to it, but we think we have a pretty good idea for who should take care of the baby.

SN: Yes, but I think that’s something we can keep to ourselves because that’s after the first six episodes, but, yes, it’ll be a lot of fun.

How do you keep up with changes in real forensics and investigation techniques between seasons and how they impact the writers?

HH: There’s a writers' room full of smart writers who are digging through stuff all the time.

SN: They’re a remarkable group. They’ll come to us with information on new equipment and investigatory techniques that have been developed.

HH: Yes, I have to credit that to the writers' room, because I don’t know about you Stephen, but I’m certainly not looking for new forensics techniques in my downtime.

SN: I would say that 90% of the stuff we do in the show is completely real and scientifically accurate. We might stretch or shrink the time as necessary, but the science is correct and usually mind-boggling to us.

HH: People also send us links all of the time to journals and new forensic as well as scientific techniques. I don’t even read them because it makes my head hurt. Instead, I immediately send them to the writers and they churn those things out. As Stephen said, they’re an amazing group of people.

A lot has been said about Booth, Brennan, Hodgins, and Angela, but what’s going on with Cam (Camille Saroyan, played by Tamara Taylor) this season besides hiring the new Squintern?

SN: Well, so far in the first six episodes it really has a lot to do with the new intern and her dealing with this new dynamic of Brennan being pregnant and still trying to maintain a functioning lab.

HH: And she still has (adopted) daughter problems.

SN: There is going to be a lot more for Cam in the second half of the season. We just had so much to do with Booth and Brennan that it was very difficult to service all the characters as much as we’d like.

I loved the premiere and how you sort of kept some of the tension by having Booth reveal that he’s going to wait for Brennan to propose to him. Can you tease how long we might have to wait for that? Is that something we’ll see in these first six episodes or in the back seven?

HH: That was Stephen Nathan’s idea. I remember him running into my office to say, “I want to do it this way!” and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I think the theme of this year is there and I wouldn’t in a million years want to say how long it would take to unroll itself.

SN: We have to find out how Booth and Brennan are dealing with it. That’ll be the surprise.

What were some of the challenges filming when Emily was pregnant? How in the world did she handle it, because wasn’t she quite a bit pregnant during a lot of it?

SN: We actually scheduled the shooting of episodes five and six so that we were shooting them at the same time. All I can say is Emily was so pregnant that she finished on Monday and had the baby the next day. She was unbelievable and refused to have stunt people.

HH: There was a story point where Booth was concerned about Brennan having to run across some broken ground to a crime scene and we told Emily, “Well, you know what Brennan would do—she’d run across there, but we’ll have a stunt double for that.” Emily said, “No, I want to do it,” and we had to tell her, “No. You’re not going to run across that to get to the body. We’ve got a stunt double for that.”

SN: Emily did absolutely everything she could. I mean, there were a couple of times that the days were long and we sent her home. Honestly, though, she is built from iron and, again, just unbelievable.

The show has juxtaposed religion and science, so will it be an issue with Booth and Brennan having the baby together, raising it in the church, getting it baptized, etc?

HH: I would say so. Wouldn’t you Stephen?

SN: Oh, yes, and we’re still playing with that. They’re going through all those huge issues that any couple goes through when they’re having a baby.

HH: They used to have these kinds of theoretical arguments about God versus science. Well, now the stakes are raised, and it has to do with the upbringing and shaping of a human being. That’s what I meant earlier about it being such a gift to us. We were like, “Oh wow! This brings a whole new level to the disagreements that these two radically different individuals have about the way the world works and where people fit into that world.”

SN: You’ll see that in the first six episodes, and episode seven is about that big time. They’re dealing with that issue in a pretty intense way.

To supplement this somewhat abbreviated season of Bones there was talk of getting a four-episode mini-season, maybe during this summer. Do you have any updates on that? How it would work? Would it be a stand-alone season?

SN: We don’t have any idea of what the scheduling will be. Ultimately they want us to do 17 episodes. How it airs is really up to FOX. We’re kind of at this point of going along with the premise that we’ll do a season of 13 episodes and the remaining four episodes are still up in the air as to when or how they will be shown. They could air before what we consider our last episode even. So that’s a long way of saying we have no idea of when those four episodes will play out.

HH: It’s a real pickle for us because we don’t quite know where to place these four stories in our universe and it’s tough if they air all in a row. They would be odd because they wouldn’t contain any meaningful character arcs. We’re hoping we can get some guidance, perhaps after this season airs for while and maybe even after we see how other FOX shows do.

Are there any new Finder crossovers to report?

HH: I’m crossing my fingers, but we shot a show in which Sweets (John Francis Daley) came down to take part in an investigation and evaluated Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults) through the FBI. At the moment, we’re closing in on having a conspiracy theory episode in which the ideal character, of course, is Jack Hodgins and having him come down and be dueling conspiracy theorists with Walter. The idea is really funny. We just have to make sure that T.J. is available and that it fits into his schedule, but it’s looking pretty good for that. We want to do one more, but we don’t know what it is yet.

By the way, we’re also looking to see if there is a place and room for Stephen Fry to appear in a Finder episode as Gordon Gordon Wyatt.

Please note, all photos above copyright of Fox Television.

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