Finally! Here’s the entire conversation with Hart Hanson. (I did take out the “hello” and “thank you” parts at the end and beginning of each person’s questions.)
Hart teases us about meeting Booth’s grandfather and gives us a lot of information about why certain people were cast for certain parts. Well, you’ll see, it’s just a fantastic interview:
Q: I have to wonder: Booth’s brother; is that a card you’ve been wanting to play for a while?
H. Hanson: Yes. We were originally going to have Booth’s brother appear in the ill-fated Season 3…ill-fated because of the writer’s strike. We were looking forward to bringing Booth’s family more into Bones in Season 3 toward the end of the season. But, that was one of the decisions we made when we came back for such a short period of time is to let that play out better in Season 4. So yes, we’re excited about it.
Q: Now, is Jared’s primary function to shed light on Booth’s murky background and it’s just a glorious side effect that it might push Bones and Booth together finally?
H. Hanson: Yes, those two and there’s a spark between Brennan and little brother Booth, as is the way things go on Bones. Since she, in her own mind can’t have the older Booth, maybe this younger one is a good…copy. It turns out not to be true, but it gives us some fun with them, but, mostly to shed some light on Booth who was a guarded character for all his… You don’t actually find out much about him. So, it’s another way into that and it’ll be some fun.
(click on “Read More” for the rest of the interview!)
Q: I did an interview with Michaela a few days ago. I love her. I thought I’d ask you since you’ve been writing for her, working with her for several years now, what was it that made her stand out for you when you all were casting the part? Does she still have the capacity to impress you and surprise you as an actress today?
H. Hanson: Yes. The answer to part two is that I think– Well, the first thing that appealed to me and the rest of us when we were casting was her– She’s a very experienced actress. So, she has great chops, and she’s obviously extremely beautiful. But, she’s also funny. She has a lot of range. We were looking initially for that best friend who could be a sympathetic ear and she has that in spades, that really warm side to her.
We have found out that she is funnier than we thought as well. Not only has she still got what we were looking for in the first place, but now that we’ve sort of, for the time being at least, split her from Hodgins, she gets to be a little bit more of the free spirit Bohemian that we were after in the first place and she’s just even better at it.
It’s funny you ask that because in the last three or four episodes, in post, we’ve just been saying, “Wow, look at Michaela. Look at Michaela go.” I think she’s really come into her own in the fourth season.
Q: What motivated you to give her…at this time? Is it kind of like thinly veiled male fantasy on your part?
H. Hanson: It could be that, couldn’t it? It was like you get to watch Michaela kiss another really beautiful woman. That’s not the worse thing in the world. But, I don’t think that’s why we did it. We did it to… You want to jolt a series every once in a while and remind people that anything can happen. We wanted to go back… A series of events happened where she broke up with Hodgins. We met her ex-husband. She’s the offspring of a rock star. We just wanted to give a little jolt to the Michaela character, to the Angela character to reset, just reset that anything can go anywhere.
It worked quite well. The actress who was playing her ex-girlfriend, perhaps girlfriend again is Nichole Hiltz and she’s very funny and very warm. Also, if we do this right, and you’ll let us know, it’s not played very prurient. It’s pretty matter of fact. This is who she is. This is who she was for a while and who she could be again. It’s just tossing that salad a little bit.
Q: Could you talk a little bit about what the revolving Zack replacements have done for you guys in the writer’s room this year and sort of being able to do that and how long you think you can play out that gambit?
H. Hanson: Great question. It has been really fun for us, notwithstanding everybody’s deep affection for Eric Millegan and Zack. What it has done for us is we’ve been able to invent a series of characters that make more stuff happen at the lab. It kind of gives “B” stories to the “B” story, to get some character and humor out of the lab. We found this group of people; we found actors that have just been delightful. It’s been amazing for me how good these people have been at coming in and integrating and being on kind of a revolving door.
Initially, I thought, “Oh, we’ll look at four to six people and then pick someone who is great and have them come in.” We have a couple of more ideas now that we’d like to pursue with these grad students. It’s no longer a case, at least in my mind, of finding someone to replace Zack, but, as you say, figuring out how long we can do this and how long it serves the show.
Frankly, our biggest problem now is that some of these people are very good and we could lose them if we don’t book them as recurring characters. And so, it’s a little scary. They’re very good and people are going to see them and snap them up for pilots and things.
But, I think we’ll do this for a while. I can’t say right now how long it will go on, but I think we’d like to do it for a while.
Q: Is there a danger to it becoming sort of a Murphy Brown secretary kind of thing where even the writers become tired of it after a while?
H. Hanson: Oh, yes, absolutely and I think what we would do is… I mean Murphy Brown did it every single week and it was kind of a gag that they pursued. We’re actually not interested in having an infinite number.
For example, a couple of times, some very interesting casting ideas have come to me as to whom we might have come in as an intern and no character suggests itself. They each have to be different. It just can’t be someone with a quirk each week. I think that would become very tiresome. But as long as we’re interested in looking at each one of these people as characters, then it will work for us and hopefully not become a gag that will annoy people.
There are a lot of people watching the show. I don’t mean just audience, but we’ll start to hear from the network, studio, writers, directors, the other actors when that feels old and hopefully we’ll be before the curve. But right now, it still feels like something that everyone is into and interested by.
Q: Let me put you on the spot quickly. If you had to guess, where [in the weekly schedule] do you think you guys [will be] airing, come January?
H. Hanson: Oh, I am not withholding any opinion from you at all. I will tell you I have no idea. I don’t know what their plans are. I know anything is possible. I think not Friday. I’m pretty confident we won’t be on Friday, but I don’t know what they’re going to do with Idol. I don’t know what they’re going to do with Dollhouse. Your guess is as good as mine. For a while, I thought Mondays; they’d put us on Mondays. For a while I thought, “Oh, my God, maybe they’ll,” which I would love, “pair us with House on one of the nights that Idol isn’t on.” But, I don’t even know, I don’t think anyone does – well, they do at the network – when Idol is coming on. That, of course, will change everything.
Q: Let’s go back to the interns actually. I see that Clark is coming back for an episode. Is there any chance that Michael Badalucco will come back? He personally was my favorite intern of the group.
H. Hanson: Wasn’t he great? Yes, we’d like to have him back again. He is on the list of people we would like to have back. He’s really fun. Every once in a while, the feeling you get from the network, although they’re pretty good at not jamming it down your throat, is that they want youth. Then every once in a while you get someone like Michael or Stephen Fry that just turns everyone on their heads.
Yes, we’d like to have him back. It’s a great character to have, the ultimate “Dad.” He’s the middle-aged man who actually does know everything. It could be my own bias there as a middle-aged man. But yes, we’d love to have him back.
Q: Speaking of Zack, I mean it seems like you definitely left the door open for him to return. I’m just wondering; what are your plans for Eric for the rest of the season?
H. Hanson: Well, I don’t want to say too much about it. We’re not done with Zack. Zack is a fun character. We left a big hanging chad with Sweets, that Sweets knows that Zack didn’t do what he is thought to have done. He has a problem, an ethical problem on how to deal with that and we will deal with that. That’s an ideal episode in which to have Millegan come back again; Eric Millegan come back and play Zack again.
I think it’s okay for me to say that I’m looking into Stephen Fry’s availability because I think he would be the ideal person to help Sweets figure out how to deal with that.
But, Zack is still in our minds. His name is hanging up there on the boards in the writer’s room as to what cases he would be useful in, that he could organically fit into. Also, it’s funny how things come up. You realize when Zack wasn’t there every day that he and Hodgins are pretty good friends. They were a pretty good friendship, an Odd Couple friendship on TV that you miss. So, there are those things that mitigate toward him coming back.
Q: My question dips into your crew and the crafts people that put the show together. There’s such amazing hard work and I really notice it, the look of the show. I was curious to know if you were ever tempted to see if Caleb Deschanel was ever available to be a DP on one of your shows or even direct.
H. Hanson: Well, he has directed one show and he was booked for another… First of all, thank you so much for asking about our crew. The show looks great. The show really looks wonderful and we are not one of the highest budgets on television and we look as good as anything else. I mean the difference in budget between us and, say, Fringe – it’s dramatic. It’s because of the crew that we’ve amassed in the last three years. They’re amazing. I’m constantly astounded by the vigor and creativity of our crew.
We have a lot of elements too and I hope it’s sort of seamless to the audience. But, there are a lot of elements in the show that have to be perfect. Just scheduling our show, because of the dead bodies. The dead bodies have to be made. That’s a real skill. And so, they’re not available towards the beginning of the shoot. They’re available more toward the end. We are constantly in shackles as to when we can shoot. We don’t have a lot of flexibility.
The crew does an amazing job and I think people don’t realize how amazing they are because it just looks like good TV, but it is amazing. So, thank you for asking that.
We did have Caleb direct a show. It was “The Glowing Bones” episode back in first season. He got bumped during the strike and we are looking to get everybody who was bumped during the strike back on the show again. It was a lot of fun to have him around, and it was really a lot of fun for our DP Gordon Lonsdale. He was so happy to have Caleb Deschanel there and he was so pleased that Caleb respected his work.
Q: I was curious to know who does the prosthetics. What shop do you use? I mean who does all the prosthetic body work?
H. Hanson: The bodies are done by the Yaghers, Chris and Kevin Yagher, who have been with us right from the beginning. I think we got them because Barry Josephson knew them from feature film world. They are amazing. They’re also the sweetest, most innocent looking guys. They look like nice college boys and they bring us the more horrific things. Their bodies are amazing.
Really, last year; I told the story last year that – I wasn’t kidding. We had a severed head that they made that looked just like the actress. To be funny, I leaned over to pretend I was going to kiss the severed head just to be a funny guy – not that funny – and it made me barf a little bit. It just was so… They’re very, very good.
Q: With the family coming – Booth’s brother and Bones father coming in; every time we get a nugget of Booth’s past or the Bones and Booth relationship, people seem to go crazy. How do you kind of keep that from snowballing? I mean how do you really keep a reign on that because isn’t there a part of you that just wants to kind of just blow it all out?
H. Hanson: Oh, yes. That whole dynamic is the trickiest thing about Bones and I mean I guess the easiest way to say it is you’re torn between the case and the character. If one or the other takes over. I mean we cannot become just a soft soap opera, a character piece and we cannot become a procedural.
So to varying degrees of success, I think, we bang back and forth between the riverbanks on that. It’s discussed at every, every story, every outline and every draft. When I’m doing my final pass on drafts, it’s always the thing that’s in my mind. It’s on a per scene basis too where you go, “All right. Should we laugh in this scene or find out that it was a bronze bullet that killed this person?” It’s the pain in the ass that is Bones. It’s there all the time.
Q: I wanted to ask you; in August, I did an interview with your writing team of Bones – Karine Rosenthal and Liz Benjamin and the whole crew. At the time, they gave me a scoop that still hasn’t come to pass. They said, “Brennan would like Booth to be the father of her child.”
H. Hanson: That’s true.
Q: Is that still in the works?
H. Hanson: It is still in the works. It’s exactly like the previous question. What case can we be in that resonates with Brennan suddenly deciding she wants to have a child and that Booth would be the perfect father for it? That has not come up yet. It will before the end of the season.
There’s one that’s horribly obvious, but we don’t want to do that. We try not to do that in Bones, which concerns a group based on, a little bit ripped from the headlines, on a group of girls who decide to have children. I think it was Gloucester, MA that that actually happened in, that 16 girls or something. So, we’re doing our take on that.
That was just a little too on the nose for us. So, it was in there for a bit and it’s come out, but it will happen. You have a good memory.
Q: Well, everybody’s been wanting to know that reads my site. One thing to follow-up with that; a lot of people have said that we don’t want to get the Booth and Brennan characters together because that would be the repeat of the Moonlighting debacle. What if we were to approach them as a Nick and Nora from Thin Man? Would that make it more palatable?
H. Hanson: That’s a great question. Around here, we’re very flattered by the Moonlighting reference, but we actually look at it as the Nick and Nora thing. But of course, they’re not together in that way, but very much of their relationship is seasoned. They have kind of a seasoned relationship now.
I am not flip about getting Booth and Brennan together. It’s another of the things that we discussed at great length. But, the fact is there’s a great engine, a great energy that comes from two people who are not together and people want them to be together romantically. When you take that engine away, you’d better have something else there to provide fuel.
You can say, to grossly simplify it, I hope, the science versus humanist. But, we have that and in a relationship that is not brought to fruition, we have to have a game. When we make that change, we have to have the next thing between them in place and there’s a whole bunch of things we don’t want it to be and a couple of things that might work. But, we’re just going to be very certain of our decision to do that because it’s a dangerous one.
Q: Well, what about a baby? Just a thought.
H. Hanson: [laughs... but is not going to address it directly] I read your site. I see that stuff.
Q: I’m sure because of his work on Angel and everything. I wanted to ask you; I noticed that the description for the November 12th episode talks about Brennan learning stuff about Booth from his brother and you also mention that we get to meet his grandfather. I was wondering if you can tell us ahead of time anything about what we might learn about Booth and his past.
H. Hanson: Well, what we find out; I think it’s okay to say that what we find out in the November 12th episode is that Booth’s childhood was very tough. It was very tough and it’s hard even for him to say it or admit it to anyone. The story with Jared makes them both confront what happened in their past.
I think it’s also fair to say that Booth’s relationship with his dad is not good, but he has a very good relationship with his grandfather. We always had in mind that since David is so much, in our minds, like James Garner, that that would be a very cool piece of casting as his grandfather.
But, I don’t yet know when we’re going to see Booth’s grandfather. It will be this season and we are coming into the last third where we are. So, it’ll be in the last third of the season if all goes well.
I will tell you that soon we see Booth’s apartment and there’s the wreckage or part of the wreckage of Booth’s grandfather’s jet – he was a jet fighter, a fighter pilot – in there as kind of an homage to his grandfather.
Q: I don’t have another follow-up question, but I wanted to thank you for the show and also I was a big fan of Snoops. I read that you worked on that. I was very annoyed when they canceled that.
H. Hanson: Thank you. I actually quit Snoops, you know.
Q: Oh, I didn’t know that. …Ratings weren’t that bad. So, I was like, “What?”
H. Hanson: I know all those shows from back then that got canceled the ratings look pretty good now. Thank you.
Q: I have a question for you and it’s kind on behalf of the Boneyard. I asked them what they wanted to know and there’s kind of been some discussion. They’re very annoyed that FOX is changing the order of the episodes. What’s your reaction to that, and what can fans do to maybe keep that from happening and keep the consistency of the plot lines going?
H. Hanson: Well, God bless the Boneyard people. I mean those people watch with… They have a detailed eye. They are assiduous human beings watching that. We knew this was going to happen. So, I have to give credit to the network for warning us that this would happen. It’s awful for us in a way.
What we had to do was do four episodes that around here we call them the limbo episodes. They were shot before the English opening, the season opener, the two-part English season opener, but they had to air after and not in any particular order and not in order with the things that we were shooting anew. Was that confusing enough for everyone?
And so…time in our series stood still in them, which is very hard for us and hard for the actors and obviously, noticeable to the audience. I think it’s a one-time thing because of the… Again, it was trying to get as many episodes out. The network wanted the maximum number of episodes they could after the strike and not knowing when… We were actually shooting before we knew when we were going on the air and if we were going to England and what was going to air in Season 3 and what was going to air in Season 4.
So, it was just a complicated dog’s breakfast, a mishmash of horror that we’re almost through. We’re almost done showing things out of their proper order.
It happens all the time, by the way. They will decide that they like one episode better than another and put it where they want. Last year, the worse example, I think, was for a while, they wanted to show our Christmas episode in February. That was upsetting, but they didn’t do it. They went back on it. So, they’re the best they can.
I’m delighted that you noticed, by the way. But, I don’t think it’s something that endemic. It’s not going to always be like that, but it has been. That’s a large number of episodes to be written, shot and shown out of any order.
Q: I’m just wondering if you could talk about casting Brendan for Jared and why he was right for the role.
H. Hanson: Oh, it was one of those things. God, it is so hard to find somebody who is, in fact, a leading man caliber who isn’t on a show. We needed somebody that we thought the character of Booth would care about deeply, but had a dark side and bore at least some physical resemblance to him. I said while we were doing it, “Oh, that’s it. I’m not casting any more family members. It’s too difficult” and then in came Brendan who I knew from Roswell. He’s also a nice Canadian boy, you know.
He has grown up nicely. He has some wisdom on his face, some experience on his face and he’s a very good actor. It didn’t hurt a bit that he and David had conflict on the ice. They both play hockey in the leagues and they’ve had some conflicts on the ice that comes into their relationship in the show. He just knocked it out. He came in and I think it was two days before we were shooting and we had to change some air dates because we just weren’t going to go with somebody who wasn’t right and he was very good. He was very impressive to us.
Q: Just one other thing; can you talk about how you came up with the idea for the body in the “Passenger” episode? Was that ripped from the headlines or anything?
H. Hanson: The story of solving a crime – that’s a great question; solving a crime on a flight where Brennan had to solve a crime, Brennan and Booth had to solve a crime on a flight before it landed has been pitched every year. It was something we wanted to do. I think that it was our co-exec producer, Carla Kettner, who had the idea of cooking the body in a giant microwave so that it would be within Brennan’s field of expertise finally gave us the way into the story. We just had failed five or six times to make that story work and she came up with that and the story fell into place. So, I have to give her credit for that.
Q: Jumping ahead to the December 3rd episode, I just had to ask you; is “Double Trouble in the Panhandle” where Booth and Brennan go undercover as a knife thrower and his assistant?
H. Hanson: That is correct.
Q: Is it as ridiculous as it sounds because it sounds like a fantastically hysterical episode? Is it more funny than the normal episodes?
H. Hanson: It is more funny than the average episode and then oddly, because it’s more funny, more touching for them. Andy Richter is in that as the ringmaster and he’s an incredibly good actor. So, it’s one of those situations where we went for… Every once in a while, we go toward the comedy of our show and the fun and Dave and Emily are so willing to go there. In fact, they push for it constantly and it was very funny. But in the end, I have to admit, it was actually more touching than I had foreseen.
So, it does sound like a whackadoodle episode and it is one of our odder ones, but I hope the audience goes with us as to why they would go undercover in a circus. It is one of my favorite episodes.
[Photo: © 2008 FOX Broadcasting Co.]