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‘Bones’: Interview with Emily Deschanel

by Lynn DeVries on December 9, 2010 · 0 comments

in Bones,Interviews,Spoilers

Emily Deschanel

Last Friday, a number of us were invited to talk to Bones star Emily Deschanel and ask her questions about her role on the show in a conference call format. She was as upbeat and sincere as she has always been in these calls. It was truly a pleasure.

But because she was so warm and friendly, answering so many questions about what is ahead for Booth, Brennan & Hannah that she gave away a few big spoilers about tonight’s episode. So we were asked to wait to publish the spoilers about tonight’s episode.

But you’ll want to read through to find out what’s ahead for Brennan and Hannah’s friendship, learn about some of the cool cases ahead for the Jeffersonian team and get the scoop on the episode Emily will be directing. HINT: it’s not the episode we originally thought it would be.Here’s how the conversation went:

Q: In next week’s episode, Brennan feels a strong connection to the victim of the case. How was it to play Brennan in such a vulnerable light?

Emily Deschanel: It’s hard because you have to go through all the emotions that she’s going through. At the same time, it’s refreshing because it’s a very different episode than most episodes of the show. It’s kind of strange. It’s a different episode. I think it was one of my favorite scripts. I haven’t seen the actual final cut yet, but hopefully, it’ll be one of my favorite episodes.

It’s just very unique. It’s very personal to Brennan. She is facing her own mortality and also looking at her life and seeing what she would be leaving behind when she dies. You don’t see that side of Brennan very often. She becomes very vulnerable trying to solve this case, which she believes to be— If people haven’t seen or don’t know basically, there is a woman who is killed. She’s a doctor. When they started listing the different qualities of this person, Brennan thinks is sounds very familiar, whether they’re physical or personal qualities. Then, even looking at the photograph of the person who died, it looks like Brennan when she looks at it. It’s from Brennan’s perspective, this episode.

It’s very interesting, but kind of terrifying for Brennan and confusing. She’s visited by a night watchman who we’re not even sure if he exists or not in real life. Enrico Colantoni played that part, who I’ve always loved as an actor, so it was a lot of fun to work with him.

Yes, it was definitely hard to go through that because I was also in every single scene of this episode. There were absolutely no breaks whatsoever.

Q: Speaking of Brennan as a whole, does it ever get exhausting playing Brennan, because she’s so serious and factual? You, yourself always come across as so lively. Is it hard to be in that state of mind a lot?

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E. Deschanel: Yes and no. I think that Brennan has (a) become a lot more open over the years and you get to see her kind of dorky, quirky side at times, which is fun. I hang on to those moments and try to incorporate things like that in every episode. My favorite things about people in general is that they have contradictions. Brennan is no exception to that rule. I love exploring the contradictions of her character and all of that.

No, I’m an actor, too. So playing a character who’s very different from myself is one of the best things to happen to me, especially in a television series. So many times people are hired to play something very close to who they are in real life. It’s a wonderful opportunity to play this character who is very different. I can’t say that I don’t possess some qualities that are similar or that sometimes I don’t remind myself of her, when I behave like a real, I don’t know, nerd—I say that in the most affectionate way—but, I’m very different. So, I love the fact that I am different from the character. But, that’s true sometimes, especially when you’re doing certain episodes. You come home and you take it home a little bit with you.

I have tried to make boundaries for myself where I leave work at work. If I have lines to learn, I do all my acting work on the weekends and then I learn my lines the day before. If there’s any work that needs to be done before the next day, I do it at work. I don’t leave work until I’ve finished that. I don’t like to take work home with me. That means staying late even after working 15 hours. I’ll stay late an hour or two just to make sure I get everything right. I try to set those boundaries so I don’t take things home, but that said, it does leak into your personal life sometimes. I think that was a really long answer to your question, but maybe I answered like ten more.

Q: In next week’s episode, I think some of us have had a chance to see it, thanks to Fox. You do a fantastic scene with David in the car when you’re talking to him. It’s a really somber moment. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like filming that emotionally charged scene? That actually had me crying, too.

E. Deschanel: Oh, that’s—I shouldn’t say, “That’s nice. I’m glad you cried,” but I guess we always want to affect people emotionally. Yes, it was one of those scenes that you know is there. You prepare for it acting-wise. You know it’s coming up, but it’s one of those things that says that you’re crying in the scene. Then, you’re like, “It’s okay if I don’t cry. I don’t have to cry,” but then walking in, everyone’s expecting that. So, there’s a lot of pressure of that.

It’s one of those things as an actor that you kind of dread those scenes in a way, because you’d rather it just not be written in and see if your emotions go to that place or not. But, at the same time, it’s good to have those markers as an actor to know where your breaking points are for the character, and where in the story is the low point. I’m going backwards.

But, basically the scene, Brennan has to face her own life because this woman has died, she doesn’t have much of a personal life. The only people who listed her missing are her people at work. She doesn’t have friends. She had some kind of romance with a guy. Nothing ever happened. No one really missed her. I think isn’t that almost every human’s worst fears, dying and no one misses you and no one notices. So, this affects Brennan greatly. She starts relating to the character, believing that it’s her. She starts seeing her own life and seeing that she made a mistake when she said no to Booth last year. She goes out on a limb and says to Booth, “I’m here.”

I don’t know how much people want to reveal before the episode airs and I don’t know how much I should reveal, but I know that some of you guys must have seen it. It forces Brennan into a place where she is bold and kind of aware of her feelings in a way that she hasn’t been before. It takes a huge, very strange experience for her to become aware of her feelings. Hart and I—Hart’s the creator of the show—we’ve always talked about how Brennan may have these feelings for Booth, but she’s the last person to know in a way. Here, it takes a very strange experience for her to face her feelings and to see them. I hope that answers the question.

Q: Yes, definitely. It goes to that really somber place, but do you feel that sort of ends on a positive note on this? That’s sort of the vibe that I got from the episode.

E. Deschanel: I think so. I think so. I think that she realizes that she isn’t that woman. She has friends. She has people who love her and she loves. She’s not as extreme as this person, but it’s always good to have those reminders in life to see Who am I?. What am I doing with my life? Am I working my whole life away? Am I not spending time with people that are important? Am I not taking a chance on something that I’m going to regret on my deathbed? If I die tomorrow, would I be happy with my life as it is right now?

I think one thing that I’ll say doing the show, being around death all the time or fake death or whatever—in Brennan’s … real death—you are aware of your mortality. You can’t help thinking about that. I think that as a result you have to become more bold in your life and take chances. I think that’s what Brennan is doing.

I think that that’s not a bad thing. I think that’s a wonderful thing to make the most of our lives while we have it. We’re not here for that long. I think that Brennan took that chance. Whether it worked out or not doesn’t matter as much as the fact that she did take that chance. I think that it is a happy ending in that way, even if it is hard and sad, but life is hard and sad at times. The whole point is we get through those times. I think that she still has all those people in her life and she still has all those friends and people who care about her. That’s what really matters.

Q: Do you think we’ll be left with any lasting … change for Temperance after this episode or is she kind of like, “That’s that,” after she makes that pitch to Booth?

E. Deschanel: I think you’ll see both. Honestly, Brennan’s the kind of person that the closer she gets to opening up her feelings, the more closed off she becomes. After that, I think she becomes even more closed off in a way. So, there is a reaction, but it may not be the reaction people want from Brennan. She rarely is predictable in that way. I think you’ll see Brennan becoming more protected than she has been even. Then at times, she’s open. I think it affects her, but I think it affects her in many different kind of opposing ways and you’ll see in episodes to come. We’re still reading and shooting episodes that are coming up, so we’re only few ahead of this one.

Q: Between Hannah and Booth, might that get more serious as it goes on?

E. Deschanel: Yes, it actually does get more serious. That creates the whole situation for all of them. One thing I must say I love about this dynamic between Hannah and Booth and Brennan is that— Hannah is not a bad person. So many times, you see a character come in as a love triangle. The two leads, people want them to get together. I think that you have to like her and—that’s not an order, but I feel like she’s a nice person—Brennan certainly likes her and respects her.

I think there’s a lot of internal conflicts rather than there being external conflicts. There’s internal conflicts in Brennan because she loves Booth. She wants to be with Booth. She’s realizing this, but because she loves Booth, she wants him to be happy. Booth is happy with Hannah now and that’s really hard to see. But, then she also wants him to be happy because she loves him and she cares for him. Then, she also sees that Hannah is a wonderful, smart, tough, cool, beautiful woman. You can’t really blame Booth for falling in love with her. There’s all these conflicting emotions just within one character alone. I just love that.

I think it’s great to have conflict between characters, within characters where no one’s intending bad things. It’s just life. It’s just what happens. I’ve seen this happen in life so many times, where there’s feelings for people and they don’t feel the same way, but then you can’t blame them. I think it’s a wonderful kind of push and pull and dance, if you will, between the characters. I really like that dynamic, but it does get more serious with Hannah.

Q: Is the history of Booth and Brennan going to complicate the Brennan and Hannah friendship going forward?

E. Deschanel: Yes, it will. Yes, it will. It’s going to be revealed in some way to Hannah about the situation with Brennan and Booth and Brennan revealing her feelings. It definitely creates a situation with Hannah and Brennan in their friendship. It’s an interesting dynamic between these two that you don’t see very often, but it does definitely create some issues and conflict and things like that.

Q: Are we going to see Booth start to have some doubts about his decision to turn Brennan down at all? Or, is he going to be steadfast, and, “Nope, I made the right decision. Hannah is it.”

E. Deschanel: That’s hard for me to say. Let’s just say, so far I haven’t seen that yet, but I can’t say it won’t come. I mean we’re only a few ahead of this episode. I don’t want to speak for another character in a way, too, in what he’s feeling while he’s doing scenes, but in terms of the actual script, I have not seen that yet.

Q: I wanted to ask about the show’s run. I mean six years is a really good run. Why do you think the show is doing so well? It seems to be—the ratings last night were very good. I also wanted to ask about Kathy Reichs and the foundation that she gave the series.

E. Deschanel: Wow, it’s hard for me to say what the success is and it’s hard for me to be objective about something that I’m absolutely in the middle of right now. But, when people come up to me and are fans of the show, a lot of people say, “It’s the only show that I can watch with my husband,” or, “It’s the only show I can watch with my family, or my wife.” Everyone likes different things. I think that one of the qualities of our show that may have been a detriment at times and may have not made us the huge hit right away that some other shows have been is the fact that it’s so many different things.

I mean we have science, we have forensics, we are solving crimes, but we also have humor. We have character relationships, which kind of are the backbone of the whole show. Then, you have episodes that are more poignant and more serious and some that are more action filled. You kind of never know what you’re going to get. There are certain things that you know they will have: the relationships, there’s those dynamics, great characters, witty dialog, and stuff like that. But, there are so many elements that different people are drawn to for different reasons.

As for Kathy Reichs, she has a huge, huge following of people reading her books. We had, from the beginning, I think it really helped us to (a) have that, and also have David Boreanaz, his incredible success. So many people are such huge fans of his from Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So we had some fan base going in. That may be why we’ve had such loyal fans, certainly, from the beginning who followed us from so many different time slots.

Absolutely, Kathy Reichs is a very successful writer. So many people love her books; love the Temperance Brennan books. I think that it was hard at the beginning because we had to explain that this Temperance Brennan is actually based on Kathy Reichs, not Temperance Brennan in the book. It’s only loosely based on Kathy Reichs. But, at the same time, if you’re a fan of the books, I think you’ll be a fan of the show because this Temperance Brennan is a different Temperance Brennan, but there are definitely similarities from the book to the show.

Q: How long do you want to go with this show? Do you feel like you’re peaking?

E. Deschanel: It’s such a good question. It’s so hard to know. I wish I had that perspective. It’s something that I don’t really have control over. At this point, I have a contract for eight seasons, so I can’t say, “I’m done now.” I’d rather not say, “We’re peaking, I’m done,” because I’d be in trouble for breaking my contract. I’d rather just think that we’re going for at least eight seasons or something.

No, it’s something as an actor that you only have a certain amount of control over. You look at certain shows that last for ten years and that is just incredible. I just can’t believe we’ve been here for six seasons. Not because I don’t believe in the show and I don’t love it and I don’ think it deserves a huge audience. It’s just that there’s so many wonderful shows that get cancelled in the first season. There’s so many wonderful shows that don’t get picked up in the first place. I know I’m so lucky to be doing the show; the show that I love doing and a character that I have such affection for. I’m just incredibly lucky.

But, I love doing this show. When I started, I thought, “Three seasons. That’s the most. That’s such a long time. I’ll be exhausted by then. I will be done and then I can move on to other things.” Then, it keeps going, but I’ve never thought, “Oh, we got picked up for another season. Oh, darn it. I wish that hadn’t happened.” I’ve always been excited when we’ve been picked up for another season. I think that will continue, but who knows. Maybe, talk to me—we’ll go for 11 years and I might be like, “I’m done with the show. I’m sick of it,” but right now I’m still enjoying myself and loving it, and just counting my lucky stars.

Q: With this case coming up in next week’s episode, is it going to affect how she feels about her career at all or how much time she dedicates to work? Because I know, she was disillusioned before, does that come up again?

E. Deschanel: Yes. It does come up a bit, but not as much anymore. I think Brennan realized when she was away from it how much she missed it. I think that’s a small factor, but not a big one. I think that she realizes that she’s good at this. She enjoys this. She loves solving crimes and she loves doing it with the team that she does it with. She loves seeing the results of her work immediately; well, not always immediately, but you what I mean.

You can actually affect the world when you are solving crimes as opposed to identifying ancient remains. Sure, it can impact science in such a huge way. But right now, you’re solving a crime. You’re putting people behind bars. You’re stopping new crimes from happening. You are bringing some tiny bit of peace to family members. I think that she likes being that person. I think she recognized that when she was away from it.

Q: You said earlier that you’re only a few episodes ahead of yourself in terms of the production. But, are there teasers that you can give us about any of the cases that are coming up?

E. Deschanel: Sure. We have an episode about daredevil BMX bikers. We have an episode about people who are polygamists – one polygamist who has many wives. So, you have an episode like that which seems to be very popular right now with different reality shows, the Big Love show, and all of that. That’s interesting.

What did we just shoot? Sometimes I have no memory for a while, just before. We have one with the gravedigger, which is action packed. There’s a sniper loose in DC. David directs an episode about that, which is great, great fun, action packed episode. Just love that episode. That’s a really exciting one. Then, we have the BMX biker daredevil episode, which I’m just starting reading right now. Then there’s the one we’re doing now about …. Those are some ideas of a few ahead. We’re just like a few ahead.

Q: Now, playing this character for as long as you have, does anything about her still surprise you?

E. Deschanel: Yes, yes. I think I was surprised as she started to open up more. What I just love, this was a couple of seasons ago, but there was a scene where she asked Sweets to help her learn facial expressions because she’s kind almost on the autistic spectrum, almost Aspbergery—not quite, but has some characteristics that fit into that. She doesn’t really understand how to read peoples’ emotions. I just love that she recognized that she didn’t know how to do this and she wanted to get better at it. I just love that.

I loved the Jersey Shore episode. That surprised me just how much Brennan had studied this culture of the guidos and how seriously she took it. In a way, things surprise me and in a way, things don’t. Because of course, she studied these guidos. Of course, she takes it very seriously as an anthropological study. She’s going to throw a guy the crab, doing a body building pose to scare someone away. It’s a lot of fun.

Yes and no I guess is my answer. I love so many of her qualities, especially when she’s trying to grow as a person and open up.

Q: What’s your advice to actors, somebody just trying to get a start in the business?

E. Deschanel: Study acting. Do theater. Play as different kind of characters as you possibly can. Stretch yourself as far as you can. Make it about the acting. So many people get caught up in the looks and the agents and the business of it all and who you know and all of that. I guess that’s valid, but if you concentrate on the acting, I can’t say that everything will fall into place, because I know so many incredibly talented actors who are struggling. I heard somebody say once it’s 90% perseverance and like 5% talent. I think that’s so true, but I think if you are perseverant and if you— Concentrate on the acting, that’s all I’ll say. Concentrate on the acting.

Q: After this emotional episode, how nice was it to go back to more case of the week? Was it a relief?

E. Deschanel: Absolutely, absolutely. It took a lot out of me. It was an exhausting episode, physically, outside in the rain at night, all of that stuff. I’m not saying poor me in any way, but I’m just saying it was a relief to come back to doing these episodes, things like that. Definitely a relief, definitely a relief.

I didn’t mention this. We have an episode coming up, which I was supposed to direct. It was reported that I was supposed to direct an episode about a wedding planner, which I’m excited to read. But, I’m not directing that episode after all because it turned out they’d have to write me out of the episode before it so much and the episode that I was directing so much that I’d be so light in the episode that it turned out that we’re now after Idol and we didn’t know that. It’s just a wonderful opportunity to be after American Idol.

To do that episode, they were worried if we had two episodes very soon early on after Idol in which I’m just not very present in the show that it might take away. I don’t know if that’s true, but they were. Maybe the audience would rather me not be in the show that much, but Hart was concerned about it. So, we are talking about moving me to the end of the season. Sorry, that was one thing I just wanted to clear up, because it was reported that I am directing this episode and I am not directing that episode.

But, yes, it’s nice to do a more—fluffy may not be exactly the right word for it, but it’s on the fluffier side of things, doing an episode about a wedding planner, things like that.

Q: It was interesting to hear you talk about the work you do that you don’t want to take home. What sort of extra work did you have to do on this episode?

E. Deschanel: You just spend more time working on it. I work with my acting teacher on it, but there’s just a lot of work you do on your own. I hate talking about the acting process, but it’s a lot of creating thoughts and memories and all of that. So, there’s a lot of work to do. When it’s such a heavy episode, you’re facing such serious emotions as a character. It’s just more demanding. It takes longer to do. You’re just working harder on that. It’s stuff I love. I love doing that. I like the challenge. I don’t think I could do it every single episode. I don’t know, maybe I’d get used to it, but it demands lot.

Q: Does directing demand even more from you then?

E. Deschanel: Oh, yes, absolutely. When we postponed the directing, so much has happened in my life recently. There’s a lot going on, so in a way I was disappointed that we had to move the directing episode but I was also relieved. Because I am going to be able to take some time in the Christmas break to (a) I’ll have more time to spend doing things I want to do, spending more time with family and stuff, not having to work as much because I’d be preparing while I was on Christmas break if I was directing the next episode.

So, since I’m not doing that, I can spend time preparing, but in advance whatever I can do about directing, figuring out, anticipating things that I’ll want and need for the episode. Yes, absolutely. I probably won’t know entirely what it will demand of me physically and mentally and everything, until I get to the point where I am actually directing. I think it’s one of those kinds of jobs that you just can’t completely prepare for until you’re in it, and certainly, until you actually get the script for the actual episode. I’m sure it’s going to demand a lot of me. I’m excited for that challenge, but I’m also happy to push it a little longer because there’s a lot going on right now.

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