Interview with Hart Hanson and Geoff Stults from The Finder

Recently, Hart Hanson and Geoff Stults took the time to speak with journalists about their new show, The Finder. Hart Hanson (creator of Bones) has created another soon to be hit. Stults is adorable, witty, and absolutely perfect in the leading role of Walter.

The Finder follows Walter Sherman, an Iraq war veteran, who has always had a knack for finding things. After he was involved in an explosion, he received brain damage and was discharged. He did get a parting gift, though – his skill of finding things became even more potent and he became: a Finder. Walter can find almost anything for almost anyone. Once he takes a case, there is nothing that stops him until he finds what he set out to find.

Along for the ride is his legal advisor, Leo (Michael Clark Duncan), who was once a lawyer, but after tragedy struck his life, he became a big teddy bear. The whole show is centered around the Ends of the Earth bar, which is owned by Leo and where they all live and work, making them into a perfectly dysfunctional family.

This show is not to be missed, and if you don’t want to take my excellent word for it, check out the interview with these two dashing, talented men. They’ll convince you to at least give it shot.

On why The Finder will attract viewers

Geoff Stults: I’m going to tell you what I can. It’s fun. My favorite thing about the character in the show when I first became aware that it was the kind of show that didn’t take itself seriously, at least the character doesn’t take himself seriously and it allows you, the viewer, just to enjoy the ride. It’s just fun and entertaining and that’s I think what our goal is. We’re just trying to have a nice 43 minute enjoyable show that people can tune in at any point and any part of the series and any part of the episodes and enjoy themselves and understand what’s going on. Hart?

Hart Hanson: At the beginning of this season, everyone is trying to figure out the most economic way to make TV. And the head of production at 20th Century Fox TV told all the line producers in order to prioritize what made it to the screen that they should ask their show runner what was first and foremost. And without a doubt I didn’t even have to think about it; it was entertainment; we just want to entertain an audience for an hour once a week.

On what makes Walter who he is

G. Stults: Well, at the root of Walter, he’s a former military policeman who suffered a little brain trauma when he was serving in Iraq, so that’s what allows us the entry point into the series and also into Walter. We certainly think it’s very important to hardenize it and in no way are we trying to make light of PTSD and those people that actually suffer from it because it’s a very real disease and a very real problem for our troops and other people for many other reasons. But it allows us this really interesting dramatic license too, it’s like the focal point for all these different things that Walter does.

And his PTSD, it manifests itself into a little bit of a, he lacks social grace. He’s a little paranoid. He’s not very trusting of people. And he isn’t the perfect dinner guest, but he’s fun. If he’s thinking in terms of what he may say, he never intends to be insulting, but it’s just matter of fact to him. And those kind of behaviours will get you in trouble, but they’re also really fun to watch if we do it in a way that we’ve done it, that Hart has done it and the rest of the writers, which is in a way that is light-hearted and entertaining and fun.

On the possible appearance of the other sexy Stults brother, George

H. Hanson: A very, very, very good chance.

G. Stults: That’s right. That’s always been very fun and I’m very lucky to have a brother who happens to be actor and who, as a co-dependent adult, we sometimes live together. So, yes, we get along and to work together would be, again, would be a blast.

[Note from Megan: That would make this TV addict happy. I love them together and think that both are talented actors whose skills are not utilized enough.]

On casting Geoff for the role of Walter

G. Stults: It turns out that Hart has had this long-time man crush on me that none of us knew about. And it’s just like the weirdest thing when I finally went in the room, he threw himself at me, and it was awkward, so I felt bad and I was like all right, I’ll do this. The way it really happened was—

H. Hanson: I like that version. I think we should go with that.

G. Stults: It was a great version. I had met with Hart. The long story short is that I was a little apprehensive after coming off of a couple of dramas that it’s just an interesting lifestyle. It’s definitely, you live there when you’re the lead of the show. And I made a decision that I was only going to do a half hour. So when this got sent my way, I didn’t read it and it got sent my way again and the casting director had been a fan of mine and had been helpful to me in my career and asked me to read it as a favor to him. He just said, “If you like this at all, just do me the favor and sit down with Hart Hanson.” I was like. “Who the F is Hart Hanson?”

So I read it and I was like, ah, man, I like this. All right I’ll at least meet with him. I purposely grew out a beard. I didn’t shave. I tried to look as rough as I could because my goal was to walk in there and have Hart be like “this isn’t the guy.” And everything I did backfired on me.

I need to probably take that technique into more of my career, just like that episode in Seinfeld when George Castanza realizes that every decision he makes is wrong, so he has to start going with the exact opposite of his gut reactions, so that’s kind of what happened. And the next thing you know we’re doing a show together.

H. Hanson: I have an overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV. I owe them a pilot each year. I was actually thinking this year of trying to weasel out of it; I’m busy on Bones and everything. One of the executives at 20th Century Fox, Lisa Katz, brought me a novel called The Locator by Richard Greener and they sucked me in. First she said, “Do you think this would make a good series? How do you think it would make a good series? Why don’t you just write the pilot? How about you just produce the pilot? How about you just get the series up and running?” I thought it was a very, very clean way into a network series that a guy who can find anything. Everyone is always looking for a way to do a PI series and no one wants to do a PI series, and I just jumped at the chance to do that.

Casting Geoff was in a way very much like casting Michael Clarke Duncan. I had a darker, quieter more internal character in mind when I first wrote the piece, just someone not as voluble, not someone who was as accessible. Geoff came in for his meeting and I don’t know if you’ve seen Geoff Stults in person, but he’s very tall and ridiculously good looking. And he came through the door—

G. Stults: Go on, go on.

H. Hanson: He came in to meet with us. He wasn’t going to read. He was going to meet with us and he had his beard. He looked like Mountain Man. And the first thing I thought was, oh, man, I already cast Leo. This guy would have been perfect. About 30 seconds in—this just sounds like I’m kissing Geoff’s butt, you know when you’re with a leading man. I’m an old fart in this business and there are actors and there are leading men and there are leading men who are actors. If you get that number three, you know what, you jump at number two. You get a leading man who can’t act, you jump at that guy. You get a leading man who can act and you’d do anything to get them.

And then the third element was that Geoff, he’s a very good looking guy, he could just get along on that. He’s self-deprecating. He’s funny and he’s goofy when he wants to be. And all of a sudden I started right in that meeting five minutes in I think I grabbed Dan Sackheim, our directing producer on the show, was sitting next to me. I think I grabbed his knee and started squeezing because we’d been casting for a long time and it’s a very difficult process. And I just thought this guy is a TV star. He will be funny. I honestly thought he was a mix between Tom Selleck and Timothy Olyphant and what TV guy would not run at him.

So Geoff is right, hearts came out of my eyes and I really wanted him to come and be Walter. And if The Finder doesn’t work and Geoff is out of work, I heartily recommend that someone else immediately make him a star. He’s a big TV star.

On why Saffron Burrows is no longer on the show

H. Hanson: If it was a normal pilot, if we’d done the show as a normal pilot, then what we would have done is looked at it and decided what changes we were going to make and do a bunch of re-shoots; and the world would never have known or it would have been a by-line that we’ve made casting changes. You’ve seen that many times. In our case everything we did was out in public and we had no time because our, I’m hooking my fingers…, “pilot,” was a special episode of Bones. So there was just no chance of that happening, and the decisions were made after the pilot aired, the spin-off crossover pilot aired.

So poor Saffron was in the unenviable position of everyone seeing her and then now we’re going to wonder where she was and it’s a good question. The reasons decisions are made are spread over a studio and network, lots of arguing and lots of fighting that I’m not really too interested in getting into.

But in the end the decision was made to go in a different direction to expand the show with two characters instead of the one character, Ike, and we made the change. We never explained the change in our series. We never say what ever happened to that woman who used to be here. We just move on, so it’s just one of the costs of doing the show the way we did it.

On how The Finder stands on it’s own

H. Hanson: I think it’s important to make a distinction between the creative and the marketing. And I know, believe me I know, that they are counting on the Bones audience being—it’s a measured decision to go after the Bones audience to try and get them to come over. There’s a big experiment in this way of making a pilot.

Creatively this show stands on its own in my opinion. It lives in the same universe as Bones, meaning that it’s a heightened reality. I hope largely humorous for people, we’ll make you cry; we’ll make you think a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of laughs. Unlike Bones we won’t try and make you throw up, but it lives totally on its own, but you’re dead right. We are all trying to get the loyal kind of audience that Bones has, a nice chunk of people who followed Bones from time slot to time slot. If we can get a part of that audience on The Finder, then it benefits everyone.

G. Stults: I can tell you from my perspective as just a cast member of The Finder, I guess I’ll also say that of Bones and our own little spin-off way, we’re aware of that. We’re aware that we’ll be mixing, hopefully, obviously we’re going to be counting on some people coming over. We realize that there are some die-hard Bones fans. We realize that there’ll be criticism because we are not the same thing. Like Hart said, we were born in the same world.

I guess we come from the same world, but the way that I look at it is, and I actually called Bones the varsity team and The Finder is the JV team. We’re born from Bones. We exist, The Finder and the 200 crew members of The Finder, exist because of the success of Bones and David and Emily and the rest of the cast, John Francis Daley and T. J. were both on our show. But even before that T.J. and Michaela they were all part of the spin-off, so we really exist because of them and we’re grateful to that and we understand that without Bones, The Finder doesn’t exist, but yet we are different.

It’s a little quirkier I would say. The actors on Bones are smarter than the actors on The Finder. We couldn’t even say the words that the actors on Bones do, so we have to have a lot more action to fill in for the lack of intelligence …. So there’s one difference there and it only begins there.

On the brilliance that is Michael Clarke Duncan

H. Hanson: Michael Clarke Duncan was, the original character of Leo Knox was Sam Sheppard, an elderly, skinny white cowboy. I believe that the person who first said to me “is there a role for Michael Clarke Duncan on the show?” was the head of casting, Sharon Klein, at the studio. I believe that’s where it came from. Whoever it was, I don’t think she got through Clarke before I said, “Yes, there’s a role for him” and I just totally rewrote Leo. If you have a chance to get someone like Michael Clarke Duncan, you don’t stop and say “does that really match the character?” You write a character to match him. He has his aura and charisma and his whole being that you want to go running at, so that’s what we did. So you can thank the studio.

[Note from Me: Some of the best casting to date. Love him.]

On finding the perfect balance between comedy and drama

H. Hanson: You just put your thumb on the gaping open wound of our everyday existence on The Finder. It’s a juggling. It’s a tough go and we have tons of debate about almost every scene at every level. Is this working? If you raise the stakes too much, does it make this scene not funny anymore? How much lightheartedness can you get away with before the story becomes too light to sustain over 43 minutes? All I can tell you is it’s what we wrestle with on The Finder.

We always had the equivalent on Bones, too. For example, we found out in the first season of Bones, that if the remains were of a child, you weren’t going to have a very funny episode and in The Finder there are certain moments.

And you’ll tell us at the end of 13 episodes if we were successful in juggling a sentimental and melancholy or dramatic scenes with the lightheartedness of our characters trying to find things. But if we do this right, and I hope we are in every episode, people find things they don’t want to find, and that’s the world Walter lives in. And that’s why he’s a bit callous about it. People think they want something, but they don’t. They want something else and he’s always blundering into that. He’s very literal.
There you have it. If reading Hart discussing the show he created so candidly doesn’t make you want to tune in, there’s no hope for you. 🙂

I am very excited to add The Finder to my weekly viewing schedule. This show is well-written, witty, dramatic, and has a cast with the delicious chemistry needed to make it work.

Tune in to FOX tonight at 9/8c for the series premiere after the new episode of Bones (which is on a special time of 8/7c), and I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

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