Last week, Bones creators/executive producers Hart Hanson & Stephen Nathan spoke to the press about the return of the show to Mondays and what we can look forward to the rest of the season and into next. To start off, check out their answers to my first two questions.
Because Wendell is my favorite squintern, I had to ask about him and the cancer story line. When I asked what they could tell me about whether or not we’d see him soon and why they chose to go with cancer, they said:
Hart Hanson: Nothing. Don’t say anything—
Stephen Nathan: Wendell will be coming back this season. He’s coming back. I think it’s in Episode 18.
Hart: It’s an unfolding story.
Stephen: Yes, we will not tell you how it ends, but we will revisit Wendell. And he will come back mid-treatment and be working at the Jeffersonian still in his old job. Although, that will get very, very complicated, and it will not unfold the way, I think, we expect it to.
Hart: Well, maybe the way we expect, but not the way the audience expects.
Jump with me to see why they chose the Wendell and the cancer story line.
Stephen: Wendell is sort of the most all-American guy, and he and Booth are so close. To have two guys who are so strong deal with a vulnerability that intense, just seemed to work for the two of them. And it really did in that first episode, that scene in Booth’s office was just so moving and so rich for those two characters. And then now to continue with it with everyone on board, it just gave us a lot. And it was also a way to explore that disease on the show. I mean, not to be exploitive, but we have had a lot of feedback from people who are cancer survivors or families who have been dealing with that, and it meant a lot to them. And if we could do that every now and then on the show, it means a lot to us to be able to do that.
Hart: Wendell’s one of our most sympathetic characters. And he has the most relationship with Booth and Brennan, so he was the best candidate to do a sad and intense story.
On the return of the Ghost Killer
Stephen: It will be tangentially a part of the season finale. We’ll be revisiting the Ghost Killer in Episode 20. And we will find that the Ghost Killer is just the tip of an iceberg. But it is going to lead us into a big conspiracy that appears as if it goes back to the F.B.I. So the Ghost Killer—it’s no secret that Hart and I are not madly in love with serial killers, so it’s a way for us to do a continuing story that doesn’t revolve around one murderer. It takes us down the rabbit hole in a way that’s a little more complicated and a little darker than we have in the past.
On how the show has changed from their original ideas
Hart: I knew when I wrote the pilot what the ending to Bones should be. It’s something I have to do to know what a series is. I know what the end of Backstromis, too. It’s just something I have to aim at.
So far, so good. We did not in any way expect to get this amount of time. So we strung out how long Booth and Brennan would be together for as long as we could. We’re very pleased with the number of stories that are generated by them being together. But every single season right from the get-go we have been ready, if it looked like it, to end our series. And Stephen and I were just talking about this the other day, I think that if Season 10 is our final season then at least the macro version of what I had in mind, we’ll be able to use. If we go past Season 10, the series will need a bit of [a reinvention]. We can’t tread water.
Stephen: I think throughout these nine years, it’s always the best laid plans. We have an idea of where we want it to go, but since the finish line keeps moving all we can really do is continue to examine the characters and follow them where they lead. And so far they’ve surprised us often, and it’s changed the course of the show. But we do know where it’s going. We ultimately know where it’s going. I mean it’s not the Dharma initiative.
Hart: We know where it’s going unless it goes past Season 10. Then we have to rethink where it’s going.
Stephen: And it very easily could go past Season 10.
On Ignacio Serricchio guest starring as Brennan’s equal
Stephen: He’ll be [on Monday, March 17.] It’s really great. He’s playing a Cuban defector who was the chief forensic anthropologist in Havana, but his credentials don’t work here. As often happens with people who come from another country, they have to get accreditation again.
Hart: So the idea of your taxi driver sometimes was a brain surgeon in another place.
Stephen: So the Secretary of State has asked the Jeffersonian to give him the position because he needs an internship before he gets his accreditation. So he essentially is an equal with Brennan, but Brennan is his boss. And he is in fact an intern. Yes, and Ignacio’s fantastic. He’s just terrific. We can’t wait to have him back. He will return.
On whether or not they think the show will end with Season 10
Stephen: As is always the case, we approach each season as if it’s not going to be the last.
Hart: Well, Stephen, I actually approach it as though it is going to be the last.
Stephen: I guess that shows you a little bit about our personalities.
Hart: Yes, that’s it right there. They can’t possibly go another season. We have to be ready, and then Stephen has been proven right nine seasons in a row.
Stephen: You have to write the unfolding story, and then if someone tells you to fold it up; you fold it up. But we’re not approaching this season as if it’s the end.
Hart: There are other forces too. We have deals, or I should say the network and studio have deals with the actors through Season 10, so those would need to be renegotiated. It’s whether or not the actors are still motivated. So far it appears they are, but you can’t speak for them. And renegotiations can be the reason something goes away. The network can just not want it anymore, which is a reason it would go away. Or there are plenty of shows where the show runners and the actors get together and talk about whether or not they want to keep going. It’s just the end of Season 10 is a natural place either for us to end or for us to make a decision to get over all those hurdles to go for another season or two.
On seeing how Booth & Caroline met
Stephen: We have been toying with the idea for quite a while of visiting the past with Booth and Brennan and with the other characters. We did have something in the works, but we couldn’t really do it because you can’t do too many weird ones in one season. But next season, especially if it’s the last season, I think we can do a couple.
Hart: And we have to be careful for our very loyal fans, which many of them are, Caroline first appeared as the federal prosecutor in New Orleans. And we just loved her so much that we dragged her up to D.C. So we’re going to have to see how well they knew each other there, if they did. Well, I can’t remember. So we’ll have to take a look at that.
Stephen: I think Booth was in New Orleans though when he was in the army. Maybe they dated.
[Note from Jenny: Obviously he’s kidding about them having dated. It’s a funny thought, though!]
On Hart going off to do Backstrom & Stephen taking over on Bones
Hart: He’s doing it. The last time I did, Stephen, correct me if I’m wrong, the last time I did a pass at a script was the Wendell Gets Cancer script, I think. And then since then Stephen’s had his grubby little fingers all over it.
Stephen: We’ve always shared it. Hart and I are next door to each other, so even when he went off to do The Finder and I was doing Bones, we still talk all the time. We have coffee in the mornings, so that we get all hyped up. We’ve been down this road before. So yes, basically I’ll be doing the day-to-day stuff here, and Hart will be doing the day-to-day stuff on Backstrom. And if we get bored, we’ll switch.
Hart: We do. And yes, we might do that. We share a little terrace…terrace is kind of grand…it’s more like a little walkway between our offices. And we talk a lot every day about the show, but Stephen will be the heavy-lifter for sure on Bones. It’s weird for me, but that’s the way it goes. And he’s good at it, and he’s been doing it a long time.
On plans for the 200th episode
Hart: We’ve been talking about stuff, but we haven’t landed on anything yet. And one of the things that would really help is if we actually figured out exactly which episode it was. It’s in the first ten of—
Stephen: No, it’s twelve I think.
Hart: Is it twelve? See, we don’t know.
Stephen: I think it’s twelve, but it keeps changing— because I don’t know why, but we’ll get there. There’ll probably be a murder.
Hart: We have a few ideas. We’d love to do something special. Like the 100th episode, it would be great to do something that was really, really aimed at our very loyal, crazily noisy, and invested fans. Another love letter to them, but we have to figure out what it is. We have a few ideas.
On the disgustingness of the cases & bodies
Stephen: We try to make them all equally revolting. It’s hard to choose [a favorite]. The season finale has a delightfully revolting body. I don’t know. We have somebody coming up who has been discovered wrapped in kudzu. But really I think one of the most revolting places we find some remains coming up is in a septic tank.
Hart: It is [pretty gross]. We are still amazed that it got by standards and practices.
Stephen: I mean it was a little tough for us to watch, but—
Hart: Did you not actually cut back on it yourself on that one?
Stephen: I did a little bit.
Hart: I mean, think of that… Stephen Nathan said this is too much before standards and practices did.
Stephen: I’ve only done that one other time. Two times in the history of the show. One was when the reporter, that was The Gravedigger, when the reporter was brought down from the flagpole, and his face had been shot off or something. We don’t do fresh, live bodies, so when we see them it’s just too terrible.
Hart: When there’s gushy parts it’s even worse.
Stephen: Yes. We like a nice animal to be able to crawl out of the remains.
Hart: I still maintain— I mean sadly every once and a while doing research you look at actual, real human remains or from the body farm. Nothing we’ve ever done on BONES comes close to the reality of just how awful human remains can be.
Stephen: We frequently have to change them a bit to make them more enjoyable to watch because sometimes they’re just too gross.
Hart: There has to be a tinge of comedy to it, strange as that sounds. That’s why Stephen, for a while, he was very keen on eyeballs falling out because that’s just funny.
Stephen: Yes. And we sit in a production meeting, and we have a forensic anthropologist on staff who is our technical advisor. And she’ll go, “Oh hey, look at this; this is exactly what you’re talking about.” And you go, “Oh great, I’d liked to— oh my God!” And it’s horrifying.
Hart: I stopped looking. She cannot make me look at anything.
Stephen: I don’t want to see anything. We just have her talk to other people.
Hart: She’s a very sweet-faced woman, and she’ll say, “This could help you in the burn story” and don’t look. Don’t look. You won’t eat for two days.
To end, I asked another two questions. First, I wondered about Sweets and whether or not he’d be getting a love interest anytime soon.
Stephen: We’re toying with that for Season 10. Certainly not at the end of Season 9, but Sweets’ life is interesting. So we’re going to examine him and all of our characters. We’re ending this year with—not ending, ending, but we’re going to examine Cam and Arastoo in a way we haven’t before when we meet Arastoo’s parents. So we try to give all the characters their due. They’re all interesting to us. They all vie for attention, and we try to do as much as we can.
Hart: Of all the characters on the show Sweets has changed the most. I mean, we watched him go from—every once and a while we have to remind ourselves he’s a full grown man now. He started as a wunderkind, a boy wonder, Jimmy Neutron type of guy. And now every once and a while you look at him, and go holy crap, John is leading man handsome. So we got to give him a grown up, big boy love interest.
My second question had to do with the passing of Ralph Waites—who played so many great characters on TV, including Booth’s grandfather on Bones—and whether or not that would come into play.
Hart: I’m sure we will, in Season 10, deal with it. But, I don’t know about Stephen, but I have to tell you I quailed at the thought of somehow it felt exploitive or something to immediately—so we’ll deal with it in Season 10 in some way, but he’s a real person to us. And it was very painful to lose him, and it was unexpected. I mean he is an old guy, mission accomplished. He was an old fellow in the best possible way for an actor. He died in the traces. He was a working man and still in demand.
But I’m sure we’ll do something in Season 10. We’ll figure out something. I know David is very keen of course. He was really, really fond of Ralph. And so we will deal with it, but we have to do it when we’re not still going “aww…” about Ralph.
Stephen: We were asked whether we were going to do it by the end of the year, but really all the scripts were in the works. And the last thing you want to do is shoot from the hip or brush something off. He meant too much to us.
Jenny: Right, it needs to be a tribute.
Hart: Yes, it has to be a real—yes, exactly.
Hart & Stephen are always some of the most fun people to talk to, and this time was no exception, so thanks again to both of them for taking the time out of their crazy busy schedules to speak to us all. You can catch them on Twitter at @harthanson & @squarechicken. Tell them I said hello! 😉
Bones returned on Monday with all-new episodes, so don’t miss the next new episode on Monday, March 17, on FOX at 8/7c.