The star and executive producer discuss the new season on Fox
Bones is entering its fifth season this fall, which premieres on Thursday, September 17 at 8 PM ET on Fox. Two big parts of why the show has come this far are Emily Deschanel, who stars as Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan and creator/executive producer Hart Hanson. They both held a conference call to discuss this upcoming fifth season and here's what they had to say.
Now that they're kind of tossing around the L word this season - or at least in the premiere - and they seem to really be taking stock of their emotions and how they feel about each other is that going to be an ongoing theme for this season?
Hart Hanson: Yes, they're going to be lesbians.
Emily Deschanel: That's exactly really what I thought of when he said that. Oh, really?
Hart Hanson: Yes, they have to wrestle with the emotions that were uncorked in the season finale and then I was going to use the wrong verb - and looked at again in the season opener, the season five opener.
Emily Deschanel: But also throughout the season this is something that's kind of touched upon, debated, discussed, well not that much discussed. But it's definitely a theme that continues through the season.
Hart Hanson: Different characters become aware of the dynamic at different times.
Regarding Zooey guest starring on the show, which frankly at this point I had started to file under things that are never going to happen, do you have any details yet on her character, the dynamic she'll have with Brennan, the dynamics she'll have with Booth, and air date?
Hart Hanson: We are looking - we are trying to get Zooey in for the Christmas episode which is episode ten. She will play Brennan's closest blood relative not counting her dad and her brother that she hasn't met before.
Emily Deschanel: That's also hoping that something doesn't happen.
Hart Hanson: Yes.
Emily Deschanel: We've tried this before and then she has a very busy, unpredictable schedule so something could come up and she's like, "Sorry, I have to take this job somewhere." Or she has to go on tour or something. I know she's excited about it. I was e-mailing with her the other day and so hopefully it will work out, but it's not confirmed. We're just saying that's what she would play if she does it.
Hart Hanson: We're just going to keep trying and one day she is going to be on this show.
I'm wondering how Bones is going to cope with Booth's changes this season?
Hart Hanson: Well, you're going to have to tune in to watch. That's part of the story. I can tell you in general she's going to cope the way she copes with everything in life, which is very irrationally and using her big brain instead of her heart.
Emily Deschanel: Her big brain instead - yes. Her tiny heart, it's barely there. I mean I would say that she definitely is somebody who guards her emotions and - exactly, excuse me, Hart is now patting my back. She - I think that I answered that pretty well.
Hart Hanson: Yes, anything else -
Emily Deschanel: I was going to elaborate but then it gets -
Hart Hanson: We started getting into the details of it. But you know what we said about from the beginning about Brennan is that she doesn't lack emotions, quite the contrary she's extremely emotional she just learned early in her life that things were easier for her if she wrapped her emotions very tightly in an armor of intellect and rationalization. That is - that's what has to be got through for these two people to get closer. That's the process we're going through.
As far as actually getting them together is it just a fear that if they get together their spark will sort of die?
Hart Hanson: I wouldn't say it's a fear. It's - we're just telling this story in the best way we possibly can in the time we're guessing that we're allotted. At the same time a series and a relationship takes on its own momentum so we're trying to serve two masters, tell the story the best way we can while telling that story at the same rate that it seems to be demanding of itself. Oh boy.
How long do you think we have until we know?
Hart Hanson: Well, we know we've been ordered for two more seasons. And that's what we're trying to get...
Emily Deschanel: I'm thinking ten.
Hart Hanson: Are you thinking ten? Emily's thinking ten.
Emily Deschanel: I just do it one episode at a time.
Hart Hanson: Yes. So we're constantly adjusting what happens when in the best way we can. We don't want to leave - we don't want to jump any story and we don't want to leave any story behind. We just want to tell this story in the best possible way we can, like a series of novels. Each season is like another novel in a series of novels.
Regarding the relationships, not just Booth and Brennan, but Angela and Hodgins, what kind of feedback do you get from viewers? Are they impatient or do they seem to trust you - that you'll do right by them and the characters before it's all said and done?
Hart Hanson: We get every iteration of what you just said. There is a lot of passion in both directions. I would say nobody is patient. Everybody has a lot to say on it which is all good for us. It's just good.
Emily Deschanel: People always want to know when are Booth and Brennan going to get together, if somebody stops me in the street or something like that. It's always a question that's hard to answer.
Hart Hanson: I get hollered at on behalf of every single character all the time including Goodman from season one who hasn't been - played by Jonathan Adams.
Emily Deschanel: Right.
Hart Hanson: People still will come up and say, "When is Goodman coming back?" And Cullen, Booth's boss for a while. We have a very passionate, very vocal audience based. Boy, are they not shy. They holler at me all the time. I'm glad they don't holler at you.
That's a good problem to have, right?
Hart Hanson: It's a great problem to have. The - silence and apathy would be a disaster. I'd rather be hollered at all the time than hear nothing.
Emily Deschanel: Agreed.
Hart Hanson: I'd rather be hollered at "Oh, you're a genius, we love you, please keep going." But that doesn't happen.
Last season Brennan asked Booth to be the father of her child. Now that his feelings have changed for her, will we maybe readdress that question - is any baby stuff coming up?
Hart Hanson: Without a doubt we will address that question.
Emily Deschanel: Yes, I think you see Brennan with all ready for Booth to be the father of her child but then when all these complications happen it's - she puts it away for a while.
Hart Hanson: I always thought it was telling and a good source of the story that when the possibility of Booth being the father of her child receded somewhat for various reasons, her interest in having a baby also receded. I think that's just one of the things that's very telling in that relationship. She doesn't just want to have a baby, she does not know this, but she wants to have Booth's baby.
So I guess I want to ask you guys are in the same time slot you were in last year. No one is threatening to move you guys to Friday, you know you're coming back next season already. Does stability feel different?
Hart Hanson: Yes. I - how do I say this nicely? I actually - for the first time in many seasons believe the network when they - Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly said we are going to keep you on at 8 p.m., Preston Beckman on Thursdays. I've been screaming about that since the beginning because for those who notice such things any time we've been in a single time slot for more than two or three episodes our numbers go way up, people find us. Then we move again. Despite the fact that it's a tough time slot, 8 p.m. on Thursdays, I personally am more pleased for us to be in one place with stability. As you said every year they've said we're going to move you to Fridays in the winter and that's always just painful even though everyone is winking when they say it. Yes, stability feels better. I feel like our promos are sharper and more prevalent this year. We have a good feeling about Bones this season from the network.
Emily Deschanel: I don't want to take anything for granted and I think it's something that we're always trying to work as hard and harder than we did the last year and it's - I don't think because of what we've been through none of us take anything for granted. It's nice that they've made that gesture that they've kept us in the same time slot, that they've picked us up for two seasons. That's really nice.
Hart Hanson: It doesn't change our work.
Emily Deschanel: It doesn't change our work.
From this position of stability can you look back at the past few years and see advantages to sort of the chip on the shoulder attitude that you guys have had for a couple of seasons?
Hart Hanson: I cannot. As Emily said we tucked in right from the beginning, right from the pilot. It's a very good company, an excellent crew. It's not like it kept us sharp or anything what it did was kind of inure us to pain - I would much rather have been where we are now back in the beginning in one slot. It's sort of the CBS mode of doing things is to stick a show into its slot and let it find an audience. I think that would have served us well.
Emily Deschanel: I think - I like the fact though that we've never - we've always kind of been like the show that just surprises everyone that they move us around all the time and yet our audience will grow and I love the fact that that's the way our show is and that we weren't some crazy hit right off the bat. I think we've been able to grow naturally and our audience grows while we're growing. I like that element.
Hart Hanson: Maybe you're right. Maybe it did kind of bring us together like the little engine that could.
Emily Deschanel: Right. Our egos would have probably gotten huge if we were in one place and people watched our show from the beginning.
One other thing a lot of people have noticed is that David isn't dressing the same way right - in the first episode. He doesn't have his "cocky" belt buckle and he's wearing a black tie and socks -what's up with that? Is that part of the brain tumor thing?
Hart Hanson: It is. It is. He's got to come back in his own inimitable way over a little bit of time.
Do you know if the crossover with Lie to Me is going to still be happening or is that just rumor?
Hart Hanson: It's slightly better than rumor and it's much less than a fact. I think the fact that here we are going into our fifth season, we're a machine in a way in terms of generating stories and getting scripts out and Lie to Me is still - they've got a new show runner. It's a lot harder for them. In a way we're waiting to see if Lie to Me is able to do that. If they are then we have a few ideas. If they are not, we really understand. Retooling a series is like doing the first season again and really those guys have to have their heads down just trying to make their new season and establish their new series. Their first priority is not going to be doing a crossover with us.
Oh, but Lightman would be perfect because Booth was not being honest about his feelings. That would be perfect.
Hart Hanson: I'm writing that down.
Hart, I wanted to ask you presumably when you started this five years ago your idea was I have this good source of material and interesting characters. You make a cool sort of crime-based show. When did it sort of turn the corner for you and become - it's almost more of a character show now I think than it is a show like it used to be.
Hart Hanson: My inclination right from the beginning when 20th first came to me and said would you do a forensics show? I said, "No, I'm not your guy to do a forensics show." They know me. They know where my tastes lie and they said, "No, no, we want your take on it. Which means a character in a humor based take on a forensics show." I also thought just commercially-from a commercial point of view - that for us to go in just as another forensics show despite the fact that we had the slight difference of it being about Bones, it wouldn't set us apart from the pack. We had to do something where the show was different. That's why David and Emily are cast in the show. If we wanted to do a different kind of a show we would not have needed David and Emily. The turn I think, though, if I understand your question correctly, Rick, was that in the second season the promotions department at Fox, at the network, started - do you remember what their motto was -
Emily Deschanel: It takes chemistry.
Hart Hanson: It takes chemistry, yes.
Emily Deschanel: Solving crimes takes chemistry.
Hart Hanson: Where they are a separate fiefdom, the promotions people. We have very little effect on what they do. I think that's a good thing. They just saw where the strengths of the series lie and pushed that and that changed everybody's mind and all of a sudden everybody was on board for the kind of - the softer take on a forensics show than they had initially been pushing us toward in the first season.
Emily Deschanel: Then I think the network saw that and allowed us to do what we wanted to do from the beginning.
Hart Hanson: That's right. That's right. It became much less of a fight and they went for it.
How do you sort of gauge where to sort of throw in the levity moments when you have a grisly mutilated body and the focus of the case that week?
Hart Hanson: Well, we are getting better at knowing what works and what doesn't work. With the advantage Bones has is that most of the time the remains that Booth and Brennan are standing over - they're very, very gross but not usually a recognizable human being. You have a bit more luxury with their asides and the humor than you would if it was a recognizable - oh look at that someone's mother lying there. That's a huge reason it works is that - and we actually make the bodies hideous enough that it's almost funny. It goes over toward the macabre or the grotesque. Then certainly Emily can tell you we cut to what works. They shoot more-David and Emily snap around more than what eventually hits the screen. We just put in the best parts we think, and the parts that work we think, and there's tons of debate about it in every single episode.
You guys mentioned earlier about being moved around and sort of being in an underdog position in that respect. It's not the most critically adored show -- most critics like it, but it's not like one of those things that people rave about and stuff like that. Obviously you have a strong following and your audience loves you and you have I think, really great ratings for a Thursday night considering your competition. Can you talk about that a little bit more and sort of how it makes you feel to be sort of ignored but noticed by the right people?
Emily Deschanel: Oh, I don't know. I kind of like it. I think I'm sure it would feel great to be adored by everyone but I don't think it ever hurts to not feel like anything you do is going to be perfect or something like that. I don't know, I think it's good for the ego and the soul not to be adored too much. But it's nice, we have fans who are so loyal. We've built audience over the years, our audience has grown and so many shows they drop. We have amazing fans who are so loyal to our show, who love it, who - like we've discussed before have opinions - very strong opinions about it. I do get feedback on the street from that. We were mentioned by different critics that people like us. I'm happy with the success we've had. I don't feel like I've been - that we're ignored or something like that completely. There are certain shows that people just love.
Hart Hanson: We're not one of the big shiny shows. I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't because most of us are kind of like that. We're not really big shiny people. I think David is probably the biggest personality on the show.
Emily Deschanel: Yes.
Hart Hanson: The guy who would love to be the number one show and at the Emmy's and be appreciated ---
Emily Deschanel: Right.
Hart Hanson: But most of us are kind of like you know, we're workaday people who are kind of happy with our show and happy that it gets the acclaim it gets.
Emily, I was wondering what you think is the most challenging or difficult part about playing Temperance?
Emily Deschanel: Well, I think a couple things. One is the fact that she does guard her emotions but also making - letting you in to see her emotions here and there. Getting glimpses of her feelings inside and how you do that without compromising her character and balancing that. I think over the years we've kind of opened her up at different times more and Hart and I have discussed this and one of the things that's hard for - the biggest challenge for writing is also for acting is balancing the humor and the drama and it's the thing that I love the most about the show. We can go from one second - change tones from one second to another. That's also a challenge but yes, I think those are the two most challenging things about the show.
I want to know if you'd ever gotten any flack from anyone about having - you've tackled a couple of what might be - I don't know - controversial themes like having atheists and bisexual people on the show. I was wondering if you'd ever gotten any flack for doing that.
Emily Deschanel: For the atheist, oh yes.
Hart Hanson: Yes, yes we catch flack. We're politically incorrect. We're kind of proud of that and again the show lends itself to it because we have some characters who are hyper-rational and are not - led by Brennan-and not led by politeness or subtext or political correctness. It's kind of fun to go there. The line I'm still amazed that we got on the air was when Brennan says to Booth, "Jesus is not a zombie."
Emily Deschanel: No, no, I said - I equated Jesus to a zombie.
Hart Hanson: Because he rose from the dead after three days Booth says -- It's fun for us and yes we get - yes, yes, there is plenty of response.
Emily Deschanel: I think though we balance - we won a diversity award and I always think that's not just for people of different backgrounds or colors of skin I think it's presenting many different points of view and we're pretty fair about that. I don't say we because you're the one that writes it, but the show presents many different points of view in a - I think a fair way and a humorous way a lot of times. We'll have debates about things and people say some outrageous things. People I'm sure were offended by Brennan saying that Jesus was a zombie but it is -it's done in a humorous way and I think - I also want to say that when you were saying that we have atheists or bisexual characters, I wouldn't say that just having those characters on is politically incorrect but the way we've maybe dealt with it sometimes people are sensitive to it. I like the fact that we're presenting different - all different people all different walks of life, different points of view, and I like that in the show.
Hart Hanson: Some of my favorite episodes are the ones that deal with religion.
Emily Deschanel: Me, too.
Hart Hanson: You know the trans-gendered preacher was one of my favorite shows. I just like that.
Emily Deschanel: Me, too.
Hart Hanson: Getting Brennan's hyper-rational point of view on the confusing issues in the world is just fun and then you clash those with Booth's very humanistic, very emotional approach to life and we have some fun with that.
Well I think it's great and apparently Fox does too because how else can Family Guy have both atheist and bisexual characters? I guess you've created a trend. I don't know.
Hart Hanson: Here's where our egos are huge around here. We think that secretly we've started a whole bunch of little trends. I'm thinking The Big Bang Theory is because of Emily Deschanel.
Emily Deschanel: We made nerd cool first.
Hart Hanson: Don't tell anyone we said that though.
I have a question about John Francis Daley, ...and I was wondering if Brennan and Booth are ever going to give him -- Sweets-- throw him a bone and tell him he's right for once or if he's ever going to get to convince them that he's right about them?
Emily Deschanel: It's so much fun to tell him he's wrong though.
Hart Hanson: Much of the time what we do is have Booth and Brennan tell Sweets he's wrong and then the audience sees that Sweets is right. Yes, I think we have out there hanging, the book that he has written about Booth and Brennan and he also knows-he knows what's going on between them. As they get closer to having to contend with what is actually going on between them Sweets is part of that. I would say, yes he will get his - what's the good form of comeuppance? His due.
Emily Deschanel: His day.
Hart Hanson: He'll get his day. The dog will get his day.
You can watch Emily Deschanel star in Hart Hanson's Bones, which premieres its fifth season on Thursday, September 17 at 8 PM ET on Fox.