The special cross-over event with the Fox series Bones and Sleepy Hollow will see a grisly discovery of human remains leading Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) on a hunt for clues, during which they will encounter Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), who are searching for answers of their own. Realizing that they are after the same evidence, they team up to solve the mystery, using Brennan and Booth’s 21st century science to unlock 18th century secrets.
During a conference call to promote the special episodes of both shows, Bones executive producer Jonathan Collier and Sleepy Hollow showrunner/executive producer Clifton Campbell talked about how the idea for the cross-over came about, the challenges of intertwining the shows, the fun of watching the characters on one show team up with the other, mixing their crews together, what most surprised them about the experience, and their hopes of doing it again. (Editor’s Note: check out a sneak peek from the episode after the interview below!)
Question: How did the idea for this cross-over came about?
CLIFTON CAMPBELL: Well, when we started putting the room together, Dana Walden had a great idea to see what kind of a marriage of the two shows we could possibly come up with to see if we could, compatibility wise, pull an evening together in a very fun and a very promotable way. At first, we were certainly challenged by the idea of doing something like that, but within that challenge, we found a great deal of fun in pairing the two up. So, we came up with some ideas and pitched a few things out. The network landed on the idea of making it a big pre-Halloween promotional idea, and then we got to work. I did one cross-over, years ago, on The Profiler and Pretender. One of them was a supernatural show and the other one grounded in reality, and it involved only bringing one actor from each cast over and not a pairing. I found this one to be infinitely more challenging, and therefore entertaining.
Jonathan, what would you say to Sleepy Hollow fans who are tuning into Bones for the first time, and Clifton, what would you say to Bones fans who are tuning into Sleepy Hollow for the first time?
JONATHAN COLLIER: Watch your characters get challenged in a way that you haven’t seen before. I think we’re pulling them out of their comfort zone, not that they’ve ever really ever been in one. That’s the virtue of the show. We’re opening up a type of mystery that couldn’t be told on Sleepy Hollow, and our characters would never ever be able to do an episode in our show like they’ve been able to do in Sleepy Hollow.
CAMPBELL: We always have the struggle with accountability and this bubble that we’ve created within Sleepy Hollow. There’s so much supernatural and unexplained going on around the police procedural aspect of our show, and we don’t want to open that door up to the rest of the world, so having this much contact with the agency to meet all agencies, and with the Jeffersonian and their crew, was really challenging. I think if fans of Bones continue with the storyline, they’ll see how we were able to use and utilize the expertise in Bones, and they’ll see a fun exchange.
Was it easier to put Sleepy Hollow in Bones or Bones in Sleepy Hollow?
COLLIER: I would say it’s intrinsically harder to put Sleepy Hollow in Bones because we don’t acknowledge that the supernatural exists. For our characters, it is not a reality. For Sleepy Hollow, both science and the supernatural exist. So, we had to have a story where both elements can co-exist.
CAMPBELL: That was a tightrope act that we had to pull off. We were able to put our heads together and come up with a terrestrial crime that, on second look, had a supernatural bent that we were then able to take off on in our hour and solve on our side of it. But, it was challenging to deal with the realities of our show inside of their own.
COLLIER: The advantage we had was that we got to use these very, very well developed, fully realized characters from Sleepy Hollow and bring them to our show. It wasn’t like we were starting from scratch.
Do you see either team making use of the other, in the future?
COLLIER: We’d absolutely love it! The whole experience was challenging, but extremely rewarding.
CAMPBELL: As daunting as the idea was, initially, working through it with the Bones team was a great deal of fun, just from a writer’s perspective. I think the product grew, exponentially, from those mutual conversations. I would love to do another one.
Can you talk a little bit about the new pairings of Booth with Mills and Brennan with Crane?
COLLIER: It was incredibly fun for us to get Crane onto our show because he’s an educated man, but from another century, who probably would be more like Brennan than not, if he would’ve been born in our time.
CAMPBELL: It was fun to watch that relationship develop through a couple of passes of both scripts. There is a real similarity, albeit more from the intellectual point of view than the visceral side. In regards to the Abbie Mills and Booth side, they’re both FBI agents. Booth is a veteran agent and is someone who takes the job very seriously and wears it like a second skin. Abbie is brand-new to the Bureau and has heard of Booth’s name. It was a natural, organic hand-off from one show to the other, using the Bureau connection and the FBI investigation. It really gave us some stuff to play with, seeing the veteran help out and support the person new to the job. On Abbie’s side of it, there was a real personal connection and a personal journey, to be able to see her through the eyes of somebody who’s found a work/life balance, in a very unique way, in his relationship and marriage to Brennan. That’s also a little bit of a wink to the audience. If you squint your eyes, you can see the questions, the challenges, and the opportunities that would present for a pairing like Crane and Abbie, in the relationship journey of Brennan and Booth.
The Bones cast and has been together for over a decade now, and the Sleepy Hollow cast and crew has been together for three seasons. How did the crews mix together, and what was that dynamic like?
CAMPBELL: The Bones crew were wonderful hosts. We actually shot all of the cross-over scenes here in Los Angeles. Sleepy Hollow shoots in Atlanta, so we traveled our cast, our key department heads, and the people that really make our show hum, and we were welcomed with wide open arms. It felt, both in terms of the crew and certainly the cast, that everybody was enjoying the experience and rising to the challenge. The product really shows in the work.
COLLIER: And you guys could not have been better guests. You never know what to expect, and it could’ve been any number of things, but everything wildly exceeded our expectations.
CAMPBELL: It was a real joy to be on the Bones set, and our cast and crew melded very nicely with theirs. In down times and when we were tweaking lighting and whatnot, I caught everybody, in both the cast and crew, mingling in a really nice way. It just felt really good, and it really does show in the end product.
What surprised you about the experience?
CAMPBELL: For me, it was the little things that the cast found that were between the lines of the dialogue. They give you extra moments and little looks that you can pull into the scenes and that really resonate. Even in just the four days that the cast was together, they found those moments.
COLLIER: And beyond that, it was just the level of excitement they brought to it. They were just thrilled to do it. It was fun for them, from start to end, and they made it fun for each other.
CAMPBELL: It’s always nice to shake things up, creatively. These are very clearly defined franchises and, to some extent, the job is to perpetuate that franchise, week in and week out. But when you get an opportunity to mix it up, as we did, you can really feel the excitement.
COLLIER: And we shook it up, across the board, which is nice. The way it worked was that Sleepy Hollow brought their keys, and Bones worked with our crew under them. We even mixed up in the writers’ rooms.
Since they exist in such different universes, what were some of the specific challenges, as writers, that you encountered when trying to mesh these two shows together?
CAMPBELL: That was the thing that, at first, was the most daunting. But ultimately, it ended up the most rewarding. Because they are so tonally different, the challenges became, how do we get these characters to do and say the things we need to do to mesh as nicely as it ended up meshing and still stay true to the characters, the voices, and the tone of the show? It was a great deal of exchange, back and forth, with our writers’ room and the Bones writers’ room on what sort of plot would make the differences as seamless as possible while also taking full advantage of the tonal shift. On our side of it, I found that to be the challenging, in all the right ways.
COLLIER: I would totally agree. I would also add that we have the world’s most brilliant set of scientists and investigators, so it was a challenge to have them be unaware of one reality that another set of characters are very aware of, in the same show. It was actually very, very gratifying to work with the Sleepy Hollow team to come up with a solution to that. The case is solved to the satisfaction of our characters, but it also has another dimension for theirs.
CAMPBELL: Because the actors were having such a good time mixing it up with each other, the take away at the end of the second hour was that we would really like to see them do it again. And there’s a little bit of a wink to the audience that something like that is certainly possible.
The Bones and Sleepy Hollow cross-over episodes air on Fox on Thursday, October 29th.