The hit drama series Bones returns for Season 8 on Fox on September 17th. Having been accused of murder, at the end of last season, Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is on the run from the FBI, with help from her father Max (guest star Ryan O’Neal). Meanwhile, Booth (David Boreanaz) and the Jeffersonian team are convinced that evil tech genius Christopher Pelant (guest star Andrew Leeds) has manipulated key evidence in the case to pinpoint Brennan as the prime suspect, and they set out to do everything they can to prove it and bring her back.
During this recent interview to promote the new season, executive producers Hart Hanson (also the show’s creator) and Stephen Nathan talked about the reunion of Booth and Bones, how her friends and co-workers feel about Brennan’s decision to leave, how much Christopher Pelant will play a part in the storyline this season, why they decided to update the opening credits and theme music, that the interns will continue to revolve, that viewers might see some new family members introduced along with the return of some previously seen, the challenges of keeping a show realistic for so many seasons without stagnating, what they have planned for the 150th episode, and how the contract negotiations are going with the actors for Season 9. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there might be some slight spoilers.
Question: Christopher Pelant (Andrew Leeds) is like a bad rash that just won’t go away. Is he going to continue to be at the forefront, as a criminal this season, or have you guys got somebody else lined up?
STEPHEN NATHAN: He’s going to be around all season. He’ll come and go. Hart and I both hate serial killers, as a rule, but we loved this guy. He’s just the most interesting multiple murderer that we’ve ever had on the show. He’s going to color Season 8 a bit. No one is going to be able to rest easy in Season 8.
How long had you been planning for that twist at the end of the Season 8 premiere?
HART HANSON: Well, it’s our job to know what happens, and that was the natural end of that episode for us. The first episode extends the Pelant story and raises another question. It’s like, “Does he have help?” We don’t know what the motive is, to do what he did. It’s a gulch hanger, not a cliff hanger, just to keep that story alive in people’s minds.
NATHAN: It’s just to raise questions. There are many different answers to questions.
The reunion scene between Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) is quite physical. Did David and Emily have some fun filming that, and did Emily have to do any training?
HANSON: They did have fun! In fact, we had written one reunion, and they came and said, “Can we go a little farther with this?,” so we upped the energy of them seeing each other again. One of those things that discussed at great length was, “How mad is Booth at Brennan? How anxious are they to see each other? And how does all of that manifest, in one split second?” So, we ended up talking to them about it and to the director, Ian Toynton, who’s our directing producer, and that is what we got. We were pretty pleased with it. There’s nothing better than having actors come to you and say they want to do more and not less, especially going into the beginning of Season 8. We were tickled with it. They just wanted to wreck a little more furniture.
Were there any injuries?
NATHAN: No, there were no injuries. They just had a great time doing it.
HANSON: David is really strong, and Emily is extremely limber and strong herself.
NATHAN: We were happy they broke furniture.
How are Booth’s feelings about Bones leaving going to continue to come into play?
NATHAN: You know, initially, you’re very happy to see somebody, but all of the three months of essentially being abandoned doesn’t go away. So, that’s still bubbling inside and, in the second episode, we’ll see some evidence of that. There are things that they have to get past. Even though they understand what happened to each other, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to move on and to go back to what they had before. Everything will have changed a bit.
HANSON: We loved the idea that just because a decision is right and good and the most sensible, rational decision, that it’s still painful for people and they have to get by that. Maybe it’s even tougher when no one was in the wrong.
How does everyone else feel about Brennan’s decision to leave?
HANSON: Angela and Sweets (John Francis Daley) are not scientists and tend to recognize that people are more complex than simply rational. So, they stand a little to the left of the others, who simply go, “That was the smartest thing to do. I would have done the same thing.” But, it splashes all over everybody. For us, it’s fun that her being away caused trouble between Booth and Angela. They actually end up being angry at each other, when the more rational people are going, “Yes, that’s what had to happen.”
NATHAN: I think the other people who aren’t so intimately involved understand and are just happy to have her back. As we deal with those issues in the first episode, you see how everyone is affected, at the end.
HANSON: I think that Hodgins, for example, thinks he’s okay with it, but if you’ve seen the first episode, he does something that is very un-Hodgins-like and very, very aggressive, and we think it stems out of what happened to his friends.
Will the Pelant storyline go on the back burner while they solve some cases?
HANSON: Oh, yes!
NATHAN: We’re probably focusing more on trying to do great murders this season than we have in the past. We just want to get the show back to the basics. However, all of their personal lives have been altered by what happened with Brennan being gone, and with the honeymoon period of our series being over. Now they have to deal with the realities of their relationships and their lives, as well as Pelant and this dark cloud that hangs over them. It won’t be dealt with in every episode, but Pelant is not going away.
Why did you decide to do a subtle update to the opening credits and theme music for Season 8?
HANSON: You know, I just woke in the middle of the night and thought the Crystal Method basically invented the concept of re-mixing. Here we were, going into an eighth season, and Stephen [Nathan] and I had discussed just a slight almost unseeable and unhearable change to the sense of tone. I thought, “Let’s see if the Crystal Method guys – Ken [Jordan] and Scott [Kirkland] – would be up to doing a little remix for us,” and they were.
NATHAN: They really did a phenomenal job because we didn’t want to lose what the original theme was, but they just managed to update it and make it fresh. We usually update the visuals every year, and this was just gravy. They just did a phenomenal job. I love the new song.
Are viewers going to keep seeing interns-of-the-week, or will there be more of Clark (Eugene Byrd) now?
HANSON: We’re going to keep our revolving gang of interns. It just really works for us. We always check on their availabilities because these are very, very talented people and they’re going to be sucked away into their own TV shows. But, as long as we can have them, we’re going to hang onto them.
NATHAN: Also, we will be meeting new interns, at some point this season, and revisiting interns that we haven’t seen as much as we want to. We just love having that revolving door in the lab. It works very well for us.
Are there going to be any returning family members, coming up?
NATHAN: Oh, yes, definitely! Brennan’s dad (Ryan O’Neal) will be back, and we hope to have Booth’s grandfather. Maybe you’ll even meet a couple of other family members.
HANSON: I hope Billy Gibbons will be back to play Angela’s (Michaela Conlin) dad because that’s just total fun for us. Also, we have a story for Hodgins’ (T.J. Thyne) brother that we may visit. And, in the back nine somewhere, we’re very interested in meeting Booth’s mom and having Booth’s mom meet Brennan. We haven’t figured out that story yet, but it’s in our bin. It’s about time to see Booth’s family a little bit. Everybody always asks if we’re going to bring back Brennan’s cousin, Margaret, who is played by Zooey Deschanel, but she seems very, very busy on her own show.
What can you say about Cam’s (Tamara Taylor) love interest?
HANSON: It is not someone you won’t recognize. That’s about all we’re saying about it. It’s not a brand new person. It’s someone that the fans will recognize and, if we’re good, they won’t see it coming. If we’re not, they’ll see it coming.
What has been the biggest challenge in maintaining all of these realistic characters and having the relationships develop over so many seasons without it either stagnating or crossing into some kind of jump-the-shark territory?
HANSON: Stephen and I spend every morning, having a cup of coffee. At first, we argue about politics and our families, movies and books, and anything else, because we don’t agree on everything. Then, we segue from that life stuff into what we’re going to do on our show. I like to think that, out of that half-hour every to 45-minute conversation every morning, that we have that stuff we send to the writers’ room.
NATHAN: We have an extraordinary group of writers, led by John Collier, who just see the world in such a unique way. They’re giving us murders and body finds that we’ve never seen before. And I think that, if the characters stay fresh, the show stays fresh because they lead the way, and these writers understand that. We try to follow the characters’ leads. I think that’s the only way for it to stay fresh.
HANSON: We listen to the actors, too, by the way. These people have been playing the face of these characters for seven seasons. Every hiatus, we meet with each one of them, one-on-one, and say, “Who do you like being in scenes with?” We get a lot of ideas from that. We want them all connected to and invested in what they’re doing. We’re very lucky to have that group of people on our show.
NATHAN: Hart and I are both old married men. We’ve been married for so many years to our wives. Bones is another wife, and it’s a very, very, very good marriage. It’s not boring. It’s still alive. We still have sex.
Can you speculate at all on whether or not there might be a wedding in Bones and Booth’s future?
HANSON: There might be.
NATHAN: You know, it’s only Season 8. We’re just beginning.
How will the twist with Pelant affect Brennan’s work, or will it affect her at all?
HANSON: Well, Brennan has an ability to put her head down and concentrate on what’s in front of her. Some would call it her retreat. When the world gets too complicated, she simply stares at what’s in front of her and works that, so she is not someone to brood and worry. That’s Booth’s area. He is the one who’s always looking around. The most common visual on Bones is when they’re standing over the human remains. Brennan is usually on the ground, with her nose about an inch from something disgusting, looking at details. Booth’s eyes are flicking around to see what threats are out there and what answers are out there. So, the Pelant thing is more haunting for Booth than it is for Brennan until it’s something that she has to face because it’s put in front of her nose.
When you were coming up with this episode, what were the writing or plot challenges that you came across?
HANSON: We had to figure out a bunch of things. One was how long Brennan was going to be on the run. It took about 10 minutes for us to discuss alternatives, but the gold in our show, as far as we’re concerned, is Booth and Brennan being together. So, it’s not a good plan to start out a season with them apart, for any length of time. Also, I think an audience goes, “Come on, we know they’re going to get back together, what are you taking so long for?” Then, we discussed, at great length, the question that has come up a couple of times, which is, “What happens when they see each other, and what’s the hangover from their three months separation?”
NATHAN: It was difficult to find a way to do what is essentially a standard episode of Bones, where we discover a body, find out who the murderer is, and yet have that be the reintroduction of Brennan. So, the only way we could think to do that was to have Brennan actually find the remains, and bring our squints and Booth into that story. That was done with the help of the writers’ room. It seemed to be the only way to get Booth and Brennan together immediately.
HANSON: She got some advice from her dad to look for the first killing. A serial killer makes his mistakes in the first killing. So, that set us off on the trail of Pelant.
NATHAN: Since she was involved, we could bring our people into it and, of course, within an act and a half, Booth was going to find Brennan. Then, we have our couple together again, still on the lam, but together.
This season, you guys reached the amazing 150th episode milestone. Do you have anything special planned for that episode?
NATHAN: A massage. That’s a lot of episodes, and I ache.
HANSON: Our 150th episode is a weird episode. It’s going to be an episode where we see everything told from the point of view of the victim. It’s been very tricky. It was very tricky to shoot because it could be claustrophobic. We needed a very, very heart tugging story, so that the person whose death we are solving is an actual character, and it’s a boy. We don’t usually use kids because we can’t laugh, and it’s not a funny episode. It’s an outsider’s view. In a way, it shows what the camera doesn’t usually show. It shows how each of our characters interacts with a victim when no one else is looking, but the victim. So, it’s a little bit elegiac and melancholy. Cyndi Lauper is in it, as our resident psychic who knows that the victim is watching us and is trying to help find out what the victim needs, so that they can move on. By the way, it’s not to solve the murder. The victim needs something else before he can move on.
NATHAN: It’s a very unique episode, in how it’s shot and the tone of it, and it’s been a real challenge to put together, but a challenge like that always gives you the most satisfaction. Everybody has come together for this one. Not only was it a great script, it was beautifully directed. The actors were terrific, and now our visual effects team is working on it, as well as the sound mixers. It’s really a very rich episode, and should be unique for the 150th. Now, of course, we’re planning the 300th episode.
HANSON: That’s going to be a wild romp!
NATHAN: Yes, it’ll be from Hart and my perspective.
What is the status of David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel’s contracts, and are they going to be around for Season 9?
HANSON: I think so. They are currently negotiating through Season 9. Well, I shouldn’t say that because I don’t know how many years beyond that the studio is negotiating with them. Generally, it comes in chunks. It might be three. It might be seven. I don’t know. But, they are currently in negotiations with the studio through at least Season 9. I’m pretty confident that they’ll come to an agreement.
NATHAN: As far as the details of the negotiations and everything, we don’t really know anything about that. That’s between the studio and the actors.
Do you worry about how negotiating in public affects the show?
HANSON: I don’t worry at all.
NATHAN: I don’t worry at all, either.
HANSON: David is a mischievous guy. He loves lobbing hand grenades out. I think he really gets a kick out of all the stuff I would try to avoid, which is people hollering on Twitter. It’s all part of the game to him, but I don’t think there’s any serious angst or bile behind it.
NATHAN: I think the undercurrent of all of David’s Tweets, or anything he does online or in the press, is that he loves doing the show. He’s better than ever on the show, and I think he wants to come back, as much as we want him back and as much as we want it to work out. There doesn’t seem to be a real issue.
Bones returns for Season 8 on Fox on September 17th.