Stephen Nathan Talks BONES, Traveling to the 1950s for the 200th Episode, Drawing Inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Plans for Season Eleven, and More

     December 11, 2014

stephen-nathan-bones-hart-hansonVery few TV shows can say that they’ve made it 10 seasons with 200 episodes, and now the Fox drama series Bones joins those ranks.  Directed by David Boreanaz, the milestone episode pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock, as it re-imagines the Jeffersonian and FBI teams in 1950s Hollywood.

During this interview with press to discuss the 200th episode, as well as where things are headed going forward, showrunner Stephen Nathan talked about how they came up with the idea for this episode, how they adapted the roles to make them feel similar to the characters they already play, the Alfred Hitchcock films that inspired them, the massive undertaking for every department on the show, how it differed from writing a normal episode, how they’ll be working Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy into the show, and the chances of getting an 11th season.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

Question:  How did you come up with the idea for the 200th episode?

bones-200th-episode-emily-deschanel-david-boreanazSTEPHEN NATHAN:  Coming up with this, conceptually, we wanted to go back to something that was classic because, after ten years, we’re moving into the classic category.  Not many shows last for 200 episodes.  I think there have only been 24 dramas, in the history of television, from what I’ve been told.  We wanted to do a classic examination of the show and of the romantic nature of the show.  This style and this time, really sets it apart and allows us to highlight that aspect of our series, in a way that no other time really could.  We also got a chance to reintroduce Booth and Brennan, and see the initial attraction and the blossoming of their romance, in new circumstances.

How did you choose what kind of role each character would play?

NATHAN:  In terms of which character played which parts, Booth and Brennan are essentially the same people, in different specific roles.  Booth is still this honorable man who has been through the war and who is trying to right wrongs.  Brennan is somebody who is stubbornly holding onto a set of beliefs that no one can shake from her, and she will be proven right, in the end, in this circumstance.  The other characters, we just had a great time with them.  We tried to put them in similar roles, power structure wise, if there is such a thing.  We also wanted to see which roles would allow them to simply have the most fun.  This was really a labor of love, and we wanted the audience to share the fun that we were all having doing it.

Were there any specific films that inspired the Alfred Hitchcock theme of this episode?  

NATHAN:  Personally, I’ve always loved Hitchcock, so it was just a dream to do this style.  As for specific films, we reference them mostly visually in this.  It was To Catch a Thief, North by Northwest, bits of Notorious and The Man Who Knew Too Much.  We just really culled the library of all these great Hitchcock films.  What we didn’t want to do, and hopefully we avoided, was an episode that was just a wink and a nod to those things, and that had to rely on costumes and props and cars.  What we tried to do was do another great Bones mystery.  It’s a mystery and story that exists and was sustained on its own merits, and it was cloaked in this style.  David did a remarkable job directing this, and really carried forth this vision that the story was the most important thing.  We wanted the audience to go, “Who did it?  What are they doing now?  Oh, my god, that’s an interesting twist,” rather than, “Oh, there’s another car.  Look at their clothes now.”  I think David really directed this, walking that fine line perfectly.  That’s the reason that I think this worked so well.

Can you talk about pulling together the wardrobe, set design, music and prop department for this episode?

bones-200th-eipsodeNATHAN:  I can honestly say this was, by far, the most difficult episode Bones has ever done.  It was a massive undertaking.  We’ve had earthquakes in the subway system of Washington, we’ve had tornadoes, we’ve shot up the house, and nothing compared with this episode.  In the middle of the season, to do an episode this enormous, complex, exacting, and requiring this much care and detail, it’s really just incomprehensible that it got done at all.  This episode shows how brilliant this entire cast and crew is.  It’s just a remarkable achievement from every single department.  It is so precise and exacting, all the detail work that went into this episode.  I have nothing but the highest praise, admiration, respect and awe for the crew and how they pulled this off.

How was it different, writing this episode from writing a normal Bones episode?  

NATHAN:  Well, we wrote it like those films.  I know those films quite well, and the style.  It’s like music.  It’s like writing a song in the ‘40s or ‘50s.  There’s a different music to it.  There’s a different music to the dialogue, to the rhythms, to the types of words, to the cadence and everything, and we just did our best to capture that.  David and I talked for quite awhile.  Although David got, right away, that this couldn’t be a Saturday Night Live sketch of a Hitchcock movie, or any film from 1954, because that would become tedious in about two minutes, he understood that this had to be done with the same sense of truth that’s required to do any Bones episode.  Really, just tried to write it so the rhythms were there, the dialogue was there and the slang was appropriate, and then the actors just got it.  There was Emily’s rhythms and the ever so slight turn of her accent, and Tamara’s switch in the middle of the episode.  Everybody just found the same reality, and it worked great.

Has there been any decision made yet, about whether you’re going to write Emily Deschanel’s pregnancy into the show?

Bones-Emily-Deschanel-David-BoreanazNATHAN:  We’re still talking about that, but it’s very difficult to hide a pregnancy.  We could have her behind desks and drawers, but I think people know.  And the show is as much about their relationship as it is about solving crimes.  This is what happens to people in relationships.  Married people have children, and they sometimes have more children.  It’s served us very well before, and I think it will be an interesting new wrinkle in the show, going forward.  I know there will be people who will violently disagree, but there are people who always disagree, and then there are others who agree.  It’s a lot like life.  There are many, many different twists and turns in people’s lives.  We just have to keep going forward, in a way that seems truthful to us, and hopefully that’s enticing and enjoyable for the audience.  That’s our job.  As much as we listen to the fans, we can’t be ruled by the fans.  We can only love the fans.

Do you have any word of a possible 11th season yet?  

NATHAN:  Well, we certainly have been talking about an 11th season.  We’re ready to do whatever the network tells us to do.  That is all up to the network.  The network and studio have to get together and decide whether there will be an 11th season.  All indications are that there probably will be, but you never know until you know for a fact.  We’re just going to keep moving forward.  If we have to end it, we’ll end it, but it doesn’t seem as if it’s ready to end.

How does that feel to be one of those rare shows that makes it to ten seasons, and still be going strong with such a huge fan base?  

NATHAN:  It’s remarkable.  It’s one-in-a-million.  It just doesn’t happen.  I’ve been doing this for a long, long, long, long time, and I’ve never, ever, ever come close to ten years.  A 10th season, in the beginning, was an inconceivable thought.  In the first 13, I didn’t even know if we would have enough stories where we could be solving murders using bones.  And here we are, 200 episodes later, still doing it and still finding new things.  I don’t even know how that happens.  But, the show has a lot of life in it.  It’s not boring for us to do.  We don’t come into work and go, “Oh, god, what now?”  We really come in going, “Hey, we could do this, or this or this or this.”  We’re still excited about doing the show, which is remarkable, in and of itself.

Bones airs on Thursday nights on Fox.


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