Emily Deschanel reveals a very personal episode of “Bones”

By Fred Topel

HollywoodNews.com: Warning: Some spoilers follow

Emily Deschanel has a very intense episode of Bones coming up. In “The Doctor in the Photo,” airing Thursday December 9 at 8, Brennan (Deschanel) analyzes the body of a surgeon. Her investigation shows a lot of parallels between the deceased and herself, including career habits, relationships or lack thereof. The case makes Brennan reflect on her life in an uncharacteristically emotional episode. Deschanel spoke with the media in a conference call to discuss next week’s show, with very minor spoilers.

Q: How did it feel to portray Brennan so vulnerably?

Emily Deschanel: It’s hard because you have to go through all the emotions that she’s going through. At the same time it’s refreshing because it’s a very different episode than most episodes of the show. It’s kind of strange. It’s a different episode but it was one of my favorite scripts. I haven’t seen the actual final cut yet but hopefully it’ll be one of my favorite episodes. It’s just very unique. It’s very personal to Brennan. She’s facing her own mortality and also looking at her life and seeing what she would be leaving behind when she dies. You don’t see that side of Brennan very often. She becomes very vulnerable trying to solve this case. Brennan thinks it sounds very familiar whether they’re physical or personal qualities. Then even looking at the photograph of the person who died, it looks like Brennan. This episode is from Brennan’s perspective. It’s very interesting but very terrifying for Brennan, confusing. Then she’s visited by a night watchman who we’re not even sure if he really exists in real life. Enrico Colantoni plays that part. It was hard to go through that because I was in every single scene of this episode so there were not breaks in this episode.

Q: What scene was the hardest to do in this episode?

ED: Basically, Brennan has to face her own life because this woman has died, she doesn’t have much of a persona life. The only people who listed her missing are people at work. She doesn’t have friends. She had kind of a romance with a guy but nothing really happened. No one really missed her and isn’t that every human’s worst fear? Dying and no one missed you, no one notices. This affects Brennan greatly, she starts relating to the character, believing it was her. She realizes she made a mistake saying no to Booth last year. It forces Brennan into a place where she is bold and kind of aware of her feelings in a way that she hasn’t been before. It’s a huge, very strange experience for her to become aware of her feelings. Here it takes a very strange experience for her to face her feelings and to see them. It was one of those scenes that you know is there and you prepare for it acting-wise. You know it’s coming up but it’s one of those things, it says that you’re crying in the scene and then you’re like, ‘It’s okay if I don’t cry, I don’t have to cry.’ But then walking in, everyone’s expecting that and there’s a lot of pressure. It’s one of those things as an actor that you kind of dread those scenes in a way. You’d rather it not be written in and just see if your emotions go to that place or not. At the same time, it’s good to have those markers to know where your breaking points are as a character. Where in the story is the low point?

Q: Does the episode end on a positive note?

ED: I think so. I think so and I think that she realizes that she isn’t that woman. She is not as extreme as this person but it’s always good to have those reminders in life to see who am I, what am I doing in life? Am I working my whole life away and not spending time with people who are important? Am I not taking a chance on something I’ll regret on my deathbed? Being around death all the time, fake death or in Brennan’s case real death, you are aware of your own mortality and you can’t help thinking about that. As a result, I think you have to become more bold in your life and take chances. I think that’s what Brennan is doing and that’s a wonderful thing, to make the most of our lives while we have it. Brennan took that chance and whether or not it worked out doesn’t matter as much as that she took that chance. Even if it is hard and sad, life is hard and sad at times and the point is we get through those times.

Q: What are the ramifications of these revelations in the subsequent episodes?

ED: Honestly, Brennan’s the kind of person that the closer she gets to opening up her feelings, the more closed off she becomes. After that, I think she becomes even more closed off in a way so there is the reaction. It may not be the reaction that people want from Brennan, but she rarely is predictable in that way. I think you’ll see Brennan becoming more protected than she has been. Then at times she’s open so I think it affects her but it affects her in many different, opposing ways you’ll see in many episodes to come.

Q: Was it a relief for you to go back to normal cases after such an emotionally involving one?

ED: Absolutely. Absolutely. It took a lot out of me and it was an exhausting episode physically, outside in the rain at night and all that stuff. I’m not saying poor me in any way but it was a relief to come back to doing an episode, these episodes about sister wives, things like that. Definitely a relief. Fluffy may not be exactly the right word for it, but it’s nice to have cases on the fluffier side of things. We have an episode about kind of daredevil BMX bikers. We have an episode about people who are polygamists. An episode like that seems to be popular now with different reality shows and Big Love. We have one with a grave digger which is action packed. There’s a sniper loose in D.C. David [Boreanaz] directs an episode about that which is great, great, fun action packed episode. I just love that episode. That’s a really exciting one.

Q: Will the Hannah/Booth dynamic get more serious?

ED: Yes, it actually does get more serious so that creates a whole situation for all of them. One thing I must say I love about this dynamic between Hannah and Booth and Brennan. Hannah is not a bad person. So many times you see a character come in as a love triangle when people want the two leads to get together. You have to like her, and that’s not an order but I just feel like she’s a nice person. Brennan certainly likes her and respects her. There are a lot of internal conflicts rather than external. There are internal conflicts in Brennan because she wants to be with Booth, she’s realizing this, but because she loves Booth she wants him to be happy. Booth is happy with Hannah now and that’s hard to see but she wants him to be happy. She also sees that Hannah is a wonderful, smart, tough, cool woman. You can’t really blame Booth for falling in love with her. There are all these conflicting emotions within one character alone. I just think it’s great to have conflict between characters, within characters where no one’s intending bad things. It’s just life. It’s what happens. I’ve seen this happen in life so many times where there are feelings for people and they don’t feel the same way but you can’t blame them. It’s a wonderful push and pull dance between the characters. I really like that dynamic but it does get more serious with Hannah.

Q: Won’t it come to a head when Hannah finds out about Brennan’s feelings for Booth?

ED: Yes, it will. Yes, it will. It’s going to be revealed in some way to Hannah about the situation with Brennan and Booth and Brennan revealing her feelings. It definitely creates a situation with Hannah and Brennan in their friendship so it’s an interesting dynamic between these two that you don’t see very often. It does definitely create some issues and conflict.

Q: You’re already on your sixth season which is a huge success. How long do you want the show to continue for?

ED: It’s such a good question. It’s so hard to know. I wish I had that perspective. It’s something I don’t really have control over at this point. I have a contract for eight seasons so I can’t say I’m done now. I’d rather not say, “We’re peaking I’m done” because I’d get in trouble for breaking my contract. I’d rather say we’re going for eight seasons. It’s something as an actor you only have so much control over. Some shows last 10 years and that’s incredible. I can’t believe we’ve been here six seasons, not because I don’t love it. It’s just there are so many wonderful shows that get cancelled in the first season. So many wonderful shows don’t get picked up in the first place. I’m so lucky to be doing a show I love and a character I love doing. I love doing the show. When I started, I thought three seasons, that’s the most. That’s such a long time and I’ll be exhausted by then and I will be done and then I can move onto other things. It keeps going but I never thought, “Oh, we got picked up for another season, darn it. I wish that hadn’t happened.” I’ve always been excited when we’ve been picked up for another season. Maybe talk to me when we’ve gone 11 years and I’ll say, “I’m done, I’m sick of it.” Right now I’m enjoying it and loving it and counting my lucky stars.

Q: Does it get exhausting to live in the skin of Brennan?

ED: Yes and no. I think that Brennan has become a lot more open over the years and you get to see her dorky, quirky side at times which is fun. So I kind of hang onto those moments and try to incorporate things like that in every episode. My favorite thing about people in general is that they have contradictions. Brennan is no exception to that rule. I love exploring the contradictions to her character and all of that. I’m an actor too so playing a character who is very different from myself is one of the best things to happen to me. So many times people are hired to play something very close to who they are in real life. It’s a wonderful opportunity to play this character who is very different. Sometimes I remind myself of her. I can be a real nerd and I say that in the most affectionate way but I’m very different. So I love the fact that I am different from the character. It’s true sometimes, especially when you’re doing certain episodes, you take it home with you a little bit. I’ve tried to make boundaries for myself where I leave work at work. I do all my acting work on the weekends and I learn my lines the day before. If there’s any work to do for the next day, I do it at work. I don’t leave work until I’ve finished that. I don’t like to take my work home and that means staying late, even after working 15 hours, I’ll stay another hour or two until I get things right. That said, it does leak into your personal life sometimes.

Q: What extra work did you have to do on “The Doctor in the Photo?”

ED: You just spend more time working on it. I worked with my acting teacher on it but there’s just a lot of work you do on your own. I hate talking about the acting process but it’s a lot of creating thoughts and memories and all that so there’s a lot of work to do. When it’s such a heavy episode, you’re facing such serious emotions in the character. It’s just more demanding so it takes longer to do. You’re just working harder on that. It’s stuff I love. I love doing that. So I like the challenge. I don’t think I could do it every single episode. Maybe I’d get used to it but I think it demands.

Q: Does anything about Brennan still surprise you?

ED: Yeah. I think I was surprised as she started to open up more. What I just love is, this is a couple seasons ago, but I love there was a scene where she asks Sweets to help her learn facial expressions, because she’s kind of almost on the autistic spectrum, almost Asperger-y, not quite but has some characteristics that fit into that. She doesn’t really understand how to read people’s emotions. I love that she recognized how to do this and get better at it. We had the Jersey Shore episode that surprised me. Just how much Brennan had studied this culture of the guidos and how seriously she took it. In a way things surprise me and in a way things don’t because of course she studied these guidos and of course she takes it very seriously as an anthropological study. Yes and no. I love so many different qualities, especially when she’s trying to grow as a person.

Q: What advice would you give to actors trying to get a start?

ED: Study acting. Do theater. Do as many plays. Play as many different kind of characters as you possibly can. Stretch as far as you can. Make it about the acting. So many people get caught up in the looks and the agents and the business of it all and who you know. I guess that’s valid but if you concentrate on the acting, I can’t say that everything will fall into place because I know so many incredibly talented actors who are struggling. I heard somebody say once that it’s 90% perseverance and 5% talent and I think that’s true, but if you’re perseverant and concentrate on the acting, that’s all I say.

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