Emily Deschanel, Geoff Stults, and David Boreanaz, Bones
Make no bones about it: Bones creator Hart Hanson is more than a little nervous about how his show's loyal (and very vocal) audience will receive the characters from his proposed spin-off when they make their debut in Thursday's episode, which is titled "Finder."
"I have warned them about this from the beginning. I said... 'Now, listen — when this goes on the air, there's going to be a loud group of people who hate [these characters]," Hanson tells TVGuide.com with a squealing laugh. "Our record of introducing new characters on Bones — it doesn't go well.
Check out photos of the Bones cast
"I expect that there will be a loud group of people who say, 'Hey! What's this peanut butter doing with my chocolate?'" Hanson continues. "The question will be: Do people tune out? It'll be very interesting to see how the quiet majority of Bones fans respond to "Finder" as opposed to the very loud passionate minority. Which I love, but it's sometimes like riding a tiger."
The new characters are inspired by The Locator series of novels by Richard Greener, which follows a Vietnam veteran who has the uncanny knack to locate people or things anywhere in the world. "I thought, 'My God, this is a good idea for a series,'" Hanson says of the inspiration for the pilot. "It's a really clean story machine. It sounds like a network show because you could generate 22 stories a season without busting your head."
But because Hanson didn't want to step away from production on Bones, as he did during last year's pilot season, he decided to write a backdoor-pilot episode for Bones' sixth season. To do so, Hanson changed the protagonist, Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults), into a younger Iraq/Afghanistan veteran who has an uneasy history with Booth (David Boreanaz). Nevertheless, Booth calls on him to assist in the investigation of a security guard's murder.
Bones spin-off casts Geoff Stults as its "Locator"
Stults (October Road, Happy Town) says he was reluctant to sign on. "I sat down with those guys, but in my head... I had no intention of doing it," he says. Instead, he was hoping to do a half-hour pilot. "And no exaggeration — five minutes in after talking to Hart, I went 'Oh f---, I'm going to do this. It actually pissed me off because I wanted to be a tough guy and hold out and stick to my guns."
Stults says he was sold on the "quirkier and goofier" tone of the script — he describes it as Magnum, P.I.-meets-Fletch, "but without the mustache and tight jean shorts" — and one of Walter's peculiar traits: paranoia. "He was in an accident and suffered a little bit of head trauma and has a little brain damage, and he believes that's where his Finder power comes from," he says. "He is certainly not a superhero. He's the exact opposite. He's very flawed. He's very paranoid of the government and the phone company. He says things like, 'If you fly commercial, they'll know where you are at all times.' But he believes that his paranoia and brain damage allows him to access a different level of consciousness."
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Although Walter is flanked by supporters (Michael Clarke Duncan plays his legal adviser Leo and Saffron Burrows is his handler, Ike), his special talents are bound to create skepticism. Dr. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) leads that charge. But when, on a dare, Walter locates a lost item of great importance to Brennan, she begins to see his usefulness — both to Walter's delight and Booth's chagrin.
Hanson is keenly aware that positioning Walter between Brennan and Booth could be dangerous. "People get so mad at me!" he says. "I was Twitterized and [berated] on the message boards. ... Brennan is completely intrigued by [Walter]. Walter, who is a very direct person, would like very much to sleep with Brennan. But it's just one episode."
So, if the show gets picked up, would Hanson continue to mix the two worlds? "I go back and forth on that," he says, noting that shooting on location in Florida and using some new key crew members made the experience odd for him. "[During production], I always had the feeling that I was introducing an old girlfriend to a new girlfriend," he says. "It was weird... it just had a different energy. I think it would work very well to do crossovers, and I'd be very interested to see if, once it was its own series, it wasn't as fraught with weirdness to have the two coexist."
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Stults is just excited that the pilot will actually air, instead of being locked in the uncertainty of the development vault. And he isn't above bribing fans to get them to tune in. "I promise them that if they don't complain too much and say good things, I'll never hook up with Brennan."
The "Finder" episode of Bones airs Thursday at 9/8c on Fox.