Emily Deschanel is comparing Dr. Temperance Brennan of “Bones” to a cracked egg.
“She’s very flawed in odd ways, but there’s something admirable, I think, in her attempt to move forward and put herself back together, like Humpty Dumpty,” says Deschanel, who plays Brennan in Fox’s wry-humored crime series.
Her reference could be considered odd, though, as ol’ H.D. possessed no bones, and bones are what Brennan is all about.
She’s a forensic anthropologist and novelist who works with the FBI in solving crimes. When bodies have disintegrated to skeletal remains, she’s able to read the life history of tibias, femurs, skull fragments, vertebrae — indeed the whole bag of bones — providing clues to the manner and cause of death. Her skills have earned her the nickname Bones.
The character is inspired by real-life forensic anthropologist and author Kathy Reichs, as well as the character in Reichs’ series of Temperance Brennan novels.
“She’s become more of a concept of a person,” says Deschanel of her character. “It can be confusing I think for people who know Kathy Reichs’ books. ... My character is a lot younger and different. ... Not that there aren’t certain similarities, but it’s a kind of a mesh.”
Wearing a natty, well-fitting green lab coat, Deschanel is on a sound stage at 20th Century Fox Studios, filled from wall to wall by the show’s lavish sets — an intriguing combo of elegance and utility.
Starring opposite Deschanel is David Boreanaz as FBI Agent Seeley Booth, skeptical about Brennan’s skills but potentially something more than just a colleague.
“I think the characters think they have got close in a brotherly-sisterly type way, but they are the only ones who are unaware of the sexual tension between them,” says executive producer Hart Hanson. “And as long as we can protract that, that will be great.”
Boreanaz, best known as the heartthrob vampire in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” was cast first.
“We knew we wanted Booth to be a traditional leading man, not boyish, and not pretty, but handsome ... a complicated man in a suit with a lot of gravity,” said Hanson.
Finding the right actress was harder.
“We were looking for sexy, smart and funny. We saw dozens of actresses, and we kept getting two of those, but not very often all three. ... Emily has all three,” says Hanson.
“We met and it was just lightning in a bottle,” says Boreanaz of Deschanel, who is the daughter of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and the older sister of actress Zooey Deschanel. “People saw that when we tested her. It was there, and it’s singing now in a great way.”
When new episodes of “Bones’ ” second season return at 8 p.m. EST Feb. 7, the Brennan-Booth relationship will continue its embryonic mating dance.
“We will clash. ... There will be jealousy,” says Boreanaz. “There will be hate. There will be humor. There will be love and respect. But at the end, there is always that bond of ‘I’m there for you. You’re there for me.’ ”
Anger-management problems have brought Booth to see an eccentric shrink, played by British actor Stephen Fry. Brennan is still coping with her discovery — while investigating the long-ago disappearance of her parents — that she’s not who she thought she was.
In last season’s final episode she learned she wasn’t originally called Temperance and that her given name was Joy. But she keeps Temperance. “She doesn’t know herself as Joy,” says Deschanel.
“We’ve given her another virtue,” says Hanson, noting that although the show has to fulfill the standard demands of episodic TV and solve its crimes each week, it can still pride itself on creating multilayered characters with interesting back stories.
The series also stars T.J. Thyne as Dr. Jack Hodgins and Michaela Conlin as Angela Montenegro — fellow scientists, currently romantically involved, who work with Brennan in the Jefferson Institution in Washington, D.C.
“Bones” stands out from the plethora of poking-about-dead-bodies series because it has a refreshingly youthful style, a quick wit, two attractive lead characters, and clever shifts between light, sharp-humored themes and dark, compassionate ones.
But Deschanel notes the challenges: “We are continuing to try to make smooth transitions between the dark and light. ... It’s hard because if you are dealing with death, people losing loved ones, you don’t want to be cavalier or dismiss that in any way. But at the same time it makes sense that these characters have a sense of humor. ... There is humor in life. It’s a delicate balance.”