Patrick McElhenney/FOX
C. Molly Smith
March 22, 2017 AT 09:00 AM EDT

In advance of the series finale of Bones on Tuesday, March 28 at 9 p.m. E.T. on Fox, star David Boreanaz reflects on his love for FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, how he feels about saying goodbye to the comedic crime drama, what’s ahead in his career, and more…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The first time you directed was in 2004, for an episode of Angel, and you’ve since directed several episodes of Bones — and produced the majority of the series. While your responsibilities were growing, your character grew too.
DAVID BOREANAZ: Emily [Deschanel, Boreanaz’s costar] and I met every weekend with Ivana Chubbuck, a renowned acting coach, for seven or eight years. She’s very dynamic in regards to bringing and creating that chemistry. We rewrote and rehearsed—we cultivated our characters that way and excited the writers. They [initially] wanted a serious, X-Files-ish show, and we wanted a character show. We won because we kept that drive and people responded. We’re proud of that.

A version of this story appears in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now, or available here — and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

How are you feeling about Bones ending after 12 seasons?
I feel great. There’s pressure to [being on] a show for 12 years. You get weight off of your shoulders and realize how much it takes to shoot one episode, one day’s work, to create moments. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long, and it goes by so fast. It’s like a tornado, a hurricane. I’ve done three series, it’s 20 years of television work—that’s a lot of hours!

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What did you love about playing Booth, and what does it mean to say goodbye to that character?
When I read him, I instantly thought of Romancing the Stone, and I expressed that to [Buffy and Angel executive producer] Gail Berman. It was a joy to work with [Bones creator] Hart Hanson, who was a showrunner who was open to creative endeavor, creative possibility, creative outlet. There’s no artistic expression in [“my way or the highway”], and it’s a bit maniacal and masochistic if you ask me, so [I loved] being able to work with somebody who has an open-door policy, allowing the character to thrive in the environment and taking me to places that were fun, dynamic, improvisationally different. I always had a bag full of tricks with Hart and a bag full of metaphors.

Booth was a loose cannon under control. His profession made his environment unstable, but yet he had to stabilize it. He was the everyday guy. He was the guy’s guy with family, kids… He had honor. He stood for what he believed in. We didn’t really tap into the dark past of his life, so I’ll miss not trying to run with that more. The show had endless possibilities. It really did because of the genuineness of the open-ended small arcs, so saying goodbye to him was taking the socks off and letting it be. The socks were part of my character.

When I started the show, I was so in tune with specific props for him—pens, belt buckles, socks. I would do interrogation scenes with my shoes off and the striped socks… so I made it part of the character. He carried a zippo in his pocket because of what it meant, and there’s the watch we never even got into, what was inscribed in the watch. There’s so many detail-oriented things that I wish we could have tapped into. We did somewhat, but yes, it was difficult saying goodbye. At the same time, it was very refreshing.

Between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Bones, you’ve worked for 20 years and appeared on more than 400 episodes of TV—how do you wrap your head around those impressive numbers?
It’s only impressive, I guess, to the hard work that I do and how I feel about it. Not saying it as, “Oh, I’m going to put it out there. God, look at the stats and the numbers.” I don’t think about that. I think like an athlete and the work and the day that’s involved. I don’t look back. I always think of the moment, what we’re shooting. It’s really: What are we working on now? What’s the moment? What do we need to get? The process starts with the introduction, and it ends when the final show has aired, whether it’s two months, three months, six years, whatever we’re fortunate to get.

With the way television is designed these days, it’s fast, there are a multitude of channels, and there’s a lot of content. Everybody wants to be heard, but if you can tap into a story that’s unique, it makes sense. It’s not about chasing it. It’s not about trying to put the circle in the square, forcing it, because you could have a great pilot and really great cast, and then it just goes to hell. “How could that fail? It’s got everything.” Well, maybe it didn’t? Maybe the heart wasn’t ever there? Maybe the breadth and the connections? As actors, our jobs are to excite writers. We need to excite them wherever that may be. You may be a third character. For Angel, I was hired for six out of 12 episodes. I excited the writer, obviously, and they wrote more. They wanted to see more. That’s my job.

If I didn’t do my job correctly, then I probably would have done six episodes and that would have been it. … Maybe I would have gone and done another show. Who knows? But you stick with it, you put the work into it. For me, I don’t look at it and say “Oh, it’s over 400 hours of television.” No, it’s just tomorrow is a new day. Whatever I’m tackling, I’m tackling, and that’s what it is. I don’t think of it as anything else. I love what I do, I enjoy it, and I’m proud of the work. Especially in the game of television. It’s like, “How can you do a show for so long? Don’t you feel like you’re getting typecast?” I don’t think about that kind of stuff because it’s work.

I’m enjoying the character, I’m stretching him, and the challenge is to make him fresh in season 3 or season 10, moreso than season 1 or the pilot. You have to continuously do that, and if not, then you stop and go do something else. That’s really the way I look at the whole ballpark with me and where I’ve been.

What’s left for you to tackle?
I am going to dig into developing… That’s my next phase, and it’s going pretty well, but I need a little time to decompress. I’d love to do Broadway and conquer the stage for that pure fear aspect and rawness. But I’m not chasing anything in my life. I’m just letting it all unfold, so we’ll see. If I end up driving a tractor for the rest of my life on a farm, that’s okay. Because somewhere down the line, you come back and play a guy who drives a tractor and has an interesting story to tell.

Check back with EW.com as the Bones‘ series finale approaches. Read more of Boreanaz’s reflections on Buffy and Angel , here.

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