Bones: Eric Millegan talks surprising return
Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season 11 finale of Bones.
The Jeffersonian’s favorite almost-murderer is back.
It’s been eight years since former intern Zack Addy (Eric Millegan) was sent to a psychiatric institution for collaborating with a cannibalistic killer. In the final minutes of Thursday’s season finale, he showed up at the lab to nab Brennan (Emily Deschanel). All of the evidence points toward Zack as the serial killer known as the Puppeteer, but is there more to the story? EW caught up with Millegan to talk about the long wait for Zack’s return, his costars’ reactions to the twist, and what it’s like to act opposite a piece of tape. (Head here for executive producer and co-showrunner Jonathan Collier’s thoughts.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What did you think when you heard what the writers had in mind for Zack?
ERIC MILLEGAN: I found out that I was going to be in the episode back in January, but I didn’t know exactly what was going to be the storyline. I don’t think they knew yet if there was going to be a twelfth season, so they didn’t know if they wanted me back for two episodes [instead of one] at the end of this year. I didn’t hear anything for a while, and then finally I get a call from my agent saying that I’m going to have a scar on my forehead. And then they say, “You need to go to this makeup studio and get your head measured.” So I’m like, okay, I still don’t know exactly what’s happening, but I go to the studio, I get my head measured, and I still don’t hear from them for a while. And I’m asking my agent, “Is it happening?” And it was like, “Well, you did get your head measured.” [Laughs]
Then I finally got a script, and it was so exciting! Up to that point, I didn’t know that I was the cliffhanger. I’m the last line of the episode: “You and I, we have so much to talk about.” I was like, “Oh my god, this is crazy.” I still didn’t know exactly where it was going after that, so I thought, “I just have to be in the moment, be present, and say the line, and play it so it’s open to any interpretation,” so that’s what I did … A few days ago I got the script for episode 1 of the final season, and obviously I can’t tell you anything, but it’s awesome. I’m really excited.
Do you know anything about what Zack has been up to for the past eight years?
I do, but I can’t tell you. It’s really, really cool.
Have you had input in the story?
Not me, but I went to lunch with Tamara Taylor [who plays Cam] a couple of weeks ago, and when she and T.J. [Thyne, who plays Hodgins] found out that I was coming back and that there was a possibility that I was this killer they’ve been tracking, they specifically talked to Michael Peterson, one of the showrunners, and said, “You can’t make him the killer! We’ve already been down that road. You have to make him the hero.” So that was their input. They fought for my character.
Were you concerned at all when you heard about this plot?
Not at all. Even when I got the script for the season 3 finale, and we found out that I’m the serial killer’s apprentice, even though I was sad that I was leaving the show, it was also really exciting as an actor to play. I was like, “Well, this episode’s going to be fun.” I was not excited about leaving the show, but I was excited about what the character gets to do, and it’s the same here. Playing that scene was fantastic, and playing this next episode is going to be so much fun.
Were you hoping that you’d get the chance to revisit Zack?
Oh, yeah. Hart Hanson, the creator of the show, who was the showrunner then, he told me that there were plans to kill Zack in season 3, but that he fought to keep my character alive, so there was potential to bring me back at some point. That was great, because if I’d been killed, they probably wouldn’t have had me come back from the dead or be an evil twin or anything. It was exciting that he’d left that opportunity. But I did think — I came back for three more episodes. I came back for the episode where he escapes from the mental hospital, and then the next one was this kind of dream episode where we were playing different characters, and then there was another episode that was like a prequel, it was the first case we solved before the series. But they haven’t seen Zack in real time since that episode at the beginning of season 4. So it’s been, what, eight years? I just thought, after that long — people would say, “Are you coming back?” And I was like, “You know what? Probably not, because it’s been so long.” I was hoping that I’d be in the series finale, but I was worried. And then I got the email in January saying, “We’d like to know if you’ll come back for a couple of episodes.” I literally immediately emailed my agent back, “Holy crap.”
Have there been any other times where there’s been conversation about bringing Zack back in real time — not flashback or dream sequence?
No, I mean, not really. I did know that there were two new showrunners, so I didn’t know what their opinion about the possibility was, but after I found out — well, after I’d even shot it, they said, “Don’t tell anyone you’re coming back.” But then Michael Peterson gave an interview, and he said one of the nicest things. He said, “Before I worked on the show, I was a fan of the show, and I thought what Eric brought to the role was fantastic.” And then he said in that article, “I’m going to do everything I can to bring him back.” So I was like, “Now can I tell people?” But I couldn’t, because I can’t tell people the context. My husband and I really want to tell people to watch it, but we can’t give it away. But he posted on Facebook — he didn’t say anything about me being on the show. He just said, “With Trump speaking at the convention, I’m going to watch Bones instead.”
Did you feel like you were getting back into character, or has so much happened to Zack that it’s almost like he’s a different character at this point?
I did, but so much has happened to him, and he’s older. I look older, because I am older. There was an episode recently where they showed a picture of Zack. It was like a documentary, and TJ talked about Zack, and they showed some pictures. I was like, “I’m so young! I don’t look like that anymore.” And then I thought, “No, but I’m not supposed to look like that anymore.” But in terms of getting on the set and playing the character, it was such a short scene, and it’s a Zack we’ve never seen. One of the things that was kind of funny was — David Boreanaz directed it. He’s a great director, and Emily’s directing this next one, which is exciting. She’s excited — but when we shot that final scene, sometimes when you’re shooting a scene and they’re doing your closeup, the actor you’re working with will be behind the camera saying her lines, but because of the angles you can’t actually look at her. So they’ll put a little piece of tape on the side of the camera, and they’re like, “That’s the direction we need you to look.” So when I’m doing this scene with Emily, I’m not even looking at her. I’m looking at this piece of tape saying, “You and I have so much to talk about.”
You’ve worked with David as a director before, because he directed the 100th episode. What’s that experience like?
Oh, he is great. He’s so creative. Even the way he did the scene with me kind of being in the darkness and leaning into the light, that was such a great idea. So he’s really fun. I think he’s my favorite of all of the directors we’ve worked with.
What kind of director do you think Emily will be?
I think she’s going to be great. I think it’s her first, so it’s going to be fun. She told me she’s excited about using a different part of her brain than she uses when she’s an actor. My husband was saying, “Emily loves you — she’s going to make you look good.” [Laughs] That’s a good point. She’s somebody who loves me, and I love her, so we’re going to bring out the best in each other.
Have you kept in touch with the cast?
I have. I haven’t seen anybody in a while — I’ve been mostly in New York the last few years — but we text each other. Tamara I saw. We had lunch. Michaela [Conlin, who plays Angela] got the script for this next episode before I did, and she was like, “You have a great storyline. You’re going to love it.” … And Emily and I have been texting each other since I got the script. She was very nice. She told me to let her know if I have questions or concerns or anything.
Looking back on your time as a regular, does anything stand out to you?
The camaraderie and the friendship, working together. And also, looking back further, Hart Hanson was really a good guy to work with. We had some good times. There was a two-part article about me on The Huffington Post, if you google Eric Millegan and bipolar, and you can see in that article how Hart helped me through it all. I really had to deal with it until I found the right combination of medication during the first season. And he was so supportive, and we really got through it together. He was really cool, because toward the end of the first season, he sat me down and said, “Look, if you need to go to a hospital or something and get right, your job will still be here when you get back, because you’re very valuable to our show.” And that was really, really nice. That’s definitely a moment I look back on… It’s going to be sad when it’s done. Even though I wasn’t on the show for several years, it was always a possibility. I could always check in on the show and see everybody. It’s going to be weird when we’re just reruns.
Had you thought at all about how you wanted to see Zack’s story wrap up?
That’s a good question. Not really. I mean, I never thought about how they would actually make it happen. I just wanted it to happen. I wanted to come back. But the big thing that happened was, at the end of that season 4 episode where he escapes, he tells Sweets, John Francis Daley’s character, that he didn’t kill anyone. But then like two seasons ago, Sweets got murdered. I was like, “The one guy who knows is gone! What does that mean?” But no, I just like being surprised. I like interpreting whatever someone throws at me as an actor, and I don’t think I was specifically hoping for a certain storyline.
Is there anything you want to say to fans who are worried about this story for Zack?
It’s going to be fun. [Laughs] And I can’t tell you, but I can tell you you’re not going to be disappointed. The episode we have coming up is a tour de force. This is going to be the most exciting episode I’ve ever gotten to do.