PARADE – Bones star Emily Deschanel tracked down criminals as forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan on the Fox series. Now Deschanel, 42, plays Angela, a drug addict who cozies up to the Cody family in season four of TNT’s crime drama Animal Kingdom (May 28).
You spent 12 seasons upholding the law on Bones. What’s it like now to be on the other side?
It’s a lot of fun. I have two sons [Henry, 7, and Calvin, 3] and they love playing bad guys a lot of times. There’s something about human nature that makes you enjoy doing it. But the fun part about it is to see it from the character’s perspective, like, why are they doing these things?
I don’t think anyone sets out to be evil or do bad things. Maybe a few people do, but they have reasons why they do what they do and they probably think that they’re doing something for a good reason. So, that’s what’s been really fun, to see from this character’s perspective why she’s doing certain things. It’s been unclear as we’ve been working how bad she is, what she’s up to, and what is she scheming?
Who is Angela?
She’s basically a family friend. She’s a recovering heroin addict who just got out of prison. She said she went to prison for breaking and entering, but you never know what to believe exactly.
What are scenes like with Ellen Barkin, the head of the Cody family?
I’m a huge fan. What an amazingly talented actor and strong female. We get to battle. It’s fun to do rehearsals with her. We’re at odds, so there are times where her character [Smurf] is throwing things to get me out of the room.
When Bones wrapped, what was it that you wanted most to do?
At the end of 12 seasons, I was just run ragged. I wanted to sleep for months and spend time with my kids. I was able to calm down, get healthy, get better. I’m on my road to being healthy and finding balance in my life.
You and your sister, Zooey, acted together on Bones. Any future plans to work together?
We talk about it all the time. I don’t know about acting together, but we are talking about working together in different ways. So that’s definitely on the table.
How much of Angela’s plan do you know?
I’ve come back in to infiltrate. I want to get in there but it’s unclear exactly what I’m after. Angela was the best friend of Ellen Barkin’s character’s dead daughter, so she plays a family friend, essentially. She’s been around the family since they were really young. She was the drug buddy of the daughter who died of a heroin overdose. So she is not met with open arms at the Cody house.
She decides to seduce one of the brothers to get in there. She has a lot of affection for J, because he was Angela’s best friend’s son and, in her mind, she helped raise him. It probably means that she would have him shoot her up and then they’d watch cartoons together. But in her mind, she helped raise him. She was his auntie, so to speak, because his mother had been estranged from the family for many years when she died.
You had your own TV family for 12 years. What was it like to slide into a new show, where the cast had already been together for three seasons?
It’s a totally different thing, but they’ve been very welcoming. I, obviously, love working with Ellen, and every other actor’s been so warm, sweet and very inclusive. I mostly have worked with Shawn Hatosy, who’s just lovely, and I work with Finn Cole, who plays J. They’ve all been so great. I’ve also done quick scenes with some of the other characters, too, and they’re really lovely. I feel very welcome there.
It’s a totally different thing. It feels weird to come in but this is exactly the kind of job that I wanted to find, where I’m not working every day, because I did that for 12 years and I didn’t get to see my kids very much. Hence, I took two years off, so I could spend time with them.
But it’s a funny job. I worked yesterday and I don’t come back until next week, and then I’ll probably have more in the next episode. Each episode is different. Also, it’s weird because I’m used to seeing the crew every day and being around the same people, where you have a sure hand. So it’s different, but I love new experiences and new situations, so it’s been a lot of fun.
You said you took two years off to spend time with your kids, so were you looking to come back or was it just this role that appealed to you?
I just had mentioned to my representative, who was very patient with me—because I’ve not been interested in jobs and I’ve been saying no for a long time. I said, “Get me a four-episode arc on a show. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to move to Romania for nine months.”
So pretty soon after I said that, this came up. It’s more than four episodes. I come in in the second episode and I’m in most of the season for the rest of the 13 episodes. So it’s definitely more than I initially wanted to do. These are the things I wanted: I didn’t want to go far away. I wanted to be coming into something. I wanted to be a guest star. I didn’t want to sign a contract and have to show up all the time. And I wanted to play a completely different character on something totally different, and that’s exactly what this was. It’s almost like I manifested it to happen. Not to get all The Secret on you—I’m not even somebody who believes in that stuff, but it was kind of amazing that it just happened.
Like you said, I was on the “right” side of the law and now I’m on the other side of the law and it’s a lot of fun. I played a character; literally her name was Temperance, which means sobriety, essentially. And now I’m playing a heroin addict. I’m having a real fun time diving into the character and figuring out what makes her tick and where she’s coming from. I love human behavior and, of course, I have compassion for any character I play, so I love coming in with that perspective.
When you look back at Bones, what do you hope its legacy will be?
I think that there’s been lots of shows that came before Bones that certainly inspired our show and certainly have their place in television: from The X-Files to Moonlighting. I think that Bones is unique for its tone. I think at that time, crime shows took themselves pretty seriously and we had a lighter tone. The creator of the show, Hart Hanson, liked to call it a “crime-edy.”
I think that it was uniquely balanced with drama and comedy. Within one scene, we would go from dramatic to comedic. I think that it also had such a strong group of characters played by strong actors, who were like a family, with Booth [David Boreanaz] and Brennan being at the core of that and their relationship.
I always look at things from a feminist perspective, and I love that we never shied away from the fact that my character made more money than Booth and I had a bigger office than him. All the women had bigger, nicer offices than the men on that show, and my character was a strong, smart woman who was not shying away from that. She would be the first to tell you that she was a genius, and I just loved that.
I don’t know where it falls and what thing will be the main thing that it will be remembered for, but I think that those are the things that made it unique in the landscape of television at that time.
One thing that I know is you’re always very involved in is animal rights. What are you currently working on?
I’m very involved with Farm Sanctuary, which is the largest farm animal sanctuary in the country. The organization not only houses animals that have been saved from factory farming, but it educates people about factory farming; the realities of it. It also works to advocate for those animals through laws and different campaigns, and it provides people with experiences with these animals.
Right now they have two places where you can come and visit animals. One’s outside of Los Angeles in Acton, California, which is like 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles. And then we have Watkins Glen, which is absolutely stunning, outside of New York City in the Finger Lakes area.