BONES, which runs Mondays at 8 PM on Fox, is now in its eighth season. The series chronicles the personal and professional relationship of FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and forensic pathologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) as they solve murders.
In third season, Brennan’s lab assistant Zack Addy (Eric Milligan) was committed to a mental institution. Since then, Brennan has had a rotating roster of lab assistants, or “squinterns” (Booth calls the lab people squints and they serve as Brennan’s interns, hence “squinterns”). Eugene Byrd’s character Dr. Clark Edison is one of the primary squinterns.Clark started out extremely reserved and repressed, but he’s loosened up over the years.
Philadelphia native Byrd has appeared on almost twenty episodes of BONES by now, including the one airing Nov. 12. Byrd has had a busy year, having just appeared on EUREKA, WILFRED, SUBURGATORY and creator Tim Kring’s Web series DAYBREAK, as well as in the upcoming feature ROCK JOCKS.
Here’s what he had to say.
ASSIGNMENT X: Do you remember when you began on BONES?
EUGENE BYRD: Actually, I think I started in Three and came back in Four. I started when Zack left and came back. [Clark] was the one they were interviewing [for the assistant position], and then Zack came back in that episode.
AX: Clark is a recurring character. Is it hard to keep your rhythm when you’re away from the role for long periods of time, or do you just slip back into it?
BYRD: You know, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s such a great crew and such a great cast, it would be hard to slip back in, but Emily and David and the rest of the cast make it so easy for us to just jump back in that it’s easy for me to jump back intoClark. Clark [started off] reserved, very hands-off, so in a weird way, coming back in [was] just like beingClark, because I get to come back and feel weird, like, these people want to be a family and I don’t want a part of it.
AX: Was it difficult for you to summon that reserve? You don’t seem to be very reserved in person.
BYRD: Oh, no [laughs]. I’m not reserved at all. But the fact is, I have a lot of family members who are a little bit more reserved. It’s actually fun, because the less he talked and the less he tried to share, the funnier he was, because he’s trying so hard not to be involved with the soap opera antics of [the other characters].
AX: Clark has loosened up considerably over the seasons …
BYRD: I love the fact that there have been three versions of my character. There’s been the stiff, reserved guy, then there’s been the overly I-tell-you-everything inappropriate guy. Now I feel like I’m bringing him back and he’s more a meld, but I really do like how he’s evolved and I really do like that the writers listen to us and try to incorporate some of my personality into it. So I’m loving it. The only thing I want them to do is let me out of the lab. They did it when I first got there, but I haven’t been out of the lab as much. I will say in the squinterns episode, there will probably be an area you’ve never seen, which is cool.
AX: The squinterns episode?
BYRD: We did an episode with five of the recurring squinterns, and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I call it an extra-special episode of BONES.
AX: Who else is in the episode?
BYRD: Joel David Moore [Colin Fisher], Luke Kleintank [Finn Abernathy], Michael Grant Terry [Wendell Bray] and Pej Vahdat [Arastoo Vaziri]. We all get together and we do an episode together. And it’s actually a lot of fun. Those are some really good guys to work with. And Bones – Emily gets to play a little bit more than Emily [usually] gets to play and she had a lot of fun with that.
AX: Before this, were all of the squintern actors going, “Gee, we’re never going to get to work together because …”
BYRD: Yeah. Well, we did have the fantasy episode [in Season 4]. The only person that I wish we had in it was the other squintern – I’m the only doctor – was Carla Gallo [Daisy Wicks]. But they made it a boy episode for a reason and we had a lot of fun. We actually enjoy each other, which is rare and weird. Actually, I don’t know if I like it – I feel like I should slap somebody to make my life feel better [laughs]. We have to do it again.
AX: Did you have to study for any aspects of the role, the technical aspects or the techno-jargon?
BYRD: Absolutely. I feel like I’m in medical school. Have you ever tried to say “interfalangeal joints”? There’s a lot that goes on in that role that I felt like I was going to medical school, but I really enjoy the aspects of forensics.
AX: Has anything grossed you out in any of the scenes?
BYRD: You know, there were a couple of times that bodies looked like they could have been meat, like some kind of spaghetti or like they poured some kind of caramel sugar over it. And that was a little weird. It never grosses me out, but it makes me go, “I don’t think I’m going to have dessert at the end of this day.”
AX: Is there any one BONES regular you have any particular person you enjoy playing off more than any others?
BYRD: No, it’s kind of funny. John Francis Daley [who plays Dr. Lance Sweets] and I rarely get to play, but when we do play, it’s a lot of fun. I love working with Emily. I love, love, love working with Tamara Taylor [as lab supervisor Dr. Camille Saroyan], and TJ [Thyne as Dr. Jack Hodgins] and I have good fun and Michaela [Conlin as artist Angela Montenegro Hodgins] – she’s always fun. There are always some different aspects that I get to play when I’m with different BONES series regulars that I didn’t get to explore at other times, like David Boreanaz. We have this sort of like, “Yeah, I respect you, I don’t know you, so let’s keep our distance.” And that’s the character that we play together that’s actually a lot of fun.
AX: Do you have anything you’d particularly like to have come out of your character’s back story, like Raj turning out to be faking his Middle Eastern accent?
BYRD: I heard about that [laughs], that he finally owned up that he had a regular [American] accent. With my character, they showed that he had a grandfather and he appreciated Booth and he respected what he did and the fact that he defended his grandfather, and there’s a connection there. I hope they show more about Clark’s back story.
AX: What’s your character like in DAYBREAK?
BYRD: My character is Charles. He’s a jack-boxer [a member of a secret organization]. I hate saying “secret organization,” because it sounds X-FILE-ish, but in a weird way, it kind of is. Our whole purpose is to bring everything back with the dodecahedron, and basically, we’re trying to help Man continue to evolve.
AX: When you were approached about DAYBREAK, did you think, “What the heck is this?” or did you think, “Web series, cool,” or did you think, “Tim Kring, cool”?
BYRD: I didn’t [initially] know Tim Kring was a part of it, but I’ve done CROSSING JORDAN with Tim Kring, I’ve done HEROES with Tim Kring, so I didn’t know right away, and then they told me Tim was doing this and then I heard how ambitious this was for a Web series. And so I was on board when I realized how cool the character was and how incredible the pedigree of the talent of the crew was.
AX: Had you worked with DAYBREAK director Jon Cassar before?
BYRD: No, I had not worked with Jon Cassar before, and this will not be my last time. I love working with that man.
AX: What does he do that’s distinctive as a director?
BYRD: He allows you to play and he keeps it moving, he makes it fun. I always find the best directors are the ones that make sure that they let you know that they’re human beings and they know how to talk to you. And even how intense it may get, they understand that actors have a process. I love that with Jon. I’d work with Jon whenever he wants.
AX: DAYBREAK has some apps that viewers can access. Have you played with any of them?
BYRD: I’ve played with the beta of the jack-box app. My character’s a jack-boxer, so I had to know what I was talking about. And it’s a fun app. I think a lot of people are going to enjoy it, I think a lot of people are going to have a lot of fun with it. It’s just a matter of people getting it into their hands and interacting with it.
AX: And are you involved with the heavy action aspects of DAYBREAK?
BYRD: Absolutely. I’m a geek in this thing, I’m a tech guy, but I’m not your usual tech guy [laughs]. I’m getting it on.
AX: Between DAYBREAK and BONES, do you feel like you’re sort of forging a niche as physically-fit tech geek?
BYRD: That’s kind of funny. I do feel that I’ve played a lot of doctors and scientists and tech geeks, but [in DAYBREAK], I’ve transformed a little bit. I’m doing action. I’m a tech geek who is actually sort of an action guy in this, so that’s sort of a break from the mold.
AX: Yeah. On BONES, except for Brennan, the lab people usually don’t get to do too much action.
BYRD: Well, I stripped and I got choked by [Brennan] and almost drowned by her, so I’ve had some interesting, quirky things to do, but nothing of [DAYBREAK’s] magnitude.
AX: Is the subject matter in DAYBREAK interesting to you outside of it providing you with a good role?
BYRD: Absolutely. You know, what’s so interesting about this is it’s about social awareness and bringing man together and man evolving and [the work of scientist Nicola] Tesla. It’s a lot of tech talk in this, but it’s all very interesting. I was an X-FILES fan. In a way, this show sort of has an X-FILES/24 feel, like it’s a bridge, and I hope we continue.
AX: Is the tech talk in DAYBREAK easier or harder than the tech talk on BONES?
BYRD: Easier. Oh, my God, easier. The only problem I had was “dodecahedron.” And I just had to get that information down right and then it was cool, but I say stuff on BONES – there’s a blooper of me trying to say one word right for an entire episode, and it was a disaster. This is not the same problem. I’m more of a tech guy anyway, instead of a medical guy.
AX: Are you happy to be coming back on BONES this year?
BYRD: Yes, I am. It’s unprecedented that we have an eighth season, but we’re even more popular than we were when we first started. It’s amazing the love that we get from the BONES fans. They’re the best fans in the world.
AX: From a viewer standpoint, how did you feel about it when Brennan and Booth finally got together romantically?
BYRD: You know what? I always think the MOONLIGHTING effect – when you put two characters together, usually, and you give them a baby, which is the other thing [BONES] did – usually, the show will fizzle, but I think what [show runners] Stephen Nathan and Hart [Hanson]and Ian [Toynton] decided to do was pretty smart, is that they didn’t change them. They didn’t make them lovey-dovey. They made Bones stay Bones, Booth stay Booth – they just happen to be together. I think that was great.
AX: How was playing the friend of Elijah Wood’s character on WILFRED?
BYRD: It’s been fun. I had a good time.
AX: On WILFRED, series co-creator Jason Gann plays the title character, but everybody except Elijah Wood’s character sees Wilfred as a dog. Did you have any problem avoiding looking at Jason Gann during the scenes?
BYRD: You know what’s so funny about working with Jason Gann is that he does a lot of funny things, but I look at him off-screen. If I look at him onscreen, I’m going to crack up, because he does some extremely wild things. I think that’s the reason why the show is so funny – it’s quirky. It’s like BONES in a weird way – a very creepy, strange way. You have to almost act like he’s not talking. Which can be difficult, but at the same time, you always hear the joke that actors only care about their [own] lines anyway [laughs], so you can play that game – “Oh, it’s not my line, so I don’t really care what you’re saying.”
AX: Anything else you’d like to say right now?
BYRD: The only thing I’d like to say about BONES is that it’s a ton of fun to work on and that the character’s actually a blast. I just hope that they show more of him.
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Article: Exclusive interview with Eugene Byrd on BONES, WILFRED and DAYBREAK