Interview with David Boreanaz by SEAN MITCHELL
Published: December 27, 2006 NY Times
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26 — When David Boreanaz was in the fourth grade, he says, he was pushed around and beaten up on the playground in Philadelphia. It is a scene that is difficult to imagine for those who have seen Mr. Boreanaz shouldering the manly role of the F.B.I. agent Seeley Booth in “Bones,” the forensic procedural drama now in its second season on Fox (on Wednesday nights). He insists the story is true but adds that resisting the bullying led him into sports, where he grew eventually into a 6-foot-1 offensive end and defensive back for his Catholic high school football team.
“I wasn’t the best of players, but I could go across the middle and catch a ball,” Mr. Boreanaz said in an interview at his home here. “I wanted to play sports my whole life. That’s all I really wanted to do.”
This despite the fact that his family had show business connections: his father, under the name Dave Roberts, was a television weatherman and talk show host for the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia; his mother a singer who turned down an offer to go on the road with the Tommy Dorsey band.
“I always thought of her as Doris Day,” said Mr. Boreanaz (pronounced Bo-ree-AH-nuz). His father, he said, was forced to shed his surname because “back in those days, you couldn’t use an ethnic last name.” Years later, his son has finally introduced the family name to popular culture.
In “Bones” Mr. Boreanaz is paired with Emily Deschanel, who plays the title role of Temperance Brennan, a k a Bones, a forensic anthropologist at a Smithsonianlike institution that lends her out to the F.B.I. With Booth, a hard-charging agent who distrusts science, as her partner, she investigates murders involving corpses that are not, well, fresh. The inherent gruesomeness of the task at hand is offset by the odd couple’s combative banter and their unmistakable, though unacknowledged, attraction to each other.
“We were looking for a leading man with retro appeal, a throwback,” said Hart Hanson, the creator and an executive producer of “Bones,” which has been a steady performer for Fox. Few of the network’s series performed well in the ratings this fall, but “Bones” has managed to increase its audience from fall 2005, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Until now Mr. Boreanaz was best known to television viewers as the vampire Angel on Fox’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and then in the spinoff series, “Angel.” His square jaw and action-hero physique attracted a legion of female fans in the seven seasons of “Buffy.”
“I didn’t come from a traditional background of studying theater and doing Shakespeare,” Mr. Boreanaz said. He did appear in a couple of Sam Shepard plays in small theaters in Los Angeles before getting his first television role as a biker on an episode of “Married With Children.”
Critics have compared Mr. Boreanaz and Ms. Deschanel’s sublimated romantic tension on “Bones” to that of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd on “Moonlighting” and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on “The X Files,” though the badinage on those earlier shows never had to accommodate examinations of blackened flesh, reconstructed fetuses and, in one episode, jewelry extracted from the lung of a submerged corpse that had “melted during putrefaction.”
In some ways the traditional male-female roles are reversed in “Bones,” with Brennan, the scientist, cast as the stolid, lonely careerist, while Mr. Boreanaz’s character is, by contrast, emotional and caring, an unmarried father who is seeking redemption for his past as an Army sniper.
“He’s a stand-up, blue-collar guy,” Mr. Boreanaz said about Booth.
Though Mr. Boreanaz is not exactly from the streets, he fondly recalls working construction one summer while in high school and learning how to swing a hammer and use the right tools, an experience that has stood him in good stead. “I know the blue collar mentality,” he said. “You meet these guys, you make friends, that’s all stuff that I have.”
He said he never knew how to apply such personal details to acting until he began to work recently with the acting teacher Ivana Chubic. “I’m learning more how to do that now, draw on my own experience,” he added. “It’s a style she teaches that makes sense to me. I didn’t know this could be so much fun.”
“For me,” he continued, “what I was doing with ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel,’ it was all about the pain and the torture and the sense of being in the alleyway. Not to take anything away from it, but those were some learning, hard, difficult times when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.”
Now, he and Ms. Deschanel meet every Saturday at Ms. Chubic’s home to work on the script they will be shooting the next week — an extracurricular form of preparation not common in the daily grind of a television series, in which actors cherish their weekends off.
Mr. Boreanaz did not begin acting until he moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Ithaca College in upstate New York. “I didn’t grow up as child actor,” he said. “I was fortunate to find this show with a small character that grew into this huge cult thing. I was like, ‘Let’s ride it.’ ”
The success of “Buffy” carried him, as he tracks it, from “a small apartment in Hollywood to a bigger apartment to a corner condo to renting a house.”
At 37, he now owns a house in the Hollywood Hills, just above the Sunset Strip, where he lives with his wife, the former “Howard Stern Show” personality and Playboy Playmate Jaime Bergman, and their 4-year-old son.
While Mr. Boreanaz said he was enjoying the experience of “Bones,” like many actors in television, he hopes to land a good role in a feature film. To date, he has appeared in a number of independent or low-budget features — “These Girls,” “Mr. Fixit” and “The Hard Easy” — but not yet a major movie.
“This is where I want to go, and I’m knocking on doors right now,” he said. “I’m not going away.”
One of the most memorable moments of this season for Mr. Boreanaz came while he was working late on a Friday night, sitting in his trailer on the set watching the World Series. Suddenly he heard the popular Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck urge viewers to watch “an all-new ‘Bones’ next week.”
“Joe Buck!” Mr. Boreanaz said excitedly. “Joe Buck!”