Well, they’ve done it, and they’ve done it very well. Such is the opinion of executive producers Jonathan Collier of Bones and Clifton Campbell of Sleepy Hollow. Much more importantly, such is also the opinion of the press who have gotten to see the two-hour Halloween crossover event in advance. “The Resurrection in the Remains” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales” air October 29.
Who would have ever thought two such disparate universes could intertwine without threatening the integrity of the individual mythologies? How did they do it, and what were the logistical challenges? Would they ever attempt it again? These were the questions on everyone’s minds when we talked with the team of executive producers one week before the Bones/Sleepy Hollow crossover debuts.
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#1 The Original Idea Came from the Powers That Be
Clifton Campbell, Sleepy Hollow‘s showrunner and executive producer, explained the genesis of this unlikely pairing. “Dana Waldon (Co-Chairman/CEO of FOX Broadcasting Company) wanted to see the marriage of the two shows that we could come up with compatibility-wise in a fun and promotable way. We at first were certainly challenged by the idea of doing something like that, but within that challenge found a great deal of fun in pairing the two up.”
Collier and Campbell and their writers came up with some ideas for the top brass, explained Campbell further. The network loved the idea of a Halloween promotional event, and the rest is history.
#2 The Challenge of Writing Such an Unlikely Pairing was Highly Rewarding
While we have over 250 hours of proof that these two writing teams thrive on challenging themselves to come up with mind-bending scenarios, it appears they couldn’t resist jumping completely out of the box to accomplish the impossible this time, and had a lot of fun doing it.
“It’s always nice to shake things up creatively. These (are both) clearly defined franchises,” admitted Campbell. “The writing was the most daunting and rewarding. How do we get these characters to do and say the things we want them to say and still remain true to their own characters, and what sort of plot would make the differences as seamless as possible and make that shift from one show to the next?”
“It was very, very, gratifying to work with the Sleepy Hollow team to come up with a solution to that,” Collier confirmed.
#3 They’ve Already Overcome Their Greatest Challenges
“It’s intrinsically harder to put Sleepy Hollow in the Bones (universe) because we don’t acknowledge that the supernatural exists,” Collier said. He posed the question we’ve all been wondering: How can the brilliant scientists and investigators of Bones be oblivious to “a reality that is very (clear and integral) to another set of characters in the same show? We had to have a story where both elements could coexist.”
And how could they do it convincingly … without making the geniuses look like idiots, one has to wonder?
“That was a tightrope act that (Bones) had to walk. We had to put our heads together and come up with a terrestrial crime that on second look had a supernatural bent that we were able to then take off (with) in our hour and solve on our side of it. It was challenging to try and a challenge to deal with our realities inside of their own.”
Having seen the entire two hours of entertainment, I can attest that 1) It certainly is a tightrope, and 2) They do succeed on all accounts. How do they keep it real? Brennan does have her suspicions and confronts Crane with them in the first hour.
In the second hour, Booth and Abbie discuss the new level of responsibility she now has as a member of the bureau. When they get into the thick of what’s going on, he admits, “This isn’t just off book, it’s off the reservation.” Surprisingly, this delicate dance works for both sides.
#4 They Accomplished the Impossible Inside the Plausible, and They Can Do it Again
How did they make it all work? It looks like it was a concerted effort.
“We shot all of the crossover scenes in Los Angeles,” Campbell said. “We traveled our cast and our key department heads and the people that make our show hum, and we were welcomed with wide open arms. It felt like that everybody was enjoying the experience. Rising to the challenge. The product really shows in the work.”
“You guys couldn’t have been better guests,” Collier added. “I have to say, you never know what to expect and it could have been any number of things but everything wildly exceeded our expectations.”
#5 The Crossover Allowed for Dynamics That Wouldn’t Naturally Occur in These Individual Universes
“(The Bones) characters get challenged in a way that you haven’t seen before. I think we’re pulling them out of their comfort zone. Not that they’ve ever really ever been in one. That’s the virtue of the show. And we’re opening up a type of mystery that couldn’t be told on Sleepy Hollow. Likewise … our characters would never ever be able to do an episode in our show like they’ve been able to do in Sleepy Hollow.”
“It was incredibly fun for us to get Crane on our show because we have a figure of the Enlightenment who is an educated man, but from another century who probably would be more like Brennan than not if he had been born in our time,” explains Collier.
“The interesting part for our side was that Booth is a veteran agent and someone who takes the job and wears it like a second skin very seriously. Abbie is brand new to the bureau and has heard of Booth’s name, (making it) sort of a natural organic hand off from one show to the other using that connection and the FBI investigations. It really gave us some stuff to play with using the veteran help out and support the person new to the job.”
“For the FBI newbie it is “a connection and a personal journey … to see through the eyes of someone (Booth) who has found a life balanced in a very unique way in his relationship and marriage to Brennan,” explained Campbell. This also sends a wink to the audience “to see down range what could potentially happen between Abbie and Crane.”
#6 The Actors’ Genuinely Enjoy Working Together, Making for an Extraordinary Outcome
What surprised and delighted Bones‘ Collier about the commingling of their troupes was “the level of excitement they brought to do it. They were just thrilled to do it. It was fun for them from start to end and they made it fun for each other.”
“In down times when we were tweaking the writing I caught everybody, cast and crew, mingling in a really nice way. And it just felt really good … and it really shows in the end product,” said Campbell. “The little things that the actors found in between the lines and the dialog and the little moments that they filled in for us,” are what delighted Sleepy Hollow’s executive producer.
“In their own shows, actors do that on a regular basis. Actors give you little moments and little looks that you can pull into the scenes that really resonate.” Collier was amazed that in the brief four days on set the actors found and exploited the natural chemistry between them. “We kept a lot of those interesting moments in the final cut.”
#7 Collier and Campbell Would Gladly Do it Again
Asked if both executive producers would be willing to do it again, Collier had this to say. “We’d love it. Absolutely love it. The whole experience was challenging, extremely rewarding.”
“I agree with John. I would love to do another one. Yeah, I would say as daunting as the idea was initially, working through it with the Bones team was a great deal of fun just from a writer’s perspective. And I think the product grew exponentially from those mutual conversations. And I agree with Jon, I would love to do another. Later he added, “Ultimately at the end … the takeaway is, boy, you know, I would really like to see them do this again, and a wink to the audience that something like that certainly is possible.”
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The two-hour Bones and Sleepy Hollow crossover event airs on Thursday, October 29, beginning at 8pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)