Let’s paint a mental
picture, shall we? You are a young actor. You have your first role on
a popular TV series and your character has become a fan favorite. After
a few years in the role, the producers of the show call you up with a
classic good news/bad news situation: your character is going to go very
dramatically insane, but after this tasty morsel of acting, you will no
longer be a regular.
So, you settle back
into your life. A few times over the years they bring you back in to
the show for flashback scenes, but soon those opportunities dry up as
well. You’ve pretty much settled into the mindset that your character
is pretty much forgotten. Then, eight years after you left the show,
the series is winding down for its final season. And then, you get the
call... They need you to come back to provide some closure. Besides,
the fans have been clamoring for your return for years.
stuff, right? Just ask Eric Millegan, who is living that situation.
Millegan had played
the role of Zack Addy on the popular FOX series Bones. Zack was
Dr. Temperance Brennan’s (Emily Deschanel) brilliant-but-troubled
assistant in the first few seasons of the show. Zack was something of a
fan favorite, but one day in 2008 Millegan received a call that the
show’s producers wanted to have a meeting. Millegan happily set it up,
but then a sense of unease hit him.
“I was like, wait
a minute. What is this meeting about?” Millegan can laugh about it
now. “I started getting paranoid. When I called, I was talking to Hart
Hanson, the creator of the show. You’ll have to tell me what this
means. He was like, ’Well, it’s not the worst news in the world; you’re
not going to be a regular anymore.’ I was like, oh my, no. I went in
for the meeting. They closed the doors. Stephen Nathan and Hart Hanson
basically said, ’You’re going to be The Gormogon’s apprentice.’”
The Gormogon was a
cannibalistic serial killer whose crimes and detection formed the spine
of the third season of shows. The idea of Zack being involved with the
madman was one that seemed to come out of the blue, surprising not only
fans, but the man who was playing the apprentice.
was actually kind of exciting at first,” Millegan recalled. “I was
like, wow, that’s amazing. Have I been eating people?”
The producers assured
him that Zack was not a cannibal. Then Hanson told him that it was a
shame that he would have to leave the show, but they had written him a
great character arc to leave with. At that point, Millegan had only two
more episodes to film, a court episode which really had nothing to do
with the big reveal, and then the season three finale.
“I tried not to focus
on the fact that I was going to be off the show, and focus more on wow,
look at all this great material they are giving me as an actor,”
Millegan admitted. “Then when it was time to leave, it was sad to leave
and not work with my friends on a regular basis. But they had me back
for two episodes in season four, one in season five, and then I wasn’t
sure if I’d be back at all.”
For six seasons,
Millegan wasn’t back. However, while making the 11th season of Bones,
the new show runners Michael Peterson and Jonathan Collier decided the
next season would be the last. They decided one of their priorities
would be the return of Zack Addy.
“I was hoping they’d
call me for the final episode of the series,” Millegan said. “I thought
it would be nice to be brought back in at least once more. Then I get
an email from my agent in January of this year....”
Not only did they
want the character of Zack to come back, they had decided that he would
be the season 11 cliffhanger. Millegan was brought back to make a
surprise appearance in the final scene of the season, showing Zack to be
the mysterious figure that had kidnapped Dr. Brennan.
This turn of events
seems a bit shocking, as Dr. Brennan was always one of Zack’s strongest
supporters. However, Millegan acknowledges that there is more to the
action than meets the eye.
said, cryptically. “Yeah, absolutely.”
However, he said, we
were going to have to wait for the new season to begin in January to
find out the specifics of what is happening.
“I’ve shot the first
episode of the final season,” Millegan said. “That is an exact
continuation of where we left off at the end of season 11. Everything
gets explained. That’s all I can tell you. It’s a great episode.
Everything gets explained. I can’t wait for everybody to watch it.”
a recent interview, (current show runner) Jonathan Collier said, “We
really want to make this a season that is exciting and meaningful, that
pays off for our characters and rewards the fans that have put so much
into the show. Once you come to that, who’s better to bring back than
Zack?” How gratifying is it to Millegan to know that his character has
taken up such a major role in the series’ mythology?
Millegan agreed. “When I was doing the show initially, I used to read
the FOX message boards all the time, to see what people thought about
the episodes. It was like my way to have a live audience where I could
get feedback. When I went off the show, I decided I wasn’t going to
read the message boards anymore, because, I thought, I don’t want to see
them forget me. After a few months or so, people won’t talk about me
any more. That will be upsetting. But it never happened. They’ve been
talking about me all these years I haven’t even been on the show. All
of the message boards online have always said, ’When is Zack coming
back?’ That was exciting and a surprise.”
return at the end of last season was a huge surprise. Millegan couldn’t
tell anyone he was going back. Of course, it wasn’t a complete shock to
the hardcore fans. Show runner Peterson had done some interviews
acknowledging that he was going to do whatever he could to get Zack back
to the show. It was just a surprise that it happened so soon and how he
was going to return.
Peterson’s interviews “it wasn’t a total secret that I would be
returning at some point,” Millegan said. “It was just the context that
was a secret. Probably the hardest thing was keeping a secret of my
exit from the show in season three. That was hard. I knew that I was
going to be off the show and no one else did. People were asking me
questions about the following season, and I couldn’t really tell people
that I wasn’t going to be involved on a full-time basis on the following
“Once that episode
aired, I literally wrote a whole letter to my fans that I put up on
various websites saying I’m sorry I had to lie to you guys. I had to
keep this a secret. Here’s what happened, and here’s what I knew when.
I didn’t quit the show. It was a show I enjoyed working on. Yeah, that
was hard. I had to lie on red carpets and stuff when they asked me. It
was difficult. This wasn’t as much; I don’t have to wait as long.”
However, perhaps the
nicest surprise was simply this – eight years after leaving the show, it
seemed like very little had changed. Millegan felt that he fit right
back in, almost like he had never left in the first place.
“I did keep in touch
with people [over the years],” Millegan said. “It was pretty great
going back to the set. It sounds crazy, because I had been fully off
the show; I hadn’t been in a single episode since 2010. It had been six
years. It literally felt like I had never left. Some of the people on
the crew were different, but a lot of them were the same. When you’re
waiting to go on, you have a chair, you know, like the director chairs?
The actors have chairs with your name on it. When I came back to the
show, they had saved my chair. When I came back they had my chair still
for me. It really felt like I had never left. It was pretty crazy. I
had a great time.”
make things even more old-homey, the directors of the two episodes which
had been film were his old co-stars.
“It was great” to
work with Emily Deschanel again, Millegan says. “She directed the
episode as well. The season finale that’s already aired, David Boreanaz
directed that episode. But episode one, that I’ve already shot, Emily
Deschanel directed that. So, I was working with her as actress and
director. She was great. Both David and Emily are great directors.”
He pauses and
proclaims dramatically, “I only want to work with them the rest of my
career! Terrific directors.”
He may even have the
chance to work with them again, because it appears that his work at
Bones is not done yet.
going back. Next month I’m going back to the set to shoot something.
What, I don’t know, because I’ve not read the script yet. I don’t think
the script has been written yet. But they do want me, so I’ve been put
on hold for that... I’ve done one. I’m doing another. The episode I’ve
already done, I’m heavily featured in. It’s the most my character has
ever been featured in an episode. [So] at least one more.”
It also felt nice to
slip back into the character of Zack. Of course, due to the secrecy
surrounding the storyline, he cannot tell whether this will be the
sweet, nice Zack of the early seasons or the evil Zack who became the
apprentice of a serial killer. In fact, just as an actor, Millegan
doesn’t even want to judge Zack. He just enjoys the acting challenge.
“I don’t think he’s
evil, but he’s complex and you always like that,” Millegan said.
So, is that episode
going to determine if Zack is the Puppeteer, the latest serial killer
character that Booth and Bones and the team have been tracking?
“Right. That is all
revealed,” Millegan said. “I wish I could tell more, but that is all
finds, there seems to be some disagreement in the Bones fan
universe as to whether they want to have Zack find redemption in the new
storyline, or whether he gives in completely to the black.
funny,” Millegan said, “I see people on Twitter. Most people want to
see him good, but there are the few people that are like: No! He’s the
villain. This was perfect. This was wonderful. They better not change
it. It’s cool that there are both sides. For me, personally, again, I
wish I could say more, but I’m very happy with how they’ve handled the
character. I’m very, very happy with how they’ve handled the
character. And, again, that’s all I can say. I wish I could say more.”
Millegan also says
that working on the final season of a 12-year running show has not
started feeling bittersweet yet, with everyone realizing this is the
“The only thing
different is that it’s a closed set,” Millegan said, “Normally; we have
friends and family come on the set and hang out. But this is a closed
set, because there are secrets in this season and they don’t want them
out. We’re very focused on getting this done and not letting the
secrets get out.”
In recent years,
Millegan has moved back to New York and has been concentrating more on
theater and singing. In fact, leading up to his return to Bones,
Millegan recently did a cabaret on Restaurant Row in New York.
“I love singing,”
Millegan said when I spoke with him, soon before the show. “I’m doing a
cabaret show here in New York at Don’t Tell Mama, on November 5th at 6
pm. I only do it once every four years. So I’m not begging my friends
to come see me every day all year long.”
What can someone
expect from the cabaret show? What kind of music does he do?
theater,” Millegan answered. “There’s Barry Manilow. There’s all sorts
of different standards. And there’s a world premiere. There’s a
novelty-comic song that a fairly successful composer has written for
me. I will be singing it. It’s funny. I think people are really going
to enjoy it. What other kind of songs do I do? A lot of standards. I
have some guest singers. Jenna Gavigan, who understudied Dainty June in
the revival of Gypsy with Bernadette Peters. Then my musical
director and piano player Tracy Stark will also have a piano solo, and
she’ll have a singing solo as well.
“It’s going to be
fun. I’ve been doing this every four years since 2000, so this is kind
of a best-of all the different shows I’ve done. One song that I’m
really looking forward to that I can give away is from the musical
Snoopy, it’s called ’The Vigil.’ It’s about Linus waiting in a
pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin. I think that’s really fun. It’s
fun that it’s going to be a week after Halloween.”
just to make sure that he doesn’t get too comfortable, he adds, “Also,
I’m running the New York Marathon the next morning.”
That’s right, he was
finishing the show, getting something to eat, going to sleep early and
then running a marathon early the next morning. However, the close time
between those two major life events was not a mere coincidence.
“In terms of the
timing, I scheduled it that way on purpose,” Millegan said. “I thought
if my family came to see me run the marathon, they could come see my
show, too. I thought that would be exciting. One of my cabaret shows I
did before; I did on my 30th birthday. I try to tie cabaret shows in
with other events, to make them extra exciting.”
In fact, he finished
the famous marathon with a time of 5:32:29. Not bad for a guy who has
only been running for a little over year, and was competing in only his
“I didn’t really run
at all until last year,” Millegan explained. “I’m living in New York.
I’ve seen people run the marathon. I had known people who had run the
marathon and always admired them. I admired my sister-in-law, who has
run six marathons. I thought I would enter the lottery. One of the
ways to get into the marathon is to enter a lottery and they pick who
gets to be in. I won the lottery, so I said, okay, I’ll do it. I
signed up for this training program where they email you every day and
tell you what to do. I just did those things and then I ran the
marathon [in 2015].”
looking back. “It all worked out. I qualified for this year because I
ran nine races in New York last year and volunteered at one – it’s
called Nine Plus One. That got me into the marathon this year. For
some reason, before I even ran it last year I was already like: I want
to do it again next year. There is something fun about it. Actually
running the marathon is very exciting, because it’s one big party all
over the city. They have bands everywhere – marching bands, singers,
gospel choirs – that perform for you as you’re running the marathon.
The only way to see it all is to run.”
admitted, making sure his show and his marathon were so close together
also had a practical aspect to it, to make sure that he did not get too
in his head about either thing.
“Yes! That’s like
auditioning,” Millegan explained. “Sometimes if I have an audition, and
I’m working really, really hard on it, and then another and another
audition may come up. It’s like, okay, the pressure is off, because now
I have to focus on this other one. I’m not beating myself up about the
first one. You have perspective. This is the same thing. If I was
only running the marathon, all I’d be thinking is the marathon. Or if I
was only doing the cabaret show, that’s all I’d be thinking of. It’s
nice to have two different things to think about.”
Perhaps that is all
because Eric Millegan, like he described his character above, is above
all else complex. Just like the rest of us.
“I don’t fit into a
box. I’m openly gay. I like musicals and theater and Broadway. But I
also love basketball. Sometimes even my main love of all is The
Portland Trailblazers, which is my basketball team. I have their logo
tattooed on to my leg. When people try to [say]... well, if you’re a
sports fan, you don’t care about theater. Or you’re gay, gay people
don’t care about sports. All these stereotypes. I think I break the
stereotypes. I’m definitely not a stereotype.”
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