The Pain Behind "The Pain In The Heart"

Did you know that Eric Millegan was the first actor to be cast for the pilot of the hit TV show Bones? And, of course, sadly he was one of the first to leave(Dr. Goodman being the first). Early in Season 3 (even before Eric had any idea about the fate of his character) Creator and Executive Producer Hart Hanson had made the decision that Eric (who plays our beloved Dr. Zack Addy) was going to be “cut” from the series.

Originally, Dr. Zack Addy was set to be the next victim of Gormogon – the treacherous cannibalistic serial killer. Thankfully that did not happen. Due to the WGA writer’s strike beginning in October of 2007 and ending in February of 2008, the series’ season was shortened. That left Hart Hanson and his team having to tie up the end of Season 3 in two episodes rather than eight. Needless to say, they had some tough choices to make.

Prior to the WGA writer’s strike, every episode was written except for “The Pain in the Heart (the season finale).” And every episode was shot except for “The Verdict in the Story” (the episode in which all of the Squints have to testify against Brennan’s father during his murder trial) and “The Pain in the Heart.” Eric told me that even though “Wannabee in the Weeds” (the episode in which Booth was shot) aired just prior to “The Pain in the Heart,” that episode was actually shot right at the beginning of the writer’s strike. So, Hart and his team had to find a way to wrap up Season 3 in one episode. It was during this time that Hart Hanson made the decision that instead of Zack being a victim of Gormogon, Zack would be Gormogon’s apprentice – allowing Eric to make guest appearances from time to time. In an interview with Hart states; “it (The Pain in the Heart) was designed to close out the current year, most notably the ongoing serial killer arc, and set the stage for Season 4 – a year of change.” In a different interview with (November 2010), Hart Hanson had this to offer: “it was just bad showrunning. The original plan (before the strike happened) was to have Zack be a victim of the serial killer, but along came the strike, which not only curtailed our year, but didn’t allow us to do the story as it originally had been laid out. And then I felt very bad for the actor (Eric Millegan) because he was going to lose his job by being killed. So I thought if I’m making him the apprentice, he’d be able to come back every once and awhile and make up that money. I probably should have killed him, but I didn’t have the heart.”

During the WGA writer’s strike, Eric spent most of his time following his favorite basketball team – the Portland Trailblazers – on the road. Approximately two weeks before Bones was set to resume shooting, Eric received a call summoning him back to LA for a meeting with Executive Producers Hart Hanson and Stephen Nathan. Eric anxiously called the showrunner to find out what was going on. At that time he learned that he was no longer going to be a series regular. Eric had a hard time wrapping his head around how the story line was written. Zack was Gormogon’s apprentice? Zack was a murderer??? Worst of all – a cannibal???? That just couldn’t be!!! Once Eric clarified that Zack was not a cannibal, he told me that he actually felt excited and challenged and he had a great time shooting the episode. As far as losing his regular job he said “it was a shock to my system that I was losing my job, no question, but at the time there was an episode to shoot so I had to stay focused on that.”

The other cast members found out shortly after Eric did. “Hart told Emily (Deschanel – Brennan) right after he told me and she immediately called me,” he recalls. In the book Bones – The Forensic Files by Paul Ruditis, Michaela Conlin (Angela) offered this: “Personally, it was pretty hard for everybody. Eric and TJ (Thyne - Hodgins) and I had all been the original Squints in the beginning, starting the show at the pilot. That was a strange adjustment. Not to mention that he’s friends with all of us personally. It was hard. It was very emotional. In shooting his last episode, nobody really had to act….” Emily (Deschanel – Brennan) adds, “Zack worked for a serial killer? Gormogon? I think everyone was surprised by that. No one would expect that from Zack. ….Emily misses Zack and Eric and so does Brennan.”

So, Eric and the others returned to work after their forced hiatus and they commenced shooting “The Verdict in the Story.” According to Eric, each episode of Bones takes nine working days to shoot. The ninth day of a shoot overlaps with the first day of the next. Approximately 10 days prior to shooting the “Pain In the Heart,” Eric received his script. I asked Eric about the climate on the set during the shooting of the episode and he said this: “I’d say it felt like “business as usual” for me. If there was an underlying sadness, I wasn’t paying attention to it. Executive Producer Hart Hanson stated (in an interview with ) “Eric was a consummate pro about it, and he hated keeping it a secret (until the episode aired). He was really worried that his fans would turn against him.”

During the shooting of The Pain in the Heart, all of the hospital scenes were shot on the same day (but not the last day). When I asked Eric which scene was the hardest to film, he answered “the last scene where Brennan and Booth confront me about my relationship with Gormogon was the toughest and because of that it was the most fun. It feels great when you get it right! It also challenged me as an actor because I have a lot of fun shooting dark, emotional scenes. I always have.”

Did you know that Zack originally gave a verbal apology (just two words – I’m Sorry) to Brennan and Booth, but it was cut from the scene? It was during the hospital scene, right after Zack explains to Booth how to catch Gormogon. In an interview Hart Hanson told why he opted to leave it on the cutting room floor. “The “I’m Sorry” on top of the big fat tear was gilding the lily. God bless Eric – he squeezed out a huge tear, in character. Zack is somewhat distanced from his emotions, so it was as though the interior part of him was sorry, but his intellect didn’t know it. When he said “I’m Sorry” after that, it was a repetitive beat. Plus, he’s such a sympathetic character – unlike Brennan, who can be colder – everyone assumes he’s sorry anyway. When I asked Eric how he managed to squeeze out that big tear he simply stated “…I have various techniques that I’ve developed over the years, but the best way is to be so committed to the scene that the tears fall naturally.” He also mentioned that if he’s not “feeling it,” he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve.

The very last scene that was shot was the one right after the explosion with Zack’s hands bloodied from the explosion. Eric told me that this was special to him because “after the last take everyone gave me a round of applause. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it was over.” Another special moment during that last episode was when the set dresser approached him privately and said “I speak for the entire crew when I say we are going to miss you very much.” That meant a lot to him. When I asked Eric how he felt when he watched “The Pain in the Heart” today…..his response – “I haven’t watched it in full since the night it aired.”

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