TJ Thyne, best known for playing Dr. Jack Hodgins on Bones, is enjoying his first fall break in six years.
Fox broke up production the series’ seventh season, which starts airing Thursday, to accommodate the birth of star Emily Deschanel‘s baby.
For Thyne, that meant time to promote his starring role in the indie feature Shuffle, which recently had simultaneous premieres at the Hollywood and Heartland film festivals.
It’s been a passion project, allowing him to work with his USC classmates, Bones co-stars Tamara Taylor and Patricia Belcher and a previous collaborator, Oscar-winning make-up designer Barney Burman.
“It’s our throwback to those great Twilight Zone episodes we used to sit up and watch together in college,” Thyne tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re all Frank Capra fans, we all loved It’s a Wonderful Life. We just thought, is there is a way we can tell a story that’s somewhat of an homage those styles of filmmaking.”
If there ever was an amalgam of The Twilight Zone and It’s a Wonderful Life, it must look something like Shuffle, an often frantic story of man waking up each day in a different year of his life, eventually discovering a pattern trying to tell him something. And though Thyne’s character works his way towards a George Bailey-style revelation, he seems to endure a bit more trauma than Jimmy Stewart.
“There’s almost a jazz feeling to it, where there’s no particular rhythm,” says Thyne of the time jumps. “It’s just kind of moving at it’s own pace until the end when you realize it was all purposeful.”
The idea comes from his longtime friend, the film’s writer, director and composer, Kurt Kuenne. And the two agreed it probably wouldn’t have been filmed without Burman on board.
Thyne previously worked with Burman on How the Grinch Stole Christmas, before he took home an Academy Award for his prosthetic work on J.J. Abrams‘ Star Trek. His addition to the production helped age Thyne’s character from his early 20s to 92 years old — sometimes on the same day of shooting
“There was a day that we shot where i was 60-something as well as 80-something,” Thyne recalls. “That was a 12 and a half hour day, and I think I was in the makeup chair for about 7 hours of that.”
Thyne’s recent tour in promotion of the film, made possible by the break in Bones‘ shooting schedule, is, as Thyne sees it, the best way to honor a film they’ve tailored for a niche audience.
As for Bones, Thyne says its business as usual for Jack Hodgins this season, aside from the new focus on fatherhood.
“Jack is madly in love — not just with Angela, but his ‘Michael Staccato Vincent Hodgins’ child,” he says. “He’s going to be this wonderful dad who’s constantly messing up and doesn’t know what he’s doing. I assume there’s going to be experiments and things when you see the baby strapped to Jack.”
Thyne heads back to work on the season in December, where he says he will continue to lovingly berate creator Hart Hanson for more back story on his character’s mysteriously wealthy family.
“I think it would be thrilling and fulfilling to see a little bit of back story on Jack’s family,” says Thyne. “I’m crossing my fingers about that. Poor Hart Hanson has had me poking at him since day one.”
He actually sees his character’s life before the series very clearly.
“I imagine that Jack would go walking into this ridiculous mansion,” Thyne says, laughing. “There’d only be one light on his bedroom, like Scrooge, and all the other doors are locked up.”
Watch the trailer for Shuffle below: