With nearly 60 credits to his name, you might recognize this guy from any number of projects—Friends and Nip/Tuck, to name a couple—but actor T.J. Thyne is finally through with bit-parts and zeroing in on the spotlight. As “the bug guy” Dr. Jack Hodgins on Fox’s Bones, Thyne’s physique for a lab rat is giving fans new meaning to the phrase, “body of work.” MF catches Thyne on set for a fall preview.
Right now you’re one the set shooting the third season of Bones. What other projects are you involved with right now?
I just went and shot a film. I played a priest in the 1940’s in a real-life story about the first woman electrocuted in the state of Louisiana. It was a comedy. [Laughs] No, I’m kidding. I was just shooting in Shreveport, and it’s so funny, doing a film with Jamie King and Denzel Washington was there, Forrest Whitaker, Katie Holmes, and all these other actors, in Louisiana. It was like a mini-Hollywood there. Ever since Katrina, [Hollywood’s] moved there because of the tax breaks, which I think is so smart. It was really cool and really neat to give back to the community, and it was intense and really excellent going to New Orleans.
Then I went and did a film with Brenann Hill, a runner up from Sundance, called Falls Don’t Lie, that I did in Louisiana where I got to be this gun-toting, drug-dealer guy, very different from the priest role and my character in Bones.
Tell me about your career? How did you get your start?
I started off in film. I did theatre all my life and then went into the film world. I then kind-of segued into TV land, which is a different experience. I am or was used to just being a recurring role.
Yeah, I remember seeing you in 24 a while back.
Right, I actually just went to a Fox party the other night and got to see Kiefer Sutherland and the rest of those guys again, who are going into their seventh season, which is great.
So what comes more naturally to you, TV or film? Or is it the mix that keeps you going in this industry?
Well, I come from the school of thought that acting is acting, is acting, is acting. It doesn’t matter if it’s on stage, TV, or a film camera. The opportunity to be a storyteller is the greatest thing in the world, and I feel so lucky and really love it. I think the best-case scenario would be to do all three—to woo all three sisters of film, stage, and television. I think the people who probably have it the best are the people on cable like on Entourage, the Sopranos, etc. who have 13 episodes per season and breaks to do films and theatre. I think that’s the most ideal life.
What’s life like on the set for the 3rd season, how’s it developed?
It’s fantastic. Even between breaks I’d see [the cast] as much as possible—there’s real friendship there. I went to dinner with Emily Deschanel and went to Mark Taylor’s wedding in Mexico. There’s a great community and friendships that have sprung out of this show, and I think that shows onscreen. We really enjoy each other’s company very much, and we push each other and challenge each other to get the best story we can get.
What are your fans like? Have you had a chance to interact with any viewers before shooting?
I got to interact with some fans, and I love when I get to talk to them. It’s like that first time you meet someone and you realize you have the same taste in music. It’s fun to sit with audience members and pick their brains to see what their opinions on where the show is going or my character is going are. They are the ticket buyers, so to speak. That episode of the grave digger, when Jack was buried alive and has this admission with his fears; that’s something that’s stuck with fans, and is the one thing I keep hearing about when I interact with fans. I’m excited to say that along with Jack and Angela’s relationship developing, there’s a chance he gets to hunt down the guy who buried him.
Any crazy or particularly weird interactions?
I’ve been very lucky for the most part. I’m more a fan of my fans than I think they are of me! [Laughs] I just get excited, that’s me naturally, anyway. I’m a people person; I’ll talk to people anytime, anywhere if they talk to me. I grew up watching movies and it was my desire and goal as a kid of “one day I’ll get out west in Hollywood.” So actually doing this, I feel very lucky. There was a time when I lived out of my car for a while and had to make the decision between paying the rent or acting class, so I feel very fortunate.
On Bones you’re very fit, a fact that I’m sure your female fans (and maybe a few male ones) are pretty excited about; what’s your fitness routine?
We actors have it pretty easy and pretty hard. Easy ‘cause we have a meal provided to us every 6 hours every day and craft services. The hard part is staying fit under those circumstances. [Laughs] Imagine having to work 4 feet away from a table with every candy treat you can think of!
I don’t have a trainer. I have what I call “the poor man’s workout and the rich man’s diet.” I run for 1 hour every day and do 500 sit-ups and 1000 crunches, and I lift weights at the Y for 28 bucks a month, even if it’s 3 in the morning.
I splurge more on my diet by eating fresh food, ripe apples, or a fresh pack of blueberries and strawberries. I just committed to wanting a healthy body and spirit, and went for the fruits and veggies. I live off of those little naked juice drinks. [Laughs] It’s funny because when the show started I’d walk in with packs of blueberries and now Tamara and Eric will come in too, with juice.
I’d love to have the time to have a yoga practice or go to spinning, but with the work that I do, I have to rely on myself. We’ve all got different lives and a different set of circumstances, but if you’re lucky enough to have a fully-functioning body, you should be able to take care of it. You’ll just feel like a million dollars.
Were you always active as a kid, or is fitness something you’ve gotten into because of acting? Have you trained specifically for any roles you’ve taken?
I was always active, always running and working out. I was a wrestler and ran track, and out of interest, started boxing. It’s always been a part of me. If you look at other artists, like a painter, [he or she] has a brush and canvas. Actors only have our bodies, voices, and the text. So I think actors need to have a fit and in-tune body. I was always very disciplined in wanting to have that. That’s one of my favorite things—playing a role with a physical requirement.
On the show your character Jack Hodgins is very persistent with winning over Angela [played by Deschanel]. What do you think is his advice on getting the ladies?
You know, you start to wonder where your character ends and you begin. [Laughs] I think Jack and T.J. are just romantics, wide-eyed and passionate, that melt around the right woman. In terms of advice, it’s the same advice I take: it’s really important to listen and give respect. And that’s what Jack learns throughout the seasons. He was so persistent, almost to the point of being smothering. When he finally listened to what [Angela] was asking for, that, I think, is what won her over.
Jack is always coming up with crazy conspiracy theories on the show. Any you buy into?
It’s funny, ‘cause I most relate with Jack’s love for his work and passion for women. The most challenging thing for me is dropping into his conspiracy theories and his love for bugs. So you get these bugs on set and it was so the acting challenge to enjoy having these things crawling all over me! But it’s cool see my interest pique in these things with bugs, minerals, and botany. Researching his conspiracies have been fascinating, to say the least. Right now we’re actually shooting an episode where one of his theories actually ends up being right!
What is it about the show that makes people want to keep watching for a third round?
The draw has always been the characters. This is a show that takes place in the world of forensics, like other shows, but ultimately you watch this show for the characters. It’s like Indiana Jones, who’s an anthropologist, but ultimately you watch it because of his character, not his job. They’re fun to watch. Also, I think the show has an excellent blend of humor with drama. There’s this fine line between the fantastical and reality, and a lot of wit.