BONES Post-Mortem: Michael Grant Terry Talks About the Heartbreaking Wendell Twist in ‘Big in the Philippines’

January 17, 2014 by  

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[Major spoiler alert: This post contains big spoilers for the BONES episode "Big in the Philippines." If you have not seen the hour, please go watch that first, and then come back to read this interview.]

On tonight’s episode of BONES, a seemingly routine sports injury ended up revealing a much more heartbreaking reality: when Brennan was baffled by Wendell’s newly broken arm, she dug around and realized he actually had a rare form of bone cancer.

I spoke with Michael Grant Terry (Wendell) about finding out about his character’s new arc, his hopes for this storyline, and more…

How did they tell you Wendell would be facing cancer?
Michael Grant Terry: I actually got an email from [BONES creator] Hart [Hanson] a couple weeks before the episode that said, “Don’t panic,” and I’d be getting cancer in the next episode. Which was nice to hear, to get a pre-emptive strike on it. And when I got the script, it was beautiful, and I was really excited [BONES star] David [Boreanaz] was directing. I think it’s my fourth episode working with him [that way], and he’s just lovely to work with as a director.

How was it filming the scene where Booth and Brennan told Wendell about his disease?
MGT: We kind of collectively decided — David’s an actor’s director, so he asked me what I need and wanted from the scene. And none of us really wanted to rehearse that scene; it was very quiet on set. The crew is great, they’re all cooperative and attentive to the actors’ needs, and we all decided we didn’t want to rehearse it, we didn’t want to overdo it, so we wanted to focus on the scene so we could be true with the emotions, and there with each other. We’ve all worked together for five years, so it was very key to have those relationships, both because we care about that person as an actor, but also as a character. I didn’t know what Emily was going to give me in that scene, and seeing Dr. Brennan cry completely blew me away, as Wendell and as myself. It was wonderful to feed off of that. It was not a lot of work other than to feed off of that, and to have a proper reaction to that.

Whenever Brennan cries, I definitely feel like the audience is always thrown a little bit.
MGT: Oh yeah. Wendell has never seen her cry, so I was like, “What?” It almost made me as Wendell try to be stronger. I think a lot of that was him keeping his emotions at bay, like, it’s there, obviously, but he’s not going to let himself go…I think Wendell feels if he lets that emotion come, he won’t be able to recover from it.

That makes sense. When Hart told you about the cancer, did he tell you Wendell would seriously consider not getting treatment?
MGT: No, I only got the actual details about it when I got the script. When I first read it, that’s when I got to see those different levels; those different stages you go through of grief, and denial, and hope, and running away from it, and fear, and anger. And I think that just plays into one of those levels of that: I’m just going to run away from this and let it play out and see stuff I’ve never seen — especially for Wendell, who hasn’t seen that much of the world because of financial issues, I think that almost made sense to him. That made sense to Dr. Brennan, too. The world is a beautiful place, [he] should go see it.

From what we saw in the episode, Booth, Brennan, and Cam know Wendell is sick. How do you think this will impact the his relationships with Hodgins, Angela, and the rest of the squinterns?
MGT: I don’t know, but from what I can guess, based on the friendship between Wendell and Hodgins, this is going to be a big deal for them. And that’s only me taking a guess, because I don’t know for sure. I would hope that it would really challenge their friendship and make it stronger.

Same with Angela [with] the past they’ve had together. And the other squinterns as well, if they do bring them into the mix.

I’m excited to see how that grows, because we’ve only just started to tap into that one piece of the friendship with Booth and Wendell. When something like this happens, your friends lift you up, and come together for you. I would wager a big guess that Hodgins will be there as a big rock for Wendell.

BONES boss Stephen Nathan told me that how Wendell is doing will be discussed on-screen before you come back. Have your cast mates filled you in on what’s been said?
MGT: [Laughs] No, not yet, but I’m sure I will gather that information before my next episode rather than come in with my own ideas and act that way and have them be far from the truth.

Fair! Is there something you do hope you get to do or get to experience while playing this arc?
MGT: I really hope to do it justice; to do the disease justice. I really think this is an important disease to bring awareness to, and I really want to make sure it’s done with grace and integrity. I really would like to show how hard this is for someone and how hard this is for millions of people to have it. That’s my biggest thing. My biggest thing for this episode was handling finding out you have cancer with integrity and grace. My thing now is continuing that throughout the arc, and my hope is I get to put my stamp on that, and really bring awareness to it. Because I think it’s tragic, and we all do have people in our lives that have suffered from cancer in one form or another, and it’s so heartbreaking.

Have they given you an idea of when you’ll come back? Or are you just waiting for the next script to arrive?
MGT: I’m still waiting for the next script to arrive. I know it will be soon.

Have they given you a hint about where this arc might ultimately going? Or are you in the dark and waiting to see where the cards fall?
MGT: I think they’re waiting to see where the cards fall. I think [Hart's] “don’t worry” was a “you’re not going to die in that episode.” [Laughs] A “you’re not dying in this episode that we’re writing.”

I don’t want to know, because I think it’s better for me to not know where it’s going to go, because Wendell wouldn’t know, obviously. I think it’s better for me to just get the scripts and not necessarily know what my arc is going to be. So, I don’t know, and I’m not actively seeking the answer for that.

That absolutely makes sense, especially since you’ve been keeping busy with so many other guest spots.
MGT: Mainly horrible bad guys. Wendell was my nice happy place I could go to, and now he’s not so happy anymore! But it’s exciting to keep coming back to [BONES]; it’s such a wonderful cast and crew. Such wonderful producers, and directors, and writers. It’s a great place to come back to, and now to have this arc on top of that is exciting as well.

What’s most fun about being an actor is not knowing where the next step is. I revel in the fact I don’t know where this is going to go for Wendell. And I don’t think the audience would want to know, either; they should always be on their toes, and not really be sure what’s coming for the characters at all.

I feel you’re going to get a lot of tweets coming your way once they’ve seen it, probably pretty distraught about what he’s going through.
MGT: Yeah! You don’t know [while watching the episode] what the outcome is going to be. It kind of leads you down the path that I’m leaving, that he’s out of there. That last scene is really beautiful when he makes the choice to not give up and to be remembered as someone who fights and fought back.

A lot of it stems from — and this was just a little tiny thing that was in the first episode I was in — but Wendell mentions his father died from cancer, and I think that’s very important to note for his character. To have that close relationship with your father who died of the same disease you’re getting, really, I think is something he thought about a lot, and made him decide he won’t go down without a fight. It’s an injustice to my father, it’s an injustice to everybody else out there and all my friends and all my loved ones.

-

Be honest…did you tear up at tonight’s episode? What do you hope comes from this new chapter in Wendell’s life?

Related:

BONES: Stephen Nathan Teases the End of the Ghost Killer Arc
Fox at TCA: Kevin Reilly on the Future of BONES, ALMOST HUMAN, ENLISTED, and BROOKLYN NINE-NINE
BONES: ‘The Master in the Slop’ Photo Preview

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Comments

14 Responses to “BONES Post-Mortem: Michael Grant Terry Talks About the Heartbreaking Wendell Twist in ‘Big in the Philippines’”

  1. Missy on January 17th, 2014 10:14 pm

    I hope he is a survivor, but I doubt it based on the odds as explained in the episode. This episode was one of the best episodes of the series. The acting was great and the finale matches a scene which I have often played in my head and wish I could see on the show. David is really, really in tune with what the fans want to see. Overall, excellent episode.

  2. myrnama on January 17th, 2014 10:55 pm

    At this point in time, rereading the interview with MGT, I can only say OMG!!! My hubby & I, both, cried thruout the episode…Tremendous job, Wendell, we pray for a miracle for you!!!

  3. Jen on January 18th, 2014 3:02 am

    Honestly, Wendell is my favorite of the interns. So as much as I’m happy to see him getting a story all to himself, it’s very difficult to think that the odds are against him.
    That being said, odds are just odds, and it’s not set in stone that he won’t make it.
    Haven’t teared up like that in awhile… Very well written.

  4. Dani on January 18th, 2014 3:34 am

    I adore Wendell, and I hope the very best for him. I agree with Jen, he’s my favorite intern. It’s not like me to get so caught up in a TV character’s life, but I do not want to see him die. If the actor is leaving, let his character win the lottery, the girl, etc., and leave on his own terms, not because of some horrible fate (Dr. Addy, anyone?).

  5. Sarah on January 18th, 2014 9:42 am

    This is definitely one of my favorite episodes. Everyone did an amazing job! I really hope Wendell can fight this. Bones wouldn’t be the same without him, he would be so missed! But, sometimes you just have to dance to the music that’s playing, really really slowly :)

  6. Teresa on January 18th, 2014 3:49 pm

    So sad to see Wendell having to take on this type of cancer with such horrible odds. I cried when Brennan had to tell him and when he was getting in his car. But when Brennan hugged him, I really lost it.

    My hope is that since Brennan caught it before he even knew he was sick that his odds will be better.

  7. srdewees on January 18th, 2014 4:51 pm

    You can FILE this episode under ‘EPIC’ with the rest of David Boreanaz’s directing anomalies! It clearly shows his ability to bring forth true and compelling feelings from his crew to the audience. For him to do this , it shows, he himself has this special, strong, forceful ability, to capture and hold your attention that causes the audience to believe and live what he has portrayed on screen. I’ve never been surprised at his accomplishments, just ‘honored’ to have witnessed it. He has the ability to make us laugh, cry, hurt, get mad and even see beyond our own feelings, leaving our stomachs empty, crying for more. He is the BEST of the BEST.

  8. Janyce Jones on January 19th, 2014 9:34 pm

    I was really thrown and moved by this episode. Love this show-BONES-. I have seen them make public service type announcements and would like to encourage them to use Wendell”s condition as an opportunity to promote “CYCLE FOR SURVIVAL” -a fund raiser for research into rare cancrts -to be held on 2/8/14.

  9. Mm on January 19th, 2014 9:51 pm

    As a young adult cancer patient I thought this episode was beautifully written and directed. Thank you Michael Grant Terry and the entire cast for doing such an amazing job shedding light on this tragic disease with true grace, it was perfect.

  10. Bernadette Bell on January 24th, 2014 9:19 pm

    David I’m going to need you to com up with a Miracle for Wendell becz I don.t think I’m going to have enough tissue if he dies on the show. If you can’t find a miracle then Booth Bones and the squints need to pay for him a trip along with his mom and dad where ever it is he wants to go. I love this show, keep up the good work people to entire cast of Bones, oh yeah why don’t you have an episode where Cam show off her singing voice.

  11. june7 on January 25th, 2014 8:53 pm

    Please make the writers let Wendell live! And let him keep his arm, too. While it’s usually dramatic writing to kill off a loved character, it would be unrealistic to have too many squinterns die. I’m still grieving over Vincent. And it would be realistic that with so many brilliant minds working at the Jeffersonian, they’d come up with something. Hey, maybe the Canadian podiatrist can save the day so Bones will have to acknowledge his outstanding-ness. Fight, Wendell, fight!

  12. Rick on January 26th, 2014 3:06 pm

    Bones is a weekly fixture in my house. Part of that is because the plot is unpredictable; surprising turns keep things interesting. I can think of multiple times when I have actually jumped to my feet in disbelief at something totally unexpected. Thank goodness for dvr rewind. Wendell’s new story line is the most recent example. When Brennan said Wendell had Ewing Sarcoma, my entire family gasped. We love Wendell, but the shocking part is that we just lived through his storyline for real the last two years. My nephew, Evan, was diagnosed at 17. Although most cases are diagnosed after a weakened bone breaks, it didn’t take a bone break to discover his cancer just under his left knee. X-rays and MRIs confirmed his “skateboard pain” was an early sign of something more serious. Chemo until school was out, surgery to remove and replace his tibia from knee to ankle, then more chemo until Thanksgiving was how he spent his senior year. Unbelievable pain from the surgery, the recovery and the chemo were a fact of life for Evan.

    And then the news that he was cancer technically free. He was still on crutches but showing signs of improvement. His hair had grown back and he was able to make it across the stage at his high school graduation to get the diploma that was thanks in no small part to his tenacity and the hard work of his teachers and tutors.

    18 months after the diagnosis and 12 days after his 19th birthday he was dealt another blow. The chemo had caused a secondary problem…Evan had developed leukemia. His doctors told him he had a small chance for survival if he responded to more chemo and a successful bone marrow transplant. He didn’t have to make the fight or flight decision like Wendell. Three nights later he became unresponsive about midnight when the ICU nurses checked on him. A massive cerebral hemorrhage had taken him from us. Only the respirator was keeping him “alive.” We all gathered at his bedside and about 3am he took his last breath.

    Wendell is facing the same storyline, otherwise why not just give him a non specific cancer. The ES diagnosis was a conscious choice. Michael Grant Terry has
    an opportunity to end his run on Bones with the challenge of his career. If he gets it right, it will be a heart wrenching season for Bones fans everywhere, not just at my house.

  13. roz lindland on January 27th, 2014 9:09 pm

    this is my favorite show ever. I love all the characters. I cried all through this episode. I hope he gets a miracle and beats the cancer. great job David. not just a pretty face.

  14. best Germantown OWI attorney Germantown DUI lawyer on July 7th, 2014 10:27 pm

    What’s up mates, its fantastic piece of writing on the topic of tutoringand completely explained, keep it up all the time.

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