Whether I’m interviewing him on the press line at a Bones Paley Center event or bumping into him at one of the best sushi places in LA, actor TJ Thyne is always ready to chat about a myriad of subjects with the same kind of enthusiasm we’ve grown used to seeing every week as Jack Hodgins. Seeing that he is appearing on this week’s episode of MasterChef, I had to ring him up and I found out a few things about him – he loves talking food, has very good taste in his favorite shows, has his own thoughts of what kind of parents Hodgins and Angela (Michaela Conlin) will be when the new season of Bones kicks off in November and if there’s another profession he could see himself doing other than acting. The following is our enjoyable chat.
Jim Halterman: How did you end up appearing on MasterChef? Are you a fan of food shows?
TJ Thyne: Yes! My Mom is Italian and we, of course, just love eating and every time I see my Mom she’s just feeding me. It’s social and we’re from that mindset that food is love. We all love food and most of them can cook – I can’t – the most amazing meals and just whip up some Italian meal and not just break open a bag of noodles. They make their own pasta, homemade pizzas…it’s just amazing. Way back when we were huge fans of this tiny little show called Top Chef and it was the greatest show ever! Along the way, we, of course, started tuning into Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares and all the Gordon Ramsay shows. My sister called me about this MasterChef tasting and I thought it was just a tasting but then I showed up and it was a whole celebrity thing. My sister was invited to go and I was just going as her guest. I was actually shooting Bones that day so I got there late and was only able to try one appetizer and one dessert and that was it! I really wanted to try and taste each meal and get an accurate idea of who should be winning.
JH: I’m glad Ramsay has a few other series on now so people see that he’s more than just a guy who yells at chefs in a kitchen.
TJ: That’s why we like Kitchen Nightmares because it shows that he goes in and, for the most part, people are really trying and you see that he’s nothing more than a passionate human being who believes fully in food and he’s really trying to help people. This is who he really is. He’s a really down-to-earth, cool guy.
JH: I think we need to get you on Top Chef, too.
TJ: I think my family would tackle me if I got on Top Chef. They would pile in my car and follow me out there.
JH: Besides the food related shows, what other shows do you watch?
TJ: Bones, only. Was that a good plug?
JH: I’ll make sure Hart Hanson sees that answer.
TJ: I do watch Bones and my family watches it, too. I’m a crazy fan of Southland; that show is genius. I’m a big fan of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. Everything Jason Katims does I basically bow down to. He brings the most amazing actors and writers and camera operators together. I feel like his shows are flawless. I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage. I also used to be a big West Wing fan.
JH: What about So You Think You Can Dance? That’s my summer favorite!
TJ: I’ve never missed a season of So You Think You Can Dance! Not one season! I am so obsessed with that show. It’s the most inspiring show. I spend the entire time going ‘How can human beings do that?’ It’s just amazing what they can do.
JH: I cover the show every week and I tweeted last week that if I keep interviewing Cat Deeley I should be straight by mid-August.
TJ: [laughs] She came and interviewed the Bones crew in Season 2 and I got to do an interview with her and I had such a blast with her.
JH: OK, so I’ve got a few other questions for you. True or False – your guest role on Walker Texas Ranger was your career high?
TJ: [big laugh] I have to tell you, I’m from Boston but I spent my high school years in Dallas, Texas. I was out here going to school at USC and I went to an audition and Michael Ironside was there, who is very funny. He’s so dark in every single movie he does but in real life he’s one of the funniest people I know. He was going to do Walker Texas Ranger in Texas and I went to the audition. I had never watched the show and there was a three-episode arc and I was [Ironside’s] right hand man on the show so it was amazing. Chuck Norris’s son, Patrick, who I think also directed some Friday Night Lights directed the episodes. That was really thrilling to go back to my high school town and see my old friends; that was really, really fun. The part itself and the show itself? Eh. I had forgotten I’d done that until you said that. My name was Wizard on it! I was a computer rat or something.
JH: Who was the acting inspiration that give you the confidence to try acting as a career?
TJ: When I was a kid, I was very, very shy and we moved around a lot. Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Detroit and Texas. I was bouncing around a lot and I would watch my older brothers do theater in school. We’d go and watch how alive the auditorium would come when they got on stage. I was maybe 5 or 6 and my brothers would sit back and teach us improvisation so we’d be doing improv when I was a kid. Then, my Mom and Dad worked their asses off. We were very poor growing up and my Dad would save and save, working 6 or 7 jobs, so we could all go to the theater and get a good education and be cultured. He’d get us center, orchestra seats for any show coming to town so as a kid I’d be watching Phantom of the Opera with my jaw to the ground. I was like ‘This is what I’ve got to do! I have to do this!’ Every time we’d move, I would create whatever character I wanted to be in that new town. I’d redefine myself each time. My family was also athletes so I’d be wrestling and playing soccer and sports. I remember in 4th or 5th Grade I had to choose between sports and theater and I chose theater. By the time I was 10, I had converted the closet in my room to my little Hollywood office. I would save up my money and send away for scripts like The Untouchables or The Princess Bride and I’d watch the movies with the script in hand and see what choices the actors made. I just knew this was for me. I have to give credit back to my Dad and Mom for taking me to theater and to my brothers and sisters and watching them onstage.
JH: We’re both in Los Angeles so we see celebrities all the time. Who was the last celebrity you were star struck by?
TJ: Oh, I’m star struck by everybody! I’m that guy walking down the street and I’ll run up to people! I ran into Sam Jaeger in New York and he’s in Parenthood and we were both going in for an audition for a film and I felt so bad because I just kind of cornered him and was like ‘I love you on Parenthood.’ He was really great about it because after the audition he stopped and said ‘You inspired me! Thanks for everything you said to me.’ I thought, he had no idea I am an actor in LA! I’ve been pretty lucky, though, because I’ve worked with Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Julia Roberts. I’ve been able to work with so many people that I grew up watching. The last six years have been focused on playing Jack Hodgins and being on the show but before that it was TV show after TV show and film after film and it was really thrilling. I love it! Who is that person for you?
JH: Tim Gunn from Project Runway makes me really nervous because he always repeats your name back to you over and over. ‘That’s a great question, Jim.…’ or ‘Well, Jim, this is why we did this…’ I just get the willies and it’s awesome.
TJ: That’s so cool.
JH: You aren’t back filming Bones yet, right?
TJ: We’re not back yet. We’re not back until July 20th.
JH: So even though you don’t know what’s to come, what do you think of the fact that Hodgins and Angela will be parents now? What do you predict we’ll see this season?
TJ: I’m so excited that Jack and Angela are going to be parents. I’m just giddy about it! I think we’re going to see all those first year mistakes of parenting. We’re going to just mess everything up in the best way and I’m sure Jack is going to be an uber-excited Dad who does everything wrong in the Mom’s eyes. I’ll bring the baby to work and have the baby strapped to me while we’re doing experiments and Angela will come in and say ‘What are you doing?!’ I can only imagine that Jack is going to fall madly in love with this kid and he’ll be the perfect Dad. He’ll mess everything up but it will be all because of love. It’ll be really fun.
JH: The show went to England a few seasons back but if you could pick a place for the show to go visit, where would that be?
TJ: I didn’t get to go to England so I would love to go there with the show but I also think Southeast Asia would be fantastic. We also have so many amazing fans out of Brazil and South America that I think it would be fun for the show to go to Brazil and we’d all get to take a week off and just run around together. Maybe Thailand, too.
JH: If you were not an actor, what would you be doing?
TJ: I know in this whole interview you’d think I’d say chef but, honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve been wanting to do what I do since I was so little and it was not an easy road to get here but it’s worth the battling and the fighting to get to do this. I get to go to the Fox lot everyday and pull into a parking spot and go into a soundstage to work is a great thing. I’ll tell you a quick story. On top of working his butt off, my Dad would also save up so we would be able to take traveling vacations and it wasn’t often and we’d all pile in the station wagon and it was miserable and wonderful at the same time. We were in LA and I was so star struck and I was in awe of Hollywood. We stayed at a hotel which today is the Intercontinental Hotel that was on Avenue of the Stars and it was right up against the Fox lot and my parents would ask for a room in the back so our patio overlooked the Fox lot. Every night I would go out on that patio and stand there for hours and watch people walking back and forth on the Fox lot. I was maybe 12 years old and I kept saying to myself ‘Someday…one day…that will be me.’ And, I kid you not, to this day every time I’m walking between our trailers and Stage 6 I look up and I wave to that hotel. That was that moment where I was like ‘That’s going to be me someday’ and for the last six-plus years it has been. I am blessed for it and I am thankful every day.
MasterChef airs an encore of last week’s episode at 8/7c and a new episode at 9/8c on Fox. Bones will return with new episodes in November. Check out TJ’s website at www.TJThyne.com.