Oregon’s Eric Millegan on bringing Zack Addy back to ‘Bones’: ‘You’re going to learn everything’

BONES: L-R: Emily Deschanel and guest star Eric Millegan in the “The Final Chapter: The Hope in the Horror” season premiere episode of BONES airing Tuesday, Jan. 3 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (c)2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Kristi Turnquist | The Oregonian/OregonLiveBy Kristi Turnquist | The Oregonian/OregonLive  | Follow on Twitter
on December 28, 2016 at 2:58 PM, updated December 28, 2016 at 4:39 PM

It seems like the Fox series “Bones” has been on TV forever. But for many loyal viewers, the show was never quite the same once Zack Addy left. The character, played by Oregon’s own Eric Millegan, was a fan favorite from the minute he appeared in Season 1, as an assistant to forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel.)

The good news is Zack is back in the premiere for the twelfth and final “Bones” season, airing Jan. 3 on Fox (12.) The not-so-good news is Zack may — or may not — turn out to be the serial killer Brennan, her husband (and FBI agent) Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), and the team have been tracking.

Millegan recalls reading the script for the Season 11 finale, in which viewers find out that Zack has kidnapped Brennan and is holding her hostage.

“I’m the cliffhanger,” Millegan says in a phone interview. “I’m Luke Skywalker at the end of ‘The Force Awakens.'”

To get an idea why “Bones” fans are on the edge of their seats wondering what Zack’s true purpose may be, and what will happen when “Bones” returns, it helps to know a bit of Zack Addy history.

When viewers first met Zack back in Season 1, he was Brennan’s assistant, then he went on to  earn his own doctorate in forensic anthropology. His mixture of brilliance, boyishness, social awkwardness and exchanges with Brennan and his “King of the Lab” playful rivalry with colleague Jack Hodgins (T.J. Thyne), made Zack one of the most popular characters on “Bones.”

But Zack turned to the dark side, and at the end of Season 3, viewers learned he had fallen under the spell of a cannibalistic serial killer called the Gormogon. Millegan was no longer a series regular, but thanks to a few guest appearances in subsequent seasons, viewers learned that Zack has been institutionalized in a mental hospital and that he claimed to have committed a murder but, in fact, he’s innocent.

When Season 11 ended with Brennan being kidnapped, and the reveal that her captor was none other than Zack, escaped from the mental institution, fans were shocked, happy to see Zack again, and worried that he was “The Puppeteer” killer.

Millegan, 42, says he couldn’t be more excited to be back in action on “Bones,” even though he won’t give away any secrets about whether Zack is evil or just misunderstood.

Fans are hoping that Brennan and Booth learn that Zack didn’t actually kill anyone, and has been staying in the mental institution for his own, complicated reasons.

Millegan says it’s been fun going on Zack’s bizarre journey, from assistant to forensic anthropologist to kidnapping Dr. Brennan.

“Near the end of the third season, they called and said, ‘We need to talk to you.'” Millegan recalls of how Zack’s first dramatic shift in character. They told him “‘You’re Gormogon’s apprentice’, and I was like, ‘What? Have I been eating people?’ and they said no.”

Even though finding out Zack was working for a cannibalistic serial killer was a bit of a shock, Millegan recalls, “I had good material as an actor.”

Before getting his big break on “Bones” and working in theater and as a cabaret performer, Millegan grew up in Oregon.

“I was born in New Jersey, and when I was five-and-a-half, we moved to Springfield. My dad was publisher of the Springfield News, which doesn’t exist anymore, sadly. He went on to become a stockbroker and financial adviser.”

Millegan’s mother worked as a nurse in Springfield, and, he says, his parents still live in the house he grew up in. Though Millegan’s home base these days is New York City, he comes to Oregon to visit family, and, when, he can, to watch his beloved Portland Trail Blazers play.

“When I was growing up, I remember listening to games on the radio when they weren’t on TV,” Millegan says of how he became a Blazers fan. “I was so into it, and there was no Internet, so I would call the (Eugene) Register-Guard (newspaper) and ask them who won the game.”

Millegan says he has the Blazers logo “tattooed on my right leg, and I have seen them play in every arena in the country, except for Sacramento, because they just got a new arena. But I did see games in the old arena.”

Not only that, Millegan sang the national anthem at the Blazers game in 2007, and sang it again in Los Angeles, when the Blazers were playing the Lakers. Millegan even wrote about the Blazers and the NBA for OregonLive under the byline, “The Fan” before moving to a blog at NBA.com around the time he was appearing in “Bones.”

Despite Zack Addy’s departure as a “Bones” regular — the character made return guest appearances in Season 4 and Season 5, before his pivotal moment in the Season 11 finale — Millegan is grateful that so many fans have remembered the onetime “squintern.”

“I feel very blessed,” Millegan says. “There was a ‘Bring Back Zack’ movement, and some people stayed committed to him being back on the show.”

While the fictional character of Zack has gone to some dark places on “Bones,” in real life, Millegan has faced his own challenges, as a result of his bipolar disorder.

Millegan has been very open about his disorder, which left him struggling with emotional distresses and unpredictable moods even while he was getting recognition for his work in the early days of “Bones.”

Millegan has credited members of the “Bones” team, including series creator Hart Hanson, for being supportive.

“It was a very scary thing,” Millegan recalls. “I got diagnosed after I shot the ‘Bones’ pilot.” He says his condition became more pronounced partly because of being cast in “Bones.”

“There was the change of moving from New York to L.A., and the excitement of getting a television show, which really set the whole thing in motion. I got really, really happy, and then really, really sad.” His illness never held up production of “Bones,” Millegan says, but “I would freak out in my trailer.”

It took “a couple of year,” Millegan says, “before we found the right combination of medicines, so that every day is a good day.”

Now, he says, “I feel good every day.” For others who may be suffering from bipolar disorder, Millegan says, “I think the most important thing, and probably the biggest challenge, is to make sure you get a good doctor. And don’t be scared of the medication. Trust the medication. I was really resistant, initially. I’d say, ‘You’re putting me on drugs,’ or ‘this is going to change who I am.’ But the disease is making you different than you really are, and the medication will bring you back to who you really are.”

Millegan has been busy recently giving interviews about his role in the Season 12 opening episode of “Bones.” But he’s still not giving anything away about what happens, or whether Zack Addy is good or evil.

“You’re going to learn everything,” Millegan says. “What Zack has been up to all this time, why he kidnapped Dr. Brennan, and you’re not going to be disappointed with the answers.”

Millegan himself hasn’t yet seen the episode, which Deschanel directed. “I won’t see it until Jan. 3,” when he’ll be staying in L.A. because of doing press for the show. “My husband’s having a big party in New York, with all my friends.”

Even though Millegan hasn’t seen the season premiere, or the rest of the final season, he has a prediction.

“People won’t be angry,” he says. “They won’t be upset. They’ll be very satisfied.”

“Bones” returns for its twelfth and final season at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3 on Fox (12.)

— Kristi Turnquist