When baby-faced actor John Francis Daley joined the cast of “Bones” to play psychologist Lance Sweets, he expected to be at the receiving end of some sharp barbs about his youthful looks. He just wants to deflect enough of those witty remarks so the viewers respect the character.
“I feel like Sweets is one of those characters where he’s very intelligent and has managed to work his way up the career ladder at an incredibly rapid pace. But at the same time he’s still 22 or 23 years old so we see traces of his youthfulness in the psychological mumbo jumbo that he’s usually spouting,” says Daley in a telephone interview. “I would say that in those glimpses of his youth that is where I sort of come out as just myself.
“Otherwise, I think that he is definitely trying to restrain that side of him and try to stay the most professional, respected person as he can be because it’s the only way he can get his colleagues to listen to him seriously.”
Daley can’t help how he looks, and he embraces it. The 23-year-old Illinois native got his professional start in the 1999 series “Freaks and Geeks.” Since then he has gone on to star in assorted TV series (“Kitchen Confidential,” “The Geena Davis Show”) and movies (“View from the Top,” “Waiting”).
His character’s duties on “Bones” have been everything from couples counselor to profiler. He has found the role interesting because he had never played a character with as much authority.
“It was interesting to have that combination of high stakes with his still coming into maturity and have to deal with all that as a 22-year-old. That’s something I was immediately attracted to,” Daley says. “Aside from that vibe where he’s constantly trying to get through to these people that don’t seem to take him very seriously, he is someone that is very, very stubborn and determined to be proven right even if he’s wrong.
“That makes it funny because you see that this character is really willing to do anything to get respect, and usually when someone is willing to do anything for respect they lose all respect to begin with.”
He has grown to enjoy the role even more with each passing episode. One of the reasons is how much the actors are encouraged to improvise. That allows him to bring part of himself to the role.
But his youth appearance is at play in “Bones” and other roles he has played. So far, Daley has not lost out on a role because he looks like a guy who always gets carded at a bar. He likes the fact he looks so young.
Since he is going to have to deal with the youth issue for a while, odds are high the good-natured jabs on “Bones” are not going to go away anytime soon. That doesn’t mean his character has not earned some respect already.
“I think they do respect him. But they have never told him to his face. I don’t know if they ever will. It would have to take something like him taking a bullet for them probably to gain their full respect up front,” Daley says.