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The Transformation Of John Francis Daley From Childhood To Bones

John Francis Daley has been acting since childhood. Most people know him now as either Lance Sweets on Bones or as one of the few people writing and directing big-budget comedies today. Daley co-wrote Horrible Bosses with his writing partner Jonathan Goldstein — launching an entirely new career for him and eventually leading to Sweets' death in season 10 of Bones.

Daley grew up in front of a camera, first coming to prominence in the cult classic dramedy Freaks and Geeks. From there, he waited tables (in movies), worked in a kitchen (on TV), and was a resentful stepchild of Geena Davis (also on TV). Daley spent nearly a decade playing smaller parts before landing the role of young upstart psychologist Sweets. While on Bones, Sweets opened up about his traumatic childhood, played drums, and professed his undying love for Harry Nilsson's "Coconut." Okay, maybe "undying" was a poor choice of words.

Here's a look at Daley's transformation from his days as a child actor to the role he is best known for as an adult.

John Francis Daley's big break was playing a Geek

John Francis Daley knew he wanted to work in showbiz from a very early age. "I wanted to write and direct since I was really little. I put on plays in my basement growing up, and forced the neighborhood kids to be in them," he told Forbes in 2015

Daley starred in the critically praised, criminally under-watched Freaks and Geeks. The NBC dramedy starred many people who became famous in the 2000s, including Seth Rogen, Busy Philipps, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, and Jason Segel. Created by Ghostbusters' Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow, Freaks and Geeks only lasted one season but gained new fans on DVD and on Netflix. 

As recalled by Vanity Fair, It was important to Apatow that the teenagers on the show actually look like teens, and Daley was one of the youngest (and youngest-looking) in the cast. "I remember when I first met you, you were 13, and you were probably the person I hung out with the least or connected with the least just because you were so young," Feig told Daley in the aforementioned Forbes interview. Daley characterized himself as being a "hyperactive, precocious young child" at the time. 

After Freaks and Geeks was canceled, Daley didn't move on to Apatow's college-age show, most likely because he was still too young for that setting.

A TV teen

After Freaks and Geeks, John Francis Daley had a small arc on Boston Public. The David E. Kelley show tried to do for public schools what Kelley had previously done to law offices, i.e. make them sexy. Teachers date former students, students date each other, and many issues-of-the-week are tackled. Daley played a bullied geek, Anthony Ward, who eventually writes a "hit list" journal. Our sympathy first lies with Ward, who is hung upside down by the entire soccer team. But when a girl rejects him, he threatens her. It's also discovered that Ward has a "hit list," which he insists is just idle daydreaming. The show correctly identifies that misogyny, as reported by The New York Times, is a linking factor of most mass killers. Ward is then expelled.

After that, Daley played a much softer teen on Geena Davis' one-season wonder sitcom, The Geena Davis Show. The show was characterized by Variety as Sex and the City meets Full House. Geena Davis played Teddie Cochran, a hotshot gal about town who meets and quickly falls for a widower. The two get engaged, but Teddie has yet to win over her fiancé's two children. Daley played Carter Ryan, the son of widower Max Ryan (Peter Horton). Episodes focused on how out of her depth Teddie is when dealing with kids. The show was one of several sitcoms in the 2000 season helmed by famous actors that didn't last long. The 2000 fall preview issue of TV Guide featured Davis, Michael Richards, John Goodman, and Bette Midler — all of whose shows would be canceled by fall 2001.

Daley does time waiting tables

The year 2005 was a busy one for Daley, where he portrayed not one but two food service rookies. In Waiting... Daley played Mitch, a trainee at TGI Friday's lookalike Shenaniganz. Mitch is trained by service veteran Monty, played by future Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds. Mitch's recurring bit in the movie is that he's always interrupted before he can get a full sentence out of his mouth. At the end of the film, Daley unleashes a profanity-laden tirade on the jerks who have been dominating him all movie. Waiting... also stars Anna Faris, Justin Long, Dane Cook, and Luis Guzmán.

On television, Daley played a rookie chef, going from front of house staff to back of house. Daley co-starred on Kitchen Confidential, based on the memoir by the late, great Anthony Bourdain. A Star Is Born's Bradley Cooper starred as the renamed Jack Bourdain, who had been a fine-dining chef before a fall from grace. Rescued from chain restaurant ignominy, Jack is charged with staffing a fine-dining kitchen in 48 hours. The crew he comes up with is totally dysfunctional, but what kitchen is functional? Besides Daley and Cooper, the show featured Childrens Hospital's Erinn Hayes, John Cho, and Buffy's Nicholas Brendon.

Lance Sweets: the human lie detector

In 2007, Daley joined the cast of Bones as Lance Sweets, the 22-year-old psychology wunderkind of the FBI. Sweets starts the show as Booth and Bones' FBI-mandated psychologist. And seeing as neither put much stock in therapy, the relationship starts out quite rocky. Sweets eventually served as a replacement for two characters. He became the show's resident shrink after the departure of Stephen Fry's character, Gordon Wyatt. He also became the baby of the Jeffersonian after the unpleasantness with Gormogon led to the exit of Zack Addy.

When Sweets joins the Bones crew, he is recovering from the loss of both his parents. Wyatt suggests that he sees Booth and Brennan as new surrogate parents, much to their dismay. Sweets slowly worms his way into their hearts, however, eventually moving in with the couple for a time. Sweets also has an on-again-off-again relationship with one of Brennan's squinterns, Daisy Wick. Daisy is played by Undeclared's Carla Gallo, making their relationship a mini Apatow-pack reunion.

Life after Bones for John Francis Daley

For most of his Bones career, Daley had also been writing movie scripts with his writing partner, Jonathan Goldstein. The two penned Horrible Bosses, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs while he was still putting in those FBI hours on TV. But when Daley got the opportunity to direct the sequel to National Lampoon's Vacation, he could no longer hold down his part on Bones. "I've been writing movies simultaneously while I was on the show and was able to manage both schedules," Daley told Vulture in 2015, "but directing is an all-encompassing job, and it didn't really fall in line with my summer hiatus from the show." Sweets was killed off in the season 10 premiere, "The Conspiracy in the Corpse." 

Daley has continued to write and direct since leaving Bones. He co-wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming and directed Game Night. He and Goldstein are also both attached to the Dungeons & Dragons movie that is slated to come out in 2022. Nothing gets him recognized like Bones, however. "I can't believe how many Bones fans there are out there, who stop me on the street!" Daley admitted to Vulture. "Just last weekend, I went to a bar in Atlanta with my girlfriend, and the bouncer stopped me, and I thought I was in trouble for something, And he said, 'I can't believe you died, man. I can't believe you died.'"