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Kristen Bell and 'Veronica Mars' co-stars talk about their TV-show-turned-movie

Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell
Warner Bros. Pictures

"Veronica Mars" has joined the ranks of TV shows that have been turned into movies, thanks in large part to fans funding a Kickstarter campaign to bring "Veronica Mars" to the big screen. The "Veronica Mars" movie (was funded independently and picked up for distribution by Warner Bros. Pictures) is also the first major-studio movie to be released in cinemas and on video on demand on the same day. The "Veronica Mars" TV show, which was on the air from 2004 to 2007, stars Kristen Bell as the title character. In the TV show, she was a student/amateur detective in the fictional Neptune Calif. In the movie, she is a lawyer in New York. At the beginning of the "Veronica Mars" movie, she has put Neptune and her amateur sleuthing days behind her on the eve of graduating law school.

Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni and Francis Capra at 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego
Getty Images

While interviewing at high-end law firms, Veronica gets a call from her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (played by Jason Dohring), who has been accused of murder. Veronica heads back to Neptune just to help Logan find an attorney, but when things don’t seem right with how Logan’s case is perceived and handled, Veronica finds herself being pulled back into a life she thought she had left behind. "Veronica Mars" creator Rob Thomas (who wrote and directed the movie) and "Veronica Mars" co-stars Bell, Dohring, Ryan Hansen, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Chris Lowell gathered for a panel discussion at 2013 Comic-Con International in San Diego. Here is what they said when they answered questions from a moderator and people in the audience.

Rob, the fans have so many questions about the “Veronica Mars” movie. What can you say about the story and the plot of the movie?

Thomas: I can to yell you that — and this is sort of a weird reference — it has a “Godfather III” theme to it, which seems sort of odd. Why not pick “The Godfather II”? It was a better movie.

But as we find Veronica in the movie, she had not worked as a private detective since the last time you saw her in Season 3. And so, part of the movie is her getting pulled back into this life that she thought she had left behind.

Has it been difficult to balance giving the fans what they want and telling the story you want to tell?

Thomas: I think the good news for me is that I think I wanted to tell is what I think fans wanted to see. I wanted to get the old gang back together. It was fun. I feel like I’m a fan of the show. I know what the pleasure zones are for “Veronica Mars” viewers — and I wrote to those.

Kristen, can you take us back to the final days of the “Veronica Mars” TV show. Do you remember the day that you were told the show wasn’t coming back? What was that day like?

Bell: First of all, it looks like we’re talking to a community of aliens, because there are so many [camera] flashes going on, it looks like no one is human. I, unfortunately, suffer from a very, very bad memory. I have little-to-no retention.

So I don’t remember the moment I heard it was cancelled. I think I probably blocked it out, but I do remember that I went off to shoot “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” shortly thereafter.

Oh no! Now it’s making sense in my head. I know when I found out. I found out the day before that I shot that scene in “Sarah Marshall” where Sarah talks about her series being cancelled. So it was really, really deep and hurtful for me to shoot that scene, because there was a lot of honest coming because I was really sad about “Veronica Mars.”

What was your first day like on the set of the “Veronica Mars” movie?

Bell: It was a lot of excitement and a lot of unknown jitters. I was obviously with Rob, because he was captaining the ship. I was with Jason in my first scene.

And we just kind of kept staring at each other, like, “Are we really here right now? Are they allowing us to do this? Are we in the Twilight Zone?” It was really exciting.

Can you say what your first line was when you came back as Veronica Mars?

Bell: My first line was, “Charming drink names. I can’t decide between A Beast with Two Backs or a Donkey Punch? Ooh, do you think they’d allow me to order a Virgin De-Virginator?” We were at a church. Just kidding. We were at a bar.

Francis, did you ever think that the “Veronica Mars” movie would happen?

Capra: I had kept it alive in the forums and on Twitter. Well, I didn’t keep it alive. You guys [the fans] kept it alive. And I talked about it with so many fans.

The hope was always there, but no way, I never expected this. Rob knows. Rob has a collection of emails from me going on like a nut. I was literally hyperventilating over my keyboard. It was amazing.

Tina, what was your first day like returning to the world of “Veronica Mars”?

Majorino: I think all of us really secretly hoped that this would eventually happen. Personally, I didn’t get my hopes up too much, because you just never know. So my first day, it was the best. I was in the makeup trailer, and I was like, “Man, I wonder when I’m going to see everybody?”

Kristen came in first. I got to see her first. And then, 10 minutes after that, it was Ryan. And then, five minutes after that, it was Chris. And then Percy showed up. It was the most exciting day. And it happened the whole day and every day for me on the set. It’s just been so appropriate because this whole movie is about us reuniting and seeing where we are.

And obviously, everybody has been really busy and living their own lives and stuff. So to be able to come back to set and be living as yourself and living as your character simultaneously, it’s like our characters are seeing each other for the first time, and we’re seeing each other for the first time.

It’s been really exciting. And it doesn’t feel like work, because you’re going to work everyday and hanging out with your friends. It doesn’t feel like a job, you know?

Capra: I just want to say to touch on what Tina was saying. I feel like I fell off of the face of the planet. When Rob emailed me, I literally couldn’t believe I could be involved in this. I thought you guys didn’t even know who I was anymore.

And this literally brought me back to life. I know that seeing these guys again is an unforgettable memory, being on that set for the first day. You guys brought my family back. It was awesome!

Percy, did you have any time to prepare for the “Veronica Mars” movie?

Daggs: When Rob first called and said, “What are you doing this summer?,” I started preparing. Prefect push-ups, whatever he needed, I was ready. The lighters they help up over the years, I had one too, so when it happened, I was already mentally ready to dive right in.

And then being on set, it was pretty amazing, but it felt like going to your high-school reunion, and then having to leave after an hour, you could only stay for an hour. It was a quick shoot. Three days here and a day and a day.

And you missed these guys so much that it’s great to reconnect, and it’s great to do this [Comic-Con] because it kind of lingers on for a while. And we get to promote the movie, but that’s what it was like for me.

Enrico, how easy was it for you to slip back into the father/daughter relationship that you had with Kristen?

Colantoni: It was easy.

So it was not hard?

Colantoni: No, it was not.

Can you elaborate?

Colantoni: Kristen and I hang out at hockey games together.

Bell: We get along.

Colantoni: Yeah. I think. I think Rob intentionally made it for the Keith Mars character to come after the second or third week. Let all of them have fun, and then daddy comes home.

But with Kristen and [me], I adore her. And when I’m not working with her, I admire her from afar. It’s easy to just look at her and have this sort of paternal thing for her. Now that she’s a mama, we have more to talk about.

Hansen: MILF!

Ryan, what was it like to shoot the video that launched the “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter campaign?

Hansen: [He says jokingly] When I thought about doing the Kickstarter for this movie myself … [He says seriously] it was a year-and-a-half ago that Kristen and Rob and myself invited us over to do this. We shot it at Kristen’s friend’s house,

Bell: We shot it at my friend’s house down the street.

It was literally a puppet show. Did you raid your garage?

Bell: We put it together really quickly, and no one had asked us to put it together, but Rob and I were like, “Let’s just do it! Who cares? Let’s show ‘em!”

And I was like, “Dax [Shepard, Bell’s husband], can you build me a puppet theater out of wood for this weekend? I’m doing something.” And he was like, “What?”

And so he actually went to Home Depot and built that little puppet thing that Rob is in. And the costume that Rob is wearing is some of my ski gear from my garage.

Thomas: Literally her ski gear. I couldn’t breathe in that thing. A little footnote on that. I live in Austin, and I flew to L.A. to shoot that. And for whatever reason, I got this security screening check. And they open my bag, and there were just two face-up puppets in it. So it was a difficult weekend.

Chris, Piz is a polarizing figure in “Veronica Mars’ fandom. What has been your interaction with fans over the last couple of years?

Lowell: I wore this [Team Logan] shirt just so I wouldn’t be shot when I stepped on stage. No, I remember getting the email from Rob saying, “Hey, I think we’re bringing Piz back.” And I was like, “The death threats have almost stopped. Why now? Why now?”

No, I’m so excited to be back. Yeah, I’ve had some funky fan interactions. That’s true. I was “responsible” for breaking up Logan and Veronica. I definitely had fans approach me as if I ruined their relationships as well, which is likely true. I don’t even know. I think the weirdest thing that happened, when you have a character named Piz, it kind of sticks with you. It’s not a very common name, I would say.

I remember one time I had a part at my house, and I cam downstairs, and my friends Cheney and Cameron were trying to pry the “u” and the “r” off my Prius and put the “s” upside down, so I’d be driving a Piz, which is ridiculous.

Jason, what has your interaction been with “Veronica Mars” fans? What has this whole “Veronica Mars” experience meant to you over the years?

Dohring: Obviously, it’s been great. We have such nice guys. The cast seems weird. They’re awesome people. We really get along with each other quite well. It’s just fun. I love hanging out with Ryan.

When we had fans on set, we just like to be with people who love our show. And we all cared so much about it because it was our first show. We were filming it down in San Diego, and we didn’t know if anybody was watching. We’d go to these malls, and everybody would be cheering for Weevil, and I’d just sit there in a corner. It was amazing, the fan support from day one.

We enjoyed it so much that I think that they relate to that, and we love to talk to them about that. So it’s emotional for us too, I guess is what I’m saying. We were really into it, invested in it, and I think that’s what you see in the show, what Rico talked about. There’s true emotion there. I love Kristen too, Rico. They see that and they enjoy it.

Kristen, you were filming the “Veronica Mars” movie on your birthday. Did you do anything special on the set that day?

Bell: We shot, I think we got off at 5 in the morning. And at about 12:20 or so, Rob made an embarrassing announcement and made the whole crew sing. It was lovely. Other than singing and celebrating with people, we didn’t … that makes it sound really un-special

Hansen: What she wanted to say is that she wanted a much bigger birthday than what we threw for her.

How did Veronica Mars jump right back into detective work? Was it easy or did you struggle a bit?

Bell: I was nervous about it, but I don’t know if I struggled, because part of the weird magic of this show because there’s a very strange connection between Rob’s brain and my brain, because I have never had a problem memorizing his dialogue. Ever. I can read an entire monologue of his and know it. I’ve never had that experience anywhere else.

I’m a decent memorizer, because it’s what I do for a living, but something about [Veronica Mars’] voice has always been really easy for me to jump into. And I think that it’s because there’s this weird, cosmic connection that I have, luckily, to Rob’s brain. So it wasn’t difficult at all.

What are your favorite scenes or moments in the “Veronica Mars” TV show?

Thomas: I will tell a quick, embarrassing story about that. When I started writing the movie, I would get on my treadmill each day and watch an episode. I was watching all f Season 1, and we got to the Veronica/Logan first kiss. And I rewound it and rewound it and rewound it.

Hansen: Perv!

Thomas: And then my wife entered, and I had tears in my eyes. It was an embarrassing moment, that I’m watching my own work, a kiss. It just felt so earned to me. We earned this moment. I don’t know if I was proud of us or touched by the story or I don’t know what it was. Yes, my wife caught me crying at the Veronica/Logan kiss.

Hansen: There are so many moments. First of all, Team Logan and Team Piz, I get it that you’re wearing each other’s shirts, but some people are on other teams. [He opens his shirt to reveal that that he’s wearing a Team Dick T-shirt.] Ghost riding the whip, I liked that moment. That was cool. Anything with Jason, not Chris.

Lowell: Get in line, a long line.

Hansen: Jason was like my acting coach. I’d never really done anything. Any scene with Jason, we’d always run into the trailer. I had to cry [in one scene], so Jason really kind of walked me through that. Really, what he did was punch me in the nuts, and we’d open the door and I was crying.

Daggs: Ninety percent of my work on the show was with Kristen, so every day was a gift. Lord of the Pies was great, when we were at the college. I didn’t work with Jason much, but I had two episodes with Jason where we had a lot of work together, so I guess I would say that.

And then the snickerdoodle episode. My first snickerdoodle was on the show, and I fell in love with them, and Kristen had them bring me fresh snickerdoodles regularly, and then I got sick. So that was an interesting day.

Colantoni: Is this a “fondest memory” question? It happened as a fan, as I was watching Season 1 with my daughter. And she was just at that age when she was looking at my relationship with Kristen on the TV.

And I kept catching her looking at me and then back at Kristen and then me and back at Kristen. It was just a wonderful moment for me to see how my daughter was associating my relationship with her. She’ll never, ever have a dad like Keith Mars. The disappointment in her eyes …

You shot the “Veronica Mars” movie in 23 days. Rob, what were the challenges of shooting this movie at this quick pace?

Thomas: I can talk a lot about that. There are a couple of different ways that we could have done this. We knew how much money we had, and we were going t shoot somewhere in the low 20s, in terms of shooting days, and maybe the smart way to do the movie would be in an Agatha Christie way: “everyone in a house” movie, have very few sets and very few guest stars or other actors in the piece.

And that’s not what we did. We made an incredibly ambitious, sprawling, low-budget movie. So the tough part is that you have to be moving fast all the time. I don’t think we could’ve done it if we had been working together for the first time. But the actors know their roles.

Typically, they’re getting three or four chances at a line reading. We are having to move so fast that we want it to feel big. We wanted to include those characters that you grew fond of in “Veronica Mars.” So every day, we’re racing the clock. We don’t get to luxuriate in a scene. We have to hit it, nail it as best as we can, and move on to the next thing.

If you got an extra $1 million to make the “Veronica Mars” movie, how would you spend it in the movie?

Thomas: I think getting six takes per scene is really what I want. More time, more shooting days would be the answer.

Jason, will any of Logan Echolls’ family members be in the “Veronica Mars” movie?

Dohring: No, not really. Rob, I remember you said something about not reprising dead people.

Thomas: Most of the Echolls family is dead. There’s only one other living Echolls. Trina did not make the movie. We love Alyson [Hannigan, who played Trina Echolls], but she’s not in the movie.

Dohring: Yeah, but Rob’s got a lot of other surprises in the movie that are good that people don’t know about yet. It’ll be really cool for you guys.

Rob, do you feel this is your dream cast?

Thomas: Yeah, I love this cast.

Bell: What if he had said, “No, I would’ve made some changes?” Just one of them. And you know who you are.

Colantoni: What was Stanley Tucci doing in my trailer?

Thomas: Yeah, I feel very fortunate. It’s hard to get that right early, and I feel that was one thing we got right. Before I came to work in Hollywood, when I was teaching high school in Texas, and I would go to movies or see TV shows, and I would wonder, “How does so much bad stuff get made? Why is there so much product out there that isn’t any good?” And after I made the move to Hollywood and started working in the business, I have such a greater appreciation for what a minor miracle it is when you get it right, when it is magical.

And I think that’s why we’ve never given up hope on this thing, because this was one of the rare times where you got most of it right, where it is that special thing that you want to keep going back to. I can’t even tell you where you do work that you don’t even watch on TV, and it’s your own thing. This [“Veronica Mars”] I was always proud of. This may be on my tombstone. I’m very proud of this show.

Capra: That’s so awesome.

To the cast members, you have such great chemistry. Do you improvise when you work together?

Thomas: They better not!

Who taught Jason Dohring how to smolder?

Bell: The heavens?

Daggs: I’ll speak to the chemistry thing real quick. I don’t think I would’ve gotten this role if it wasn’t for the chemistry I had with Kristen right away. When I screen tested, it was my first screen test.

And my first screen test with Rob. In my first read with Rob, we felt really comfortable talking about basketball and sports and things like that before I even got to read for him. I was nervous before my first screen test.

And Kristen came and sat with me and talked with me for a quick second, helped me relax a little bit and had a simple, normal conversation with me when I went in. It came down to me and one other person. I think that was really critical for me to be able to relax and do what I knew I could’ve done with that role. The chemistry was real critical with the entire cast and with Francis and everybody else once I met them.

Bell: I’ll answer the improvisation question. Improvisation is wonderful. A lot of magic can come out of it, but I think that there needs to more credit given to a really good writer, who is allowed to be really militant about his words.

And Rob is a really writer. And he’s also a word Nazi. But much like the Logan/Veronica kiss, he’s earned it. My delivery is because how he writes it on the page, I can hear how he wants it. I don’t know how I can hear it.

It’s a rarity that he’ll ever say, “No, try it this way.” Sometimes he does, but 99 percent of the time, I have an instinct about how he wants it.

That’s just dumb luck, but it’s because he’s such a good writer, he’s allowed to go, “No, I’ve already honed in on what I wanted.” And our jobs as actors is not really to try to come in and one-up what Rob has done, because it simply doesn’t need it. It’s already perfect on the page.

Capra: We were just working the other day, and you proved that you honestly believe and follow that, because in the beginning of this character Weevil, I would always try to interject my improvisation, trying to do what I thought was right, until I realized that I just need to go to this man [he points to Rob Thomas] and ask him what I need to do. It made the job so much easier.

And honestly, it’s the reason you love the characters. I think all of us would agree that we just follow Rob’s direction. The last time I didn’t understand something, I went to Kristen and said, “I don’t get this.” And she said, “Just go to him.” And once he explains something to you, it’s like autopilot.

Bell: Right. You like it because it’s through his filter.

Daggs: And I buck the system a little bit. Like there are new cultural slangs in my neighborhood. I’m like, “Rob, I don’t know how if I really can say this. It’s going to be on TV, and I’m going to go back to Long Beach, and people will be like, ‘Man, what the hell are you talking about?’”

I would try to throw things at him. He’s like, “It’s the pocket protector full of pimp juice.” “Well, the pimp song cam out two years ago.” And he’d say, “Well, it sounds good now. I just saw it. Say the line, Percy!” I tried my best, but it still came out good.”

Will there be any mention in the movie of any of the characters who died in the “Veronica Mars” TV show?

Thomas: The big answer probably is no. I wanted to write the movie in such a way that for the fans, in the movie, there are plenty of Easter eggs in there. There are plenty of things that you will appreciate a bit more because you watched the TV series. But I didn’t want to put a lot of the old mythology, like the references to Lily Kane or Duncan Kane or Season 2 mystery or any of that, because I wanted the people who are coming fresh to the movie to be the start of something.

And we needed to go big if that’s going to happen. So I think all anyone needs to know, and I think it all comes out in the first scene is that when Veronica was a teenager, she had this weird part-time job as a private eye. And we ask the new people to understand that. After that, we tried not to complicate it with a lot of the mythology. That said, I think fans of the show are going to see so many references and so many things that you get that are special to you that they’ll feel like fun little Easter eggs in there.

If you could play any other character in the “Veronica Mars” series, who would it be?

Lowell: Logan, Logan, Logan, Logan, Logan!

Majorino: Dick.

Hansen: Dick.

Dohring: Dick.

Daggs: Weevil. I always wanted to ride a [motorcycle] bike, and he looks pretty cool in a leather jacket.

Capra: It’s going to sound like we choreographed it, but I’d like to play Wallis.

Daggs: For real? [He hugs Capra.]

Colantoni: Vinnie Van Lowe.

Bell: Dick.

Thomas: Principle Clemons.

What’s next for “Veronica Mars” franchise?

Thomas: I signed a book deal for a couple of “Veronica Mars” books, the first of which will pretty close to after the movie. We’re already breaking plot on that right now. It does not have a title right now, but it picks up where the movie left off. For years, I wanted to get the “Veronica Mars” books done as young-adult novels, but we sold them as adult novels, so it’s Veronica at 28, as the movie picks up and ends.

Do you want to do any more “Veronica Mars” movies?

Thomas: Oh, yes I do! I want to be a Bond franchise.

Would you fund the movie through Kickstarter or another way?

Thomas: I hope we make a ton of money on this movie and we just get to do it through the normal channels. I loved doing it on Kickstarter, but if we’re a huge hit, I’m not sure that Kickstarter is meant to fund huge hits. I’d do it either way, honestly. But next time, maybe the studio will just give us the money.

For more info: "Veronica Mars" website