Seven years ago, when the CW announced that the sleuthing teenage enigma known as Veronica Mars would put down her magnifying glass, viewers sprinted to her defense. Zealous fans, nicknamed “marshmallows,” drafted petitions and sent Mars Bars and bags of marshmallows to the studio. No less devoted to the cause were the actors who grew up in the fictional Neptune, CA, the complicated backdrop that powered Kristen Bell’s Veronica. With creator Rob Thomas as their mayor, they appealed to the show’s producers at Warner Bros. to reinstate VM as a series, a movie, anything. “I would do it with puppets,” Bell tells BAZAAR. Thomas left the last episode intentionally unresolved to fuel curiosity. Warner Bros. kept its wallet shut.
It was a sad ending to a series that tackled topics like sexual assault with finesse and created a teenage girl with more pluck than Nancy Drew. Then Thomas found a way to foot the bill: an unprecedented Kickstarter campaign that set out to raise $2 million and broke $5 million with two days to spare. Warner Bros. had agreed to cover additional costs should the fundraiser succeed, and so it was decided: Veronica lives. Picking up nine years after the events of the finale, the movie places modern-day Veronica, Esq., in New York living with boyfriend Piz, when she’s suddenly drawn back to Neptune by news that her high school sweetheart, Logan Echolls, has been charged with murder. Impressively, the film reprises the original cast almost in full, including Jason Dohring, Ryan Hansen, Chris Lowell, Enrico Colantoni, and Percy Daggs III.
The spoiler that fans won’t mind is embedded in the business plan: Don’t expect Thomas to tie up all loose end because he might have a few cliffhangers left in him. Give the cast a cookie, and they’ll rebuild a brand empire, starting with a series of Veronica Mars novels, the first of which publishes next month, and aspirations for more films to come. Just a few weeks before the movie’s March 14 release, Bell—now married to actor Dax Shepard and mother to one-year-old Lincoln—tells BAZAAR about her breakout character’s second coming.
Harper’s BAZAAR: Almost the entire original cast returns for the movie. Who do you think has changed most drastically?
Kristen Bell: Wow, maybe the biggest surprise will be what a stud Percy Daggs has turned out to be. I always knew him as Percy, but for the fans who only knew him as Wallace, he was a little smaller, he was younger, he played the best friend. Now, he is very much a leading man. He is gorgeous and has an air of confidence that, when we were kids, I don’t think translated.
HB: I know you’re hoping for a sequel in Veronica’s future. Can you see it coming back as a series too?
KB: I could see it coming back as just about anything. I would do it with puppets if we could.
HB: You did get some puppet experience, or at least Rob Thomas did, in the hilarious Kickstarter video you made together.
KB: This is true. And fun fact: he’s wearing articles of clothing from the ski box in my garage—long johns and Dax’s under-helmet snowboard mask thing. The puppet frame he was working in, those 2x4s were made by my handsome husband.
HB: That’s true love.
KB: I said, “Honey, you know we’re still trying to do the movie, right?” And he said, “Of course.” I said, “Can you please go to Home Depot and build me a puppet booth?” And he didn’t question it, he just went. And he said, “How’s this?” I said, “Great.” This is all the weekend before [we filmed the video]. I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics, and I got a piece of red velvet, and we manufactured that. Dax and I were set tech.
HB: Other than during production, has the cast hung out since the show’s end?
KB: Often. Ryan Hansen and his family were over last night. His wife and I made dinner in the kitchen and had a dance party with our children—Dax and I are the godparents to his children. Jason and I are also very close. Percy lives a little further away, but we all communicate via email. And many of us have had kids, so we’ve created this mini-me cast of “Veronica Mars” that poops their pants.
HB: As part of the Kickstarter campaign, you offered prizes to backers who laid down serious cash, like cast-recorded voicemail greetings and a walk-on part in the movie. What were the nuttiest requests and cameos?
KB: Number one: The guy who invested $10,000. I don’t think that dollar amount affects him very much; he invented online banking or something spectacular. His name was Steve. He came to the set and introduced himself as 10K. Just like that. “Hi I’m Steve. 10K.” He said he’s always been a fan of the series, and he spends the money he makes. He got a walk-on role, he was beyond lovely, and he poked fun at the fact that he spent so much money for this—and he called himself 10K! Which is obviously the nickname we still call him. Some of the videos I recorded were very creative and funny, where I was acting as though I was someone’s scorned lover, saying, “Come on, call me baby.” And there were a couple for scavenger hunts that ended in marriage proposals.
HB: One thing that impressed me when I first watched “Veronica Mars,” was the brazenness and sophistication with which it approached subjects like rape and sexual assault. Does the movie touch on similarly sensitive matters?
KB: Yeah. The show was written as a bit of a reality check for teenagers, and the movie does fall in line with that. The movie is about a murder, but it’s also about the hierarchy of a class system, it’s about race wars, it’s about drugs, it’s about voyeurism. And of course it’s all veiled in this love story and solving of the plotline, but Rob doesn’t write safely.
HB: Why do you think that worked so well on VM?
KB: One of the reasons is that you’re inside her brain. You get to know what she’s going through. You learn directly from the source about her vulnerabilities, her insecurities, her anger, and ultimately what she would say is her revenge. And you would have to begin with the narrative from the female that was abused, in my opinion, if you are to tell a story that would resonate similarly. The protagonist has to be the one going through it. You know, they often say writers create their alter egos as the protagonist, and somehow Rob Thomas’s alter ego was a 16-year-old, female underdog.
HB: The movie was shot in just 23 days. How did that affect production?
KB: There was a lot of caffeine. It meant everybody had to know we’d be working weird hours and everybody would be outside the parameters of their job description. They had a kind of guerilla style to them. My reality was I was breast-feeding a three-month-old while working 15 hours a day. So I was in hair and makeup with a breast pump on. I was in rehearsal with a breast pump on. They were yelling cut, and I was putting my breast pump on.
HB: What was your favorite scene to work on?
KB: There’s a scene between me and Jason Dohring that we shot at what’s referred to in the film industry as magic hour. It’s right when the sun is setting [or rising]. There’s no overhead sun, and it creates an extremely aesthetically pleasing shot. The world is glowing between Logan and Veronica—they’re almost in complete silhouette—and it’s very emotionally charged.
HB: Is there a running cast joke that Rico Colantoni’s never broken character as Keith Mars? It showed up in both the Kickstarter video and the EW cover shoot video you filmed.
KB: That was actually a brainstorm for the Kickstarter video. I think that was one of Dax’s ideas. He said, “You know what would be beautiful? Is to have you never having given up the case.” They’re all still at my house. It’s not necessarily something we feel on a regular basis, but that’s sort of become his role.
HB: Having played Veronica for so long, do you ever feel like you’ve never broken character? Like you’re Kristen playing Veronica playing Jeannie on “House of Lies?”
KB: Such a good question. I don’t think so, but Kristen has sometimes felt she was Veronica—if I’m reminding someone not to put their purse on the floor in the bathroom, or looking at an open trash can thinking, “Someone could go through that trash and find out a lot.” And because Veronica is able and willing to say the sassiest thing in the moment, sometimes as Kristen I have the desire to do so. I have to edit myself sometimes.
HB: Speaking of which, just from chatting, I can tell that you’re very intentional in your speech, and you think editorially. Has that always been the case?
KB: I know exactly where it comes from. My father’s a news director, and he’s been a journalist for years, so I know the value of a sound bite. I try to keep that in mind and not ramble, which is very difficult for me because I’m such an oral communicator. I can’t write to save my life, but I will keep you on this phone for two hours.