In The Lifeguard, out this Friday, Kristen Bell stars as a former A.P. writer who moves back to her childhood home, becomes a suburban lifeguard, and spends her afternoons free-floating in her protracted adolescence—a period which involves romancing a neighborhood teenager (David Lambert) and worrying her childhood friends (played by Mamie Gummer and Jay Baruchel). Coincidentally, after filming the dark comedy—written and directed by Liz Garcia, and out in theaters this Friday—Bell began another homecoming project, returning to her television origins with the Kickstarter-funded Veronica Mars movie. Filmed six years after the conclusion of Rob Thomas’s teenage-sleuth series, the crowd-sourced comedy is slated to arrive in theaters next year after a Comic-Con preview this summer that put fans in a Neptune-nostalgia-induced frenzy.
In anticipation of the projects, the actress met us last month in West Hollywood to discuss—among other things—the backyard pest she battled for the majority of the summer, why her love scene with a teenager wasn’t as awkward as one might imagine, and where Veronica Mars will be in life when she revisits her legions of devoted fans next year.
Julie Miller: I’ve been following your battle with the mockingbird stationed in your backyard. Is it true that you’ve considered filling a Super Soaker with. . .
Kristen Bell: Cat urine? Well, Liz [Garcia] told me about that. I bought the Super Soaker because we tarped the tree [where the mockingbird lives]. Last year, he did the same thing and I had a Nerf gun and I shot bullet-sized Styrofoam bullets at him. I’m telling you, the tree is like a landfill. There are all of these empty water bottles wedged in it. There are, like, aspirin bottles, a Clinique lipstick, and junk that I was throwing at the tree to try to get him to come down. But it’s actually a familiar problem. There are blogs about “How I Got Rid of My Northern Mockingbird.”
I’ve considered tying shiny ribbons to my tree because they don’t like things that are shiny or flutter. I bought the Super Soaker. I sprayed the tree once but I didn’t nail him. And Liz said to put my all into it and find some cat urine. I was one step away from Googling “where to find cat urine” and the sucker didn’t show up again.
Knock on wood.
Knock on wood. Can you believe that? He left last week. I’ve had peace and quiet.
Aside from this war on your backyard mockingbird, you’ve been pretty outspoken about your love for animals—even letting Ellen DeGeneres show a home movie of you crying out of happiness upon meeting a sloth. Has anyone offered you an animal-related reality show yet?
No. I’m very into animals. Maybe one day. I mean, believe me, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever thought of it. I’ve dreamed, to an inappropriate degree, of teaming up with Jeff Corwin at one point. I was like, “We’d be perfect on the road together. Our comedy is in line with each other. He’d have the know-it-all. I’d be able to explain stuff he’d tell me off-camera.” I was into it. Maybe one day.
I saw The Lifeguard at Sundance and loved how it captured that moment when you don’t really want to make the jump from adolescence to adulthood. Did you identify with your character’s inability to make that transition?
I didn’t identify with the character per se, because there were such higher stakes with the drama in her life. I related to moments of feeling like, “Where is the road map? I don’t know when I’m going to feel like an adult.” Because over the last few decades, the mold of what you’re supposed to do has really been shattered for this generation. Our parents had a road map. You graduate high school, you marry your high-school sweetheart, you should have kids—these are the things you should do. And there are so many options now for human beings, it’s overwhelming. The line between adolescence and adulthood is really, really blurry. It’s kind of a choose your own adventure now.
Your character’s adventure involves becoming a lifeguard—a job she takes very seriously. On a less serious note, how daunting was it wearing that Baywatch red Speedo?
I did not look as much like Pamela Anderson as I had hoped I would. When you have more of a boyish figure, it’s slightly disappointing because you’re used to seeing that swimming suit with such gorgeous curves. But it was great. I felt like I was in good shape, so I wasn’t insecure—or[omitted comma] I had regular insecurities, I guess—but I was already pregnant when I started that movie. So when I peed on that stick halfway through the movie, needless to say, the next day that I put the suit on, I was sweating that someone would notice.
How was it sharing a love scene with a 19-year-old?
We really shook hands and said, “Let’s make this graphic and real.” Even prior to rolling, I think I just grabbed his hands and put them all over my chest and said, “This is it. Don’t be shy. Do what you do. I won’t be uncomfortable. I trust you.” He was extremely professional. Going into a scene that intimate as a female, you couldn’t ask for a better partner. There’s a lot of choreography going into the camera work and making sure you can’t see the, like, one inch of fabric that is actually keeping you from having sex.
The funny thing is that when I read the script, I wanted so badly to be a part of it and I gave the script to my significant other [Dax Shepard] and I said, “Do you want to read through this? It is a really graphic love scene. Do you want to talk about it?” And he said, “You know what, I don’t care. I trust you. As long as you don’t come back pregnant, I don’t care.” And I came back pregnant, which we always joke about.
You just finished the Veronica Mars movie. How was the last day on set?
You know, you sign up for a lot of heartbreaks in life. I entered this relationship knowing that this would end. But it felt, still to the very last day when my car pulled out of the parking lot, so surreal. I thought, “I cannot fucking believe that we made the Veronica Mars movie.” We talked about it forever. At moments, it felt as far-fetched as a kid talking about wanting to be an astronaut. That kid probably isn’t going to come anywhere close to being an astronaut.
But I’m so happy that we did it and it was as much fun, if not more fun, than the series. It was even more special, because we grew up together in our 20s and now we all have kids and brought our kids to the set. My baby’s playing with like Percy [Dagg III]‘s baby. And they just look like us. It was just really special.
At Comic-Con it was an awesome surprise to see Jamie Lee Curtis in footage from the film. At what point did she become involved?
Right before we started, actually. We had this role and we were thinking it would kind of be who Veronica would become—an older woman that is whip-smart, crazy-successful, who embodies those things. Everyone was kind of pointing to Jamie Lee. We had done a movie together, and we get along gloriously. I just texted her and asked her, and she literally responded, “Where and when?” It was so exciting! She just adds such a cachet.
Do you think fans will be surprised to see where Veronica is at the start of the film? Were you, or had Rob kept you updated on the developing storyline over the years?
I had known a storyline for a very long time, because Rob had ideas about what he wanted to do for the movie kind of from the minute the series ended. And he had to change it now that they are 10 years older. Rob is really, really, really good for writing what the audience wants. He is not a selfish writer. He knows what the audience wants and will write what will make you salivate. He starts Veronica off nowhere near Neptune, nowhere near being a P.I. She’s left it, hasn’t touched it in nine years. She has no interest in it. The movie is about pulling her back in. The stakes are that much more because you start the movie thinking, “Get back in it, girl. We’re ready.” You start the movie rooting for it.