For more than 30 years, PaleyFest has held panel sessions and screenings that connect the worldwide community of television fans with the casts and creators of their favorite TV shows. Kicking things off this year was the cast and creator of Veronica Mars , who not only enjoyed a passionate fan following while the series was on the air, but were since able to turn that fan support into a feature film, to help give both the fans and those behind the show the closure that they didn’t have when it originally went off the air in 2007. Collider was there to catch up with the cast and show creator Rob Thomas, and we’ve compiled highlights from both the red carpet and panel.
During the evening, the film’s writer/director Rob Thomas talked about other possible ideas he’d considered for the plot of the movie, where he might have gone with a possible fourth season of the series that would have focused on Veronica Mars as a young FBI agent, that they never intended for Veronica to end up with Logan until the saw the chemistry between the actors, how they almost lost Harry Hamlin to a movie, which would have ruined the big murder mystery storyline of Season 1, and how he’d love to do an R-rated version of Veronica Mars. The cast talked about what it was like to read the movie script for the first time, what made this project different for them, how Veronica’s wit is her best weapon, what people see in the Veronica and Logan relationship, re-shoots on the movie, getting to hear directly from the fans, and that they would love to continue playing these characters, in some format. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
Question: What was it like to read the movie script, for the first time?
PERCY DAGGS III: I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I don’t remember any show that’s ever been translated from television to film like this, so I wondered what the mystery would be, what direction it would go, and how he was going to do it. I wondered what kind of role I was going to play, whether it was big or small, and what he was going to have me doing. That was a little nerve-wracking. But, I was just excited about it. Once I got my hands on it, I read it front to back, and I couldn’t wait to do it. It was what I expected. I expected Veronica Mars to be the same kind of girl. I expected Rob to do what he does hand have a bunch of sharp, witty one-liners and a bunch of great moments. He builds character relationships well. I would say it did reach my expectations for it. Rob definitely provides. You’re not thirsty or hungry for any good dialogue, when you’re dealing with Rob Thomas.
RYAN HANSEN: Anytime I get to work with Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, and this cast, and to play Dick again, it’s the most fun. It’s an intense show, so to be able to be the lovable douchebag again, on a show that was dead six years ago, is very exciting. It’s definitely the highlight of my career.
CHRIS LOWELL: I was surprised that I was in it. I didn’t see that coming. Beyond that, what I really appreciated about the script, that we never got to see on the show, is that all of these characters no longer living with their parents or in dorm rooms. Because it’s years later and they’re adults and they’re making these big decisions with their lives, the stakes are that much greater, and it’s really nice to see them with these real world stakes. That’s great.
Many actors talk about always wanting to look ahead in their career, and never wanted to look back at past roles. What’s made this project different?
ENRICO COLANTONI: Well, this was looking ahead. This was about closure. This was about having the opportunity to heal a large fan base. I knew, as a fan, I was incredibly disappointed with how the show ended. It was very painful to move forward without that closure. So, this was more an emotional ride for me than anything. This was an organic experience that came from a deep need to close something. And there aren’t too many TV shows that ended prematurely, but those that have, came back and had closure. Arrested Development had their run on Netflix. And The Killing came back, after audiences needed it. Other shows have had the opportunity to tie a little bow and say goodbye. Nobody is saying, “We want Seinfeld to come back,” because we had the chance to say goodbye. We all want to say goodbye. The irony is that, having made this movie to say goodbye, it just leaves the audience wanting more. So, I don’t know if this is goodbye, or a new beginning.
LOWELL: Honestly, there are so many things about this film that are groundbreaking, just from its genesis. The show itself was already so alternative, and Rob’s voice is so alternative. The way we raised money for this film is so alternative. I feel like we broke every convention possible, and I love that. I don’t know. To me, coming back is not just coming back to a part that I played in the past. It was coming back to a role where I met some of my best friends, and it’s coming back to make a film in a way that’s never been done before. In a lot of ways, it feels like a completely new project with old friends.
Had you ever thought about exploring Veronica Mars as an FBI agent, for the film?
ROB THOMAS: Most people probably know that I have explored, in my head and even on film, this idea of Veronica Mars as this young FBI agent who is a young Clarice Starling type of figure. Even in the six months before Kickstarter, I was thinking about a plotline that revolved around Veronica as a young FBI agent. But when it became a fan-financed movie, I couldn’t figure out a way that an FBI case could roll in Wallace and Mac and Dick. So, I abandoned that FBI idea and tried to find a plot that would get back to all the characters that we know and love. If the fans were going to pay for the movie, I wanted them to see the characters that they love. We only had Kristen [Bell] on board, when we launched the Kickstarter campaign. I had talked to all of the actors and everyone wanted to do it, but deals had to be made. It was so lovely to watch, when we got to make each actor’s announcement. I think this movie is certainly a movie for the fans. I hope it translates beyond our fan base, but I will be so happy, if the fans are the ones who really love it.
After the third season, you shot a pilot presentation with Veronica Mars as an FBI agent. Had you put any thought into how you could have kept anyone else around, if you’d done that?
THOMAS: It would have been hard, honestly, to do it. By the time we did the FBI mini-pilot project, it had become very apparent that we were going to get canceled. They had all but said we were going to get canceled. And The CW talked to me about doing a young FBI show, and developing something new. So, I was like, “How about I do Veronica as young FBI?” I think we would have had to send her to Quantico in Virginia, but I wanted to do anything to try to keep Veronica Mars alive. The crazy thing is that we turned in this little mini-pilot and we went from dead to being alive again, for four days. The CW executives loved it. They flipped out for it, and suddenly, we had new life. But when dealing with networks, what you come to understand is that there’s a network president, and then there’s someone you never meet, way above that, who has more power. I think they looked at Veronica Mars numbers and said, “What the hell?! We’re not doing this again!” That’s how we died that death.
Kristen, what do you think it is about Veronica that allows her to turn her enemies into her friends?
KRISTEN BELL: I don’t know. Her brain and her wit is her armor and her weapon of choice. She uses it against the bad guy and the dumb guy. And she refuses not to come out on top. The greatest thing about Veronica is that she just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and that’s so attractive. It’s why women are attractive when they have confidence, and it’s why bad boys are attractive. When you don’t care about someone else’s opinion of you and you are your own compass, it’s an extremely attractive quality. Veronica is never malicious. She’s very fair. She’s steered by justice. You can disagree with her, but you’ve also got to tip your hat, a little bit. So, after many interactions with some of the characters who may have been her adversary, they came around. Unless it was Dick. I think he just got scared.
Kristen and Jason, what do you think it is that people see in the relationship between Veronica and Logan?
JASON DOHRING: I think it’s interesting that, despite all of his privilege, a lot of people hurt him, in his life, and she understands that part of him. She just saw him and what he was going through, and he knew that she understood. And he knew what it was like, when she had a bad relationship with her mother. I don’t know. I just look at her and feel it. She just smiles at me and it’s game over.
BELL: There’s an intangible that we’re lucky enough to have when we work together. I also think wounded birds recognize other wounded birds.
Rob, did you know what was ultimately going to happen with Veronica and Logan?
THOMAS: The truth is that we never had any intention, at all, for Logan to end up with Veronica. He was hired to be the obligatory psychotic jackass. And then, in the writers’ room, sitting around and watching dailies, we would all gather around and be like, “We want to watch that. We want to watch those two on screen together.” That’s how it built. We were watching the same thing the audience was and going, “Wow, more of that, please.” Fortunately, we had the ability to make that happen.
Why does Veronica tolerate Dick?
THOMAS: I mean this sincerely, but only because I love having Ryan Hansen in the show so much. It’s true. I will admit, this is a show blindspot, and I do not have a good argument for this. There are a couple of things that I can’t believe Veronica has forgiven Dick for. It’s just that every writer in the writers’ room wanted to throw Dick into the show. It’s an ingredient that we love having. I know there were a couple of moments that do seem irredeemable, that I just hope people have forgotten about.
In the first season, there were two major mysteries, with who killed Lilly Kane and who raped Veronica. Did any characters know the answers, in advance?
Who speculated about whether they did it?
FRANCIS CAPRA: I thought, any day, Rob was just going to come into my trailer, close the door, sit down and be like, “So, in this episode, we’re going to see Eli snap. We’re going to see his real dark side.” I don’t even know if I had the name Eli, at that point. I wasn’t sure. I knew I cared about this character, but I thought it was me, many, many times.
DAGGS: I had family asking me who did it, and I really didn’t know. That made me start to try to figure it out, and I spent a lot of time with Kristen. When I was trying to figure it out, she wouldn’t tell me if she knew who did it, but she would definitely shoot down what I thought. So, I just gave up.
THOMAS: A funny footnote for whodunit, in Season 1, we probably had the lowest budget of any network show, which meant we had to guest star a lot of people. When people are your guest stars, you don’t own them. They can go take other jobs. We were building Aaron Echolls as the murderer. I knew it before the season started. But, we did not own Harry Hamlin. He was free to do whatever he wanted. In the last month of the season, he got offered a movie in Australia during when we were going to be shooting our season finale. I will be eternally grateful that Harry cared enough to stay and shoot our finale, and turn down that movie. It would have been such a disappointment, if I had to invent a new murderer, at the end. We had built everything toward that. I had been gearing that whole season to that. So, thank you, Harry Hamlin.
Was there ever a plan to bring back Duncan Kane for the movie?
THOMAS: One of the things that I thought about, if we had had more money or time, was a sequence for the end credits, like when the bring Samuel L. Jackson back for The Avengers. I wanted to think of some sequence that could roll in both Duncan and Lilly. I would have loved to have seen a taste of them. But if Duncan was going to come back in the movie, he couldn’t just show up at the high school reunion and go, “Hey! I kidnapped a baby and ran away. How have you been?” It would have had to have been about that. It didn’t make sense to have a cameo, but I thought about it for a long time. I love those characters and it would have been nice to get a piece of them in there, but we didn’t.
Enrico, you went back and did some re-shoots to add more scenes with Veronica and Keith, right?
COLANTONI: We did a day of re-shoots, yeah. There were three or four scenes that weren’t in the original. And that came from a need. We’re the heart and soul. I love all of the characters in this world, but biased about the relationship between Keith and Veronica. I think that’s extra special. You don’t see that, every day. My favorite episodes, when we were doing the TV show, were when the two of them were getting in trouble together and they were both on a case together. It didn’t happen a lot ‘cause she couldn’t really live in the adult world, back then. But now that she’s an adult, we could get in trouble, all the time.
What’s it been like to have to directly answer to the fans with this, especially when they’re the ones that donated the money to make this movie happen?
HANSEN: It’s exciting, honestly. It’s nice to deliver this product for them. Doing the different screenings, we’ve been able to watch it with the fans who paid for it, and to see them react so positively and to see them love it to much is so satisfying. So, it’s actually really cool. It would be a big bummer if they hated it. We’d be like, “Sorry this is what you paid for.” But they love it, so it’s so exciting. Right from the opening montage, the vibe was so positive and everyone was on board. It was great.
COLANTONI: The idea that they were our bosses is charming. I love the idea that we have to answer to 69,000 fans, plus investors. None of them that came to the set had an entitled heir about them. They were just thrilled to come along for the ride. I haven’t met a Kickstarter investor that felt like, “I need more for my money.” That would have completely missed the point. They were part of a happening. Their investment was paid and came back, tenfold, when we made the movie. We gave them closure. I hope they’re happy. There’s no way they’re not going to be happy with the outcome.
DAGGS: You wonder, if people didn’t like it or if there were things missing that they wanted, if they would just be straight and say that. Going into it and reading the script and seeing what an amazing movie Rob was trying to make, incorporating over 60 speaking roles and bringing back all the fans’ favorite characters, I had high expectations that they would like it, but it’s a little nerve-wracking. You sit in that theater and you wait for the laughs and the shock moments, and you hope they react. You hope they’re still in love with the characters. So, I was nervous, but it was fulfilling, at the end of the day, to hear what they had to say. I feel like we hit our goal, as far as giving the fans the movie that they paid for and that they wanted, for so long.
LOWELL: I think it was of the utmost importance that the fans, and the backers themselves, feel satisfied by this thing that they created. And the response has been better than we even expected. I’m grateful, and very relieved.
What are the chances of this show getting a new life again now?
THOMAS: The idea of a Netflix or an Amazon thing excites me, to no end. I would love to be able to do the R-rated version of Veronica Mars. I would love to tell some darker stories. It’s a noir show. Veronica is an adult now. I would certainly be interested in that. Hopefully, people would line up for that, as well. I’ve said many times that we also think we could be a very successful, low-budget Bond franchise. If we did another one of these every two or three years, we’d have a blast doing that.
LOWELL: Any excuse to work with these people is an excuse I’m happy to make. I think Rob loves exploring other platforms. He loves being on the frontier of the way that media is released now and digested. I wouldn’t be surprised, if we saw other iterations of Veronica Mars.
COLANTONI: I love what Keith and Veronica represent together – those two characters, in particular. I think her world is bigger than one movie, every two years. I’m just putting my bid in to come back as a television show, even if it’s a 10 or 13 episode arc on Netflix or Amazon, or some very smart network that wants it back and wants to add a little edge to it. She warrants that. We’re not limited to just the sequel. We could do anything.
Since this Kickstarter campaign was so successful, there’s been a lot of speculation that the studios would use it to abuse the fans instead of integrate them in the process. How do you see this playing out?
THOMAS: The last thing Warner Bros. wanted to be perceived as was holding this title for hostage until fans coughed up money for it. What we wanted, and what they wanted, was a reward system where it felt fair. It felt like good value for the dollar. The example I like to give is that PBS might do a fundraising drive and offer you a $4 tote bag for a $200 donation, and I understand that. I think that’s fair. They’re doing something for the greater public good. Warner Bros. is a for-profit studio. We make our living in the entertainment business. So, what we thought was that, if we offered fair rewards for the dollar, then it wouldn’t be perceived as that and fans would get behind it. I think the way that it doesn’t get abused is if you, as people going on Kickstarter, really weigh those things and decide if it seems fair and right. I hope that our project seemed fair and right. Certainly, it’s not altruistic. We want to make a movie that shows a profit and does well in the theater, but that you don’t feel hijacked or taken advantage of, and I hope we accomplished that.