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20 July 2006 @ 02:52 pm
Transcript of the VM Session - TCA  
This is the whole transcript of the VM- Panel at TCA

There are some spoilers for season 3 but they are marked :)



Note: For reading the spoiler, please highlight the text

TCAs: Revelations about new characters and who's returning to the show from the star and the creator.
by Eric Goldman

July 18, 2006 - Running for nearly three weeks straight, the TCA (Television Critics Association) summer press tour is a major endeavor, where nearly all the biggest channels -- from the broadcast networks to popular cable stations -- have presentations and panels discussing their upcoming programming, including new and returning series.

A major favorite among the critics (because it rules!), the Veronica Mars Q&A at The CW press day was an eagerly awaited one. Creator/Executive Producer Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell were on hand to field questions from the press about making the move from UPN, the new change in the show's format, the problems the show faced in season 2, and which cast members will and will not be returning in season 3.

Question: Are both of you comfortable after two years that Veronica, the character, has kept as much edge as both of you would like her to have?

Rob: Yes, I am. To me, that's always the...

[At this point last year's Veronica Mars promotional image of Kristen Bell, leaning forward in a white tank top, is shown on the monitors, which doesn't go unnoticed by the actress]

Kristen Bell: Oh, honestly! [smiling] I'm so over it. Can we get a new picture? Oh, my God. Sorry.

Rob Thomas: [After letting the laughter subside] My fear with the character is never let her get too huggable, too cuddly, too warm. That doesn't seem like what should be our stock and trade on the show. I tell the writers in the room write her like a porcupine.

Kristen Bell: And I'm not very warm so…

Rob Thomas: So it makes it easier.

Q: Kristen, would you agree that Veronica has kept all the edge that you'd like to have her have?

Kristen Bell: Yeah. I mean I think they showed a few more cutesy moments, but I don't think they're cutesy in the sense of very like girly cushy cutesy. I mean I think she does have a lot of her edge, but she still is a female, and I think she has her wits about her, and she is very funny and smart and sort of uses the fact that she's a female. So some of the stuff she does is girly, but she's still very tough.

Q: I thought the sheriff blew up [on the season finale]?

Rob Thomas: No. The sheriff didn't get on the plane. All he did was order Keith taken off. He just wanted Keith off. He didn't want Keith meeting the press and getting a hero's welcome, so he had Keith taken off the plane.

Q: It's the only show I watch every week, and I still don't know what's going on half the time, and I still like it. Do you work to do that to try to keep people pleasantly confused?

Rob Thomas: I never want anyone to know what's going on. Actually, honestly, I think that was the problem with season 2, and I think it's something that we're looking to correct here in season 3. We almost worked Kristen to death in season 1. And the whole Logan long-term mystery [in season 2] of what happened on the night of the bridge, it was conceived largely to give Kristen Bell some much-deserved and much-needed time off, but it had the effect of putting two concurrent mysteries lasting 22 episodes with way too many suspects, way too many red herrings. We want to rein that in this year.
spoiler There will not be two concurrent mysteries this year. And in fact, we're going to do shorter unbroken arcs which I'm really excited about. Our first mystery is going to be nine episodes. There will be no preemptions, no repeats in there. Our second mystery will be seven episodes with no preemptions or repeats. And our final mystery of the year will be six episodes with no preemptions or repeats.That's spoken with the confidence of a man who thinks he's going 22 episodes. So each block will have its own mystery. To service a 22-episode mystery, you have to have a large playing field. To service a 9-episode mystery, we can keep that tighter, more focused. Instead of having 12 people who can be in the running for the villain, there might be five in one of those mysteries. (spoiler end)

I think it will be much cleaner. I think it will also give a new audience more jumping-in points. I know as a fan of television, you know, the first season when I really heard the buzz on 24, it was eight, nine episodes in and I felt like I was too late to join the party, so I eventually caught up on DVD. And Veronica Mars, I think, has a similar effect on people. Like if we're hearing the buzz but it's the middle of the season, we can't catch up. I think that's been a problem in the past. This year, there will be much easier end points for an audience. Also, you won't have those long breaks where you forget what happened six weeks ago because there have been two repeats and four preemptions, so I think it will keep it cleaner.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about what characters are moving on to the new season both in college and out of college and what new characters you're adding. And is Tina [Majorino] going to be a full-time cast member?

Rob Thomas:
(spoiler) Tina's going to be a series regular. She won't be in all episodes produced, but she will be a series regular. She is going to Hearst College. Wallace is going to Hearst College. Logan's going to Hearst College. Believe it or not, Dick Casablancas [is going to college]. Believe me, we'll do some explaining in the episode to tell you how he got into Hearst College. Veronica is going to go to Hearst College. We're going to introduce two new series regulars, one named for the director of our pilot, Pizz, who will be Wallace's roommate, Stosh Piznarski. And then, Mac, Tina Majorino will get a roommate named Parker who will be everything that Mac is not. She will be bubbly and effervescent and listen to a lot of Nelly Furtado in the room. And they won't hit it off right away, but she'll have a heart of gold.(end spoiler)

Q: Kristen, when you signed onto the show, did you worry at all that you might be in high school for six or seven years?

Kristen Bell: You mean like how shows backtrack and all of a sudden I'm a freshman when we really were juniors?

Q: Well, how people never seem to grow old in television.

Kristen Bell: I mean I don't think it was on my range of what I was thinking about. I think I was really excited that I had found a job that I wanted that wanted me and that I really felt like it was heads above the rest of the teenage dramas. I mean there was concern and it's always a joke, especially in the category that I audition with, like my demographics of girls. It's always a joke that, well, "Are you really going to be 40 and still playing high school?" But I don't think I really thought about it.

Q: How much longer do you think you could have done that before feeling ridiculous?

Kristen Bell: Um, forever. I never feel ridiculous. No. I mean I love the fact that I look young. I love the fact that I think most people believe that I'm younger than I am. There's certainly a part of me that yearns to play my age and a young woman that is in a lifestyle without her parents. I think that's what really differentiates projects to me, whether or not their parents are characters. Like I can be playing a 19-year-old, but if it's a film that I'm reading, I might like it more because the parents aren't in the film. Do you know what I mean? Like that perspective. I love playing Veronica Mars, and as I do things outside of Veronica Mars, I'll probably try to grow up a little bit.

Q: When you first heard about The CW, were you optimistic or pessimistic and how do you think it's playing out for you?

Rob Thomas: I thought that The CW would be a fantastic thing for us… if we made it onto the network. So I was both nervous, because it seemed like there were going to be twice as many shows for the same number of slots, but I felt like if we made it onto the new network that we'd have such a much better chance at survival because The WB was always the network to go to for teen shows. It felt like, in a way, it was the right place for us to be. I think our lead-in this year is going to be a great help to us, and I'm just fingers crossed they don't move Lost to Tuesdays at 9:00.

Kristen Bell: I was actually really excited when I heard about the merger, especially because when I heard Dawn [Ostroff] was going to become the head of The CW; she's someone that I, as a female, just respect so much because I think she's really, really classy and I think she's done an unbelievable job. You think I'm just kissing butt, but I'm not! But I also know -- and don't tell this to all the other kids -- but we are her favorite. So as long as you don't tell the other kids, it's okay. I had confidence that she would do what's right, and I think we all knew what was right was getting it back on the air.

Q: Do you think since the show has quite a change of going to college, this is maybe the perfect time for you to be on a different network in a different situation?

Rob Thomas: Yeah, I certainly think so. I always wanted Veronica to grow up at the right pace. Honestly, I want her to bang out college in three years so we can get her into Quantico for FBI training. I have big plans. We need to start building sets now for that stuff!

Q: What did you think about when the pickup was only for 13 episode, and what were you told the reason was?

Rob Thomas: The number only affects us in a couple of ways. It affects us a little bit budgetary and it affects us in how many directors we can book. But I always look at it like if we're doing well, we're going to do 22 episodes. And honestly, if we're struggling now in our third year, I don't imagine that the fervor of our fans and the very kind response from the press is going to buy us another year. I think we're actually in a make-or-break time now. I think we need to come on in this new time slot and do well. So I'm not bummed about the 13. I'm bummed a little bit because I liked to book our back-nine directors, but we're either going to do well and do 22 or we're not going to do well and we're not going to make it to 13. So it doesn't affect me that much, honestly.

Q: How did you feel when you read that unsolicited accolade from Stephen King in his Entertainment Weekly column where he said your show was his favorite?

Kristen Bell: It was awesome.

Rob Thomas: It was awesome. Actually, in our third episode this year,

(spoiler)

we had written sort of a crazy sociology professor (end spoiler)

and we went to Stephen King to see if he would do it, and we had a very kind note from him. He said, "I'm actually booked at that time, but I love your show. Keep me in mind for other things." All these people, whether it's Kevin Smith or Joss Whedon or now Stephen King -- boy, you said you like Veronica Mars, there's a good chance you're going to be asked to be on it.

Q: Hi, Rob. Huge fan of Veronica Mars.

Rob Thomas: Can you play a cop?

Q: Sure.

(spoiler) With different mystery arcs this season, are there certain other elements that you're going to carry through the entire year, whether it's just relationships between Veronica and Mac and Wallace and all those folks?

Rob Thomas: Absolutely. The character arcs don't begin and end on those nine, seven, and six. We have plans for Veronica and Logan's relationship, for Mac and Wallace. We have personal arcs that will not stop and start according to those mystery arcs. So it shouldn't feel like each block stops and starts the show that way. There should still be a constant flow of character evolution throughout all of that.

Q: It sounds like you arrived at the decision to do shorter story arcs on your own?

Rob Thomas: Actually, the idea of doing shorter mystery arcs was a suggestion we got from the studio. I called Dawn Ostroff at the network and pitched it, and it was her brilliant suggestion that we do them uninterrupted. So that was sort of a two-phased plan that we owe largely to the studio and network suggestions.
(end spoiler)

Q: Were there any other suggestions that you either liked or didn't like, about what to do with the show or different characters?

Rob Thomas: Well, Dawn's big note -- and it was one that, believe me, we agreed with, so there was no argument here -- we felt like we got too convoluted last year. We sort of freely admit that. Dawn asked us to clean that up, but that was sort of already in the works for us.

Q: Why would you

(spoiler) do arcs of seven, six, and nine episodes, (spoiler end)

if you have only 13 episodes guaranteed?


Rob Thomas: Because, like I say, I don't think that 13th number means anything. All it means is something to do with pay-and-play deals with directors. It doesn't mean anything to me. Like I say, if we come on and we bomb on this network, we may be gone in four episodes. If we are doing the numbers that we think we can do on this network, we're going to do 22. I'm just going to operate out of a feeling of confidence rather than out of fear.

Q: What do you have to say to the people who rented the plane with the sign [to encourage The CW to renew the series]?

Kristen Bell: I think that it's really crazy and really awesome that they would go to those lengths. I think that a lot of our fans have gone to unbelievable lengths to show their appreciation for the show. And they are smart; there's no one that's dumb that watches Veronica Mars. I mean, you have to pay attention. But they were sending letters to the network. It wasn't like they were just doing the word-of-mouth. The bloggers are pretty much the reason we've gotten a lot of the numbers. I think that we're all extremely thankful, extremely thankful to the lengths that they have gone to. It wasn't me, if that's what you were asking!

Rob Thomas: We did an event in my hometown of Austin in the middle of the year, and it turned into sort of a Veronica Mars convention. I felt like Gene Roddenberry. I mean, they know everything. They know everything about the show. A fan just sent me a link to the Veronica Mars graveyard, where you click on it and you see every character who's died on Veronica Mars and how they died and some sort of joke and quote about them. And there were eight or nine characters I don't remember in that graveyard!

Q: For someone out of the loop, could you tell me what is the plane thing that he was referring to?

Rob Thomas: Fans did one of those planes with the banner flying behind it. And they did it in Los Angeles, which was a shame, because the network brass was already in New York by this point. Though, I think they got word about it that it suggested they keep Veronica Mars on The CW.

Q: Kristen, are you as gutsy as Veronica? What would be your reaction if you found a body in the ice machine, et cetera?

Kristen Bell: I don't think I have the stomach Veronica has. I think I have the determination and the stubbornness and a little bit of the go-get-em. But I think I'm about 20 percent more girl than Veronica is. There's a lot of Veronica that hits home with me, the sort of feisty area. But I think that I have a little bit more girl. I'd scream my head off if I saw a body in the freezer.

Q: If you are just sitting watching a mystery movie, would you try to figure it out before the credits roll?

Kristen Bell: I think because a lot of the work that they do is from real private detectives -- by "they," I mean Rob and the other writers -- they research with a lot of real private detectives and use a lot of real scenarios that may or may not have happened or could have happened. But I don't think that I'm of that mind-set. I mean, I'm very aware of identity theft, like where my purse is and shredding my mail and things like that. ... It's embarrassing to admit, but I really don't watch much TV. But in movies, I have gotten more astute in figuring things out. I just went to one recently, and I can't recall what it was, but I did figure it out like halfway through. And I read The DaVinci Code, loved it, but by page 200 you knew who it was. You know why? [Turning to Thomas] And you may say it was too convoluted last year [on Veronica], but there were not enough characters in that book. I was like, you see, it's (spoiler for The DaVinci Code) the old man! (end spoiler) And I only use that example because I was thinking like Veronica thinks. I thought, okay, how many characters are there? And there were only like four or five characters they had introduced, and I went through all of them and I figured it out by page 200.

Q: Will Charisma Carpenter be back? And how are you going to fit Keith into this thing if all of the younger characters are off in college?

Rob Thomas:

(spoiler) Veronica is going to still be living at home, and the detective agency will still be open. And we will see Charisma Carpenter right away in the series. I don't want to give away a lot more than that. But Charisma Carpenter will be in the show at least once. (end spoiler)

Q: I know that the wait for fans to find out will they or won't they make it to The CW was just excruciating and seemed to change minute-by-minute. Was it excruciating for you, or did you know a lot earlier on that you guys were safe?

Rob Thomas: Oh, no, it was excruciating for me. I mean, I had to go interview for jobs. It was that kind of excruciating. Yeah, it was painful waiting, without a doubt.

Kristen Bell: I try very hard to keep my perspective small and just with the job. Like the same old thing that they say on Broadway, "If you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad, so you don't read any of them." So taking the perspective outside of just your work, I try to stay a little centered like that. But I was really confident because every year -- even the pilot, after I read it, I was like, "I know this is going to go into a show." I've had a lot of confidence just because I knew that it was such a good product. But when I saw that 7th Heaven was picked up again, that's when I got nervous, because I thought they took our spot. I mean, it's a wonderful show, but having that room, because they had had their finale, made it much more likely for us to get picked up. And when they announced that they were coming back, I was like, ooh, that really puts us at a disadvantage. Because, like Rob said, when you combine the network, not only are you going to get less pilots, but 50 percent of each stays. So it was nerve-racking right at the end there.

Q: I was wondering if you could just explain a little about the decision to sort of phase out Teddy Dunn's character? Is he coming back?

Rob Thomas: He is not coming back [Long Pause]. That's a tough question. You know, we had two romantic possibilities for Veronica, and one sort of dominated the fans' interest. And it became clear that one suitor won out.

Q: I'm not disagreeing.

Rob Thomas: Yeah, so that's sort of what happened.

Q: You get so much acclaim, but the show's fate is still often up in the air. How do you explain this? Do you explain that it's too good for TV, like an Arrested Development thing, or bad marketing at UPN? What is it?

Rob Thomas: You know, Joel Silver is my partner on the show, and we had a discussion once, a very early argument about which path we'd rather have, because I was a big fan of the show Action, which he was an executive producer of. And we were in a very early meeting arguing over casting our direction of the show. And we got into an argument over whether you'd rather have Action on your credit list or Love Boat. And Joel was like, "Are you crazy? Are you insane? That show [Love Boat] made millions and millions! It's still making money! Are you crazy?" I said, "Joel, at the end of the day, I'd rather say I wrote Action than I wrote Love Boat." So there's a sense of pride in it, you know. And there's so many shows that I've adored that have gone away early that it feels like it would still be in good company. Arrested Development would be near the top of that list. You know, there are shows that felt like -- was Profiler on for 12 years? I don't know. But I never met anyone who saw it. Or certainly who was crazy about it. Like, "I got to get home and see Profiler tonight!" …I really hope that's not a Warner Bros. show. I really hope it's not [Laughter]. But I want to be proud of the work, and certainly I'm proud of Veronica Mars. And I approach each year optimistically. Like I do think, okay, we're in the right network, we're in the right time slot. This is our year. We're going to break out this year. And fingers crossed, I'm hoping we do.

Kristen Bell: I think that it's sort of the same thing I was talking about before about perspective. There's so much of this business that you can float around in your head and it can just become a hurricane. And it makes you crazy and it can make you go insane. And that's why a lot of actors are insane, and, you know, most people in the business. This is a pretty crazy business. I try my best to keep my perspective. Like, I'm very well aware of how good our show is. I'm very, very proud to be a part of it. I mean, I would watch it addictively as a viewer, and I think that's something to really be proud of. And I'm glad that if I'm going to do a show, it's something that I have my heart in and that I love so much. And if it's not the right mixture to feed middle America, then, you know, chock it up to timing. Who knows? And like you were saying, there's crazy shows that I've watched and been like, "What?!" But you never know.

Rob Thomas: I'll even add to that. When I had Cupid on the air, it was a show that I was proud of. But there was a sense in the back of my mind that, if it goes away, I'll write another great show that I'll be proud of and that will be my new thing. And after Cupid was cancelled, I spent four miserable years trying to get something that worked that I was proud of on the air. I know that if this goes away, it's a hard road. It's tough to do something. You mess up one piece of casting or you realize as you are watching your pilot in the editing room that there's no dramatic tension in the fourth act, and you've blown it. And that four years taught me a lot about how rare it is to get the right ingredients together to do something that you are proud of.

Q: Regarding season 2 becoming too convoluted, is that something you came to in retrospect, or was there a point in the season when you thought, "we're off the rails," but you couldn't get it back on track?

Rob Thomas: I certainly don't want to give the wrong impression. I'm proud of Season 2. I'm happy with it. There are things I would change, certainly. And streamlining it would be one of them. To answer the question, we were probably about two-thirds of the way in. And, you know, I read enough of the message boards to know that we were losing people, that we had become too complex. And the thing is, at that point in the season, there's no real solution. Because at that point in the mystery, you know, you spend the first half to two-thirds sort of expanding, and then the last third bringing it all back to a point. So we were already at the point where we were about to winnow down. So at that point, it was already in the process of weeding them out.

Q: How has filming in San Diego helped the show? And what challenges and what blessings have there been for you working there?

Kristen Bell: I'm in San Diego. He's not in San Diego. Let's get that out there right now. He's in L.A. at his house -- well, at the writers' studio. The writers' studio is in Burbank, so we kind of do both. Moving to San Diego initially, for me, was really hard. My house, my home, it's like my cocoon. I'm very into being at home. And that sense of security, having been lost, was really difficult for me to deal with the first year. I don't like staying in hotels. I like to be in my own bed. And there are certain people that are just like that. But the crew in San Diego is awesome. And, obviously, San Diego as a city is really awesome. The only hard part of it for me is that I'm away from my family and my house. But as far as shooting down there, we get amazing locations, and the crew is really, really stellar down there. They are really fun. And on the other hand, it's nice to know that you are escaping from L.A. every now and again. There's a lot less pressure, I think, because we are much farther from everybody. They visit once in a while.

Q: Kristen, would you ever ask, "Rob, why don't you ask Warner Bros. if we can move back to Los Angeles or Burbank?"

Rob Thomas: If we're a Top 10 show this year, that question may be revisited. But I don't think we're moving. Certainly Joel Silver has been a big proponent of moving the show back to Los Angeles. Even though I get to stay in my house and live in Los Angeles, there is an upside to having a stage right next to the writer's offices where you have a little more control; where I could walk down to the set if there were issues or questions that needed to be answered. So there would be an upside to being in L.A. But I don't think that's going to happen for the show. We have a great situation down there that I think we'll stay in.

Q: (spoiler) Rob, I was curious what brought about the decision to put Logan and Dick in the college. Did you ever consider not doing that, or did it just seem to be hard to integrate them in the storylines?

Rob Thomas: Honestly, it's integrating them in the storylines if they are not on campus, because so much of the show is going to play on a college campus this year. There was the thought of Logan or Dick not going to college. It honestly was just the machinations of fitting them in the storylines. So it became more about, "how can we imagine that Dick got into this college?" Because that's going to be the easier question than "How, if he's not going here, do we get him into 15 episodes this year?"

Q: How quickly will you wrap up whatever is left over from last season?

Rob Thomas: Two episodes.
(end spoiler)

Q: And is there any chance that Veronica will work as a singer this season?

Rob Thomas: There's a chance. Or, no, there's not. If we do, she'll get to choose the song.

Kristen Bell: Okay. Fair enough. There's a chance.

Q: Why would you resist?

Kristen Bell: I wouldn't. I love it. I love it. But sometimes I feel like when people try to put other talents into the mix, sometimes… I felt a little silly at karaoke. But I'm glad we did it and it was fun. But I'm open to it.

Rob Thomas: We did it once, and I think we could have done it better. So the next time we do it, we'll do it more gracefully.

Q: Rob, you mentioned a couple times that you look on the Internet to see what the fans are saying about one thing or another. Is that very important to you in your making decisions about where the show's going to go? And, Kristen, do you pay attention to that stuff too?

Rob Thomas: It's very scary. It's… [pauses] I'm only pausing because it's a tricky answer. What I read on the Internet is reacting to stuff that has sailed six weeks ago that's already shot. It's like steering a big ship. I can't make any sudden turns based on what I read on there. And there are certain things that I just blow off. Anybody that we write in that stands between Veronica and Logan being together, they get eviscerated. So if that's Deputy Leo or Hannah, from this past season, fans rip into those with such gusto. And, yet, I can sit here and watch as a fan of television, as a producer of a show, and go, "Those actors are great and charming and I love them and I'm going to use them again no matter what I read, because they are just reacting to the fact that Veronica and Logan aren't together." So some of that I just blow off. Now, largely what I'm interested in when I read the board is, where do they think the mystery is going? Where are their heads? Are they buying into red herrings? Are they onto our killer too early? I want to know where they are standing with the mystery. You know, at the end of the year, I consider it successful if somewhere between 15 and 25 percent of the audience had the killer picked. That feels like the right number to me. I don't want everybody to get it so that we've been too easy. And I don't want to be so obscure that no one has a chance, because we picked one bellhop who crossed [camera] in Episode 3. I want to lay in clues. I want people, the close viewers, to have a chance at getting it right. So when I go on the Internet, particularly TelevisionWithoutPity, it's to see where they are standing with the mystery. And I also like to know, basically, whether they are giving episodes a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Though, generally, I know that long before I read it on the boards. I know when we've done a great episode, and I know when we've done an okay episode.

Q: Kristen, do you read the Internet boards too?

Kristen Bell: I've actually never been on any them. Although, I've heard they are pretty intense and pretty cool. And I've heard that there are a lot of kids and adults alike that have put a lot of effort into pictures and downloading clips and stuff. And I've heard they are really awesome. But I've never been on them, just because I don't really go on the Internet. I go on YouTube, because it makes me laugh, and I check my e-mail. That's all I do.

Veronica Mars Season 3 premieres on The CW on October 3rd at 9:00 pm ET/PT.

Check back for our upcoming coverage of the Veronica Mars panel at Comic-Con, plus several exclusive Veronica cast interviews from both the TCAs and Comic-Con.

Source: http://tv.ign.com/articles/719/719359p1.html