This year's PaleyFest kicked off Thursday night at Hollywood's Dolby Theater, and its first panel — hosted by HitFix's own Alan Sepinwall — gave the most diehard TV fans of the past decade their ultimate fix: the cast and creator of “Veronica Mars” all assembled, psyched, and taking questions about their Kickstarter-funded movie. The “Veronica Mars” film, which opens today, is a triumph for fans of the long-mourned series who want to see how Kristen Bell's wry heroine handles adulthood, a reunion with Logan, and a reintroduction to the seedy, strange world of Neptune, California. Attendees at PaleyFest also got to see a 40-minute documentary called “By the Fans,” which detailed the “Veronica Mars” movie's progress from hopeful internet campaign to its exhausting filming experience. Here are the 12 biggest takeaways from the highly spirited “Veronica Mars” panel, where creator Rob Thomas and stars Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra, Chris Lowell, Enrico Colantoni, Tina Majorino, and Ryan Hansen gabbed and expressed utter gratitude for their overjoyed fans/backers.
1. Kristen Bell might've suffocated without a Veronica Mars movie.
The documentary revealed how much Thomas, Bell, and the cast appreciate the support of their beloved “Marshmallows,” the name for “Mars” fans that comes from one of Wallace's lines in the first episode. In perhaps the greatest moment from the documentary, Bell turns to the camera and says, “My body wants to be Veronica Mars like it wants more oxygen.” For “Veronica Mars” fans and Veronica herself, fresh air means a return to Neptune.
2. Ryan Hansen is the funniest cast member. Full stop.
In cast full of hams, Ryan Hansen is somehow definitely the hammiest. He emerged from backstage in a “Risky Business”-style floor slide, and during the documentary he unleashed the funniest, most self-damning line about “Veronica” fandom. “The difference between regular fans and 'Veronica Mars' fans,” he said, “Is… I don't have any regular fans.”
3. Kristen Bell was hooked up to a breast pump every three hours on set.
Bell had just given birth before filming began, and that meant the new mother required certain breaks in order to survive 14- or 15-hour workdays. The look on her makeup technician's face as she explained how dedicated Bell was to working efficiently — that is, wearing the pump while memorizing lines or getting her makeup done — was one of pure, awed shock.
4. Warner Brothers became fans of Rob Thomas' Kickstarter video before the world did.
That “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter video you loved so much? Before the public saw it, it's what got Warner Brothers motivated to make the film possible. “Our video went viral within the halls of Warner Brothers. Executives over there started talking about it, started saying, 'Hey, why aren't we doing this?' The head of Warner Digital really sort of became the champion of the project and got behind it. Six months of me sort of wallowing in this depression ended when I got a call from agent saying, 'You're not going to believe this, but Warner Brothers is back into this idea. You're back on the right track.' We had a shot again.”
5. Chris Lowell (Piz) was pretty damn worried he wouldn't be in the movie.
Chris Lowell, who plays Veronica's post-Logan squeeze Stosh “Piz” Piznarski, was apparently worried he wouldn't be involved in a “Veronica Mars” movie considering fans generally prefer Dohring's character (Logan) over his. He felt he had the smallest chance of being invited back since the movie needed room for characters like “her two best friends, the bad-ass gangster, Papa Bear, and 'the Smolder.' [Logan],” he said, which garnered a huge laugh from the audience. “I was dead in the water.” Later he admitted his first question to Thomas about his character's involvement was “Let me guess — he gets killed?” Did I mention that Lowell is very endearing as an interviewee? Like many people in this cast, he's endlessly self-deprecating without it feeling like shtick.
6. Percy Daggs III (Wallace) had a plan in case he wasn't asked to be in the movie.
“I had the NAACP on speed dial,” he said. This may have inspired the most extreme applause of the evening.
7. The actress who seriously almost didn't make the cut was Krysten Ritter.
Thomas said that Krysten Ritter, the “Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” and “Breaking Bad” actress who played Gia Goodman in the second season of “Veronica Mars”, had other plans and barely figured out how to find time for the movie. “She'd booked a movie, and we wanted Krysten in the movie. We had a tight window to shoot this in because almost qll of our actors were involved in TV series. There's this little break from May through the middle of July. Krysten Ritter booked a movie and had key bits in it, so working around that schedule was the toughest of all.”
8. The first actress Thomas originally tried out for the role of Veronica Mars was… Kristen Bell.
“Kristen was the very first actress I saw. We spent three weeks, four weeks casting and I kept thinking, 'Was that first girl as brilliant as I thought she was?' Luckily the network and studio saw that, because the most painful thing ever for a producer creating a show is that the person you believe in as the star of the show not go through to the studio or network casting. A network or studio president can kill your casting choice,” Thomas said. He explained that Bell showed her true potential near the very beginning of the series during the scene in which Veronica realizes she's been raped. “She wakes up in this bed, this strange bed, and she sees her underwear on her floor and tears come down her face. We shot that scene and I was watching it from behind the monitor, and tears started coming down Kristen's face. I said, 'Holy sh*t. We have a star here.'”
9. You can guess what show Ryan Hansen thinks should get a Kickstarter campaign.
After Rob Thomas said that he'd donate to a “Freaks and Geeks” Kickstarter campaign, Ryan Hansen piped up to announce where'd he'd throw a few fan dollars. “Wait for it — 'Party Down,'” he said. Please let this happen, funding gods.
10. Rob Thomas knew he could sell the “Veronica Mars” TV show on two words.
What were the two magic words Rob Thomas felt could sell network executives on “Veronica Mars” in the first place? “Teen noir,” he said. And he was right. And for the record: Any episode of “Veronica Mars” is better than that teen noir movie from the same era, “Brick.”
11. If you're waiting for Veronica to hook up with Dick, buy the upcoming “Veronica Mars” book.
“At this point I'd like to put in a plug for the first book of the Veronica Mars series,” Thomas said late in the panel. “You might see a little Veronica-on-Dick action.” It's kind of a scary thought, no? Thankfully, Thomas is also aware that Dick did some horrible things to Veronica, particularly at the beginning of his arc on the show. “I will admit this is a show blind spot, and I don't have a good argument for this. There are a couple things I can't believe Veronica has forgiven Dick for. But every writer in the writer's room wants to throw Dick into a show. There are moments of his that seem irredeemable that I hope most people have just forgotten.”
12. If “Veronica Mars” gets a reboot on Netflix (fingers crossed), expect a racy upgrade.
“I would love to be able to do the R-rated version of 'Veronica Mars,'” Thomas said. “I would love to tell some darker stories. It's a large show and Veronica's an adult now.” Hear, hear! I'm all for Veronica's un-CW transformation. And if Netflix doesn't come through, Thomas said he believes “Veronica” could make for “a low-budget Bond franchise.” That would be sufficient too.