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Kristen Bell: Life After Veronica Mars
By Tim Leong
The critically acclaimed, quirky PI dramedy Veronica Mars is over, but Kristen Bell’s career is far from it. The sexy TV star is taking on Hollywood — and she doesn’t need backup.
Veronica Mars, may she rest in peace. Do you have any final thoughts now that the show is gone?
I’ll miss her. I really will. It was really unexpected, I think, but I’ve always had a lot of confidence in the show from Day 1 and tried to keep an optimistic outlook. I’m sad. A character like that, a group of people like that, writers like that, they don’t come along every day. So I’m really sad to see it go.
Are you ready to move on, or are you still dealing?
I’m still looking for closure. With something that special, once you get used to it, as I did for three years, it’s not until it’s ripped away from you that you truly realize what an amazing experience it was, and then you want it back. It’s kind of like high school. Everybody has to graduate — obviously I know I can’t play Veronica forever — but there’s an inevitable sadness. In reading a bunch of stuff now and trying to figure out what my next move is, I’ve certainly been grateful for how well-written the show was, because stuff like that doesn’t come along all the time. And even in the third season, I was still very excited to read each episode as an audience member. It still made me laugh out loud. It never got old. I had a blast making it and that was my family.
It really seemed like the third season catered heavily to the geek crowd. Was that conscious?
I don’t know if I should speak for the writers, if it was a conscious decision. I think that in opening up the college world, they were less about Veronica coming into her own as a young woman and more about her own interactions, which happened to be geeky. Her best friend is a computer genius, and they weren’t the “norm” or popular group, so I think they may have been looked at as geeky, but I think for Veronica it was normal.
When you started on Veronica Mars you pretty much came out of nowhere. Has the celebrity sunk in for you?
Not really. I’m not recognized very often, and if I am, it’s a die-hard Veronica Mars fan. Which is usually flattering and an honor. I really try not to think about it. I don’t think you can hold that in your perspective and be a normal person. I’m still looking for my next job, and I still have that feeling in the pit of my stomach that no one is ever going to hire me again. That never goes away. That’s something Randy Graff, who is this amazing Tony Award-winning actress, once told me when I was doing a show with her in New York. She said, “It never goes away, that I’m-never-going-to-work-again syndrome.” It’s not like you hit a certain point as a “celebrity” and think that your shit doesn’t stink and that you’re on top of the world. I suppose some people do, but it’s delusional. It’s absolutely delusional. I’m trying to find the next best project, not just a good career move, but something that will make me happy. Something that I’ll enjoy the people I’m working with. As lucky that I’ve been in my career, I’m still a human being. I’d rather take a shitty movie job that I had a lot of fun on, than work on the best movie of the year and be miserable. That’s one thing I’ve learned from working so hard. You gotta stay happy.
And what factors into that?
I mean, right now I’m doing a romantic comedy. It’s kinda a romantic comedy. It’s the new Judd Apatow movie called Forgetting Sarah Marshall, written by Jason Segel, who is in Knocked Up and is on How I Met Your Mother. I wanted to work with this group of people for a long, long time, and I’m so honored to do so now. I’m really having a blast, and I think if I wasn’t having such a great time right now, I’d be a lot more depressed about Veronica Mars being canceled. I’m very grateful for this group of people because they’re sorta keeping my spirits up. This is a very three-dimensional romantic comedy. I hate even to call it a romantic comedy because it’s not clichéd like most of them are. It really shows a breakup from both perspectives and both sides of the story. There’s not a single bad guy. At the same time, it’s very funny but also very real. So that was obviously what attracted me to the script, and I’m having a great time making it.
Are you looking to focus more on TV or films?
If something fantastic in television comes along, I’ll certainly look at it. I think what appeals to me right now is I want to play a lot of different types of characters, and I’ve got my fingers in a few different pots right now, so possibly movies for the time being, but I’m certainly not opposed to television. I probably wouldn’t play the main character on a one-hour drama again, because it’s so much work. But as long as I can enjoy it.
Has it been hard transitioning more to film?
The hours are better. I think as far as having opportunities, I’ve been really, really lucky, and I’m very grateful for what I’ve been able to be involved in. I’m not going to expect anything because then I think you can be truly grateful for things when you truly don’t expect them, but I’m still going to continue to work hard and not just assume that people want to hire me. There are hundreds of thousands of actresses they could decide to hire.
And your next movie, coming out in January, is Fanboys. How big of a Star Wars fan were you before this?
I mean, I liked the movies, but I certainly wasn’t as big of a fan as some of the people I’ve met shooting the movie. I liked it very much, but everyone was so knowledgeable and the boys would always throw in all these crazy references a lot more. I’ve added “scruffy nerf herder” to my road rage vocabulary.
In Fanboys your character is a brunette. As a blonde, was that liberating for you?
Oh, I fucking loved it.
Are you a typical blonde?
No, because I’m not stupid. I certainly can act the ditz when I need to, and it comes in handy. I’m not going to lie. But I think that’s part of what makes me smart, is that I know when to use it and I keep it in my back pocket. I’m a Polish blonde. I defy all stereotypes. I can be ditzy and smart as hell.
Did the wig give you a different edge?
It was nice not to be recognized. The cool thing was, when I’d pull on set as a blonde, every single day I was stopped by the security guard. Every single day. Because on set he would only see me as a brunette. It completely changed my look. I liked it. I kinda wanted to be a brunette, but I’d be scared all my hair would fall out.
Yeah, the bald look isn’t that popular these days.
Exactly! I’m not too much into the bald look.
I’ve heard you’re in a Princess Leia bikini in the movie.
Hell yes, I am. And let me tell you something. I worked out like the dickens to be in that bikini. I was like, you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to have to wear it, I’m going to try and look good. I ate well, I felt so good about it. I put it on and it started to snow. I kid you not, it was snowing and I was wearing virtually nothing. Just those two little metal pieces over the boobs — which get really cold by the way. And, like, a thong and that little sheet that goes in the front and the back. It was literally snowing. It was so disappointing, because I thought, “I’m going to rock this!” No. I was shivering.
Did you talk to Carrie Fisher when she was on the set?
I did. All the cameos were so great. Billy Dee Williams? I mean, what a stud.
Were there any points in the movie where it was like, hold the phone, this is way past nerdy?
Oh, deciding to make the film was way past nerdy. The top of the scale of geekdom? That’s where we started. Probably because the director [Kyle Newman] would literally bring his lightsaber to set every day. That’s part of the fun of it. I like being different and being unique. I love not caring what other people think. It was also all boys and me, which I guess I’m used to because of Veronica Mars. But they took me to a weapons dealer. There was a big fairground in Albuquerque where they had a bunch of booths set up and the boys wanted to go get weapons because they’re boys. We ended up going and everyone ended up buying all these weapons, and I was kinda confused at the beginning. People were buying throwing stars and pen tasers and nunchucks and all this crazy shit. I did buy a pair of nunchucks; I’m not going to lie. We all ended up buying these BB guns that weren’t really hard-shooting, but they shoot hard enough to leave a welt. And throughout the course of shooting the movie, we ended up having these BB gun wars in the hotel. And it got so intense, we made a pact we wouldn’t shoot at the face, so the actors wore sweatshirts and sunglasses, which made it look even creepier. We’re all running around with these bazooka-looking weapons, shooting BB guns. We were running through the hotel lobby, through the kitchen, through the stairways, through the hallways. I was so surprised someone didn’t call the police. Once we were doing it in the parking lot and someone actually did call the police and we had to stop.
Is it tough doing comedy? With all these funny actors with Fanboys and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is it intimidating being around so many comedians when you have to be funny as well?
It’s really intimidating. I find myself slipping into audience mode, where I just find myself sitting back and laughing. I’m the first to break in a scene. I’m so bad at keeping my composure and I just end up giggling. I try my best to keep a straight face, but it makes for a really fun day. Simply put as that, you’re always laughing on set; you’re always happy to come to work.
And talking about Forgetting Sarah Marshall, how does that even work with Jason Segel, who is, like, 15 feet tall and you’re, like, 5-foot?
[laughs] He is the tallest man in the universe, I’ll tell you that right now! It actually only adds to the comedy, I think, because Jason is a foot-and-a-half taller than I am. I’m in very high heels for half of the film. So it is kinda funny in and of itself because he’s so big and I’m so small. Opposites attract.
Were you able to hold your own? With this movie, and Fanboys?
I have no idea. We’ll see when they come out. I hope so. I don’t really feel like it, but I think that if I do feel like it I would have to call myself on my own bullshit. I would never answer that question and be like, “Oh definitely, I can hold my own.” Then I’d just have to slap myself. I’m trying really hard, and I’m enjoying it. I hope I’m adding something useful to the pot.
Are you still auditioning for your roles?
Absolutely. I am not that cool yet. [laughs] I auditioned for Sarah Marshall.
Why do you think you got it?
Maybe because I went into the room wanting it so bad. I told them that. I told them I’d work really hard and that I’d be game for whatever they threw at me because it was a lot of improv, and I think you have to stay on your toes but you also have to be open and be game for whatever comes your way. If you come in thinking you know what you’re doing, it backfires. You gotta let the director do what he’s doing and just take the ride with him. I just went in, told them how badly I wanted it and tried to stay open.
What’s the hardest part about improv for you?
Oh shit, trying to keep up with all these crazy mofos! Russell Brand, who is this European comedian who hasn’t really hit America but will shortly take over the world — mark my words — he speaks so fast I can’t even catch up sometimes. I mean I really can’t. And so is Jason. And acting with the two of them, I’m lucky my character isn’t a genius who thinks really fast. Not that she’s slow, but I can take them in a little bit more. When the two of them are in a scene together, it’s definitely a battle of the wits. I just kinda go in and do it. You can’t think about it. That’s the whole thing about improv: you can’t do anything in advance.
What’s with the voice-overs? You’re voicing a character in the video game Assassin’s Creed, you’re doing voice-over for the new TV show Gossip Girl and you’re also doing the main character, Hex, in Flatland: The Movie.
I am. And actually one that’s not on there, it’s a cartoon called Sheepish [about a cursed wolf who becomes a sheep] that hasn’t come out yet. I really like being in the voice-over booth. I think doing so much voice-over on Veronica Mars got me very used to it. And it’s easy, having studied music, to be in a VO booth. I like it. They seem to be the jobs that keep coming up.
Are you going to Comic-Con and those conventions?
Of course I am going to Comic-Con. Are you joking?
Do those things intimidate you with all those fans and people?
They do a little bit, but I try to go incognito. I wear my glasses. I think that makes a world of difference. Oh my god, do you want to hear a really funny story?
At this Star Wars celebration a couple weekends ago, I was running around trying to get pictures with everybody because there were so many characters there and I wanted to have an album. I felt like a little kid at Disneyland and wanted to get everyone. I got pictures with Darth Vader, I got pictures with this Boba Fett that was dressed like a pimp. He had like a pimp suit on and these stacked heels and was carrying around a glass of wine. It was really hysterical. And so I went up to a group of storm troopers and I said, “Excuse me, can I take my picture with you?” And he looked at me and he kind goes, “Ehh. Make it quick.” I was like, dude, you are the one in head-to-toe costume right now. Don’t look at me like I’m the freak because I want to take a picture with you. You came in costume, why wouldn’t you want me to take pictures with you?
Well if you really wanted to go incognito, you could always wear that brunette wig.
True. So true.
Do you ever geek out at those conventions?
When we went to that Star Wars celebration, I probably stalked this guy dressed up as Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean for, like, 45 minutes around the convention center. Because he moves quick, I didn’t realize that. I wanted to get a picture with him. I had pictures with all the characters. But that was kinda geeking out because I couldn’t keep my focus — I wanted a picture with him so bad. And I don’t know why I did. He just put so much effort into it. He was head-to-toe Captain Jack that day.
Head to toe.
Head to toe, it was awesome.
That’s funny, because at conventions do you have people who follow you around?
Yes, sometimes, which I find weird, because I’m usually following someone else around.
Have you had any crazy fan encounters?
Some people cry. Which is so strange to me. It’s not strange that they’d love something so much. I’m sure I felt that way about god knows what. Probably 90210. But the fact that’s it me — it’s strange to be the focus of that. I’m not really responsible. I’m acting Veronica, but Veronica wasn’t my idea. It’s strange that the actors tend to get credit for everything when there are so many other people involved that make a great show or a great production. And I think it’s the duty of the actor to be gracious and say thank you to everybody.
What about the bad parts about this business?
Of course. Around every corner there’s something bad or gross or evil. I think just keeping your head screwed on straight you can look past all the bullshit. There’s a lot of bullshit. People bullshit you left and right. I think the worst part is that I can get really work-obsessed. And I need to remember to slow down and enjoy life a little bit. I don’t think I’m really susceptible to the stereotype of the young-actress-party-girl because it’s just not me. It never has been, and I don’t think it will be. I don’t really drink. I rarely, rarely drink. I don’t like going out because clubs are kinda stinky, and I don’t like other people sweating on me. I’m doing my best to stay as normal as possible.