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We Used to Be Friends: An Oral History of Veronica Mars

Kristen Bell, Rob Thomas, Ryan Hansen, Max Greenfield, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Percy Daggs III, Enrico Colantoni, Tina Majorino, and more reminisce about the landmark UPN series.

Vanity Fair

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Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars; Ryan Hansen, Kyle Gallner, and Jason Dohring; Bell and Percy Daggs. Clockwise from left: © Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection; Courtesy of Rob Thomas; By Justin Lubin/© Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection

Welcome to Neptune, California, a sunny seaside haven that’s home to an unlikely hero: a 17-year-old detective underdog, a cynical sleuth fighting for just causes and decency in a world that’s never afforded her any.

Creator Rob Thomas channeled his voice into this prickly, sharp-witted, resilient teenager: the titular protagonist of Veronica Mars, indelibly portrayed by Kristen Bell. Veronica’s instincts for survival help her overcome incredible obstacles: her best friend’s murder, ostracism, abandonment, rape. What would break most anyone only fuels Veronica’s fire; no matter what she faces, she comes out the other side as a stronger, sarcastic Joan of Arc, seeking vindication for the downtrodden. As Bell put it: “Her self-esteem comes from helping people who are being taken advantage of. Having experienced that feeling, she has vowed to never feel it again.”

Though the show that bears her name aired for only three years on UPN (from 2004–2007), Veronica cast a long shadow. The show was adored by critics who appreciated its daring twists on hoary teen-drama tropes, regularly including it on their must-watch and best-of lists. It launched the careers of several future stars, including Bell, Amanda Seyfried, Tessa Thompson, and Ryan Hansen. And while its ratings may have been modest, Veronica also won the rabid devotion of a cult fandom—the self-proclaimed “Marshmallows” who have helped Veronica Mars live on long after its premature cancellation. They’re the reason Thomas and Bell have been able to bring Veronica back twice—first in 2014, after a 2013 Kickstarter campaign to fund a follow-up movie that blew past its $2 million goal in less than one day. (It ultimately raised nearly three times that much.) On July 26, 2019, Veronica returned to the small screen once more, this time in an eight-episode revival series on Hulu.

To celebrate this pioneering series, Vanity Fair looks back at the television show’s history, as told by Thomas, Bell, Hansen, Ken Marino, Max Greenfield, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Percy Daggs III, Francis Capra, Enrico Colantoni, Tina Majorino, and more of the cast and creative team members who made Veronica Mars so unforgettable.

Bell and Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars. © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Rob Thomas began his writing career as a young-adult novelist. For his fourth book, he pitched and sold the idea of an untitled male teen detective whose father was the sheriff of Travis County, Texas.

Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars creator): He was going to go to Westlake High School, which is a rich suburban school district in Austin. I went there as a kid, not because we lived in the district but because my dad was the vice principal. Those were the John Hughes years for me.

To support his writing career, Thomas taught high-school English and journalism—a fertile breeding ground for understanding the teenage psyche.

Thomas: I thought how prematurely jaded this generation of teenagers was becoming. How there’s so much information available to them that they become older [at a younger age]. So I knew thematically, I wanted to do a story about someone who’d lost their innocence before they should. At some point, I thought, it’s an interesting story as a boy—but feels righter if that person’s a girl.

Thomas eventually made his way to Hollywood, writing for Dawson’s Creek and his own show, Cupid. After signing a deal at 20th Century Fox, he wrote a dark spec script about a female teen detective that echoed elements of Heathers and His Girl Friday. He gave the lead character a name he thought screamed noir and badass, inspired in part by Chris Mars, the drummer from the Replacements. At a getting-to-know-you meeting with the UPN network, opportunity knocked.

Maggie Murphy (then-senior vice president of UPN): When I joined the network, it was the African-American, sci-fi, wrestling network. It was the lowest of low. Then Top Model hit.

Thomas: Maggie said, “We’re going to try to start selling young female empowerment stories.” I said, “I have this script…”

Murphy: I thought it sounded like a current-day Nancy Drew. I didn’t know how to sell that. Then I read it…and fell in love with the words.

UPN greenlighted a pilot. Danielle Stokdyk and Jennifer Gwartz, heads of the TV division at Silver Pictures, got their boss, movie mogul Joel Silver, to come on board as producer.

Danielle Stokdyk (co-executive producer): It was so different than anything I’d ever read…. She was an underdog we hadn’t seen before, smart and self-assured, yet vulnerable.

Jennifer Gwartz (co-executive producer): This was a young woman who wasn’t afraid to advocate for what she believed in, large or small.

While television had recently given audiences young female heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias’s Sydney Bristow, those women were either following their destiny or trained to kick ass. Veronica’s strength came from somewhere else.

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars): Veronica’s a whip-smart, witty girl…. In the face of the most extreme adversity and grief, she builds an emotional shield that allows her to piece her life back together.

Percy Daggs III (Wallace Fennel): She’s a funny, machete-tongued badass who you hope is on your side to make things right, or you aren’t in her way when things go left.

Francis Capra (Eli “Weevil” Navarro): She’s a superhero without a cape.

Stokdyk: There are these boys at school making fun of this girl who hired Veronica to find her missing dog. Veronica takes them down, but then lays into the girl: “You want people to leave you alone or better yet, treat you with respect? Demand it. Make them.” That epitomizes who she is. She’s not a victim.

One hundred actresses tested for Veronica. But none could compete with the first one Thomas saw: Bell.

Thomas: [Casting director] Deedee Bradley sent me a Lifetime movie where Kristen played the daughter of a drug addict. I thought it showed she had this innate toughness and smarts, things I wanted for Veronica.

Diane Ruggiero (writer/producer): In the script, Rob described her as a young Angelina Jolie. Then you start watching, and it’s Kristen. Once I made the adjustment, I was so on board with this girl and whatever she wants to do. I would follow her into a fire.

Bell: I have the type of personality that comes across very sweet. I like that about myself. But there’s a ticker tape in my head of some of the snarkiest comments imaginable. Veronica seems to be the direct opposite…. It was very stimulating.

Veronica’s dad, Keith Mars, is a classic-noir type: the disgraced copper turned private dick. But on Mars, he was also an idealized father and honest lawman with a strong sense of justice that he passes onto his daughter.

Thomas: We weren’t looking at character actors. The list was designed as UPN hunky; guys you’d think of as traditional soap-opera leading men.

Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars): I’m not your classic P.I. I’m a bald, offbeat, dumpy guy who has a funny bone.

Thomas: Rico makes me laugh. I loved him on Just Shoot Me! and as Mathesar [in Galaxy Quest.] I was a huge fan.

Colantoni: He says I’m grounded; I think I’m neurotic…. I was trying to convince Rob that he was making a poor choice in hiring me. And then he graciously pointed out that Kristen and I have a very similar jawline. That put me at ease and made me think that I could do this.

Jason Dohring originally read for the role of Duncan Kane—brother of Lilly Kane, Veronica’s murdered best friend. When his admittedly James Dean-esque approach failed to connect, casting had him read instead for the role of Logan Echolls, described as “the obligatory psychotic jackass.”

Jason Dohring (Logan Echolls): I’d been working on this piece in class called, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? It’s an old piece [Al] Pacino did on Broadway. It’s a really heavy piece…. I found that if I toned that down a little bit and had a little more fun, that was Logan for me.

Thomas: There’s this intense scene where Logan’s dad pushes in the cigarette lighter, and you can tell there’s this whole daddy dearest thing going on. Jason was so powerful in that scene…it was no contest.

Dohring: After that scene, Rob came up and hugged me…. In the final audition, he said, “We’re not going to do that scene because it’s freaking people out.” I was like, what are you talking about? I’m fucking acting.

Bell and Daggs at the beach. Courtesy of Rob Thomas.

Percy Daggs III read for Wallace Fennel, the show’s moral center and Veronica’s most loyal friend.

Daggs III: It was my first big network studio test. I had all kinds of emotions and feelings running through me…. I went in and sat down. Kristen comes in and sits across from me and says, “No matter who’s in there, just go in with me and you’ll have fun.” It was comforting.

Thomas would create the role of hacker Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie for Tina Majorino—helping fulfill a promise he’d made to the actress years before, when she’d interviewed him for a school report about one of his books.

Thomas: Veronica didn’t have any female friends, and we thought it was important to have a female friend, and Tina seemed perfect for the role.

Tina Majorino (Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie): Mac’s an independent, rebellious, hyper-intelligent, confident girl. She had colored hair before it was super-chic…. I liked that her and Veronica could be vulnerable with each other, but really demanded respect and were tough with the outside world when they needed to be.

Another fan favorite, Eli “Weevil” Navarro, led a biker gang called the PCHers. In Neptune, he forever found himself behind the eight ball, doomed by the hand he’d been dealt at birth.

Thomas: I was thinking about The Outsiders…I liked the idea that in a town full of spoiled rich snobs, the outlaw biker guy could be the fun antihero.

Capra: I said, “I’m playing another gang member”…I quickly learned that wasn’t the case…. Yes, he was a prick, famous for putting his enemies up on flagpoles at school—but he also made a promise to his grandmother that he’d graduate and he did…I thought it was such a precious opportunity to play that guy with the tattoos and the bald head, civilizing the gang culture.

Teddy Dunn originally tested for Logan. Months later, he came back to read for Duncan.

Dunn: I didn’t remember the character, because he only had five lines in the pilot. My agent and manager said, no way you do a pilot with five lines. I remember Rob really pushing it…. The fact that I was living in a dilapidated building with roaches helped push me out the door.

Jason Dohring and Bell. By Scott Humbert/© Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection.

Filming took place in San Diego—far removed from Hollywood excess—on a soundstage that had been previously used to shoot military videos and softcore porn. The young cast immediately took to the new city, and to each other.

Majorino: It’s always nice when there’s not that Hollywood vibe that can kill the on-set charm.

Capra: It was paradise to me. Jason, Teddy, Percy, and I all relocated to the same apartment complex. It felt like we were at college or a resort.

Michael Muhney (Sheriff Lamb): Everyone was excited and young…they all had bubbly, eyes-wide-open personalities—but when it got down to doing the work, everyone matured 15 years beyond their age.

Bell: I didn’t know how to do life, so I was sort of making it up as I went…. I remember one of the first couple of episodes, when none of my paychecks had cleared. I was behind on my heating bill, or the heating had broken in my little studio house and it was freezing. I went out and slept in my car with the engine on all night.

The number one name on the show’s call sheet soon set the tone for the rest of the cast.

Colantoni: There were times when I would talk Kristen down and help her understand things. That took all of six months before she became a veteran.

Max Greenfield (Leo D’Amato): There are certain types of leaders on set, people who occupy the number one position who understand all the responsibilities. A part of that goes so much beyond acting.

Julie Gonzalo (Parker Lee): She treated everyone equally, whether you’re catering, the first A.D., director, or whatever.

Bell: When I was doing The Crucible on Broadway I became good friends with Laura Linney. She said if you ever start working in film and TV, here’s what you need to know. You learn the names of, be kind to, and respect the gaffers, grips, and cameramen because without them you’re going to look terrible…. It’s a team effort just like this is. That stuck with me.

Though film noir typically emphasizes seedy, black-and-white atmospheres, with lots of gray in-between, Veronica Mars chose a different canvas.

Mark “Piz” Piznarski (pilot director): I pictured Neptune as looking like Venice, California, in the ‘60s, with Banksy and spray cans full of the weirdest colors. I wanted fuchsia and chartreuse—colors you don’t see in life very often, like they did in Man on Fire.

Dan Etheridge (producer): We called it color noir, which is a nonsensical thing.

Piznarski and the pilot’s cinematographer, Victor Hammer, chose skewed camera angles and wide lens that enabled viewers to get inside characters’ heads while still seeing a million miles behind them.

Piznarski: I didn’t want anything to feel comfortable. There’s this shot where everyone’s moving fast and Veronica’s in slow-motion. She’s completely separated from everybody, but they’re all a little out of sync.

Rob Thomas and Bell play cat’s cradle on set. Courtesy of Rob Thomas.

Bell helped shape Veronica’s look.

Bell: Rob built her emotional armor in the context of the story. I, along with the prop and costume department, built her physical armor—her leather jacket, her combat boots, her dark-colored wardrobe. Her bag to me is her binky that has all her weapons and tools in it.

A cast of recurring offbeat Neptune characters aided and opposed Veronica’s sleuthing efforts—including the corrupt, dim-witted Sheriff Lamb, the oily, smarmy private investigator Vinnie Van Lowe (Ken Marino), the kind-hearted, scavenging public defender Cliff McCormack (Daran Norris), and the sincere, sparkly Deputy D’Amato (Max Greenfield).

Bell: It speaks to Rob’s strengths in casting and character development that there isn’t a character on the show you wouldn’t remember by name.

Thomas: We wrote the role [of Detective Van Lowe] with Paul Rudd in mind. Paul’s schedule changed, and then Ken said he could do it.

Ken Marino (Vinnie Van Lowe): Vinnie is the sardine in Veronica’s peanut-butter sandwich. Sometimes he’s good. Sometimes he’s bad. But without Vinnie, you’d just be left with some buttery nuts smeared between two pieces of white bread.

Colantoni: Lamb’s this young, attractive guy who comes from a narcissistic, insecure place of heavy-handedness.

Thomas: We wanted somebody who was corrupt and dumb…. If he’s an arrogant, dim-witted lunk, then we could buy the teenager outwitting him pretty consistently.

Muhney: In the pilot, Lamb gets duped by Veronica, who throws him the “finger gun” with a wink. I did several takes, but wasn’t giving the right reaction. Rob comes over and whispers in my ear, “Lamb and Veronica have an interesting relationship. He’s not out to get her or even angry with her. Think ‘game on’ every time you see her.” From that moment, and with those two little words, I knew how to play Lamb.

Thomas: I did a bit of research on how P.I.s get their cases. Often, they’re hired by defense attorneys who need help doing background on casework. I thought, here’s an avenue. I think he [Cliff] has kind of a moral compass. He’s a bottom-feeder who’s taking any case he can get. A little bit of an ambulance chaser with a heart of gold.

Daran Norris (Cliff McCormack): I’ve always felt that Cliff’s mundane existence as a public defender was lit up by working alongside truly clever people—Keith and Veronica…. Their characters are ethical good guys to whom justice and truth really matter, played by people who embody those qualities.

Greenfield: I didn’t really serve the story at all, but Rob and Dan were like, “We really like him. Can we have him pop in and out for no reason at all?”

Thomas: When someone’s in the show and lights it up, we’re going to go back to them. It helps that Max is one of our favorite people alive.

Ryan Hansen as Dick Casablancas. From Snap Stills/Shutterstock.

And then there was obnoxious surfer dude Dick Casablancas, played by Ryan Hansen. Everyone wanted to write for Hansen, which quickly elevated him from a one-off day player to series regular.

Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas): From what Dan and Rob tell me, the hair’s why they liked me so much.

Chris Lowell (Stosh “Piz” Piznarski): Ryan’s the best human being alive. My first day in San Diego, I had no idea what to do. Ryan introduced himself, and asked if I wanted to go surfing. We surfed in the sunset. Then we hopped on skateboards and skated to Little Italy and had an Italian dinner. Then we came back and he made me watch his wedding videos for like two and a half hours while he and his wife wept.

Bell: He’s a human ball of charisma. He’s an Alka-Seltzer, and the world’s water. He just fizzles everyone around him wherever he goes.

Thomas: In the first episode he was in, his name was “09er Dick.” He eventually got to lose the “09er” and kept “Dick.” That was meant to be a description, not a name…. In episode four, a teacher says, “Veronica, what’s your position on this?” He delivered a two-word joke, “All fours,” and we said, “We’re going back to him.”

Thomas had a very specific vision for how he wanted to introduce Veronica to audiences. But Les Moonves, then the president of CBS—which also owned UPN—had other ideas.

Thomas: In the original opening, Veronica, sitting in front of the Camelot hotel in this world-weary voiceover, talks about how she’s never going to get married. She’s staking out a seedy motel at two in the morning with a trig book on her lap. A motorcycle gang drives up and surrounds the car. I was so proud of that opening. I loved that opening. Then Moonves said, “It’s a high-school show. It should start in a high school.” So instead, it’s Veronica driving into a parking lot with this clumsy voiceover…. It always breaks my heart when I see it on TV.

Veronica rises from the ashes of multiple tragedies, starting with the murder of her best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried), and ending with her rape and mother’s abandonment. But when the pilot went into post-production, the network got cold feet about including sexual assault as a plot point.

Thomas: Part of it was that Kristen’s performance was so raw, beautiful, and real. It had an emotional punch I don’t think they were prepared for. So they kept making me tighten it up, like they were trying to win this battle 10 frames at a time.

Murphy: I said you have to have the rape. It’s the underpinning of her angst, her pain.

Thomas: We started doing these takes with her waking up in the morning. Kristen got up, picked up her underwear, got a steely look in her eyes. Tears came running down her face and I was like, “Holy Christ. Look at that.” It was remarkable.

Veronica reports her assault to Sheriff Lamb. Instead of giving her empathy, he mocks her. That moment transforms her.

Muhney: I’ll never forget delivering these lines to a young girl who cries every time I say them. A little piece of my soul died every time I did that to her.

Ruggiero: In that moment, that could be a kid who went in a completely different direction…that innocent girl who was thinking lip gloss and going to parties with her friends suddenly becomes this crusader.

UPN had already filled the open drama slot on its fall schedule—but Murphy helped secure a second slot for Mars. The series had tested strongly, due in large part to Keith and Veronica’s unique father-daughter relationship.

Colantoni: The day before principal photography, we were both staying in the same hotel and she called me in my room. We spent a good hour just chatting. That’s really when I fell in love with her. The rest was just so easy to do.

Ethridge: It was kismet. They came on the set and, right from the beginning, had each other’s numbers as human beings, actors, and characters.

Colantoni: There’s a little codependency and dysfunction that I always loved. That’s what made them so real. It wasn’t just, I love my daughter. No: she frustrates the shit out of me, but I can’t help but be so proud of her at the same time.

Bell: I believe in following the child. Veronica wanted space, responsibility, and a battlefield, and Keith, to the best of his ability, made that possible…. I liked how much he let Veronica off leash to discover who she was.

Thomas: In the original ending of the pilot, Veronica breaks into her dad’s safe and finds that he’s continued investigating the Lilly Kane murder mystery. But what she also finds in there is a series of postcards from her mother that her dad wasn’t showing to her…. It was going to be a huge moment where the one person in the world she has counted on seems to betray her. The note from the network was her best friend’s dead, she’s been raped, her mother abandoned her, her dad lost his job. Can she just have her dad? It was a really good note.

Bell takes a photo of Capra and Teddy Dunn. Courtesy of Rob Thomas.

The show’s heat came from LoVe (i.e. Logan and Veronica)—an unplanned, passionate pairing that uprooted Thomas’s original plans.

Dunn: Duncan and Veronica were always meant to be together.

Thomas: I wanted Teddy to be JFK, to have this sense of noblesse oblige. That his clique was the rich kids, and he was the richest of kids, but wasn’t an asshole about it.

Dunn: He told me that Duncan was going to suffer from bipolar disorder…. I remember early on I had a great coming-out episode when I was off my medication and feeling good about where the character was going. And then other things developed.

Thomas: Jason has this intensity. There’s a scene in the pilot in which Veronica plants a bong in his locker. School security’s walking him down the hallway. Veronica makes a smart-ass face at him, and he goes after her…. He’s supposed to be held back. We’d say, “You don’t get to her.” The next time, he’d fight through and get to her. It took eight or nine takes before he didn’t claw his way through.

Dohring: I went to this dirt road up by my house. I was throwing rocks around, trying to understand what this guy would be like. This little bird chirped, and I turned around like, “What the fuck do you want?” Right then, it clicked. He hates everything. And he likes it.

Bell: I don’t look at Jason and think, I’m absolutely in love with him, and am going to leave my husband. But when you watch us on film, something’s there, and it’s undeniable.

Ruggiero: Everyone wanted to write scenes with them. It was like, “We have to go that way.”

Thomas: I love those slow-played romances. I thought we did a nice job of slow-playing that relationship.

The show became a media darling out of the gate, but airing on a smaller network with limited exposure created ratings challenges. The cast made appearances across the country to drum up interest.

Daggs III: Hearing some of the things that people say to you is mind-blowing. A woman yelled out once, “Wallace, if I could just have the lint out of your pocket.”

Capra: We got so many young women coming to the Bloomingdale’s in New York. They had to shut it down. That was a big boost to my ego. I was making sexy faces in the mirror for six months straight after that.

A group of dedicated superfans formed and named themselves “Marshmallows,” in reference to something Wallace calls Veronica in the pilot. A symbiotic relationship developed between them and the cast.

Bell: There’s nothing stronger than a community, in my mind. We created a community, the show and fans.

Colantoni: To this day, when people stop me for this or that show or film, it’s always nice to meet them. But when a Marshmallow stops me, I know who they were, what they went through, how they felt about the show. I know something about them.

Bell: The main feedback I receive from fans is, “I had a tough time in high school. This got me through it.” There’s not a better feeling on the planet. The appreciation’s a two-way street. None of us take that for granted.

Amanda Seyfried and Dunn. © Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection.

At the vanguard of social media, the writers flocked to the website Television Without Pity, a fan forum that offered immediate feedback during and after episodes.

Etheridge: Getting the fans to so quickly jump in and say we’re passionate about what you’re thinking about, it bonded us immediately to them. That happens so routinely now that it’s not profound—but it was then.

Thomas: People wrote very thoughtful essays. It wasn’t 140 characters. It’d be a solid two paragraphs.

Ruggiero: You could go on there and have your ego boosted, or be completely crushed and crawl into a bottle for a week. They’d be guessing something that was going to happen, and they’d be right, and you’d be really worried about it. Or they’d be so far off, and we’d be pretty excited because we knew we were safe.

Thomas filled every frame with story, mingling a season-long mystery with smaller, episodic cases that took place in and out of high-school and college settings.

Gonzalo: It was like high school on crack.

Thomas: I was such an enormous fan of Freaks and Geeks. Just a straight teen-coming-of-age story…it didn’t even get a full season. Part of wanting there to be all this plot in Veronica Mars was a device that network executives could look at and go, “I get how that could run for a 100 episodes.” I gave it lots of plot so they would let me write about teenagers.

All of those stories involved Veronica, requiring Bell to be in almost every scene that first season. In season two, Thomas added small story lines that didn’t include her, reworking the shooting schedule to give her time off.

Lowell: There were times when she’d wrap so late and have to be back at work so early that she’d just sleep in her trailer. I think she called it “the Lodge.”

Muhney: She slept on set. Ate on set. Her dog was on set. Her boyfriend visited on set. She was the only cast member that was actually a community member of Neptune.

Etheridge: The sheer volume of dialogue that she would have to memorize every day—and she would come in and just be perfect. You rarely had to give her notes.

Ruggiero: I had to talk with her in her trailer once about something during lunchtime. She was working out with a trainer, doing lunges, in hair and makeup, practicing her lines. And then we shot to midnight.

One of the series’s main mysteries concerned who killed Lilly Kane. That answer came at the climax of season one, when we learned that Logan’s father, Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin) was the perpetrator. In the finale’s climactic moments, Echolls stuffs Veronica in an outdoor refrigerator and sets fire to the porch around her.

Bell: Rob knows when to remind you that she’s a child, and when to let you surf on her wit…. What I remember about that scene was it being exhausting. It was an exhaustive cortisol spike.

Thomas: In this particular case, I felt like it’s okay if Keith comes to the rescue. It’s a 16-year-old girl with an adult male murderer in her back seat. This feels like a time for dad.

Colantoni: Harry was so much fun to get punched by. I think Rob’s reference was that fight on The Sopranos that had just aired a few months earlier. The one between Joe Pantoliano and James Gandolfini. That was the idea we were working on. Re-create a real fight that included throwing things, biting, and kicking. Just anything that was raw and real. It wasn’t two guys fighting like Navy Seals—they were two schmoes trying to hurt each other.

The end of season two included another major reveal: the identity of Veronica’s rapist, Cassidy “Beaver” Casablancas (Kyle Gallner), who’d also instigated a tragic school-bus trash.

Bell: I love Kyle with all my heart. He’s just an incredibly cool guy. Seeing him go through that tortured scene was definitely kick-starting my maternal instincts.

Thomas: The way Beaver steps off the roof is one of my favorite moments. It looks amazing and I thought that was effective. And it’s one of my prouder music placements: a very dark cover of the Kinks song “See My Friends.” I was pleased with how well that song went with Beaver’s farewell line, “My name is Cassidy.”

In season three, tempers flared among Marshmallows when the show introduced new love interests for Logan—Parker Lee, played by Julie Gonzalo—and Veronica: Piznarski, played by Chris Lowell and named in honor of the pilot’s director.

Gonzalo: You feel for Parker right off the bat, because of all the trauma she goes through. And then she comes into play between two people meant to be together. You don’t get in the middle of those two.

Lowell: I was the asshole on the show, coming to break up the big love. I was going to throw a hand grenade in the romance everybody wanted so badly. Rob warned me out of the gate, “You will be the least liked character on this show.”

Bell and Francis Capra. From Snap Stills/Shutterstock.

From the moment of Veronica and Piz’s first kiss, Marshmallows broke into two territorial camps: Team Piz and Team Logan.

Dohring: I’m a father of three, so Piz is the sure bet. Maybe not the most passionate, as far as the relationship may go, but as far as being a decent guy.

Lowell: Logan’s a frickin’ sex bomb. He’s the bad boy that everyone wants with a heart of gold, which is a fantasy.

Dohring: The electricity and passion are on the other side…I’d be Team Logan, probably.

Lowell: Piz has never been accused of murdering anyone. He’s a good guy, respectful, turn-the-other cheek, look-for-the-best-in-people kind of person. I wish we had more of them on this planet. I think with a population of Piz’s, we’d have a happier world than if it was Logans. No one would walk. They’d just frolic.

Bell: As I hold my arms in front of my face, expecting the onslaught of anger from my Marshmallows, I was Team Piz, and I’ll tell you why. Because if my daughter were dating someone like Logan, it would be hard for me to root for them—because he really needed to get his shit together…. Piz treated her well, so there was a part of me, Kristen, that wanted Veronica to find someone more stable like Piz. That wasn’t to deny any of the chemistry or deep intense love and vulnerability she felt with Logan. Now, my feelings have changed since the reboot. I am now Team Logan again, because they do things with Logan in the reboot that the fans are going to want to see.

Piz and Logan eventually settled matters with their fists.

Lowell: Jason was upset when we were done with the fight sequence and saw what we looked like. He said it looked like Piz whooped my ass. I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You have a bloody lip and black eye. I look like I should be read my last rites.”

Everyone in the cast and crew has their own pick for the definitive Veronica Mars moment.

Dohring: She says to her dad when he says he can’t find her [mom], “You can find anybody.” That was the best line in the show for me. It pulled my heart out of my body.

Bell: I really enjoyed that we made the ladies’ room Veronica’s office in high school. I think that’s exactly right…. I have a fondness for when I would make Wallace steal files from the school office. It’s a funny dynamic to have someone have a little bit of leverage and a lot of charm, leaning on someone else and forcing them to participate when they know they could get in trouble.

Daggs III: I had special moments like my mom working at the cash register at the Sack-N-Pack, when I see my dad.

Greenfield: I remember we did an ’80s costume thing. I have a Miami Vice suit on, and they dressed Kristen up as Madonna. It’s one of those moments where you say, “I can’t believe I do this for a living.”

Ruggiero: Veronica and Lilly in that dream where they’re floating on rafts holding hands. That’s a really powerful moment…her thinking this is what my life should be. I should just be a beautiful girl out here with my beautiful friend, just having a moment of being young and happy and floating in a fucking pool.

Dohring, Tessa Thompson, Dunn and Bell. From Snap Stills/Shutterstock.

The show helped launch many careers—including those of Seyfried, Tessa Thompson (Jackie Cook), and Krysten Ritter (Gia Goodman). Its guest roster also included future stars like Jessica Chastain and Armie Hammer.

Dunn: Amanda was a lot of fun to work with. I remember people watching her in the video village and talking about her and thinking she was going to be a star.

Ruggiero: We all love Tessa. She was the coolest person. I remember meeting her and thinking, she’s 15 years younger than me and cooler than I’ll ever be.

Although he had to pass on the Van Lowe role, Paul Rudd ended up appearing as a washed-up rock star in season three.

Etheridge: We were inspired by Withnail and I, which is one of our favorite movies.

Lowell: Paul was so easy and mellow. I had a million questions for him about Wet Hot American Summer, and he answered all of them.

Ruggiero: Rob’s assistant, Alex, had to buy Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua french fries, because the Chihuahua ate McDonald’s french fries. Me, miss animal lover, was like, is that all she’s feeding that dog, fucking fries?

Ratings issues consistently placed the series on the bubble for cancellation—until Marshmallows took matters into their own hands, flooding network offices with Mars Bars one year and an airplane banner another. They even sent dollar bills with “Veronica Mars is smarter than me” written on them, another reference to a joke from the show.

Gwartz: We had such a fervent fan base so devoted to this character and show that they took it upon themselves to lead their own movement to advocate for renewal.

Thomas: I don’t know what would have happened had the fans not supported us, but I’m grateful.

Nevertheless, the show got canceled after its third season. Thomas tried to revive it with a backdoor pilot that placed Veronica in the FBI, under the tutelage of a character played by Walton Goggins. It didn’t get a greenlight.

Ruggiero: We had shitloads of fun writing it. I remember writing at an airport in Costa Rica between flights. I was sitting next to a goat, on my suitcase.

Thomas: it was a Hail Mary. The network had asked me about writing a show about a young FBI agent. And I said, how about taking Veronica five years ahead? We streamed it for the network, and they flipped over it. We had two weeks of feeling good. Then we got a call saying people didn’t like that plan, and it wasn’t being picked up.

But the Marshmallows never gave up. Six years after cancellation, Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million to fund a Veronica Mars follow-up movie. In just days, it raised $5 million.

Thomas: An Austin musician friend of mine used Kickstarter to fund a recording project. That was the first I’d ever heard of it. I started doing the back-of-the-cocktail napkin math and thought, unless it’s been the same 10 fans asking for a movie the last six years, we could do this.

Ruggiero: When he was first starting doing it, I was really supportive, but there was this part of me that was like, “Oh My God, what’s going to happen? Please, people, donate.”

Thomas: The potential for humiliation felt so high. And then we hit 1 million in the first four, five hours. All I could do was sit there and watch the money pour in.

Dohring: The phone started ringing off the hook from my parents and wife’s parents and Kristen, saying what was going on…. All the people that donated for it were wonderful. They said they were little people, but wanted to help out and contribute. “Fuck the man.” And we were like, “Okay.”

Majorino: I was working on Grey’s Anatomy, running back to where the grips were because they were checking on the Kickstarter for me in between takes. Watching the numbers go up…. It made making the movie so important to me. It was actually for the fans.

Thomas: It was built as a dessert for them. Looking at my Twitter feed, there were a lot of things our fans were hoping to see, and I tried to give it to them.

Daggs III: Frances and me would get up at 5:30 in the morning and hand doughnuts out to the people in line who came to get autographs and meet us. We just wanted to give back to the fans what they’d given to us.

Colantoni: It was so satisfying for everybody, because we got to give them closure. On some level, we got to tie a little bow around those three seasons that left them with so many unanswered questions.

Bell poses for a selfie with cast members Daggs, Colantoni, Chris Lowell, Hansen, Dohring and director Rob Thomas at the premiere of Veronica Mars the movie in Austin, Texas, 2014. By Michael Buckner/Getty Images.

With an older and wiser Veronica emerging from the ashes of her youth and into the #MeToo generation, it’s perhaps too early to define the show’s legacy. At the same time, it’s not difficult to see her importance as a voice, then and now—especially as the show prepares to return for a third go-round on Hulu.

Colantoni: Whatever happened with this little show happened at the perfect time of bridging two generations. It continues to grow.

Lowell: Women in pop culture are so often used as props to be the pretty eye candy on the lead male’s arm or the ruthless tough ballbuster…. It’s so refreshing to see this young woman have so much inherent strength.

Dohring: In a fictitious town, we created a real world that was interesting and emotionally complex…. We fucking meant it.

Majorino: It was about being a person and trying to maintain your uniqueness in a world that wants you to become a lemming. You don’t change who you are for other people…. You keep fighting to become more and more of yourself.

Bell: I suppose its current legacy is an entertaining show about a real-life superhero that people can look to, to find strength and inspiration. A person who’s being the change that they want to see, and experiencing the problems we’re all experiencing. I don’t know what the ultimate legacy will be, because I just hope it’s not over yet. I’m going to do it until everyone in Neptune is dead.

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This post originally appeared on Vanity Fair and was published June 7, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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