Patricia Hearst and Kristen Bell, <EM>Veronica Mars</EM> Patricia Hearst and Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars

The CW's Veronica Mars (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET) is fraught with fictional mystery, intrigue and danger, but tonight's guest star knows all about the real thing. Patricia Hearst, newspaper heiress and victim of one of the most infamous kidnappings in history, has been enlisted by Mars mastermind Rob Thomas to play Selma Hearst, granddaughter of the founder of Hearst College and a member of the school's board of trustees. TVGuide.com discussed the Mars visit with Hearst, and also got her take on why her abduction still holds the public's interest.

TVGuide.com: Were you at all reluctant to play a character with a background similar to your own?
Patricia Hearst:
Yes. I wanted to know exactly what it was about, because I'd never gone in and done a cameo as myself in anything, and I wouldn't do that. Yes, the college is called Hearst, but I play the heiress to the "Hearst Mart fortune" in the show, which I thought was funny, and it's certainly not related to publishing. They kind of wriggled around the real Hearst connection and made it a fantasy Hearst connection.

TVGuide.com: Were you a fan of Veronica Mars before Rob Thomas asked you to take on the role?
Hearst:
I had seen it and knew what it was, but I'm not really the age group for it. But when Rob and I talked, a lot of it was, "What is the character? What is she all about?" I didn't want it to be something that had actually happened to me. He was like, "No, no, no," and we established that it would be something different. There's obviously a wink to what happened to me, but Selma's situation is nothing like anything I've had to deal with, which is pretty amazing considering almost everything has happened to me!

TVGuide.com: Is there any chance of this becoming a recurring character?
Hearst:
I have not been told that. I would certainly be happy to go back. The cast and crew were terrific. Most of my scenes were with Kristen [Bell] and Enrico [Colantoni] and Ed Begley [Jr.], and that was fun.

TVGuide.com: John Waters gave you your acting debut in 1990's Cry-Baby. What made you take him up on the offer?
Hearst:
I'd always enjoyed acting, but then after everything that happened, it seemed like something that would never happen. But one night I ran into him at a party, and he said, "I'd love to have you in one of my movies." I thought he was kidding, but a year later, he sent me the script for Cry-Baby.

TVGuide.com: You've worked with him on most of his movies since then. What keeps bringing you back?
Hearst:
Well, he likes me and my work, and I like working with him. We're very good friends. When I can, I get up to Provincetown. I'll spend a few days up there in the summer, and we see each other when he's in New York. Also, his cast and crews are the best. It's very close-knit.

TVGuide.com: You and members of your family have been portrayed in various movies and television shows over the years. How do you feel about the Hearst-Hollywood connection?
Hearst:
My grandfather produced films for Marion Davies, so the connection has always been there, even now with Hearst Entertainment.... But anyone from a famous family or with money, even a fictional character, is always evil and immoral on television. So that's the way you get portrayed.

TVGuide.com: In 2004, the documentary Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst came out. What was your take on that?
Hearst:
It was called "Neverland" when I saw it, and it was not so much a documentary about my kidnapping as it was a documentary about the kidnappers and the media surrounding it.

TVGuide.com: Are you surprised that there's still a great deal of interest in your abduction?
Hearst:
Well, yes, which is why they had to rename [the documentary], to make sure people would see it. If it were called "A Documentary About Russell Little," or "A Documentary About the SLA," people wouldn't have gone to see it. So, yes, there's always interest. Practically every show on TV is a crime show. It's either that or Court TV or car chases.... People are interested in all of that.

TVGuide.com: To me, the most interesting thing about the film was that it showed how your abduction created one of the first real media frenzies.
Hearst:
It did, because it was a point when you first started getting around-the-clock news. The media was completely manipulated by the terrorists. I'm just so happy that video cameras weren't readily available at that point. They only had their little tape recorder to record me. It is bad enough to hear the cassette played over and over again, but I'm really grateful I don't have to watch myself being videotaped by them. How pathetic is that? That's the one thing I can be grateful for. They didn't have that to complete the humiliation. When something happens in this country, the media goes all-out.

TVGuide.com: The Natalee Holloway case comes to mind.
Hearst:
Yeah, when a white girl goes missing, it's all over the news media. America does have a fascination with white damsels in distress.

TVGuide.com: It definitely seems like it. Do you wish people would move on, and you could put your abduction behind you?
Hearst:
I do, but I've kind of stopped thinking about it. It doesn't really concern me that people don't move on. There's kind of a style sheet for the papers where they drop the name in, and it always begins with "Kidnapped newspaper heiress...." I think if you spend too much time worrying about how everybody else is perceiving this, then you kind of miss your own life. I just don't like dwelling on myself as much as other people do. I'm also guessing that the audience of Veronica Mars doesn't remember all that. I won't be a distraction for them. They can focus in on the juicy story line.

Send in your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com.