Enrico Colantoni, <EM>Veronica Mars</EM> Enrico Colantoni, Veronica Mars

With the next new episode of Veronica Mars still way too many weeks away  the UPN series returns Jan. 25 at 9 pm/ET  TVGuide.com thought to give Enrico Colantoni a ring and see if maybe ol' Keith Mars might give us the scoop on what lies ahead. (You call us "naive"; we prefer "optimistic.") Here is what the TV vet had to share about the fate of Neptune, the future of the Galaxy and other out-of-this-world topics.

TVGuide.com: Before Veronica Mars ever premiered, you were hesitant to sum it up for reporters, worried that you'd make it sound "cheesy." How would you sum up the show now?
Enrico Colantoni:
Oh, the same way, but now hopefully they've seen it and they know enough to fill in the blanks. But it's still about a teenage detective and her dad, and their relationship and her relationship with her friends, and every week there's a new mystery.

TVGuide.com: I guess back then, at first glance, it could sound like Nancy Drew.
Colantoni:
Yeah. I didn't think anybody would give it a chance. But I guess there's a small amount of people giving it a chance.

TVGuide.com: Well, not too small a group...
Colantoni:
Yeah, but... you know, those damn SAG awards came out [the day of this interview; Mars was snubbed], and I was thinking we've got a pretty good ensemble. But enough actors have to go watch our show. [Airing Season 1 repeats on CBS over the summer] gave us a boost, and I guess everybody feels we're doing good for UPN, but we all want more people to watch it. We know we have a good thing.

TVGuide.com: To what do you attribute viewers' passionate response?
Colantoni:
Just [series creator] Rob Thomas' sense, the stories he comes up with. It's dark and as unapologetic as you can be for network television. It satisfies our hungry youth, I think  or at least an angry youth. I don't think there's a voice like that on TV.

TVGuide.com: It's a very smart show, in which each episode has you thinking it will zig, and then the story zags.
Colantoni:
Right, it appeals to the sleuth in all of us. I remember loving Ellery Queen, but that only lasted, what, two seasons?

TVGuide.com: Has your on-screen daughter, Kristen Bell, been keeping it real and avoiding Hollywood hellcat syndrome?
Colantoni:
She's the greatest. They're treating her a lot better they're giving her days off and stuff, something she desperately needed last year.

TVGuide.com: And you? Still begging stagehands for a bottle of water?
Colantoni:
[Laughs] I'm sort of a low-maintenance guy.

TVGuide.com: How is it that Keith Mars isn't sheriff, but shady Don Lamb is?
Colantoni:
I guess because if Keith were sheriff again, he wouldn't have any conflicts, and everything would be easy. [He and Veronica] would be back on the right side of the track, and order would be restored in Neptune. You've got to have a guy like Lamb to be the a--hole  and he is such an a--hole.

TVGuide.com: He's like your Boss Hog.
Colantoni:
Exactly! [Laughs] That's a good comparison.

TVGuide.com: So you like the whole "underdog" dynamic, where Keith is always fighting the higher powers?
Colantoni:
Well, I think it makes for much more interesting television. Although it's got to be fun playing Lamb, because he's such a d---. You know what I mean? That's got to be so much fun.

TVGuide.com: Once Mars returns on Jan. 25, what does Keith have planned for his next trick in probing this season's bus-crash mystery?
Colantoni:
You know what they told me?

TVGuide.com: What did they tell you?
Colantoni:
Not to say anything. Isn't that crazy?

TVGuide.com: Who told you that? Rob Thomas?
Colantoni:
They all told me. They are really high on that episode because, well, "things happen." [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: "Things happen"?
Colantoni:
Actually, they gave me a big list of things not to talk about. I looked at it and said, "That's everything!"

TVGuide.com: OK, then. Having studied sociology and psychology in college, how, if at all, did that wind up helping you as an actor?
Colantoni:
Uh... not at all. I realize, in hindsight, that I must have had a high level of ADHD at that time because I don't remember anything. I think I almost failed all those classes.

TVGuide.com: You're not going to get all heady on me and say, "Well, it helps me delve deep into my character's psyche and... "?
Colantoni:
Eww, yuck. Yuck. No, none of that. I barely remember my lines. This is 60-minute television  if I can get one good take where I know my lines, I'm happy.

TVGuide.com: During your early TV days, you said, "I never really embraced comedy. I like drama." Did Hope & Gloria and Just Shoot Me change your mind-set?
Colantoni:
Yeah, Just Shoot Me, especially  having to show up every day for seven years, I needed to lighten up and have fun. That whole show was about having fun, and if you didn't show up to have fun, it would sink.

TVGuide.com: What's the most important thing you came away from that experience with?
Colantoni:
Just that, the ability to let go. And the friendships that we nurtured. We always felt like we were the bastard children at NBC, and that brought us closer together, more so than if we were some huge runaway hit. We remained cohesive in our misery.

TVGuide.com: I was looking at a scene shot from the movie Galaxy Quest, and I'll be damned if that's not The Office's Rainn Wilson with you!
Colantoni:
Isn't that funny?

TVGuide.com: Was doing Galaxy Quest as fun as it looked?
Colantoni:
Yeah, only because of [director] Dean Parisot, who came on the project later and really had no time to get heady about it. He just hired a bunch of people who wanted to have fun with him, and he just let us go. I couldn't believe he let me do what I got to do. It was so much fun just to be outrageous and stupid.

TVGuide.com: Has there ever been talk of a sequel?
Colantoni:
Yeah, they've been talking about it for years, but then they stopped talking about it. They were even talking about doing a television series  going right back to where [the film's very premise] started.

TVGuide.com: Your first love is the stage. Do you have anything coming up?
Colantoni:
No, it's almost impossible to do any theater right now, although my theater company is doing a one-act in the spring, so they might throw me a three-pager to direct.

TVGuide.com: In all of your stage experiences, what has been the most embarrassing moment?
Colantoni:
That was probably when I was doing Fifth of July in school. We had gotten to one part of a scene and realized that we had completely started back at the beginning, and ended up repeating like eight pages. We forgot all our words and had backtracked, then went forward again from seven pages ago.

TVGuide.com: You didn't even shift some words around to throw the audience off your scent?
Colantoni:
[Laughs] No, I figured by that point they were already asleep. We just kept going!