"Veronica Mars has heat right now, you know?"
It's hard to imagine that little over a year ago, the idea of more Veronica Marswas nothing more than a pipe dream for creator Rob Thomas. For six years after the show's cancellation, Thomas struggled to get the long-awaited movie made and only got the go-ahead from Warner Bros. if he could raise his own funds. But after the film proved profitable — if only by a small margin — not only is Thomas working on a second new Veronica Mars novel, but now executives are coming to him with projects, including The CW Seed seriesPlay It Again, Dick.
"After seven years of not having much Veronica Mars to think about, it's back in the front of my mind a lot these days. It's great," Thomas tells TVGuide.com. "If it had just been a show we were proud of but didn't enjoy each other, I don't think there'd be any more of them. But we're in the fortuitous thing of liking each other and really being proud of the Veronica Mars franchise."
While the original series, which celebrates its 10th anniversary Monday, was a gritty noir, Thomas and the actors saw Play It Again, Dick as an opportunity to cut loose and have fun with the world of Veronica. "I've never been on a more fun set," the showrunner recalls. "On a normal set, you're trying to make sure that everything is perfect because you want continuity. And in this show, we would actually shoot a take where Logan is wearing his navy hat and then we would intentionally take the hat off and give him chewing gum for the next take so we would build in those continuity errors."
Thomas, however, admits that the process of making the Veronica Marsmovie wasn't nearly as liberating as the digital series. Since the film was funded by fans through Kickstarter, Thomas struggled balancing fan desires with his own creative direction. "I was incredibly conscious of that when we were making the movie. I thought about it every day," Thomas says.
In the end, Thomas decided to put fans first, setting the film at Veronica's 10-year high school reunion to give credible reason for reuniting favorite characters in Neptune. But if he's lucky to get a second shot at a Veronicafeature film, Thomas says he's ready to do it 100 percent his way. "On the next one, I would simply say to myself write a great noir mystery, plug Veronica in and it and whatever else you see and whatever else happens is there because it's germane to the plot," he says. "And I wouldn't be stretching to deliver certain iconic Veronica Mars moments."
For fans of Veronica Mars, it's incredible that Thomas' hopes of making another installment of Veronica Mars is not so much a dream anymore as it is an inevitability. As the first film proved, there's still a strong desire for moreVeronica even 10 years later. And for a barely watched show on a barely watched network, that's a surprising show of resilience.
When Veronica Mars premiered Sept. 22, 2004, on the UPN, the premise of a teen detective solving murders in a sunny California town was a tough sell for viewers, but Thomas says it was also his only way of getting a network's attention. "The noir thing was actually a strategy, in a way. I wanted to do a teen show and I felt like I needed a hook," Thomas explains. "I'd love to writeFreaks and Geeks. I'd love to write small stories and these beautiful little chapters in these characters lives, but I didn't think I could get that show on a network and so my plan was, 'I'll sell them a franchise show, a case-of-the-week show with a teenage detective. I'll sell them with that hook and sneak in that teen show.'"
But even before he pitched it to networks, the concept of Veronica Mars had been brewing for a while. The genesis of it all started when Thomas, who got his start writing young adult novels, conceived of a book starring a male detective, Keith Mars. But once he decided to pursue it as a television series, Thomas wanted to use the project as a way to comment on "this prematurely jaded generation" and strength in the wake of innocence lost. "It suddenly became a much more powerful idea to me when I started to think of my protagonist as a girl," Thomas explains.
He was then faced with the challenge of finding a way to make this dogged teenage girl private eye believable. "I didn't want it to be because she's puckish or curious. I wanted there to be some driving thing. Some motivation that was raw and that would make you believe that someone would be that sort of righteous and driven to find the answers for both herself when she's wrong and for others," Thomas says. He made Veronica a survivor of sexual assault who, in addition to investigating her best friend's murder, is also out to find her own rapist.
The network fought hard against including Veronica's sexual assault in the pilot and Thomas admits the footage of Veronica's morning after was a bit "too powerful for the network," but the showrunner didn't back down. "I'm happy to say that we won that battle," Thomas says, adding that if UPN had forced him to eliminate Veronica's rape, it "would have killed me."
Veronica's rape and her boundless quest to find justice for herself and the disenfranchised were key in Veronica becoming a feminist icon on par with Buffy Summers. But unlike Buffy, Veronica wasn't reliant on any powers, weapons training or a Scooby Gang. All Veronica had was herself. And she was OK with that. "I think teen girls are particularly self-conscious and worry about what they say and how it will be taken and what people will think about them. And I think the great thing about Veronica is because she's been laid so low that she just doesn't care anymore what people think. And that, as much as anything, feels to me like her superpower," Thomas says.
But as her soon-to-be best friend Wallace points out in the pilot, underneath Veronica's harsh exterior, she's nothing more than a big ol' marshmallow. And as the series progressed, Veronica's love life began to become as important — if not more — than whatever crime she was solving, dividing the fandom into strict teams: Duncan vs. Logan, Logan vs. Leo, Logan vs. Piz, etc.
Of course, crafting melodramatic love triangles wasn't exactly Thomas' intention when he created the series. When Veronica premiered, Veronica was intended to have only one main love interest: troubled rich boy (and possibly her half-brother) Duncan Kane (Teddy Dunn). But as the chemistry between Veronica and the "obligatory psychotic jackass" Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) became indisputable, Thomas began to consider other options.
"In casting the show, you're looking for two people who spark together," Thomas says. "But in the case of Veronica and Logan, they never read together. We never saw them being together. He was going to be the bad guy. He was organizing bum fights, tormenting Veronica. So it was a surprise to us."
After reading the forums on the now-defunct Television Without Pity, Thomas realized that he wasn't the only one noticing the pull between those characters and decided to officially bring Logan and Veronica together in Episode 18. "It was such an interesting thing to be able to go in after your show aired and see the reaction to it and see what fans were responding to and see how it either matched or didn't match what you were doing. ... So we had a good idea of what they were responding too and Logan and Veronica was certainly it," Thomas says.
But despite bringing LoVe together in the first season, Thomas didn't give fans everything they wanted. He continued, right up through the film, to think up new ways to tear the couple apart: making Logan a suspect in Lilly's murder, involving a war with a biker gang, an ill-advised one-night stand with Madison Sinclair and then, of course, Piz. But the pair seemingly got together for good by the end of the Veronica Mars movie. Could this be Veronica's happily ever after?
"There's nothing more boring than a couple just being happy together," Thomas says, dashing everyone's dreams. "I don't think we want to spend the next three books with them cuddling up and being romantic together. Though there is some of that. I did make it a point to get to see Veronica and Logan happy together, but there need to be troubles in that for it to remain interesting I think."
If Thomas gets his way, there will be plenty of time for more breakup and make-up shenanigans between Logan and Veronica. "I know what I want," Thomas declares. "I really want Veronica to replace Nancy Drew. I want her to be the young female detective that people for the next couple generations think of. ... And even if there isn't another film version, the opportunity for more Veronica Mars detective novels is really OK to me."
But whenever Thomas does decide it's time for Veronica to pack up her camera, don't expect her to finally get that fabled pony. "I am really drawn to bittersweet endings. And it is noir," Thomas says. "It's hard for me to imagine that we get the big happy ending at the end of the Veronica Mars journey. But it could happen. I suppose it sort of depends on what turns and ends and how long Kristen will do this with me. And what she's been through when that moment comes, you know?"
In the meantime, Thomas will keep producing more Veronica Mars novels, and possibly even another film if the stars align, all the while waiting for his one big hit. "It would be nice to have one that has more mass appeal. Just one," he says. "And then I'll do all pulp shows after that. But one hit show would be nice."