We know who killed Lilly Kane. We know who crashed the school bus. We know who murdered the Dean and the identity of the Hearst College serial rapist. But there's one question still plaguing Veronica Mars fans: What happened to Duncan Kane?!
Teddy Dunn was a core cast member for the first half of Veronica Mars' run -- until he was abruptly written off and never directly acknowledged in the series again. But now that Veronica Mars is experiencing a renaissance -- not to mention its 10th anniversary -- the questions surrounding Dunn's exit have resurfaced.
"It's funny 'cause with the movie and all the other stuff that's been coming out ... people have asked me about it and I talk about it. It's a good ice breaker, for sure," Dunn tells TV Guide. "So it's not exactly been out of sight out of mind, but it's definitely pretty far back in the past for me. I've gone with a different direction in my life and a different career."
Now, for the first time since leaving the show, Dunn opens up about his experience playing Duncan, his feelings about getting written off the series, whether he'll ever return to Veronica Mars, and more.
After failing to get the part of Logan, Dunn was approached about reading for Duncan, but his representatives advised him to turn it down. "He only had five lines in the whole [pilot] and we weren't really sure where it was going to go," Dunn explains. "So they were telling me to pass and I did, like, two or three times I think." But creator Rob Thomas wouldn't back down and called up Dunn personally to explain who he envisioned Duncan being and convinced him to screen test for the role.
Dunn eventually landed the part, but despite the impressive cast and script, he had his doubts regarding the show's potential. "This is no knock on the network, but UPN wasn't the greatest network at the time. It has since folded or merged. So that alone wasn't the greatest selling point, especially when you go out for a show on Fox or NBC. The O.C. was on at the time and there were like 30 million watching that every week. So you're like, 'OK, UPN. Does anybody even watch that?' Turns out some people do."
Almost as soon as Veronica Mars premiered, it became clear that fans didn't like Duncan, who was originally slated to be Veronica's OTP. He came off as vacant, distant, and just sort of... there. Duncan later became much more dynamic, but this isn't because Dunn's talent improved exponentially overnight. It's because Dunn was originally under the impression Duncan was dealing with a mental illness.
"I was told early on that Duncan was bipolar, so when I got the role I got some books, starting researching it and looking into it," Dunn says. Since psychosomatic drugs used to treat bipolar disorder often leave the user emotionally distant, Dunn made the conscious choice to play Duncan that way. However, once it became clear that viewers were having a hard time connecting to Duncan, "I was told to leave all that behind and go back to being the gregarious big man on campus," Dunn says. "I had a hard time reconciling the two and I think I struggled with the precedent we had set with the character in the first few episodes versus what they wanted to get out of the character later down the line.
"I understand there's a commercial aspect to it too, he continues. "You know, just this comatose brooding dude in every episode of your show. I get it. That was something that they don't teach you in acting school, you know? Just the sheer business side of it."
While Television Without Pity was alight with fans criticizing Duncan, Dunn never got the chance to explain what his intentions with his performance were. "No one ever asked me. I don't know if anyone ever asked what was going on with my character. If they asked Rob or someone else, I wasn't aware of it," Dunn says.
Despite this disinterest -- and often outright dislike -- for Duncan, Dunn did his best to stay above the fray. "Obviously, I acted because I wanted the fans to like the experience. You want your performance to be liked. You don't want to suck. You don't want people to think you suck. That wasn't the goal," Dunn says. "Once it's in the can, what are you going to do? People don't like it, they don't like it ... I wasn't really too worried about criticism other than if it was coming from my bosses."
Though Duncan grew to be much more likable as the show went on, the writers made it hard to root for Duncan when Season 1's "A Trip to the Dentist" revealed that he was the one who had sex with Veronica -- whom he believed at the time to be his half-sister -- at Shelly Pomroy's party.
"When I read it, it actually, to me, made the Duncan character make all the much more sense as to why he had to stay away from her, as to why he was so despondent to her, as to why he had to just cut it off without any explanation. Just sever the ties and say I can't be around you because I'm so attracted to you, but you're my f--king sister," Dunn says.
Unfortunately, fans didn't see it that way, and Duncan sleeping with his possible sister became a common refrain in explaining why one was Team Logan. But as Dunn points out, Veronica wasn't the only one who was drugged that night. Logan had intentionally put GHB in Duncan's drink. "I think that [they were both roofied] also changes the perspective of it a little bit. I think people forget that great detail."
Though Thomas initially told Dunn that Veronica and Duncan were going to end up together, he was far from surprised when Logan (Jason Dohring) became a rival love interest. "I always understood that there was going to be a love triangle," Dunn says, even conceding he understands why people preferred Logan.
"Veronica's wit and Logan's ability to match her wit at times, I think, were a lot of what fans responded to," Dunn says. "In terms of Duncan's character, I didn't really have that opportunity. I wasn't really that way. It'd be weird for them to write my character that kind of stuff. I think that probably had something to do with it. And look, [Dohring's] a good actor. He did a great job with the role."
However, Dunn admits he doesn't quite understand why viewers were always able to forgive Logan -- for supplying the GHB, for organizing bum fights, for tormenting Veronica, etc. -- yet could never forgive Duncan. "How does he get a clean pass? I don't understand that," Dunn says. "I think my character was largely a sympathetic one. I don't think I necessarily got the opportunity to show it all the time. I would have liked to see one of the scenes I had tested with, which brought out more of Duncan's true colors before Lilly's death. I would have liked to explore that a little bit more than I got the opportunity to."
Before going into Season 2, Thomas had told Dunn he was planning on writing him off the show. But Dunn wasn't too upset by the news since, by that time, Duncan had already gravitated so far away from what was initially pitched to him that it "was actually a decision" for him whether to return at all. "But he said that he'd do it in the best way possible," Dunn recalls. "And so I knew going in that I had a finite amount of episodes, so it was like any other job. It was week-to-week and then I went on my merry way."
And by letting Duncan put a hit out on Aaron Echolls, Duncan was able to finally earn some fan sympathy before saying goodbye, much to Dunn's enjoyment. "I think Rob's goal was to leave the character on a high note. I certainly think he did so in a heroic way," Dunn says.
Following his departure, Dunn's only credits include Jumper, guest spots on CSI: NY and Grey's Anatomy, and two lesser known films. But seeds of his decision to leave acting were planted long before his IMDb page began to stall. "[Veronica Mars] was a very eye-opening experience in the business side of it," Dunn says. "I had always pursued it as an art form, as wanting to tell great stories to the world ... And everything I did became more and more of a business calculation up until the point that I had the realization that if it's going to be just a business, there are a ton of other things I could do and a ton of other things that maybe interest me more as a business than the entertainment business." Dunn eventually decided to go back to school and in 2013, he graduated cum laude from Boston College with a law doctorate. He's now working as an associate at a New York City law firm and plans on staying as far away from entertainment law as possible.
When the Veronica Mars film was first announced, many fans wondered whether we'd finally get an update on Duncan's life as an international fugitive. No dice. Then, the first book was released -- an easy way to bring back Duncan whether Dunn was willing to return or not. Nada! Then it was announced that The CW Seed spin-off Play It Again, Dick would feature Ryan Devlin playing the role of Duncan Kane and it began to seem as though there might be bad blood between Dunn and Thomas. However, Dunn assures us that's far from the case.
"Rob did contact me to be in the web series," Dunn explains. "I would have actually liked to have done it, see everybody and catch up and have some fun." But while Dunn was open to making an appearance in the web series, he's more hesitant to return in canon. "They would have to first want me to," Dunn says. "I'm not sure there's room for him anymore, is what I'm trying to say. But like I said, I really like Rob and Kristen and everybody who I worked with on the show so I'm not going to say no, I'm not open to it. But also, I'm a lawyer now. I'm not an actor anymore. It's not to say I never want to act again. I do. I'm just not sure I want to revisit that character, to be honest with you."
Veronica Mars is available to stream on Hulu.