Question: Enough with these acronyms. Seriously, dude, it's making my head hurt. Instead of wasting about five or six questions in your AA column on this useless junk, why don't you get the lead singer of Matchbox 20 on the phone and ask him about the upcoming season of Veronica Mars. — Eugene
Ausiello: Sounds like someone couldn't figure out what TMHPIHERIML stood for. No worries, Euge. I'm sure you possess other nonessential skills. Now, regarding my fruitless efforts to get Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas on the phone to discuss the show's alleged Season 2 overhaul, there's been a major development on that front. After weeks of going through the proper channels to set up the interview and getting nowhere, I was contacted by Rob himself! Turns out he read the latest SOS I posted in last week's AA and tracked me down. That's the kind of stunt that earns people titles like "The Coolest TV Producer on the Planet (Next to J.J. Abrams)." And it gets even better: Less than 24 hours after first contact was made, Rob gave me an exclusive, no-holds-barred, superscoopilicious interview in which he addressed all of the rumored changes happening on Mars — and then some. In fact, he gave me so much good stuff that, instead of sprinkling his responses throughout AA, I decided to present the entire Q&A in its entirety. But if you're one of those folks who doesn't like knowing what's gonna happen before it happens, stop reading now. Trust me, it's a spoilerphobe's worst nightmare come true. With that said, I interrupt this week's AA for an exclusive, no-holds-barred, superscoopilicious interview with Rob Thomas. (Non-Mars fans can scroll past the interview to read the rest of AA. I won't hold it against you.)
Ausiello: So what are these changes UPN president Dawn Ostroff wants you to make to Veronica Mars next season? I'm worried.Rob Thomas: They're not major. She wants more presence from twentysomething characters in the show. She wants a bit more diversity in the cast. And she wants it sexier, which we feel we're accomplishing by playing up the Logan-Veronica-Duncan triangle in Season 2. They're not jamming us too hard on anything that hurts the integrity of the show.
Ausiello: What twentysomething characters? New ones?Thomas: I know the Tara Reid rumor got out there, which really tended to freak people out. Per UPN's notes, they feel like, "We're putting you guys after our top show — America's Next Top Model — and we want you to retain some of the audience. So put somebody in there who represents that age group." Which was fine. I had planned on adding a sort of trophy wife/stepmother to Beaver and Dick Casablancas next season. And then we were just putting lists together of people who could play her and Tara Reid was on a list. I'm not sure how it got to the point that we had hired her, but that's not going to happen.
Ausiello: Tara Reid's not going to happen?Thomas: Right.
Ausiello: Phew.Thomas: But the character is — at least partially to address UPN's desire to get more of a twentysomething presence. They wanted us to have Veronica take some college classes to bring more twentysomethings into the show.
Ausiello: You're joking. Please tell me you're joking.Thomas: It's not even creatively that I hated that note. I didn't. It's just that we're so stretched financially. And budgetwise, I don't have college sets; I don't have college actors. It would have been a huge budgetary problem, so we're trying to address the twentysomething note in a more financially prudent way.
Ausiello: Tell me a little bit more about the trophy-wife character.Thomas: She'll be in her mid-twenties, a former Laker girl. Think Bonnie Bakley but with better looks.
Ausiello: The diversity thing kind of baffles me. Your cast is already pretty diverse.Thomas: That's what I thought, too. [Laughs] They have asked for another African-American female in our cast, which we are going to do. She will be a student.
Ausiello: What about rumors of a new, older love interest for Veronica?Thomas: That was just one of the things they threw up on the board. And it was all wrapped up in that "Veronica can take college classes and maybe she can become involved with an older guy" thing, which made me think, "Didn't we do that last year?"
Ausiello: Do they watch the show?Thomas: They do watch the show. It's funny, following Top Model, they're really hitting us to appeal to that audience. And I'm happy to do that as long as the integrity of the show remains. The 28-year-old trophy-wife stepmother is sort of a traditional noir character, so I'm happy to include it. I think we can find a happy balance between art and commerce.
Ausiello: Is it true that you're killing off a major character?Thomas: No. The thing I read was in Episode 6 we're gonna kill off one of our main characters, and that's not true. But in order to make the budget work, a number of actors on the show lost a few episodes in their contracts. I wouldn't have done that of my own volition. That was forced on me.
Ausiello: Were Logan or Papa Mars impacted?Thomas: No, it's not Logan or her father. It's just about everyone else.
Ausiello: Are we talking drastic reductions? Like some characters are only gonna be in one or two episodes?Thomas: No, no, no. Far from that. It's like one went from 22 to 16. One went from 16 to 12.
Ausiello: Weevill (Francis Capra)?Thomas: He's gone from 16 to 12.
Ausiello: Deputy Leo (Max Greenfield)?Thomas: Max has a new comedy [Modern Men] on WB next fall. Max is one of my favorite people to work with. He has said any day he has off he's willing to come down to San Diego and shoot Veronica Mars. I actually have him written into a scene in the first episode. The question is whether his schedule and our budget will allow it. But the scene won't be, "He's going away!" I think we could always go back to Deputy Leo. I like having him handy. I like Veronica having a relationship with somebody in the local sheriff's department.
Ausiello: Aaron Echolls (Harry Hamlin)?Thomas: We actually have him in the budget for two episodes. Seeing Aaron again in Season 2 around the time his trial rolls around is something we're planning on; it's on our storyboard. But at the same time, we're going to introduce a couple new important sets of parents, in the same way we got to know the Kanes and Ackles in Season 1.
Ausiello: Whose parents?Thomas: One will be the father of the new African-American character, who we have not cast yet. I think the name of the character is Terrence Chase, and his daughter is Jackie Chase. And then we're going to meet a character who's running for mayor named Woody Goodman, and he's going to have a daughter who goes to the high school, who we never met. We'll introduce her.
Ausiello: What about Amanda Seyfried, who played Lilly Kane? Will we see her again?Thomas: There are no plans to see her. Again, we adore her. She was such a money character for us this year.
Ausiello: And Alyson Hannigan?Thomas: She also has a new series [CBS' How I Met Your Mother]. But if we can work it into her schedule and we've got a story line that would work for her, we'd love to see her.
Ausiello: OK, I've got a couple story-line-related questions: Is Logan's mother really dead?Thomas: Yes.
Ausiello: Will Veronica and Wallace become stepsiblings this year?Thomas: I don't wanna give that away.
Ausiello: Who's at the door?Thomas: [Laughs] This is what I will tell you: I feel like our audience will feel cheated if it's anyone other than Logan or Duncan. A lot of people online have made very valid cases why it would be Wallace, and that the reaction Veronica gives would only be for her true friend, and I understand that. And yet, we have set Logan-Veronica-Duncan up as the first leg of the romantic triangle of Season 2, and I feel like it would really disturb the fans if we copped out on that answer. And I'm not going to cop out on that.
Ausiello: What can you tease about this season's overriding mystery?Thomas: It'll be significantly different from Season 1. It won't be, "A friend of Veronica's dies and she seeks justice." It will have a different flavor, a different motivation than that. And yet people can assume that we're not going to do a 22-episode mystery about insurance fraud. So it'll be big.
Ausiello: It all sounds great, but I have to admit: I'm troubled by the level of interference on UPN's part. Thomas: Last year for four or five episodes they were in our grill, and it was a very difficult working environment. But once they started seeing the cut episodes and they started airing and getting feedback, they became incredibly supportive — the most supportive environment I've ever been in.
Ausiello: And now?Thomas: They are nervous once again. They have given us their best time slot and they want this to work. So, again they're back in our... [pauses] the notes calls are taking a little longer and we're having a minibattle here on the first episode. But right now we're not shooting anything or writing anything that I'm not happy with, so they haven't tinkered us into silliness.
We now return you to this week's regularly scheduled Ask Ausiello.