Kristen Bell has done Broadway, TV and movies for the big and small screen.
She sings. She dances. She’s equally convincing as the girl next door-whether Mark Twain’s Becky Thatcher or bearing false witness in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”-or as a drifter/grifter who finds that crime does not pay when it’s committed against the foul-mouthed founding fathers of HBO’s “Deadwood.”
Sometimes she does all of the above in one hour as the titular heroine of UPN’s “Veronica Mars.” The drama chronicles the adventures of a teenager who solves sometimes disturbingly grown-up, sometimes charmingly sophomoric mysteries in the class-conscious beach town where her father (Enrico Colantoni) was the sheriff until he tried to pin the murder of Veronica’s best friend on the dead girl’s wealthy father.
“Kristen is amazingly talented. I feel like she can do anything. She is funny. She is smart. She aces the drama. She aces the comedy. Around the office, when we watch dailies, we call her ‘Money.’ She’s always good. She always elevates material,” said “Veronica” creator and executive producer Rob Thomas. He originally envisioned “Veronica” as another of the sophisticated young-adult novels he has been writing since his “Rats Saw God” was published in 1996, he said.
By the time Mr. Thomas had auditioned some 100 young actresses for the role
of Veronica, he wondered whether the second actress he saw, Ms. Bell, could possibly have been as good as he remembered, he said.
“When she walked into the room for the [network] audition, Kristen just blew everybody away. She made the words come alive,” UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff recalled.
Ms. Bell said she had never met Mr. Colantoni until they read together. “It turns out we live blocks from each other and shop at all the same places,” she said. “We decided on our third meeting that the meetings were a sign that we would both get the parts. Now he is one of my greatest friends.”
Ms. Bell said she usually celebrates getting a role by heading for an arcade for some Skee-Ball. “I have a very unhealthy obsession with it,” she said.
She grew up on stages in the Detroit area, where her father, Tom Bell, was news director at Viacom-owned UPN affiliate WKBD-TV from 1996 to 2001, when he became news director at Meredith-owned CBS affiliate KPHO-TV in Phoenix.
Ms. Bell still has family in the Detroit area, but she headed for New York to study acting after high school. She landed the role of Twain’s Becky Thatcher in the Broadway revival of the musical “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 2001. She was on her way. Now her resume includes three movies in the pipeline.
Her previous roles include a teenager struggling to raise her neglected siblings in the Lifetime weeper “Gracie’s Choice,” a teenager estranged from her father in the Hallmark Channel weeper “The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay” and a kidnap victim in David Mamet’s action thriller “Spartan.”
However, she will be long and fondly remembered for “Veronica Mars,” whose fan base made up in fervor what it lacked in size last season. The bad news is that the plucky “Veronica’s” new time slot will put it up against ABC’s ratings juggernaut “Lost” next season. The good news, aside from the fact that UPN didn’t cancel “Veronica,” is that Ms. Bell refuses to let the low ratings beat her.
“You just have to let it go and know that you can only do so much. I promoted this show seven days a week for the last nine months-and had a blast doing it. You just hope that because our fans are so cool and committed to the show-just look at our fan mail-that they will continue to tell all their friends about it.”
Mr. Thomas, who wrote for The WB’s “Dawson’s Creek” and was executive producer of short-lived ABC series “Cupid,” has a more detailed vision of Ms. Bell’s future, and it includes a place in the circle of people with whom he would like to work again.
Gazing into his crystal ball, Mr. Thomas said of Ms. Bell: “I see her going six more years on ‘Veronica Mars’ and then being a great big movie star. I don’t know that there are any limitations.”
Title: Lead actress,
UPN’s “Veronica Mars”
Date of birth: July 18, 1980
Place of birth: Royal Oak, Mich.
Big break: Playing
Becky Thatcher in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” on Broadway
at age 19
Who knew? “I never watch TV. I barely see my own show!” she said in an
e-mail from Romania, where she is filming the thriller “Pulse” (a remake of the Japanese horror flick “Kairo”).