by Tierney Bricker | Sun., Sep. 22, 2019 3:00 AM
A long time ago...a little show about a witty teen private investigator premiered and became a pop culture phenomenon...
Veronica Mars premiered 15 years ago on Sept. 22, 2004 on UPN (RIP!), introducing the world to Kristen Bell as the titular character, who was investigating the murder of her BFF (played by a then-unknown Amanda Seyfried), and while it was never a ratings hit, the teen-noir drama inspired a cult following that helped it return in 2014 via a Kickstarter movie and for a recent season four on Hulu. You know what they say about Marshmallows: they're dedicated.
Initially written as a book series with a male protagonist, creator Rob Thomas decided to make his main character female...though he originally intended for her to be older with much darker hair. But that was just the first of many major changes Thomas and executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright made over Veronica Mars' three-year run. Like, did you know Logan (Jason Dohring) was never intended to be the male lead?
Thanks to their writing, the performances by the cast, including Enrico Colantoni as Veronica's dad and Francis Capra as Weevil, and that epic romance (LoVe!), Veronica Mars' legacy as one of TV's most beloved shows has endured, with the recent revival still able to rile up its fervent fanbase.
"I want to make Veronica the first name in female detectives," Thomas once told E! News. "I have no designs on supplanting Sherlock Holmes, but I would really love Veronica Mars to be—when I think female detectives, that's who I think of."
Mission accomplished, if you ask us.
In honor of Veronica Mars' 15th anniversary, here are some surprising facts you might not know about the series' original run from 2004-2007...
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1. In the original script, Thomas described Veronica as a brunette, young Angelina Jolie-type, but his plans completely changed once he saw Bell read for the part, the first of 100 actresses to audition.
"Kristen was the very first actress I saw and my mind was blown," Thomas recalled at PaleyFest 2014. As he auditioned the next 99 people for the part, 'I kept thinking, 'Was that first girl as brilliant as I thought she was?'" Clearly, she was.
2. Still, she wasn't the only actress to be brought in to test for the network: she was up against Alona Tal, who would go on to play Meg Manning, for the role of Veronica.
3. Veronica's signature style? It was mostly Bell's doing, with the star telling Vanity Fair, "Rob built her emotional armor in the context of the story. I, along with the prop and costume department, built her physical armor—her leather jacket, her combat boots, her dark-colored wardrobe. Her bag to me is her binky that has all her weapons and tools in it."
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4. Teddy Dunn initially read for Logan, while Jason Dohring first auditioned for Duncan. Of course, they would go on to land the opposite parts.
5. LoVe aka Logan and Veronica? Never supposed to happen, with Thomas telling GQ, "The truth is, we never had any intention at all for Logan to end up with Veronica... [Dohring] was hired to be the obligatory psychotic jackass. In the writers' room, sitting around watching dailies, we would all gather around, and it was like, 'We want to watch that. We want to watch those two onscreen together.'" Ruggiero added in an interview with Vanity Fair, "Everyone wanted to write scenes with them. It was like, 'We have to go that way.'"
So the end-game shifted, with Dunn telling the publication, "Duncan and Veronica were always meant to be together."
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6. Initially hired to just be a day-player, Ryan Hansen's Dick Casablancas became a series regular and one of the most beloved characters on the show, despite starting off as "'09er dick" in the script. "From what Dan and Rob tell me, the hair's why they liked me so much," Hansen told VF of his signature bleach blond surfer locks.
7. Paris Hilton infamously guest starred in an early season one episode as Logan's rich girlfriend and had an odd demand on-set: "Rob's assistant, Alex, had to buy Paris Hilton's Chihuahua french fries, because the Chihuahua ate McDonald's french fries," Ruggiero recalled. "Me, miss animal lover, was like, is that all she's feeding that dog, f--king fries?"
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8. The "biggest surprise" for Thomas early on was Amanda Seyfried's turn as Lilly Kane, revealing he was blown away by her audition as it was "about 100 times better than anyone else that we saw, she was just spectacular." So good, in fact, that he ended up adding in three or four times more scenes featuring Lilly than he originally intended.
9. At the end of the first season, it's revealed that Logan's dad, Aaron Echolls, was Lilly's killer. While that was always Thomas' plan, he almost had to change it after Harry Hamlin booked a movie that would make him unavailable. Fortunately, Hamlin ended up passing on the movie to film Veronica Mars and Thomas never had to use his back-up plan: Duncan.
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10. The recurring role of Vinnie Van Lowe, the Mars' rival P.I., was written specifically for Paul Rudd, but after the star's schedule changed, Ken Marino took over the part. Rudd would guest star in season three as a rock star.
11. While Thomas struggled with the network finding the original pilot script "too dark and creepy," asking him to tone down or take out many lines and plot points, there was one note he is grateful to have followed: In the original version, Veronica discovers Keith had been hiding letters her mom had been writing to her.
The note from the network was her best friend's dead, she's been raped, her mother abandoned her, her dad lost his job. Can she just have her dad?" he recalled. "It was a really good note." Keith and Veronica would go on to have one of the most adored father-daughter relationships in TV history.
12. Oh, Piz. Brought in as Veronica's new love interest in season three, Chris Lowell revealed Thomas had "warned me out of the gate, 'You will be the least liked character on this show.'" An intense love triangle and shipper debate commenced, with Lowell receiving so much heat that he didn't even expect to be asked to return for the fan-funding movie.
"Honestly...I legitimately had come to a place where I was ready to accept that I would not be in the film,'" he said at the 2014 Paleyfest event. "But then Rob sent me this email saying, 'Hey, by the way, I think we're gonna make this film. There's actually a role for Piz.' I'm thinking, 'He gets killed. He's the victim.' He's like, 'No, it's actually a substantial part.'" (Spoiler alert: He was still dating Veronica.)
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13. Another man that vocal LoVe fans took to online message boards to criticize? Deputy Leo, played by Max Greenfield, who was initially only supposed to be in one episode, but the New Girl actor quickly became a favorite of Thomas and the writers'.
Though he read the message boards frequently, taking notes on what fans were reacting to, Leo was one character he refused to change: "Just because the viewers aren't raving about him, you know, I'm not going to write him out [of the show] just for that, because I think he's good, I think he makes the show better," he told Salon in 2005.
As Greenfield put it to VF, "I didn't really serve the story at all, but Rob and Dan were like, 'We really like him. Can we have him pop in and out for no reason at all?'"
14. One romance that never happened was between Veronica and her BFF/sidekick Wallace (Percy Daggs III), though the actor tried to pitch it once, "But the network didn't want to touch it, so I didn't push it," he told a fan site.
15. Before the Kickstarter campaign brought fans back to Neptune, Thomas & Co. pitched The CW a 10-minute presentation of what a season four would look like if they picked it up (which ended up on the season three DVD set): It would've followed Veronica as she entered the FBI, with Walton Goggins serving as her mentor.
"It really was a Hail Mary pass, and the thing that a lot of people don't know is how close it came to succeeding," Thomas told GQ. Alas, The CW decided to cancel the series completely. "I was happy we tried it. Somebody asked me a couple of weeks ago, 'Are you glad that that didn't go?' And it's impossible to know."
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