"Veronica Mars" made a visit or two to Comic-Con back in its mid-'00s days as a beloved but low-rated TV drama. Today, the cast — including stars Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Francis Capra, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Chris Lowell, Tina Majorino and Krysten Ritter — and creator Rob Thomas will return to the city where the series was shot under very different circumstances. Now "Veronica Mars" is the Kickstarter phenomenon movie (which Thomas and I discussed back in March), and the belief is that the interest in both the movie and the campaign will be enough to fill the convention center's cavernous Hall H. I'll be somewhere in the room live-blogging it all (wifi permitting), and trying to capture both the anecdotes and whether the atmosphere in Hall H evokes the passion that raised $5.7 million to pay for the movie (and t-shirts and posters and digital downloads and all the other Kickstarter perks).
11:23 a.m.: Panel starting late because Hall H is packed. Moderator Jeff Jensen from Entertainment Weekly comes out to introduce the panel. (Also, so far the wifi here is horrible, so I may write a lot of updates offline and publish whenever it actually works.)
11:24 a.m.: We're about to see our first footage of the film. Kristen Bell looks badass in a trench coat, there's an early beefcake shot of all the male stars, and then the sound of Jason Dohring's voice saying, "I need your help, Veronica," followed by Veronica telling Logan, "I don't really do that anymore."
11:26 a.m.: The footage is now dealing with the Kickstarter campaign, as Thomas and the stars watch the dollar totals tick up and up. Thus far, of the actors on screen, Ryan Hansen has gotten the biggest response. Dohring: "Everyone will be there. Dick's still an asshole, I'm still a jackass." Music to everyone's ears.
11:28 a.m.: And now actual footage: An incredulous Jamie Lee Curtis rattling off Veronica's resume at a job interview, Dick douching it up at the high school reunion, Piz improbably being there (he didn't go to Neptune High), the much-talked about reunion brawl, Kristen Bell dancing, dodging gunfire and having a memorable encounter with Madison. At the end, Martin Starr (who plays a new character, Cobb Cobbler) banters with Hansen (his "Party Down" co-star) about growing his hair out to "Dick status." The crowd loves it all.
11:30 a.m.: Cast intros: Capra, Colantoni, Daggs, Hansen, Majorino, Chris Lowell (who enters wearing a Team Logan shirt and makes a joking gesture about the notable lack of applause), Dohring (who is then wearing a Team Piz shirt), Rob Thomas and Bell, smiling and waving. "Looking good, Hall H," she says, knowing which side her bread is buttered on.
11:32 a.m.: What can Rob say about the story and the plot of the movie? "I can tell you that it sort of has — and this is a weird reference — a 'Godfather III' vibe to it." He admits "Godfather II" is a better movie, but the idea is that Veronica hasn't worked as a private detective since the end of the TV show. "Part of the movie is her getting pulled back into this life that she thought she'd left behind." Is it difficult balancing giving fans what he wants and telling the story he wants to tell? Thomas says the story he wanted to tell is the one the fans wanted to see: getting the old gang back together. "I'm a fan of the show, I kind of know what the pleasure zones are for 'Veronica Mars' viewers, and I wrote to those."
11:33 a.m.: What does Bell remember of the day she found out the series was canceled? She confesses she has a bad memory and doesn't remember that moment. But then recalls that she got the news the day before the scene in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" where Sarah finds out her show has been canceled. Says it was easy to get emotional in that scene as a result. She describes the first day of filming this movie "a lot of excitement and a lot of unknown jitters." Her first scene was with Dohring, and they stared at each other wondering, "Are we really here right now? Are they allowing us to do this?"
11:35 a.m.: What was Bell's first line back as Veronica? "Charming drink names. I can't decide between a Beast With Two Backs or a Donkey Punch. Oh, do you think they would let me order a Virgin De-Virginator?"
11:36 a.m.: Capra says he never expected the show to come back. Says after he heard about the Kickstarter campaign, he sent Thomas a series of hyperventilating emails. Bell wants to pause a moment so we can praise MAjorino's sexy new fauxhawk. Majorino then says her first day back was great, because all her old friends started wandering into the makeup trailer one after another. "It was the most exciting day. And it happened the whole day, and every day for me on the set has been so appropriate." She compares experience of the high school reunion with the reunion she had with her co-stars.
11:37 a.m.: Capra says, "I felt like I fell off the face of the planet" after the show ended. Worried he wasn't going to be asked. "I thought you guys didn't know who I was anymore." Many awws, Colantoni rubs his head.
11:38 a.m.: Daggs jokes the first part of his preparation for the role was many perfect push-ups. He laments the fact that the shoot was so quick, because he wanted to spend even more time with his old friends.
11:39 a.m.: Was it easy for Colantoni to slip back into chemistry with Bell? "Kristen and I hang out at hockey games together," he explains. "I think Rob intentionally waited for the Keith Mars character to come after the second and third week. Let all them have fun, and then daddy comes home." He adores Bell. "It's easy to just look at her and have this paternal thing for her. Now that she's a mama, we have more to talk about." Hansen shouts out, "MILF!"
11:40 a.m.: The Kickstarter launch video was homemade. Bell's boyfriend Dax Shepard built the puppet theater, and Thomas' puppeteer costume was Bell's ski gear. Thomas is quite a bit larger than Bell; it was not comfortable. Bell recalls going through airport security and the TSA agents being puzzled by the puppets in his carry-on bag.
11:42 a.m.: Given fan reaction to Piz, what have Lowell's interactions with them been? He says he wore the t-shirt to avoid being shot. When Thomas told him he was bringing Piz back, "I said, 'The death threats had almost stopped!'" He admits he's had some funky fan interactions, because he was "'responsible'" for breaking up Logan and Veronica, and was treated by some like he had broken up their own relationships. Also says that when you have a character named Piz, "It sticks with you." His friends once tried to rip the R and U off his Prius and turn the S upside down so he would be driving a Piz.