Beautiful Kristen Bell looks nothing like her 26 years, and she’s more than happy to keep it that way. Best known to audiences as the cynical Veronica Mars, Bell has no problem being cast as an adolescent, as she is in the psychological horror flick, Pulse.
But when cast in TV’s Mars, the actress didn’t care too much that though in her 20s, she was set to play a high school student. “At that time I didn’t have the luxury to choose about how old I could play because I just look that young, and I blatantly get carded at R-rated movies. Someone asked my 30-year old boyfriend once if I was his daughter,” she recalls, laughingly.
Having now left her mark on the popular [and critically acclaimed] show, Bell may have had the luxury of going adolescent on the big screen in Pulse, but she says that Pulse, a remake of a Japanese horror film, was less conventional than most horror scripts she’d read. “There was not any gore and it really was commenting on something that’s very real and very now – this idea of technology and what it really means when we’re wi-fy’ing our whole world, and how that you can look in your own backyard on Google and see how creepy that really is. To me, it was just a lot more interesting than the typical screaming blonde. She was also a little bit closer to Veronica, which I think I was in a comfort zone, in that she’s kind of tough and very independent.”
Based on the 2001 Japanese thriller, Pulse revolves around a group of teens who rally to stop a terrifying evil from taking over the world when their computer hacker friend accidentally channels a mysterious wireless signal, Bell, whose Veronica Mars is technologically savvy, says she’s just the opposite of these girls in terms of technology. “I think my attitude towards technology is: don’t touch it because if I do it will break,” she says, laughingly.
Because of the narrow window of opportunity that exists between the conclusion and resumption of production of Veronica Mars, Bell says she tries to be as selective as she can. “I know I want to play a bunch of different types of characters, but I really don’t know until I read it,” Bell explains. “Maybe it’s not the most interesting role in the world but it’s a good role and a great project.” As to why Pulse, “I think that there were so many horror movies being shot over the last couple of years, the scripts were being passed around, and this was the best one that I read.”
Avoiding the Hollywood cliché of the blonde teenage damsel in distress, Bell says it was important “to start from a place that’s very grounded. I think it was easy because the character was a little stronger to begin with. I wasn’t playing a girlie-girl that gets messed up in A, B and C that leads to horror film and starts screaming. I was playing a girl that was very independent, sort of guarded, and that helped because she had an attitude that was a little more grounded. But I also think that sometimes a little bit of cliché in a movie is great; as it provides a certain familiarity that everybody knows within that genre.” A genre, she says, that often instils genuine fear. “I have always been really scared of horror movies, I’m scared when the lights go out and I really am a total wimp. If somebody jumps out from behind something I’ll be in tears in a nanosecond.”
Bell will soon be returning for another season of Veronica Mars, denying rumours about its impending demise. “We have a guaranteed thirteen episodes but they can also stop us after four,” still unsure as to whether the entire run of the series will be shot. “When it airs if we don’t do better numbers they can immediately cancel us, but if we do good numbers we’ll go another year. I think every year could be the last year for a TV show so I guess I’m just trying to stay optimistic about it you know, but I don’t think it’ll be the last year. I also think having the C.W. pair us up with The Gilmore Girls is really, really good for us, and I think that if we can get some of their run-off viewers, that we’ll be in great shape.”
Bell’s popularity was evident at the screening of Pulse, during which cattle calls could be heard in abundance, each time the actress showed some flesh. Bell is pragmatic about her sexy image and recent Maxim photo shoot, which is the antithesis of her Veronica image, but says that she is beginning to understand the business of Hollywood. “I never thought I would do Maxim, when Bob and Harvey approached me with it” Bell says. “I’m also not stupid, and I understand the business technique of selling a movie. There are 3.1 million and they say 2.9 of them say they would see a movie on opening weekend. Now that’s a huge amount when you times that by ten dollars a ticket and I want to sell this film.”
Bell agrees with allowing herself to be sexual and beautiful. “There’s nothing more beautiful than that, and you have to recognize that as beauty, but I think that we’ve gotten so immune because everybody tries to push the envelope, and now you have these girls spreading their legs and it’s like, okay, but what happened to where we were really capturing it? ” It seems that Bell is the least likely candidate for a Maxim photo shoot, and Bell agrees, to a point. “I’m not a prude but I think I’m also very classy, and I try to emulate that. I think that I did Maxim in the most tasteful way possible, as I basically went in and was like: I’m not wearing stilettos, I’m not arching my back, and I’m not pulling at my clothes.”
Bell insists that going into a more adult image does not necessarily mean she has to be aware of the younger audience that she’s cultivated doing Veronica Mars. “I think that problems come about when people don’t recognize it as what it is. You know, you can say, that I never asked to be a role model and play that whole game but the bottom line is I chose to be in the spotlight. I want to represent myself as best as possible, not only to my fans but also to the people I’m working for. If I wasn’t promoting Pulse then maybe I would have had a different thought about it. But it was a good experience in the end because they were respectful of what I wanted to do. I love the girls that I cater to on Veronica Mars but eventually I do want to do a lot of different things with my career.”
Yet Veronica has proven a valuable project for the actress, admitting that though reticent at first at playing a teenager, this particular teenager was too good to pass up. “The role was kind of irresistible and I realised that if I’m going to play a role for seven years I want it to be as good as Veronica Mars.” And given the character’s mature cynicism, Bell says being that much older helps. “I think I grew up quickly and my spirit is older for some reason, so I think that for me, having more life experience has helped me play Veronica a little bit more jaded and wiser.”
Bell says that she has grown considerably since Veronica first appeared on our screens. “I’d had a very good high school experience, was very outgoing so I had a lot of social activities to be involved in and I didn’t realize how quite cruel high school kids are, so I definitely learned more in that arena. My perspective has also widened as far as right side of the tracks, wrong side of the tracks, labels in high school and the sort of discrimination that really goes on with kids.”
As far as Bell’s own growth is concerned, “I’ve certainly never played a character this long, so to keep it fresh, keep it the same and be able to jump right into it I think I’ve learned little skills. Now I don’t even have to think when I’m going to play Veronica anymore, but that’s because I did the right amount of work when I first got into it, talked to the writers and I just got her.” While the first two seasons focussed on one major storyline, Bell says that this third season will be a bit different, “and they’re trying to break it up, so we’re going to do three different mysteries and I think it’s going to work.”
Next on the big screen, Bell will be seen in a totally different light to either Veronica or the character in Pulse. “I’m in Fanboys, where I play the only fangirl – I have a short dark wig on so you might not recognize me at first. But it’s about these five Star Wars kids that drive cross country to break into George Lucas’ ranch. It’s amazing with Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, and William Shatner – because there’s a full-on like Braveheart style war between the Trekkies and the Star Wars kids.” And yes, the sexy Ms Bell turns geek. “Yean, I totally geek out.” It seems as if her dreams of diversity may be coming true earlier than she thinks.