Kristen Bell: The Movieline Interview
If Comic-Con has a geek goddess, it's surely Kristen Bell. The actress is a regular fixture at the Con, and her resume nails every niche: a cherished cult TV show (Veronica Mars), a stint as a superheroine (Heroes), a videogame voiceover (Assassin's Creed)...hell, the women even donned Princess Leia's slave bikini for Fanboys. Bell was at this year's Comic-Con promoting the voice she contributed to Astro Boy, but beyond that she's poised for mainstream success, with a slew of big comedies (including the Vince Vaughn-Jon Favreau reunion Couples Retreat) on the way.
Bell took the time to talk to Movieline about her Con dominance in a wide-ranging interview that also touched on Veronica Mars, her stint on Party Down, and her excitement over campy auteur Tommy Wiseau.
You're kind of the voiceover queen, so let me in on some of the secrets of your trade. Like, with Astro Boy, how do you make sure your conversations with Freddie Highmore have chemistry when you're not recording with him?
I was lucky enough to have Freddie record before me, so I was able to hear his line and know how intense he was or how soft or angry. Acting is a lot about listening and I think our chemistry kind of comes in the fact that we got to know each other's characters? Maybe that sounds silly, but...
When you first started doing voiceovers, did it take some time to master it?
I think that it's kind of all the same experience, because you come in trying to do the best job you can do. Freddie made a good point: You really do have to be just as invested in a voiceover part as you are in live action or theater. You can tell when someone isn't invested, you can hear it, and that's the one tool we have as voiceover actors. So you have to use it wisely and be as present as possible. The hours are much better!
I would imagine! Do you come into the studio to record your narration on Gossip Girl and tear through a script in about five minutes?
Now? Thirty, I'm thirty or under at this point. We've gotten it into a cycle.
Do you read the entire script or just get the narration?
I just get the narration because I prefer to watch the episodes.
But you must have a hint of what's to come by what you're narrating.
Yeah, I'll be psyched that a lot of things are gonna happen. Plus, if there's a really good sequence coming up, I'll bug the producers until they show it to me. I'll be like, "You have to show me prom before it airs!"
Had you at least met Freddie before you started recording?
No, we met three days ago. [Laughs]
Did you give him any advice for braving Comic-Con?
I don't need to give him a lick of advice, because he's got it all figured out. No, I did just say, "Be on guard. Watch out."
Yeah, I knew there would be people in costumes, but I didn't realize how many there would be.
I know. It's intense.
You're a veteran at this point, aren't you?
This, I believe, is my fifth. I just keep coming back! Try to keep me away from Comic-Con. It's interesting to see people from Hollywood start to realize how pivotal this can be for your movie. To give the clientele that attends Comic-Con sneak previews, or information, or world-premiere trailers...they talk, they blog, they share information. They kind of run the internet, let's be honest, and it's so important to have them on your side. They can kind of make or break a movie, and they're extremely intelligent audience members.
Have you seen them break anything?
I don't know if I can think of anything specifically, but I know that they're a very good group of people to keep in your inner circle. Also, you can learn from them, because their opinions are pretty smart, you know? They're not a stupid audience.
What were you expecting the first year you came?
I had no idea. I had no idea. I do think it's the perfect place for a superfan. The people here are individuals and very unique, and this is a place where that's celebrated.
I know there's been fan discontent over statements that the Veronica Mars movie is most likely dead.
Luckily, the fans are dedicated enough that they ask what they can do. It's all about being proactive like that: sending them letters, writing blogs, mailing them Mars Bars, renting a plane...we just have to make it known that there's an audience.
Someone rented a plane?
Oh yeah! The second season, we weren't sure if we would be picked up, and someone rented a plane and flew it over the CW network building with a sign that said, "Save Veronica Mars." They also sent [executives], at one point, like a thousand Mars Bars. At another point, there's this joke in Veronica Mars where I write on a dollar bill, "Veronica Mars is smarter than me," and I ask my nemesis to read it out loud, and the fans sent a lot of money in dollar bills. They all wrote, "Veronica Mars is smarter than me," put it in an envelope, and sent it to Dawn Ostroff, the head of the CW.
And she did what with those dollar bills?
It probably went into our budget! [Laughs] It probably got us some craft service or something.
You're also in Couples Retreat, where you're up against all these notorious improv actors.
I'm not against them! I am with them, I will stand beside them and absorb all that they teach me.
Had you done improv to this extent before? I know you've done Party Down, Forgetting Sarah Marshall...
A little bit, yeah. In Party Down, it was surprisingly on-book for my camera, just because so much of my character was technical. In Sarah Marshall, though, we did a lot of off-page stuff. You know, it's just a fun environment to work in. You have to be really supportive if you're working with improv, because otherwise people don't bring up the right instincts and ideas because they feel like they'll be shot down. So it ends up being a really nice set to work on.
Speaking of Party Down, are you doing anything with them on their second season?
[Coy smile] Maybe. Maybe you're the first person to ask me about that...
It feels like Starz is really throwing its weight behind that show now, so I'm sure they've asked you.
[Party Down] might have asked me, and I might have said, "I'll see if I'm available." I don't want to give too much away, but there's definitely been discussions. I mean, I would work for [executive producer] Rob Thomas for the rest of my days, if I had the chance.
I also wanted to ask you about Tommy Wiseau's cult classic The Room, which I know you're a big fan of.
I...[struggles to compose herself] OK, I just saw The Neighbors, his new pilot.
My friend Peter Serafinowicz...do you know Peter Serafinowicz? He's in Couples Retreat. Anyway, I was visiting him a few weeks ago in London, [and he had it]. It is...so...incoherent. This pilot...it seems to be the perfect diagnostic tool for schizophrenia. If this makes sense to you, you're definitely schizophrenic.
Do you worry that Tommy Wiseau may be in on his own joke by now, since he knows how The Room was embraced as this campy mess?
I don't know, and you know what? I don't care, as long as he keeps doing what he's doing. I believe that Tim and Eric, my favorites from Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, have picked up or are trying to produce The Neighbors on Adult Swim. I had heard that Tommy Wiseau asked them, "OK, great, can I use your editing equipment now? Are you guys gonna help me?" And they said, "Tommy, we're not gonna touch a single frame. We're not gonna lay a hand on your masterpiece." So I'm very excited to see what happens.