Jason Dohring hasn’t been resting on his laurels since “Veronica Mars” departed The CW’s schedule in 2007, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t excited about the opportunity to reprise the role of Logan Echolls, Neptune, CA’s resident bad boy, when series creator Rob Thomas used the power of Kickstarter to make a “Veronica Mars” movie.
Dohring started his TV career in the mid-1990s, making one-off appearances on a wide variety of series, including “Baywatch,” “Picket Fences,” “Roswell,” “The Parkers,” and “JAG,” but it was “Veronica Mars” which gave him as his first series-regular role. After the show wrapped its three-season run, Dohring jumped right back into work, serving as a cast member in CBS’s short-lived vampire drama “Moonlight,” pulled a recurring role on The CW’s “Ringer,” and popped up as a guest star on — among other series — “CSI,” “Lie to Me,” and “Supernatural.” All the while, however, rumblings continued to echo through the internet about the possibility of bringing back “Veronica Mars.”
Now that it’s finally become a reality, Dohring’s as excited as anyone about the “Veronica Mars” movie hitting theaters after its premiere at SXSW this Saturday, and Indiewire spoke to the actor about the slow process of bringing the series to the big screen, what Logan’s been doing since we last saw him, and whether or not those who never watched the show will still find something to love about Veronica’s new incarnation.
The idea of doing a “Veronica Mars” movie was teased and talked about for quite some time, but do you recall when you first heard the word “Kickstarter” being kicked around?
The show had ended, we had a great run and knew we’d always stay really good friends. Then [executive producer] Joel Silver called me up and said he wanted to work with me again, so I got to go on a show called “Moonlight.” I also got to do some work on an HBO project.
And every so often I’d talk to Rob [Thomas] or see him, and he’d always say, “Be sure to keep your schedule open, it might be six months or a year, but we’re gonna make this movie, man!” And all of us were, like, “That’s awesome, Rob. Just let us know.” [laughs]
Then the next thing I know, he says, “I’m gonna put it up on Kickstarter.” And I hadn’t really heard of Kickstarter, but I go, “Okay, that’s cool.” I happened to be out the day he put it on Kickstarter and had forgotten it was that day, and all of a sudden I started getting these texts from my mother-in-law and from actors I’d worked with previously: “It’s going viral!” I couldn’t believe it. Kristen [Bell] called me later that night, and she’s, like, “Jay, can you believe this?” I didn’t know how big a deal it was, but the next day, it’s set a world record and it’s conquering all this new territory, there’s talk about how it’s groundbreaking art, and… well, anyway, that’s sort of a rundown of how it came into development.
When the series ended, did you contemplate where you thought Logan would’ve gone next? And if so, did it bear any resemblance to where Rob’s taken him in the film?
Well, it’s so much later, right? It’s 10 years later. We do get some backstory that’s pretty cool, some meaningful things that he wound up doing with his life that gave him some direction. He obviously had a very rough life, family and otherwise, and everyone he cares about ends up dying or leaving or breaking up with him — there’s not much left.
So he winds up picking up the pieces, only to find himself the number one murder suspect for his rock star girlfriend — which is where the film starts — and he has to enlist Veronica’s help yet again to clear his name.
Knowing that you’re probably under explicit orders to avoid spoilers, can you speak at least in general terms to whether there are a fair number of episode callbacks within the film?
You know Rob — he’s notorious for that, throwing in little things. That’s what set our fans apart, I always thought. We did the series in our formative years, most of us just out of high school, shooting the show and not knowing if anyone would watch. We were making this thing that we thought was a work of art, the most important thing in the world, so we put our all into it. And even the littlest details were always caught by fans, which was amazing.
Rob writes in such detail, throwing in little things and giving small shout-outs to other shows or films. So the movie’s got the same kind of details, callbacks to stories, to things that were cool then or are cool today, and I think the fans will catch or find a lot of those.
Are you obsessive enough about the show yourself that you caught most of the callbacks in the script?
Well, yeah, but, y’know, I had to look up a lot of stuff, too. [laughs]
During the Television Critics Association press tour, the producers of “24: Live Another Day” admitted that they had to check Wikipedia on occasion to see if certain characters were still alive and available for them to use. Before doing the film, did you have to refresh your memory a bit as far as who Logan was and what he’d done?
Oh, for sure. It was quite complicated. I went and watched all the episodes again before we started shooting the film, just to remember stuff, and there were a couple of plot points where I was like, “I don’t get that,” and had to go back to remember exactly what happened. But the story’s geared toward a young, intelligent, computer-savvy generation of people. I think they can catch up if they need to.
As you looked back over the series, were there any moments that made you cringe, or where you saw something you did and just went, “Oh, man, I can’t believe I played it that way”?
Yeah — there’s always that. But then you’ve got the moments that are the opposite, where you’re like, “Oh, that was nice,” a bit where you know you worked so hard and made it work, and you appreciate it and get a positive feeling. You hate realizing, “Oh, I could’ve spent more time on that.” For the most part, though, it’s more that I go back and go, “God, what a dick!” [laughs] “God, I can’t believe what an asshole that guy is. I don’t know how people can care for him.” He’s just so bad! He’s so bad. A serious problem with morality. But there’s some really interesting stuff in there. The breakups were really interesting. It wasn’t just your typical teenage stuff. It was real emotion, man.”
Did you feel like there any missteps with the character during the course of the series?
I don’t know, man. Not particularly. Why, was there something in particular you were thinking about? [laughs]
Not specifically. I just know that a lot of actors will do a post-mortem and go, “Okay, this worked, this didn’t work…”
Yeah, I know what you mean… I guess it had to develop this way, but when your character becomes a nice guy, it’s always, like, you have to deal with not having quite as much to do, and it’s not as much fun as an actor because you’re not getting to smash cop cars or whatever. I had to straighten up and pass some of the comedy to Mr. Ryan Hansen [who plays Dick Casablancas], who took the mantle very well, but I’d always enjoyed that aspect of the character.
If you’re going to be the boyfriend of the title character, you’ve gotta straighten up a little bit, know what I mean? I’m glad they went back and forth and that I got that time with her off of that — the emotional relationship with Veronica, that was my bread and butter, from an artistic standpoint — but all the cutting up, that was my favorite stuff.
Logan and Veronica’s last moments together in the series involve a meaningful glance and a smile between them before Logan wanders off into the sunset, as it were.
Yeah! What do you think that meant? [laughs]
Well, I think left things intentionally enigmatic, but it still left the fans hopeful.
I think so, too. To be honest, I think it was done because the plan was to set things up for another year. When you wrap up a season like that, you don’t know how things are gonna go, but we were leaning toward continuing the story, which is perhaps the reason why fans wanted to contribute to this movie so quickly: they wanted to see a resolution.
And Rob’s done a great job of giving that to them. This truly is a story for the fans, and we want them to feel satisfied. So I think bringing us back in this way is going to be great. He doesn’t tie it up in a bow and give it to you all beautiful in the end. It’s gonna be satisfying, but Rob throws in his usual twists, so it’s still going to leave ’em a little wanting.
Given that you were working on a relatively small budget for a motion picture, were there any intrinsic differences in the process of filming for you as an actor?
We shot on a similar schedule to a TV episode, but we did the film in 25 days, something like that. It was pretty fast, and it felt like we actually had a bit more money than we had on the show. [laughs] It felt big budget. We had great fans and a supportive audience, and that carried over to having fans on set. But the overall feel of it was that of a huge project, because we had so many people on set, because we had “Nightline” doing a story, we had Time magazine writing us up… It was just an amazing experience.
None of us knew what it was going to mean when we went into it, but I think it’s just a testament to independent film, and how you can do something like this without the backing of a studio if you can get to the people who want to help you out. People dipped into their wallets to make this movie, and I think we felt that tremendous support all through the making of it.
Were you surprised that there was a slight backlash about the idea of Kickstarter being used by celebrities trying to fund their projects?
I heard about that a little later, but I don’t know that our fans felt that way as much. I thought Rob strategically organized it from the start — for this amount you got a t-shirt or a downloadable PDF of the script, you got updates and behind-the-scenes stuff — and he wanted to make it, and we obviously appreciate it, and we think they’ll like the finished project.
After “Veronica Mars” proved to be a success, how long did it take for people to start suggesting the idea of doing a “Moonlight” movie on Kickstarter?
That was such a fun show, but Alex [O’Loughlin] is busy riding a surfboard in Hawaii, so he’s got his own thing right now. But I’d like to think I’ll get the chance to work with those people again. It was just a great time…but how can it not be when you get to wear a Prada suit and drive a Ferrari with naked women in the front seat? [laughs] It’s pretty cool. And it was really different than “Veronica,” which made it even more terrific.
Is there any show you’d like to see revived via Kickstarter?
There’s so much good television on now, man. I think things just find their way. I don’t know if there’s a particular show I’d say, although there are a lot of great artists out there I’d certainly like to support.
It’s so funny when a show goes away. It’s like the family you grew up with is gone. That’s why it was such a unique experience to get a chance to revisit that with “Veronica Mars.” I was so lucky to get that experience the first time, and very few people get the chance to experience those relationships again. It’s really cool.
You had a chance to revisit one of those relationships on an episode of “Party Down,” when you reunited with Ryan Hansen.
Yeah, and it was so funny. I would sit there like a total idiot, just laughing my ass off at the lunch table. Guys like Ken Marino, Adam [Scott], Ryan, Jane [Lynch], they’re just bantering back and forth, and I couldn’t believe how quick they were. It was unbelievable. And I’m sitting there thinking, “Am I crazy for wanting to record this? Because this stuff is great!”
You mentioned earlier how you’d gotten to work for a time on an HBO project. Was that the pilot for “Washingtonienne”?
That’s right. It was one of the best experiences, too, even if it didn’t get picked up. Sarah Jessica Parker was there during the filming, and when they said “cut,” she’d run up behind you and jump on your back and start screaming, “That was so good!” She was over the moon, all five-foot-one of her, just super cute. I got to work with some other very talented people on the pilot, and I got to play a little bit of a comedy guy in that one. I don’t know how many people ended up seeing it, but I know I was happy with what I did.
This movie is obviously a gift to the fans, but do you feel like the media attention is serving to bring in new fans as well?
Rob told me that they did a small screening of the movie a little while ago as they were still tweaking it, and it did really well. I think Warner Bros. was there, and they were particularly interested in how the movie would do with people who hadn’t seen the show as well as how they’d rate it. With the fans, it was rated, 96% percent “excellent” or “very good.” Even with the non-fans, though, it was 83-86% who put it as either “excellent” or “very good.”
So I think the movie stands on its own, and I hope that people give it a chance, because… well, I mean, whatever, dude, I still don’t care if you see it or not. [laughs] But it’s cool that we performed that way because it means that people think it’s good whether they’ve seen the show or not. It’s a cool story, a love story, which I guess is why it was so cool for me. I love Kristen, and I loved all the work I put into it to make it good, and I think that’s going to come out in the movie.