Exclusive Interview: Rob Thomas, Creator/Executive Producer of Veronica Mars (Part 2)
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Being on UPN, and now the CW, do you feel that being on a smaller network gives you a lot more creative freedom than if you were on one of the big networks? Well, I think there's two ways of looking at it. Had we done the sort of numbers [ratings] on any of the bigger networks that we do on Veronica, we would not have seen episode 4, let alone season 4. So we wouldn't have had the creative freedom to do five episodes. Certainly the networks, all of them, they're trying to find a way to get viewers to watch a show and we certainly get notes from UPN, but I've been really...pretty happy with the way they've dealt with our show creatively. I mean certainly they have notes on every episode and every cut, but they haven't tried to change the essence of what Veronica Mars is. Was there any difference between working for UPN rather than the CW? How has that transition been? Yeah, you know, I got a different set of executives that I deal with. Dawn Ostroff is the president of both networks; I don't get a lot of creative input from Dawn. It's generally the drama executives on a day to day basis and, yeah, they stress different things. The UPN executives were very micro in the way they approached our scripts and cuts like, "Can you mention this person's name in this scene again because the audience will forget it" or "Please remind the audience here that X has happened." Whereas I feel like the new executives are more macro oriented, where they're sort of looking at the bigger picture and don't concern themselves so much with the details of any given scene. I mean, that's a simplification, but that's pretty accurate. I think it's safe to say that your fan base is pretty rabid and loyal. Do you ever have a difficult time juggling trying to keep the fans happy versus telling the story you want to tell? Yeah, I mean, I almost think that every decision that we make here we piss off a percentage of our fan base. It's a show where there are certain fans who are completely invested in Veronica and Logan being together and finding happiness together and certainly a strong percentage who think they're awful together and need to split up. Whether we choose to keep them together or break them apart, I'm making somebody angry. There are all sorts of times when I think that keeping fans happy, it becomes a sort of impossible task and if I think too much about it, I'll drive myself crazy. There are also plenty of times where I think I've got to make the choice that's good for the show rather than the choice that will make everyone happy. I tend to find that fans want to Veronica to find happiness now. They want her to make the correct decision now and be happy in it and if that were to happen we wouldn't have any dramatic fodder left in the show. Veronica needs to make mistakes, she needs to have some growth left in her, she needs to take the wrong path a reasonable percentage of the time. I don't want her to be this idiot character who keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, or at least not more so than any normal human does. I mean, a lot of us make the same mistake over and over again and certainly there are issues on forgiveness and retribution that Veronica has trouble getting past and probably will continue to. But to sum up, I would drive myself nuts, I would drive myself nuts if I tried to keep all the fans happy all the time. And I don't think it would be a particularly interesting show. When did you and your staff learn that the CW was going to change the episode order from 22 to 20 and did that make it difficult on you and the writers to truncate the story line? It made certain things a little more difficult. When we learned we were going from 22 to 20, we only had three episodes left in the "Who killed Dean O'Dell?" mystery and then suddenly, once we heard that news, we only had two episodes left to tell that story. And they were going to be three pretty jammed episodes anyway, so suddenly we had a lot of information to get into the final two episodes of the mystery, so that was some cause for alarm and I feel like we dropped a couple of story beats that I wanted to play that I think we're fine without, but I sort of try to at least answer...if not all the red herrings that don't leave to solving the case, I do try to wrap up the elements that do lead to the actual solving of the Whodunit, and I feel like I dropped a couple of things in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise if we hadn't lost that episode. With your mysteries on the show, it would seem that you would need to have all the story lines mapped out before the season started. Is that how it goes? Do you and your writers get together before the season and plan everything out? Do you leave any leeway? Yeah. The leeway we leave ourselves is generally all the red herring stuff...all the stuff that doesn't lead to the actual doer of the deed. In other words, when we start the year, we know what the crime is, who committed the crime, how they committed the crime, what the major clues will be to solving the crime. And then we try to not step on it with the rest of our storytelling. We don't break the mystery of the week ahead of time, but we do break the big detective case ahead of time. So it certainly takes turns. We weren't planning on who we think would be interesting. We'll emphasize things that we think are working in the story, and deemphasize things that we don't think are working in the story. But, yeah, there's still plenty of room to play with the arcs. We just can't change the real facts. We can change the facts that we add to confuse people. Is there anything you can say about the possibility of the fourth season? You know, it's up in the air. We certainly don't have any answer. I think we're probably better than 50/50 to come back next year, but I don't know that we're much better than 50/50 to come back next year. But you and your staff are fully on board; if you get the green light, you want to come back? Oh yes, absolutely. Without a doubt. I'm praying for it. I desperately want to come back next year. What can we expect from tomorrow's (Show Me the Monkey) episode? It's one I really like. These next two, 10 and 11, I think are really fun episodes. This first one coming back has a little bit to do with animal testing and Kristen, who's a big animal rights activist, sort of weighed in on the script in a way that she's never weighed in on before. I mean, we invited her to do it, we wanted to make sure she was kosher with everything we were saying, not only about animal testing, but about the groups that oppose them or those she belongs to. Which is not to say...trust me when I say we're not jamming someone's politics down anyone's throat, it actually, at the end of the day, becomes a very personal story rather than a political one. But I think it's a fun one and I think it bounces along and we play some fun stuff with Veronica and Max and Parker's romantic lives that I'm really pleased with. Are there any final words, anything you'd like to say to the fans? Besides keep watching, I will say the one other thing I'll promise about this mystery is that I think it has a different feel then the other three big mysteries that we've played. I would say it's more a traditional Whodunit. It sort of acts as a Christie-style mystery, whereas our other mysteries have sort of ended in thriller episodes with Veronica in peril. This one has more of a parlor game feel to it and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Thanks a lot, Rob. Alright, I appreciate it.
Part 1 / Part 2
This interview is the ninth in a series of BuddyTV interviews with the creators, writers, and producers behind many of TV's hit shows. Thus far, we've featured an interview with Jon Robin Baitz (creator of Brothers and Sisters) interview with Josh Schwartz (creator of The OC)an interview with Alfred Gough (creator of Smallville), an interview with John Shiban (executive producer of Supernatural), an interview with Mark Schwahn (creator of One Tree Hill) an interview with Hank Steinberg (creator of The Nine), an interview with David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik (the creators of The Class), and an interview with David S. Rosenthal (new Head Writer/Executive Producer of Gilmore Girls).