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UPN's star on "Veronica Mars", Kristen Bell will next be seen starring in the television movie "Reefer Madness," based on the hit play in which she also starred in Off Broadway. Most recently, she had a recurring role in the series "Deadwood." Bell's other television credits include lead roles in the made-for-television movies "Gracie's Choice" and "The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay," and guest starring roles in "American Dreams," "The Shield" and "Everwood." On film, Kristen Bell recently starred as the kidnapped daughter of the president in the David Mamet feature "Spartan," opposite Val Kilmer. On stage, Bell can currently be seen in "A Little Night Music" at the Los Angeles Opera. Previously, she starred in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, the Broadway production of "Tom Sawyer," and played the title role in the world premiere of the musical "Sneaux." Bell graduated from New York's prestigious Tisch School Of The Arts, with a degree in theater. Kristen Bell was born on July 18, 1980, in Detroit, Michigan, and she resides in Los Angeles. She is dating Kevin Mann, an independent film producer and swim coach.
Meet Kristen Bell
You'll See Her In: UPN's Veronica Mars, as the titular girl detective.
Previous Gig: Pioneer teen Flora Anderson on Deadwood.
Why You Should Care: Because she's playing Buffy the Crime Slayer, coming from the wrong side the tracks and solving cases with her dad in a tony village on the California coast.
Something She Said: "I had a really good group of friends in high school, but I certainly can identify with the feelings of loneliness and of being an outcast--whether it's being a work situation or being a kid."
Kristen Bell's A Tough Act To Follow
Dreaming up a modern-day Nancy Drew to be the hero of a TV series about a 17-year-old girl detective, the creator of the show had something a little different in mind than the fiery redhead gumshoe of yore. He wanted a brunette ‑- a smarter-than-you California teen trapped in a town straight out of film noir. Definitely not a blonde bombshell.
"I heard Christina Ricci in my head when I wrote it," says Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, a former high school journalism teacher who is now executive producer of the UPN show, which has garnered great reviews and a cult audience. "I wanted someone who had a caustic delivery for lines that had weight and dryness."
And yet, the young woman who won the role is a blonde with a bright smile instead of a smirk, and a sunny voice trained for Broadway musicals instead of a grouchy deadpan. Kristen Bell, a 24-year-old Detroit native who moved to Los Angeles in 2002 after a brief stint in New York theater, beat out some 70 other young actresses for the part of the resourceful teen.
So far in her short career, despite the America's-sweetheart looks, Bell's been a specialist in tough teens. Last January, she scored one of Lifetime's highest ratings in Gracie's Choice as a high-schooler determined to adopt her younger siblings after her drug-addled mother abandons them. And, it turns out, her hair color is actually quite a fitting choice for Veronica, considering that Nancy Drew herself started off with the curly yellow locks of a movie star on the covers of her early books.
Unlike Nancy, however, Veronica has serious criminal mysteries to solve, starting with finding out who murdered her best friend. She's also got major high school angst. When she stands by her sheriff father after he accuses a beloved bigwig of the murder, she loses everything ‑- her mom, her in-crowd status and her home. She becomes wise beyond her years.
"I loved her story," says Bell from San Diego, where the show films. "The situations were very real. She was from a single-parent family, had experienced loss at a young age and was very strong. I am attracted to strong female characters."
Bell could feel Veronica's pain. Her own parents divorced when she was a toddler, and she lost her best friend in a car accident just before she headed to New York University to study acting. "The more I got into it, I realized how much she paralleled my own life ‑- but spoke more eloquently about it," the actress insists.
The similarities stop at the keyboard. "I am not computer savvy," Bell says with a laugh, even though her character is practically a hacker. "It's not me when you see me on the computer. The screens have been programmed."
Kristen Bell's appeal is no 'Veronica Mars' puzzle
At 24, Kristen Bell looks young even for a 17-year-old, which is the age of the sleuthing title character she plays on UPN's Veronica Mars.
But spend more than 30 seconds with Bell - or just take in one of her performances - and you get the message: She is not to be dismissed. A fine-featured blonde from Detroit, little more than 5 feet tall, she is sure to make a big impression.
She played the president's college-age problem child kidnapped in the David Mamet thriller Spartan, and a chaste-looking grifter who was beaten to death on HBO's frontier drama Deadwood.
"The first week I was there," says Bell, meaning Los Angeles, where she moved two years ago after college and several stage roles in New York, "I booked the season première of The Shield." On this gritty FX cop drama, she played a gang member's girlfriend who was raped and tattooed on the face.
But that year, she wasn't so successful landing a series.
"I tested like eight times and booked nothing," she says, "and every show I tested for got picked up - like Skin and that Norm Macdonald show. It was very grounding to be that close to so many things and not get them."
"Well, yeah," she declares, too tactful to brand them "instant flops" outright. "When I saw them, I learned how you can get excited easily. You need to pick your role really wisely.
"This pilot season, I read Veronica Mars," she says, flashing an incandescent smile. "Ten pages in, I knew I would kill to get it."
That wasn't necessary. In September, Bell debuted as the star of this hip high-school whodunit.
In the rich seaside community of Neptune, Calif., the series' sadder-but-wiser heroine has assumed a daunting challenge: To get to the bottom of a squalid crime that cost her father his job as sheriff, spurred her mother to leave home, and turned Veronica into an outcast. Her best friend was murdered.
After school, Veronica helps her dad (Enrico Colantoni) at his private-investigation agency, while her pixieish and bold style has helped earn the show - along with Bell's pitch-perfect performance - rave reviews. Though no ratings blockbuster, Veronica Mars has won a full-season order.
"She's a girl who's not afraid to speak her mind, but she's not annoying," Bell says. "She can be really strong, but without being butch. And since my parents split when I was 2, I love the fact that she's from a single-parent family."
But more than anything, Bell bonds with her character through their shared loss of a cherished friend.
"When I was 17, my best friend was killed in an automobile accident," she explains, calling the tragedy "both the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. I think I'm a happier person because of it, as weird as that is to say, because, once you learn not to take people for granted, you live a lot happier life."
Kristen Bell gives a genuine performance on ''Veronica Mars''
It would be a shame if this year's crop of newbies were overlooked. Several freshman series boast some of the best, most involving performances of the year.
Chief among these may be Kristen Bell's iconic turn as the title character on UPN's Veronica Mars. Bell is one of those rare young actors who completely lacks pretension. She is incapable of giving a line reading that's anything less than genuine. Her Veronica is a savvy high-schooler who helps her P.I. dad solve weekly cases, and she pursues clues relevant to the larger, season-long mystery: Who killed Veronica's best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried)? Bell wrings Veronica's complex maze of emotions for all it's worth. This is a role that had to be perfectly cast for the show to work, and Bell rises to the occasion. She makes Veronica at once smart-alecky and vulnerable, and we believe in her performance every step of the way.
Bell is ably assisted by TV veteran Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me), who plays Veronica's father, Keith. Colantoni is all those things a good TV dad should be: tender, funny, protective. The actor has such natural chemistry with Bell; it's tough to believe the two aren't related in real life. Sadly both actors' chances of being recognized are slim; though critically beloved, Veronica is a ratings underdog and doesn't quite have the high profile of some of this season's blockbuster hits. Having already developed a loyal cult following, the show has inspired comparisons to Buffy the Vampire Slayer--a show that, despite boasting some deserving performances, never broke out in any of the acting categories at the SAG Awards or the Emmys. Still, there are always the Globes, which are known for sometimes recognizing actors on cool new series during the show's first season: Think Alias' Jennifer Garner, Felicity's Keri Russell, and Joan of Arcadia's Amber Tamblyn. In Garner's and Tamblyn's cases, their Globe noms paved the way for Emmy nods. One can only hope that Bell, at least, is singled out in the same way.