Kristen Bell: Woman in a man’s world on ‘House of Lies’
She's come a long way since Neptune High. Former "Veronica Mars" star Kristen Bell currently plays management consultant Jeannie Van Der Hooven on Showtime's "House of Lies," her first regular role in five years. On returning to series TV she admits, "I missed being on a show. I like the consistency; I'm very much like a dog in that way that I like the routine, and I like seeing the same people at work. I feel like it bolsters my creative process, makes me a happier individual on- and off-set. I love doing movies, but it feels so nomadic sometimes."
The series is based on the book "House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time," which Bell hasn't read, explaining, "It's a little above my intellect level." The book's author, Martin Kihn, was a consultant on the show. "It really is based on his life. We obviously sexed it up a little bit and made it a bit more provocative, but a lot of the storylines are based on things that happened to him."
Indeed, airing on a premium cable network gives the show license to be raunchier, but Bell doesn't think sex is the primary reason premium cable is liberating. "To me, it's nothing to do with whether or not you can show boobs. That seems sort of the juvenile way to look at it," she explains. "What you can do on cable is you can have a storyline where a single father has a son who's eleven-years-old and a cross-dresser … That's what's so liberating to me about cable is you can discuss taboo topics."
Among other hot-button issues addressed by the show is sexual harassment; Jeannie, a woman in a predominantly male industry, has an affair with her boss to get ahead. "There's no approach other than survival," says Bell of playing the tricky gender dynamics on the series. "It's very much how I feel hanging out with [co-stars Don Cheadle, Ben Schwartz, and Josh Lawson] socially. You either join in on the raunchy jokes or you sink to the bottom … She's so desperate to fit in and be one of the boys that it makes her tiny bit more calculated."
If nominated for an Emmy, Bell is leaning towards the season finale, "The Mayan Apocalypse," as her episode submission. In it, she gets on stage and publicly announces her affair with her boss in the hopes of saving her and her co-workers jobs. "[Series creator] Matt Carnahan just wrote such a beautiful, vulnerable, sort of disgusting speech for her to deliver at the end," says Bell of the climactic scene, "and it really takes a girl with a lot of moxie to stand up in front of all her co-workers and let everybody know she's been sleeping around."
It would be the first Emmy bid for Bell, who despite the acclaim of critics never contended for "Veronica Mars." "If I were able to play Veronica Mars anywhere, I would do it in a heartbeat," she says of her breakthrough role. It's been five years since the series ended, and efforts to bring the character to the big screen never materialized. Half a decade later, Bell speculates that Veronica probably works for the government: "I think Veronica Mars was scorned enough working on her own that she probably grew up and joined a force of fighters like the FBI or the CIA … I don't think she runs her PI business anymore."