Chris Lowell joined the third season of Veronica Mars amidst a sea of speculation about his character, Stosh Piznarski. Would Piz be another bump in the road to ultimate bliss for fan-favorites Veronica and Logan? How long would it take before this nice-guy character revealed his true nature — as nothing more than a plot device designed to slow down true love? Coming off of the critically acclaimed Life As We Know It, a smart show censored by ABC into an early grave, Lowell was ready to take it up a notch. He might even be ready to be as evil as fans made Piz out to be…even if he doesn’t get the girl. PopGurls squeezed into his schedule to find out what kind of evil deeds Piz might do, if he did in fact do evil deeds.
They finished up Life As We Know It with a 13-episode DVD release — sort of like a mini season. Are there stories that were planned, but ended up not getting filmed because the show didn’t make it? Were there specific stories planned for your character Jonathan?
The big problem for the writers on the show was that they’d write an episode, it’d be great, so much would happen, and then by the time it went through the machine at the studio and the network and got back to us, it would be a completely different storyline. So we never really knew what was going to happen, because it always had to be changed or cut because of censorship issues and whatnot. I do know that the original draft of that last episode ended with me — we buy a car toward the end of the season — and originally what was supposed to happen is that I meet this girl on the side of the road (laughs) and start flirting with her. The episode ended with me and her peeling out of the parking lot in the car but crashing on the way and not stopping, which would have been fun. It would have been a lot of fun.
What about Jonathan and Debra?
I don’t know if Jonathan was destined to stay together with Kelly [Osbourne's] character Debra. They touched on that a little bit in the last episode, and he finally grows up and he starts becoming more of a dude, more of a man.
D.B. Sweeney played a round of 20 Questions with us during the run of the show, and he said he wouldn’t let his niece watch the show. Did you think the show ended up being that salacious? The final product felt pretty harmless.
I totally think it was harmless! I think it’s the plight of Gabe Sacks and Jeff Judah, because they write very honest material and I think a lot of time they’re too smart for television. I think they tried to approach the show with a lot of honesty, and at times it could be mildly offending to some people, but it’s true. There was nothing on the show that you wouldn’t maybe see on Desperate Housewives or Lost or Dawson’s Creek or any other show. I thought it was strange that ABC came down on us as hard as they did. I think it probably has to do with the fact that the scenario was involving kids, and that just sort of made everyone fidgety.
And it was on a major network.
Right. I think the network was already taking so many risks with Lost and Desperate Housewives, which had both just premiered, that they didn’t want to take any with us.
Are there things you personally wanted to accomplish with Jonathan that you didn’t get to?
That’s tough. I think what I wanted to accomplish was accomplished in that what I think was really important was that he be able to take more of a stand, which I think he got to do toward the end of the show. He needed to make some decisions for himself, and just sort of grow up, which I think he got to do.
How is the on-set vibe different between the two shows?
On Life As We Know It everybody was fresh, none of us had really done television before, none of us had ever really worked on something that big. So we were all kind of nervous, and it was a big leap for all of us. Whereas, coming on to Veronica Mars, these guys are pros. They’ve been at it for two years before I stepped foot on set. When we did Life As We Know It, it’s like we were a little family, because we were all moved up to Vancouver and given this big task of the show. So we were all going through it together, which was great, and I remember thinking when I walked onto Veronica Mars that these people had been at it for a couple of years now, and how the thrill is kind of gone for them. I was assuming that most of them had already gone through their little television dramas and didn’t like each other or were sort of bored with each other or sick of each other. But I have truthfully never walked onto a more loving set than this one. It’s really pretty impressive, how nice these people are.
When you got the part on Veronica Mars, how familiar were you with the show?
Not so much. I don’t actually own a television. It had been a show that I heard a lot about from my buddies who did watch a lot of it, and I had a few friends in New York who just raved about it because it was such a little cult show and there were all these little kind of inside jokes that were made on it. I had watched a few episodes of it when I heard about the part, my manager told me about it, so I went out and bought one of the seasons and laughed my ass off. I thought it was great and fun and interesting and had a really unique vibe to it. I was excited as hell when I walked in. Rob Thomas is actually friends with some of the writers from Life As We Know It, so he knew who I was when I walked in and it was great — we just immediately clicked. I read the scene twice on a Tuesday, and was cast by Thursday.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know Piz had a first name until I checked on IMDB before this call. What kind of name is Stosh? Did you ever get an explanation for that crazy name?
Um, yeah. “Stosh” and “Piznarski” are two things I’ve never heard of in my life. I think what it is, is that Piznarski was the name of the director of the pilot. I guess they called him Piz, and they wanted to bring that back. I don’t know why, but they did. It’s good, though. I think that name alone sort of sums up what that character is. It’s a really odd name, it’s a little goofy, and I think that’s Piz’s style. He’s a little off-beat, and he’s a little quirky, but you can tell he has a backbone and he’s smart, but it’s going to take him a while to prove that because his name’s Piz.
Did you know from the beginning that Piz would be a love interest, or a potential love interest, for Veronica?
They talked about it, but it was just that, as a potential love interest for Veronica and that’s about as in-depth as they went. But you know, none of us know what’s going on on this show until we get that script. It’s completely held from us. In — I think it was episode nine of this season — Ryan Devlin and Andrew McClain who were the two rapists, they didn’t know they were the rapists until they got that script. So I mean, it’s exciting for all of us. Last night I just got the script for episode 19, and I can’t wait to read the damn thing.
Was it intimidating at all, knowing that Piz was going to start wearing his heart on his sleeve about Veronica, knowing that fans are pretty…I don’t want to say psycho…
No, no! Say psycho! Say psycho! Let me tell you this: I got pulled into a trailer before we started shooting, I think it was the second or third episode, and Rob Thomas and Dan Etheridge set me down and were like, ‘You know, Chris, we really like you and you’re a great guy but we need you to know that you’re probably going to face a little heat from the fan base, so just don’t get offended when they…’ And I was like, ‘When they what? When they what?” And they were like, ‘when they hate you with the fire of a thousand suns.’ And it’s true! People get crazy about Logan and Veronica. And I can’t blame them! I’m a big fan of Logan and Veronica. I mean, if there’s anybody I would rather hook up with on this show, assuming that it happens, other than Veronica, it would be Jason Dohring, of course. But, truthfully, what they said was like, ‘a lot of people really love them together. We’re hoping that you’ll be charming enough on the show that they won’t hate you so much.’ (laughs) Hopefully I’ve achieved that, I actually have no idea. I keep waiting to get anthrax in the mail or something from one of these people, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still kickin’.
Why couldn’t Piz fall in love with Mac? Both characters are so smart, and nice and gentle…
Yeah, there’s been some talk of that as well. There’s been some talk about some Piz/Mac action. I don’t know whether or not it’s going to happen. I actually think that what won the most people over was episode nine. I got some calls from some of my buddies because I had a dance sequence in it, which kind of blew some people away, quite frankly. I busted out moves I didn’t know were physically possible. But, as for Piz and Mac — on a side note, I am in love with Tina, she’s amazing, and we’ve had some fun scenes together so far. You know, maybe they’re too good for each other. Opposites attract, right?
Rob Thomas and I were on a panel together earlier this month, and he told me that Paul Rudd was going to be on set recently.
Yeah! Paul and I had all our scenes together, which was fantastic.
What was he like to work with? It seems like it would be madness.
He’s the kindest human, such a really, really nice guy, very genuine, very polite, very professional. He definitely has his own style about him. He’s such a great improviser that it was all we could do not to lose it. We had to do this one scene, we’re out on this beach, and without giving too much away, Paul is basically running around naked. So he was off-camera, and they were doing a close-up on me, and Paul was basically just meant to run around and give some wild lines so I could react to them. Every single thing that came out of his mouth was by far the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard in my life. I couldn’t keep it together at all. By the end it was just like, ‘Paul, I need you to stop talking. Or looking at me. In any possible way, because otherwise we’re never going to get the scene done.’ He’s hysterical.
Will Piz be getting more involved in Veronica’s sleuthing, like Mac is now and Wallace used to be?
In the episode with Paul, Piz is a big part of that mystery, and at least from what I’ve read I think that continues. He’s going to start playing a bigger role in terms of helping her out. He doesn’t necessarily have the brains of Mac or Wallace, but he has power with the radio show he does and with some of his connections, so I think those will come in handy down the road.
What’s been your favorite moment playing this character so far?
Ooh. That’s tough. I’ve got to say it was a lot of fun working with Paul, that was a blast. We had this scene in the radio booth where essentially all we did was improvise scenes with each other back and forth. That was pretty huge. There was the time we were doing the party sequence and I got to dance, me and Percy (Daggs III, who plays Wallace), that was a lot of fun. Realistically, anything with Kristen is a blast.
Last year’ nice-guy character turned out to be a crazy killer. Do you worry that Piz is going to turn out to be evil?
You know, I can’t tell you that I’d have a problem with that. I thought I was going to be the rapist for the longest time, I was hoping. I would beg and plead — you don’t understand — I was dying to be the rapist, but they said no. Then I wanted to have my hair cut, but they said no to that too, and then I asked if I could get raped and have my head shaved, but that didn’t go down at all. And right now we’re on episode 18, and I’m not dead yet, I haven’t killed anybody.
That you know of.
That I know of! I mean, come on, who knows what could happen! We have two episodes left! As it stands, I’d kind of like to be evil, to be honest with you. I wouldn’t mind if Piz had sort of a bad side to him, a dark side.
If Piz were evil, what kind of dastardly deeds would he do?
Let me think, what would Piz do? Well, Piz is a geek, so most of his evil deeds would be so lame that no one would even notice. I think Piz would probably go to bed thinking he was a real bad boy if he took someone’s test paper and changed a B- to a B+. He’d dance around and slap high-fives with no one, thinking he was really hot shit. What else could Piz do? Maybe he’d drop the F-bomb on the radio. That would be kind of hot. I don’t think at this point (laughs) he really has too many dark, evil thoughts going on inside of him.
So he doesn’t have some crazy child abuse, son of an alcoholic father who was in a mental hospital back-story?
I don’t think so. Someone who touched him at baseball practice or something? Piz is from a place called Beaverton, Washington. He was raised kind of broke, but I think he’s done okay. I will say this, from what I’ve read in coming episodes, some stuff may go down now, later in his life, that spawns the evil out of him. Just because of anger. It’s a long and winding road for Stosh, is what I’ve learned.
You can only get your heart broken so many times.
That’s what I’m saying! As long as it happens on screen, and not off screen.
Thanks, Chris. It was great to talk to you.
Thank you! This interview was painless!
Excellent. That’s what I’ll put on my calling cards, for next time.