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Veronica Mars: Where Was The Show Actually Filmed?

"Veronica Mars" might be set in the fictional California beachside town of Neptune, but it was shot in a very real West Coast location — it just wasn't Hollywood.

In an oral history of the cult classic series that ran in Vanity Fair in 2019, the cast and crew discussed the fact that Neptune, home to the titular Veronica (Kristen Bell) — a teenage detective who helps out her investigator dad Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni) thanks to her savvy and quick thinking — was created in San Diego, rather than in Los Angeles. As Vanity Fair put it, this gave this gritty, deeply personal show some distance from Hollywood, and it gave the cast a chance to bond in an environment where they could really feel free to relax after long days of shooting.

"It's always nice when there's not that Hollywood vibe that can kill the on-set charm," Tina Majorino, who played Veronica's friend and tech whiz Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie, told the magazine. Francis Capra, the actor behind gang member turned ally Eli "Weevil" Navarro, agreed, saying that he and the other boys on set had plenty of fun: "It was paradise to me. Jason [Dohring], Teddy [Dunn], Percy [Percy Daggs III], and I all relocated to the same apartment complex. It felt like we were at college or a resort."

The inspiration behind Neptune was specific to real-life California

The fictional Neptune is a curious place — it's right by the ocean and visually fascinating, but it's also run by the uber-rich, many of whom are corrupt and entirely too powerful for their own good. This is especially difficult for Veronica, who, despite not having money, could always fit in with the group known as the "'09ers" (a reference to a wealthy zip code) until her best friend Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried) was murdered. Right when the series kicks off, Veronica has split from the popular powerful kids, left on her own to figure out who killed Lilly and why Lilly's brother, her ex-boyfriend Duncan Kane (Dunn), suddenly broke up with her after Lilly's death.

According to the pilot's director, Mark Piznarski — for whom Chris Lowell's character Piz is named later in the series — he had a particular vision in mind for the divided fake town. "I pictured Neptune as looking like Venice, California, in the '60s, with Banksy and spray cans full of the weirdest colors," Piznarski said. "I wanted fuchsia and chartreuse—colors you don't see in life very often, like they did in Man on Fire.

Producer Dan Etheridge agreed, using a term that, despite not being a real thing, is perfectly fitting for the series: "We called it color noir, which is a nonsensical thing."

Kristen Bell is ready to stay in Neptune long-term

Neptune feels lived-in and real, which is probably a huge reason as to why "Veronica Mars" has experienced such enduring success. The show initially premiered on UPN in 2004 before switching to The CW for Season 3... at which point it was canceled. That certainly wasn't the end for Veronica, though. A massively successfully crowd-funded movie came along in 2014 with the original cast in tow, and in the summer of 2019, an entire fourth season hit the streamer, also featuring the actors who made it so successful.

Jason Dohring, who plays bad boy Logan Echolls — who eventually becomes Veronica's long-term love interest — thinks he knows why the show has such longevity. "In a fictitious town, we created a real world that was interesting and emotionally complex," the actor said, concluding, "We f**king meant it."

Bell, for her part, also thinks she knows why the show is beloved — and said she's always willing to return. "I suppose its current legacy is an entertaining show about a real-life superhero that people can look to, to find strength and inspiration," Bell said. "A person who's being the change that they want to see, and experiencing the problems we're all experiencing. I don't know what the ultimate legacy will be, because I just hope it's not over yet. I'm going to do it until everyone in Neptune is dead."

"Veronica Mars" is available to stream on Hulu.