Teddy Dunn (Duncan Kane)

Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4 and comments. (April 12, 2005)

Teddy Dunn has to his name a double major in acting and politics, an internship with Teddy Kennedy, theatre performances, roles in The Manchurian Candidate and Gilmore Girls, and most recently but certainly not least, a leading role in Veronica Mars. Politics may call him one day, but for now he portrays the enigmatic and mysterious Duncan Kane. While his character is at times subdued and dealing with the brutal murder of his sister (and who knows what else), we're happy to report that Teddy himself is lovely, charming, and personable. And we're not just saying that because he agreed to a phone interview with our very own wykbbb.

MI.net: I just wanted to thank you for doing this because a lot of fans are confused about your character. Fans noticed at the Paley event and at the signings, you were really energetic and outgoing.

Teddy: Right.

MI.net: But then your character is very not. Is it different or difficult to play someone so, kind of, dull? Or not dull, but laid-back, low-key.

[Editor's note: I'm such an idiot. This is why I shouldn't be allowed to talk to people. And surprisingly enough Teddy didn't hang up on me. What a great guy. And totally not dull.]

Teddy: It's interesting, the interpretations that have come with my performance. I really don't view him as dull or laid-back. I view him as kind of an ambitious guy. Certainly the difference between pre-break up with Veronica/pre-Lilly's murder and after is the most interesting aspect of this character for me to play, because they are two different people. I mean, as anybody who undergoes a significant tragedy like that would be. It certainly changes you and ages you a lot faster than any 17-year-old should be at this point. But I really don't view him as dull. I think there's more...

MI.net: Is it the medication?

Teddy: Well that's certainly part of it. In "Meet John Smith" he's definitely struggling with what you later find out to be his epileptic condition. That puts him in this sedated state and drains a lot out of him. Given the tragedy and given what's going on, a lot of which I can't reveal for obvious reasons...what I want to say is that I think it will become a lot clearer, particularly in the last two episodes, what exactly is going on with my character. I think he's been somewhat of a mystery for that reason. I think there's definitely a lot going on. And a lot he doesn't want to show for that reason. He can't be his normal self.

As I was preparing the character, I talked to Rob a great deal about this. And he wanted to make sure that Duncan, at least before the murder and the tragedy and everything, was a very popular guy. He comes across, you know, at least in his past, as almost king of Neptune. And he's still that way to a certain degree, because he runs for president. He's president of the class, he's editor of the school newspaper, he's soccer guy, he gets good grades. He really is kinda like this well-rounded all-American kid. But then there's this huge thing that happened to him in his life, and it drains him. So for me, that's kind of the approach I've taken on the character, if that makes any sense. And I think things will get a lot clearer once the season unfolds. The mystery of Duncan, I think, will be explained as the mystery of Lilly's murder becomes resolved.

MI.net: In the homecoming flashbacks, Duncan was pretty cool.

Teddy: [chuckles] Yeah, honestly, I think he's a likeable guy. I think he's a very outgoing guy. I mean, before everything happened, he probably wasn't remote at all, you know. He's king of the school. And he's a good guy. I think it's important to note as well that there's a lot of going on beneath the surface, in terms of his own morality, that he's dealing with on a day to day basis. The show is called Veronica Mars, so the point of view that we take is Veronica's. And what you see from her point of view is a great mystery to her as well about my character because of the nature of how we broke up and all of that. There are a lot of questions that can't be answered, because of the way the show is written and the point of view that it takes. It can't be answered until the end of the season.

[Editor's note: That's good and just what we'd expect from Rob Thomas, the patron saint of shows that don't suck.]

MI.net: Is it frustrating for you for people not to know this? Do you just want to go, "Well no, Duncan is actually a good guy. He's nice"?

Teddy: [chuckles] I'm just excited for people to see the performance as a whole, really. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. Especially for fans—and we have such great fans—I think it will be fun for everybody to go back and watch the season again—if you get that opportunity, if there's a DVD—and see some of the things that we've done. I'm not just talking about myself now. I'm talking about all the characters and the writing and everything. To see some of the things early on that appeared somewhat out of character. For instance, in the pilot, when Veronica comes to my house after Lilly's been found in the flashback. I'm kinda sitting there, you know, in shock, rocking back and forth on that bench. A lot of people didn't really understand what was going on then. But then it was revealed later what was going on. I think I read on a website somewhere that people were like, "Ahh." They understood what was going underneath that performance.

MI.net: I know that's what happened after we found out about all that stuff. Then we rewatch the pilot, and it's like, "Oh my god. That's what happened."

Teddy: Right. Exactly. I think that's going to continue, some of those reveals. You'll have more and more of those as the season progresses. So I'm excited for everybody that some of the criticism they have may get resolved...and maybe not. You know, I like what people are saying. I'm glad that we have fans that care so much about the show that they openly criticize some of the things that they don't like. I know my character—[chuckles]—is one of the most notable criticisms of the show. But I do think that—well at least I hope— some of those issues will get resolved as the season progresses.

[Editor's note: "Openly criticize"—that has to be a TWoP shoutout, right?]

MI.net: So it's intentional for it to be this mysterious and for us not to know what's going on with Duncan?

Teddy: Well, yeah, you know, I know that Duncan is a big part of the mystery. Without revealing anything, I know that my character, at least this season, has had to be a more of an enigmatic force, as I said earlier. I don't get to partake in some of the more delightful parts of the show. The witty repartée that goes on between Logan and Kristen, and Wallace and Weevil, and all that stuff. I'm kind of outside of that, removed from that part of the show, at least for right now. I think that has a lot to do with it. I'm also hoping, keeping my fingers crossed—as we all are—for season two because I think I definitely will be able to get to take a bigger part in some of the lighter parts of the show, once Lilly's murder mystery is resolved.

[Editor's note: A bigger part in a no longer hypothetical second season? Great! If he's not the murderer and stringing us a line. I "think" that's "definitely" a possibility. He's lovely, charming, personable...and devious.]

MI.net: You'd like to have fun. To actually smile.

Teddy: Yeah exactly, exactly.

MI.net: It would be nice if Duncan smiled.

Teddy: Yeah, I try to work it in there every once in a while. [chuckles]

[Editor's note: Okay, from now on, every time Duncan smiles in season two, I'm going to take that as a personal shoutout.]

MI.net: So when did you find out about all the background information? Or did you already know it when you shot the pilot that there was a reason why Duncan was like that?

Teddy: I knew...it's funny, it's kind of an ongoing process, really. It's one of the huge differences that I've found working in television for the first time. I had worked mostly in theatre before this. The biggest difference is that the character is continually evolving like the rest of the show. The world we create is continually evolving from week to week. We certainly have outlines and a good idea of where we want everything to go. And when I say "we," of course I mean Rob Thomas. [chuckles] But for me in terms of the character, I have ideas of where I want to take him and what I want to do with it. But from week to week, anything can change. The scripts go through so many hurdles, you know. Whether it's the network, the studio, there are various drafts, and things can change any day. So it's kind of a constant evolving process.

In that scene in the pilot when I was on the bench, Rob told me exactly what I needed to know in order to play that scene but nothing more. And in terms of all the medication and stuff, that was somewhat of a mystery to me, leading up to all those episodes. I knew there were going to be some issues with him, that potentially there was going to be a mental disorder. I think Rob originally wanted me to be bipolar, which we talked about a little bit and which would have been very interesting for me to play. I was actually starting to do some research on that, but then I think it was the network or the studio that didn't want one of the leading characters to have that disorder forever, that is, for the entire run of the show. So they switched it to epilepsy. And that was actually right before we shot "Meet John Smith," when I started doing the medication stuff. So there's definitely been some things that I've found out later that I wish I had known before playing certain episodes but then again, that's just the nature of the process. We just don't have a whole lot of time when we're constantly shooting and working all day every day.

MI.net: Some fans still think that Duncan's bipolar.

Teddy: [chuckles] Well maybe it's something that would come out in later seasons. Maybe he is, I don't know. I wouldn't put it past anything on the show to come up with something kind of crazy in season two or three or whatever we are able to get so....As far as I know, he's not, though. I'm not playing him bipolar intentionally.

MI.net: No, because they looked up the medication. And the medication is also used to treat bipolar disorder.

Teddy: Right.

MI.net: So they're like, "Oh, he still might be bipolar." We're not sure if he's epileptic even though that's what the characters say he is.

Teddy: Exactly, exactly. So I mean, I think there's a lot of doors too that we leave open intentionally, or that Rob leaves open intentionally.

[Editor's note: Dear cast and crew, these "open doors" are killing us. Keep up the good work.]

MI.net: Is it hard for an actor to have all these open doors?

Teddy: It's very difficult. I'm not going to lie. It's very difficult. Especially when you take into consideration the difference between theatre and television, as I said. I mean when you're working on a play or on a film, you have a beginning, a middle, and an end that you know. You know the arc of your character. You know where he starts out, what happens to him along the way. You know what his journey is and you know where he ends up. And there is a very defined arc. And in television, that arc continues to appear in front of you as it goes. [laughs] And it changes, it takes left turns when you expect it to go right. You know what I mean?

MI.net: Yeah.

[Editor's note: Oh boy, we certainly know what you mean by that, as evidenced by the 80-page "Speculation without Spoilers" thread at TWoP.]

Teddy: It is difficult. I mean, it's a great lesson in acting too, because you pretty much have to adapt to whatever they give you. Your character is put into situations that are necessary for the plot. There have been times where Duncan needs to be in a certain place so that the mystery of the week can get resolved. I have to find a justification for my character to be there. It's a great exercise because there is a justification out there, you just have to find it and adapt to the situation that you've been given and the script you've been given. And it's a lot of fun. It keeps you on your toes for sure. It's a good exercise because there are those times when you think, "My character would never do that." But then you're like, well, but he does do it, so let's figure it out. I mean he obviously does it for a reason and the writers know what they're doing, so let's work it out and find a good justification for it. So it's a great lesson, for sure.

MI.net: How much input do you have when you say, "Well, the character wouldn't do that." Do the writers listen?

Teddy: Well part of the trouble is, Rob and all the staff writers are located in L.A. and we're shooting in San Diego. Rob and the writers get down when they can, but they're usually in L.A., so there's not a whole lot of opportunity for dialogue about that kind of thing. I certainly work with the directors. If there's a question or something like that, we'll work it out and create our justification for it. As far as my own input, I would say that whatever I can come up with on the set—that is within the confines of the script—I think is welcomed. And we try and give different takes, different interpretations on different takes, so that we have options in the editing room and things like that. That's one of the things I've really had to work on and get better at, giving different interpretations, take after take, and keeping it varied, so that we can have options and different ways to play a certain scene.

MI.net: Isn't this your third role?

Teddy: You know, honestly, I guess professionally it's my third role. [chuckles] This is definitely the first role I've had professionally where I've really sunk my teeth into it. In The Manchurian Candidate I played one of the guys in Ben Marco's platoon. I had a couple of improvised lines, but it was pretty much playing G.I. Joe: running around, shooting a gun, getting beat up and tortured, and stuff like that. They really didn't use a whole lot of our footage. And I was on Gilmore Girls for about half a second. That was a two-scene little thing, which was a lot of fun, but I wouldn't call it "acting," per se. This is definitely the first opportunity I've had as a professional actor to really sink my teeth into a role and try to embody another person.

MI.net: I was reading Internet Movie Database under your name, and someone wrote, "Yeah, he was really cute on Gilmore Girls."

Teddy: [laughs] Yeah. That was pretty much the extent of my role on the show. To show up and smile and then leave. "Hey Alexis, how you doing. Okay. Bye-bye."

MI.net: Did you also know someone wrote this on your board: "My friend was roommates with Teddy during college at NU. Said the kid was mad cool and pimped like it was about to go out of style."

Teddy: [laughs] I didn't know that. Oh man, I wonder who wrote about that.

MI.net: So were you really a pimp back then?

Teddy: No, no, no, no.

MI.net: Are you sure?

Teddy: I'm a good guy. Don't think that about me. No, no, no, no. I don't know when they wrote that. I don't know who wrote that. Actually I had a girlfriend for most of college. I had a girlfriend of two-and-a-half years in college. So, I didn't do a whole lot of pimping.

MI.net: Aww.

Teddy: Maybe they were thinking of my freshman year. My freshman year, I was a little happy to be out of high school. Let's say it like that. [chuckles]

[Editor's note: I started this interview by telling Teddy that Duncan was boring, so to make up for that, I decided not to press Teddy about his pimptastic freshman year.]

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