How Kristen Bell Went From Veronica Mars To Bona Fide Hollywood Star

This feature references addiction. 

Effervescent Hollywood star, Kristen Bell has been gracing both the big and small screens for years with her dazzling smile, bubbly personality, and impressive performing talents. Kicking off her career on the Broadway stage, Bell quickly transitioned to Hollywood. Her portrayal of spunky sleuth, Veronica Mars launched her into mid-'00s notoriety and she followed up her stint on the cult classic by lending her vocal prowess to another hit teen series, "Gossip Girl." As big of a television star as Bell was becoming, she smoothly shifted her career to the movies, starring in comedies like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and "Bad Moms." And let's not forget her role as Princess Anna of Arendell in Disney's juggernaut "Frozen" franchise.

Like many popular Tinseltown notables, the actor knows how to delicately spin her personal life into headlines. She's extremely open about her marriage to actor and podcast star, Dax Shepard and she's not afraid to share humorous anecdotes about her daughter with her fans. Bell also diversified her celebrity portfolio to include producing, brand ambassadorships, and her own lifestyle business ventures. When she's not busy working on her numerous projects, She even finds time to give back to the community. So how did she go from "Veronica Mars" to a bona fide Hollywood star? Let's take a journey into her life and career and discover what made Kristen Bell into the massive celebrity she is today.

Before Hollywood, she was a theater kid

Kristen Bell's path to stardom started well before she made it big in Hollywood. Raised near Detroit, Michigan, the actor told Showtime that she had always been gregarious and creative. "I grew up as a very outgoing child, but not necessarily a ham," she shared. Bell channeled her energy into community theater, enjoying a taste of the spotlight as a banana and a tree in a local theater production of "Raggedy Ann and Andy." "Obviously someone felt pretty confident about my acting skills at that age to give me two roles," she sarcastically quipped about the casting. Her turn as an anthropomorphic fruit clearly impressed someone, as Bell signed with a theatrical agent while she was in grade school.

Like many aspiring thespians, after graduating high school, the young star packed her bags for New York City, where she studied theater at New York University. Per Today, just credits shy of graduating college, Bell scored a starring role on Broadway in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and she left her studies for The Great White Way. She then appeared in the 2002 revival of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" alongside Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Bell gushed about her formative experience in the play on an episode of the "Armchair Expert" podcast, where she thanked Linney for having a significant impact on her career.

How she landed her iconic role of Veronica Mars

It's no wonder Kristen Bell landed the titular role of "Veronica Mars" — Neptune, California's favorite teen detective. The star loved the script and show creator, Rob Thomas loved her. In fact, during a PaleyFest 2005 panel, Bell revealed that she liked the pilot script so much that she told herself, "OK, I just need to figure out how to make them cast me." During her audition, she even told Thomas, "I'm going to stay here until I get it, so let's just start working right now." As he revealed during a PaleyFest 2014 panel (via ABC News), Bell was the first actor that Thomas auditioned for the role and even though 99 other actors read for the part, she remained on his mind. He told the audience, "I kept thinking, 'Was that first girl as brilliant as I thought she was?'" Clearly, the answer was yes.

Bell's plucky, sassy, and intelligent performance in "Veronica Mars" catapulted her to television stardom. The show ran on UPN and The CW for three seasons before its 2007 cancellation. However, just because a TV show is canceled doesn't mean it's over. "Veronica Mars" lived on in several iterations. First, in the Kickstarter-funded movie, then in the Hulu revival fourth season in 2019. Explaining her dedicated commitment to the role, Bell confessed to GMA, "I'll play Veronica Mars 'till it's 'Murder, She Wrote.'" If Bell has Jessica Fletcher goals for Mars, the character definitely has a bright future.

Bell's uncredited star turn as Gossip Girl

As integral as Kristen Bell's voice role in "Gossip Girl" might be, it may be surprising to know that she almost didn't land the part in the salacious teen drama. On an episode of the podcast, "XOXO with Jessica Szohr," the show's executive producers, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage shared that Bell's casting in the role was critical. However, because she was also working on The CW show, "Veronica Mars," there was hesitancy about having two projects on the same network that shared the same narrative voice. When the teen drama was canceled in 2007, producers freely pursued Bell for "Gossip Girl." The feeling was mutual for the actor, who told Vanity Fair that she called network executive, Dawn Ostroff and said, "Can I just be this narrator and stay in business with you?"

It's no secret that Bell was cast as the voice of Upper East Side's favorite gossip peddler for the show's entire run. Still, she never received official credit for her work even though you can hear her loud and clear. Sure, Bell made a winking cameo as herself in the "Gossip Girl" series finale alongside Rachel Bilson, but nary a glimpse of the star can be found elsewhere. When "Gossip Girl" got the reboot treatment in 2021, there was never a doubt Bell wouldn't be involved. Showrunner, Joshua Safran told ET that she was the heart of the witty drama. "Her soul comes through her voice and you just feel like you're in the show," he shared.

Her breakout movie role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

In the early '00s, Kristen Bell's movie career seemed destined for mediocrity. The star had a small part in the independent film, "Polish Wedding," spoke a line in the 2001 comedy, "Pootie Tang," played a supporting role in the 2004 David Mamet drama, "Spartan," and starred in the critically maligned J-horror remake, "Pulse." However, she finally hit her cinematic stride with a memorable star-turn in 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Produced by '00s comedy superstar, Judd Apatow, the film starred Bell as the titular Sarah Marshall, an egotistical television actress who dumps her mild-mannered composer boyfriend, Peter (Jason Segel) for a rock star called Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

In a video for Vanity Fair, Bell admitted she didn't read the film's script before auditioning, but she managed to land the part regardless. Luckily, when she did finally read it she was charmed by the humanity in the Segel-penned screenplay. "What I really learned from that [movie] was I really gravitate towards playing characters who are inherently unlikable on the page and figuring out a way to get [the audience] to root for them," she told the outlet. Not only was "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" creatively satisfying for Bell, but it also proved to be the box office hit she needed for her film career to take off. The film wound up grossing over $100 million globally, a feat that granted Bell full-fledged leading lady status.

Anna in Frozen was a role custom-made for Bell

Kristen Bell's failed audition for Rapunzel in Disney's "Tangled" turned out to be one of the best things for her career. Mandy Moore was eventually cast as the long-haired princess, but the film's casting director couldn't let Bell's talents go. During an episode of "The Watch" podcast, the actor shared that she was introduced to "Pocahontas" director Chris Buck, who pitched her his idea to adapt the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale "Anna and The Snow Queen." Fast forward a few years and "Frozen" is Disney's hot new animated project with Bell cast as Anna.

Although Bell secured the part, she wasn't too fond of the personality traits required of the role. "Anna's character was kind of annoying, kind of prissy, and just wasn't something I could identify with," she told the podcast. She shared her uncertainty with Buck and fortunately for everyone, the "Frozen" filmmakers warmly received Bell's notes and integrated them into the character. 

In an interview with Willie Geist on "Today," the star said that her bumbling, improvised line of "this is awkward, you're not awkward, I'm awkward. You're gorgeous ... Wait, what?" cemented the character. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Bell shared that Anna is dedicated to her 11-year-old self, confessing, "I wanted to represent all the little weirdos out there." Surely, it wasn't just the little weirdos who resonated with Bell's very-relatable Anna. 

House of Lies proved to be the more adult role Bell craved

Early in her career, Kristen Bell was often cast in much younger roles. From adolescent sleuth, Veronica Mars to the voice of juvenile rumor-monger, Gossip Girl, Bell had a knack for playing teenagers. However, by the time the early 2010s rolled around, she was looking to play someone her own age. Enter Jeannie van der Hooven on the Showtime dramedy series, "House of Lies." Talking with PopSugar Entertainment about playing the management consultant, Bell said, "I've played so young for so long and I'm not that young anymore ... I need to embrace the fact that I'm 31 years old, so I was craving a project that had a lot more adult interaction."

The actor certainly got the mature scenarios she desired in "House of Lies." The show's adult language, sex, and sophisticated storylines were definitely not geared toward the tween set. Not only did Bell get to play against type in the show, but she also got to enjoy Jeannie's grown-up girlboss outfits, resplendent in the finest stiletto heels and chunky statement necklaces the decade had to offer. About her "House of Lies" look, Bell shared with The Wrap, "I loved all of my wardrobe on the show. I don't wear more than jeans and a t-shirt in my real life, so it was fun to have gorgeous outfits that made me feel sexy and ladylike."

Her relationship with Dax Shepard is an open book

Given that they're one of Hollywood's most enduring celebrity couples, it may seem odd to know that it wasn't love at first sight for Kristen Bell and her husband, Dax Shepard. On an episode of "Today," the star revealed that there were initially no sparks between the couple when they first met. A few weeks later, the sparks were firing fiercely when they flirted at a hockey game. Shepard soon got Bell's number, texted her, and she was smitten. Three years after their first encounter, they got engaged, before marrying at a Beverly Hills courthouse in 2013. Bell told CBS Sunday Morning her wedding was one of the best days of her life. 

From People magazine covers touting marriage advice to sharing candid parenting moments on Instagram, it seems Bell can't stop gushing about Shepard. However, this celebrity couple isn't afraid to get publicly raw about their relationship woes. "We didn't want people to think this idea of 'relationship goals' was easy, so we started talking about mistakes we've made," she told "Today." When Shepard went public about his lapse in sobriety after 16 years, Bell publicly supported her husband. On "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," she said that they were seeking out therapy as a couple, adding, "I love that he's addicted to growth and I will continue to stand by him because he's very, very worth it." 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The adorable birthday present that made her go viral

What modern celebrity doesn't have a viral moment or two under their belt? Kristen Bell is no exception and she became a trending topic because of her love of sloths. Yes, Bell loves the adorable, chill, tree-dwelling mammals so much that she experienced an emotional outburst when her then-fiance Dax Shepard surprised her with a sloth visit for her birthday. She shared the story, complete with her crying reaction video, on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," in a clip that has since garnered millions of views on YouTube.

Over the years many people — but particularly Ellen DeGeneres — haven't forgotten about the star's enduring sloth love. Several years after Bell's viral moment, Shepard explained during another episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" that he wasn't worried about Bell's intense emotions upon receiving his gift "Luckily, I had seen that level of crying six or seven times, so I didn't think I needed to call help," he noted. She also had a chance to get up close and personal with another sloth on her DeGeneres-produced digital series "Momsplaining." As for Bell, she told Esquire that she wasn't embarrassed by her viral moment — and honestly, an ugly cry over a sloth simply makes the star all the more charming.

Why The Good Place was a truly meaningful role

For four wonderful seasons, Kristen Bell starred on the forking awesome NBC comedy "The Good Place." The critically-acclaimed series followed her character, Eleanor Shellstrop, a not-so-good person who mistakenly finds herself in a utopian afterlife. The show tackles some pretty serious moral and philosophical themes, something that network sitcoms are hardly known for doing. As show creator, Michael Schur told The Washington Post, the jokes served a higher purpose. "If moral philosophy wasn't just going to be a tertiary part of the show but instead was going to be baked into the very center of it, then comedy was a much better delivery mechanism," he shared. 

"The Good Place" finds a delicate balance between the meaningful and the hilarious — with plenty of frozen yogurt to boot. The show's humorous approach to life's big questions proved to be both artistically and personally satisfying for Bell. Talking with Collider about working on the comedy, she reflected that "The Good Place" helped her to serve a message that appeared to be close to her heart. "The whole goal of the show was to connect to the audience and say, "Hey, there's all sorts of people in the world. There's not one way to be right.'" Earlier in the interview, she'd similarly noted, "... I have a lot of desire to see goodness in the world. Many people say, "Do it with your art," and I truly got to do that here."

A Bad Mom on screen, but a great mom in life

Kristen Bell might be a fictional "Bad Mom," but in real life, she's a down-to-Earth parent who puts her kids first. In 2016, the actor co-starred alongside her friend, Mila Kunis in the hit movie, "Bad Moms," about fed-up women who raucously rebel against the idea of being a perfect parent. Her character, Kiki might have a hard time getting candid about parenting, but Bell herself is very comfortable about focusing her life around her two daughters, Delta and Lincoln.

Bell skillfully shares her family life with the public and is not shy about telling anecdotes about her kids. From sharing how she handled sex talk on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" to discussing her family's penchant for flatulence and unorthodox sleeping arrangement on the "Armchair Expert" podcast, Bell is unafraid to get frank about parenting. However, as much as she raves about her kids publicly, she's dedicated to maintaining her girls' anonymity and chooses not to share their faces on social media. As Bell explained to Romper, "My feeling is that I chose a career in the public eye. I chose to be quoted, I chose to have my picture taken. I don't know them yet. I don't know if they will want that. So I really don't have the right to choose for them."

Like many Hollywood stars, she has her own skincare line

Over the course of her career, Kristen Bell became something of a Hollywood go-to for product endorsements. She's starred in commercials for big-name brands like Samsung, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Shipt and also served as an ambassador for Neutrogena – thus joining the ranks of other Tinseltown beauties like Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Garner, and Kerry Washington in splashing water on their face in the name of facial cleanliness. Not to mention she's also been a stylish face for Fossil watches. With all these commercials and endorsements under her belt, it's no wonder that Bell has decided to get into the esthetic business herself.

In recent years, celebrity skincare lines have become a hot business trend, and it seems like everyone in Hollywood is launching their own brands. In 2021, the prestige skincare market was said to be worth $6.3 billion, and Bell is vying for a piece of that pie with her own CBD-infused beauty line, Happy Dance. "The goal ... is to utilize the benefits of CBD without having to take some sort of supplement. Because your skin is your largest organ, so you can absorb it that way," she explained to Oprah Daily about the line. Offering premium lotions, creams, and bath products boasting the hemp derivative, Happy Dance was made specifically for harried mothers. As the company's philosophy points out, "If anyone could use a little more calm in their routines, it's Mom."

She uses her star power for good

Over the years, Kristen Bell has supported a number of charities, using her celebrity to help raise awareness and funding for some worthy causes. For instance, the actor has been a champion of the nonprofit initiative, No Kid Hungry, for years. According to its parent organization, Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry aims to eliminate childhood hunger by getting food to those who need it. Bell publicly advocates for the initiative and has brought media awareness to food insecurity issues by visiting schools. Not only has she donated her time and celebrity to the cause but she's also opened her wallet. According to a post on Instagram, Bell gifted over $150,000 to No Kid Hungry in 2020.

When she's not raising awareness of childhood hunger issues, Bell involves herself with global goodwill initiatives. She has served as a Global Advocate & Spokesperson for the Women's Peace & Humanitarian Fund, giving voice to their #GivingMyTwoCents campaign highlighting gender inequality in global peace work. She teamed up again with the WPHF by launching its 40by20 for Women fundraising campaign in 2018. It aimed to help raise $40 million by the end of 2020 in support of humanitarian relief for women across the world. 

Bell is a powerhouse behind the camera

There's no denying Kristen Bell's formidable performing talents. She can act, she can sing, and she can even host a mean game show. However, whether an actor is riding high on the A-list or coasting by as a D-lister, career success is at the mercy of many contingencies often outside of an actor's control. One way Hollywood stars take agency of their professional lives is by producing their own content. Many top actors like Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Queen Latifa have boasted some pretty impressive production credentials over the years — and Bell's name can also be added to this illustrious list of showbiz power players.

The star has been an executive producer on projects like the "Veronica Mars" movie and its subsequent Hulu series, the Disney+ series "Encore!," and the limited series, "The Woman In The House Across The Street From the Girl In the Window." In 2022, Bell took her producing prowess to the next level, co-founding her own creative content and production studio, Dunshire Productions. Bell's company is not only in the entertainment business, as it also produces creative works for advertising and digital spaces. The company currently touts Guinness, Lagavulin whiskey, and Bell and Shepard's baby care line, Hello Bello as clients.

She's always looking for the next great role

Kristen Bell has actively worked in the entertainment industry for decades. As of December 2022, she'd amassed over 100 acting credits to her name, working in film, television, and animation. Her digital series, "Momsplaining with Kristen Bell" even won a 2020 Webby Award for best comedy video. With such an outstanding Hollywood resume, you might assume Bell's next great role would simply fall into her lap. But that's not the case.

In 2012, she told PopSugar Entertainment that maintaining a steady career in entertainment meant leaving yourself open to any and all opportunities. "I never really know what I'm looking for until I read it" she reflected. "... This business is really a lot about throwing a bunch of spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks." 

These days, the star doesn't have to apply Mama June's "sketti" methodology to her career and she can be more selective about her work. About her Hollywood success, Bell told Self, "I feel so grateful for the place I am now. I have bigger opportunities that I never thought I'd have in my life." Gratitude may be her attitude, but she keeps it humble, and still reads for parts rather than feeling entitled to simply snag a role based on her prior achievements. "If I think [a role] deserves to be mine ... that's the moment it will go away," she mused about her career.