Percy Daggs III (Wallace Fennel)

Pages: 1 and comments. (May 5, 2005)

Percy Daggs III

Percy Daggs III has made a name for himself as everyone's best buddy. He was Shaquille O'Neal's sidekick in a series of Nestle Crunch television commercials, and he played the childhood pal of a rising drug lord in the independent film Blue Hill Avenue. He's also made guest appearances on several television shows including Freaks and Geeks, The Guardian, and NYPD Blue, as what else? Someone's close friend. Currently, he plays Wallace, Veronica's best friend and partner in crime, on the TV drama Veronica Mars. But there's a lot more to Percy than just his winning smile and his talent for stealing permanent files. He's funny, honest, and deeply spiritual. And after spending several weeks tracking down this busy brotha to do the phone interview, topanga learned why everyone wants him as a BFF. And she's already the first in line. Wallace has become one of the most popular Veronica Mars characters, especially after the last few episodes. He's grown from just being Veronica's sidekick to someone with his own life and interests.

Percy: At the beginning of the season, the network and I seemed to have different opinions of who Wallace should be. I always wanted Wallace to be funny and lighthearted because that's how I am, and I always wanted him to be more than just Veronica's sidekick. Early on, I don't think Rob Thomas was quite sure who Wallace Fennel was as a person. All Wallace did was run around getting permanent files. But towards the middle of the season, he and I began to talk more about the character, and I learned that Rob did want Wallace to be more lighthearted and funny. And by that time, the network had more of an idea of what I could do as an actor. For example, no one knew that I could play basketball until halfway through the season. Maybe we would have seen Wallace playing ball a little earlier [than on"Betty and Veronica"]. And Wallace finally told Veronica he's tired of her constantly asking him for favors.

Percy: Yes. I've been tired of Wallace doing favors for Veronica for a long time. I'm glad he finally had a chance to tell her. Clarence Wiedman found out about the bugged plant that you delivered to his office as a favor for Veronica. Do you think this will put a strain on your friendship?

Percy: It could. I'm not sure what's going to happen to our friendship next season. Speaking of Wallace and Veronica's friendship: you two spend more time together than any other characters on the show. But no one at Neptune High has ever questioned if you are a couple (except for Weevil in the pilot episode). Why is that?

Percy: Good question. I agree that most high school students would assume that they were a couple. But the network didn't want to address it. Is Wallace attracted to Veronica, even slightly? It's hard to believe that he wouldn't be, since he spends so much time with someone as smart, funny and beautiful as Veronica.

Percy: I think he would be, and I even brought up this point with Rob earlier in the season. But the network didn't want to touch it, so I didn't push it. You and Kristen Bell have extraordinary on-screen chemistry. Do you ever have extra rehearsals outside your regular studio time?

Percy: No. We were comfortable with each other from the first time we read together, during one of my auditions. Our chemistry was almost instant. Besides, Kristen wouldn't have time for outside rehearsals. Her hours are long enough as it is. Tell me about your audition experience.

Percy: [Sighs and laughs] At my first audition, I read three or four scenes from the pilot: the flagpole scene, the scene with Veronica when I first sat at her lunch table, and two other scenes. Then I had a call-back audition, then a studio test, and then a test with the network executives. They brought me back for another network test—maybe they didn't like my first test and were trying to make up their minds about whether or not I'd be good for the role. At my second meeting with the network, I was less nervous, and I think I did better. When did you read with Kristen?

Percy: Just before the studio test. We met outside of a big meeting room and had a great conversation. She really made me feel comfortable about auditioning and told me not to focus on the sixteen people who'd be sitting in the room, but just on the scene we'd be doing together. Kristen's a big reason why I became more comfortable playing Wallace as the season went on. She is?

Percy: Yes. I also began to do more prep work for each episode and to meet with Rob to talk about Wallace's role in each episode. The opening scene of the Veronica Mars pilot was a powerful one: Your character was taped butt-naked to a flagpole outside Neptune High. Was that a hard scene for you to do?

[Editor's note: No pun intended.]

Percy: It was the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I had to convey the humiliation and isolation that Wallace felt on that flagpole but still show that he was trying to maintain every ounce of dignity he had left. I know Rob wanted to show something dark and controversial to set the stage for the show. But I was worried about backlash from the NAACP for portraying a black man taped to a flagpole. After I auditioned with that scene, I had a moment of hesitation about the role of Wallace. Why?

Percy: Because I was worried about the backlash. But as the process went on, I had faith that if God allowed me to be in the situation [of playing"Wallace"], it was because it was what He wanted and that it was something perfect for me. I saw the blessing, and I understood why I was taking the role. It was a big step for me. I wanted Wallace to maintain as much dignity as possible during that flagpole scene and hold his head up throughout the humiliation. Otherwise, the rest of his years at the school would have been messed up. And I knew there would be a kid out there who'd be able to relate to being in a humiliating situation and would see [Wallace] holding his head up. I auditioned with another actor who chose to let Wallace cry like a baby the entire time he was taped up there. And I said,"Naw, not me." I wanted to show Wallace as a victim of his circumstances, not as a punk or a pushover. [laughs] How does Wallace feel about Weevil, since Weevil and his gang are the ones who put him there?

Percy: Wallace really doesn't worry about Weevil. He was afraid of Weevil in the pilot only because Weevil had his whole motorcycle gang behind him. And in the end, Wallace had the upper hand by holding onto the [surveillance] tape. Good point. Will Wallace ever have another girlfriend? He hasn't dated anyone since Georgia in "Wrath of Con."

Percy: [laughs] I'd like to see Wallace have another girlfriend. We'll see what happens next season. Maybe he'll get his heart broken. Wallace is the kind of guy to be crazy for love.

[Editor's note: I'd never break your heart, Wallace!] In "Wrath of Con," you worked with Kyla Pratt, one of my favorite young actresses. How was that experience?

Percy: Very easy. I've known Kyla for about seven years. We went to the same acting school in Burbank, California. She might have appeared on the show more throughout the season, but she has her own show [UPN's One on One]. Did you play any basketball together? She's a baller too.

Percy: [laughs] I know. But no, we never had a chance to play. In "Hot Dogs," why did Wallace smile when Mandy attacked the corrupt animal control guy with her taser?

Percy: He was happy to see her finally stand up for herself. It reminded him of his early days of humiliation. What's your favorite Veronica Mars episode?

Percy: I really liked "Clash of the Tritons." But my favorite is the season finale. It— [covers her ears] Don't tell me, don't tell me, don't tell me!

Percy: [laughs] Okay. Then I'd have to say, "Betty and Veronica." I did more work for that episode than any other episode. That's one of my favorites, too. You seemed to have a lot of fun making that episode. Did you have a special work-out regimen to prepare for it?

Percy: Not really. I used to do the Navy S.E.A.L. work-out, which involves running, swimming, leg work, and variations on push-ups and sit-ups. But I haven't done it in about four months. I've just been chillin'. But I do push-ups everyday. Other cast members have said you're always the funny one on the set. Teddy Dunn said in his interview that "[Percy]'s a funny, funny guy...he really brings that light-heartedness to the show which we desperately need...He just lights up the scene."

Percy: Really? He said that? I have to check out that interview. That's the second time I've heard something about Teddy's interview. You really should. And have you read the "Wallace Fennel" thread on Television Without Pity?

Percy: Some of it. I've got to watch what's being said on those websites. I read on TwoP that some people think me and Teddy are gay because we were roommates. We are not gay! We shared an apartment because we needed a place to stay and wanted to keep our cheese. Sometimes things can get out of hand on message boards and fan websites. But Veronica Mars has a huge Internet following. You've created a generation of people who stay up till two or three in the morning to write about the show online.

Percy: Really? [laughs] That's cool. Like all Veronica Mars fans, I appreciate that at the cast appearances, everyone is very friendly and personable. And approachable.

Percy: For me, it's a blessing to see so many people who enjoy the show and support us. I love being able to make a connection with the fans, to talk to them face-to-face. How do you feel about your adoring fans, especially female fans, who make strange requests such as wanting lint from your pocket or asking you to sign off-the-wall things for them?

[Editor's note: Interviewer smiles sheepishly at her autographed cast photo with "Wallace -n- Topanga Forever" scrawled on the back in Percy's handwriting.]

Percy: I think it's funny that it happens to me. I don't consider myself the finest man out there, so it's crazy. But I love the connection with the fans and being able to talk to them. A lot of people are surprised when they meet me because they expect me to be more like Wallace. I'm not just a happy-go-lucky guy. And a lot of fans have said that Wallace is a little whitewashed. I disagree. I like the way you portray Wallace as a guy who could be of any race. But then you always manage to say or do something to remind the audience that Wallace is black. Nothing stereotypical to make you look like a thug or a pimp, but something funny and flavorful. Like the time you told Veronica, "If you rollin' like that, then you really been holding out on a brotha."

Percy: [laughs] I see what you mean. Some people have remarked that at cast appearances, Kristen is very friendly and pleasant, but isn't as energetic or jovial as other actors like you or Francis Capra. Is it fatigue, or does she dislike these appearances?

Percy: I really couldn't tell you. I know that sometimes she is tired at the cast appearances. But I haven't asked her directly how she feels about them. She might be thinking about other things in her life at the time: her house, her dogs, her boyfriend. Are your hours ever as long as Kristen's?

Percy: No, no. It takes us eight days to film an episode, and Kristen works all eight days. My work usually only takes three or four days. Sometimes I see Kristen become a little edgy on the set because she's so tired. What else is going on in your life? What other projects are you working on besides Veronica Mars?

Percy: I'm lining up a few acting projects, but I don't want to talk about them yet. Now that the summer is here, I can work on some of my other interests like studying martial arts, becoming fluent in Spanish, playing basketball and writing screenplays. I can't wait to see your upcoming projects, and I look forward to watching you on Veronica Mars. Only two episodes left.

[Editor's note: Only one episode left.]

Percy: Two good ones. I'm sure they will be. Thank you, Percy. I'm honored to have a chance to speak with you today.

Percy: No problem. I'm glad to have to opportunity to talk about how good God is and how He got me to where I am. Even with all of my hard work, it's God who's bringing me to this point.

[Editor's note: Amen. And squeee!!!!]

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