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VERONICA MARS Creator Rob Thomas & Actress Rose McIver on the Undead Charms of IZOMBIE

If AMC’s The Walking Dead proved that people want to be scared by zombies week after week, the CW’s iZombie is convinced that audiences also want to fall in love with them. Based on the DC/Vertigo comic book by writer Chris Roberson and artist Mike Allred and loosely adapted for television by Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, iZombie follows the adventures of Olivia “Liv” Moore (played by Rose McIver), a young woman who discovers she… 1.) is undead, 2.) must eat brains in order to survive, and 3.) is cursed — or gifted — with the ability to absorb the abilities of the deceased through their brains.

Thomas, Ruggiero-Wright, McIver, and her co-star David Anders (Alias, The Vampire Diaries) appeared at the CW’s Television Critics Association press day on Sunday to introduce us to iZombie, which debuts on March 17, 2015.

On the differences between the comic book and the TV show…

Rob Thomas: We didn’t hew terribly closely to the source material. In the iZombie comic book, there’s a whole monster universe. There are were-terriers and ghosts. We wanted to stay strictly zombie, so we only have zombies in the show. And we really needed a story engine. We wanted to do a case-of-the-week show. In the comic book, the main character is a gravedigger and that’s how she gets her brains. By making her an assistant medical examiner and putting her in the morgue, it gave us our case of the week that we wanted.

One of the big elements that we did retain from the comic book is the idea that when she eats brains, she gets the memories of the dead people. That was one of the big selling points in the comic book. And then, when we started getting into the writers’ room and talking about whether she’s going to inherit the talents of the people that she ate, there were lively and lengthy discussions about how far do we go with that. If she eats the brains of someone who knows karate, is she a karate expert for the week? In the pilot, she eats the brains of someone who speaks Romanian. Can she do that this week? And at the end of the day, we decided it was just more fun to say yes to those things.

Rose McIver: I’ve never been more terrified receiving scripts in my life… I get text messages from Diane, “Can you do a cartwheel?” [Laughs] And these obscure things. I’m waiting to see what else they put me through.

On distinguishing Liv’s voiceover narration from that of Veronica Mars…

RT: I always wanted us to, at our best in those [Veronica] voiceovers, strive for this very Raymond Chandler-esque, hard-boiled, cynical world view. I think Liv and iZombie [are] more naturally a softer character. Part of the journey for her is a return to sweetness and light and finding things in life that are worth going on living for. So while we are using that technique in both, I think their attitudes are pretty different when we’re writing that VO.

On playing a lot of different characters like that of Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany…

RM: I feel like as an actor, that was always why I started out doing this — I wanted variety and I wanted to be able to play all these different characters and live a whole bunch of lives in one. So it’s kind of the dream job in that sense where I’ve been able to try my hand at all different styles and characters and actually genres. I mean, we combine so many things in this show. Do I work on comedy? Sometimes I feel like I work on a drama. It really is variety… It just feels like you’re working on a bunch of different shows, almost. It’s a pleasure, and it keeps it really alive. I hope that translates, because we definitely feel like [that] every day we go to work, it’s a new experience and it’s something new we’re discovering.


On Liv’s undead appearance…

RT: In some ways it’s the least logical decision she could make. The truth of the show is that the reason she does not spray tan or dye her hair to look like everyone else is because she will look great on our poster — with this hair. [Laughs] All the other zombies in the show have the ability to sort of go undercover. Liv is out and proud. She refuses. At one point, Blaine suggests that she goes ahead and gets a tan, and she says, “Oh, like I’m some self-hating zombie?” [Laughs] It would actually make much more sense if she decided to hide this, but we like looking at her like this too much for her to do that. At some point, we’re going to try to figure out the show-logic reason that she stays looking like a zombie. But the truth is it’s for the CW subway poster.

RM: And I’m looking to be an ambassador for a sunblock line, a sunscreen line, so… [Laughs.]

On iZombie’s characters being aware of zombie movies…

Diane Ruggiero-Wright: It wasn’t a part of the comics, but it was something that we really enjoyed about the show, because it is so prevalent in pop culture that we’re having a lot of fun with the fact that that’s where she does her research. If there were a zombie attack, what would you do? I would watch The Walking Dead and see [if] you could pick up a lot of useful tips. That’s one of the best parts of the show, that they know zombies exist. They can make jokes about it. They reference it, and it was an easy decision because it was the most fun.

On the possibility that Liv could one day be “cured” of being a zombie…

RT: We wanted to give her some glimmer of hope out there, you know, the possibility that maybe if she keeps plugging away that there could be a future for her. I actually think we’re going to have fun with that notion of the show way before Episode 100.

On making the show look like a comic book…

RT: As the season progressed, we’ve asked all the directors [to] give us, really, comic-book frames, things at odd angles, interesting points of view. Then, once we have that opening frame that we’ve shot, we hand it over to a visual effects house and they will turn it around for us. It’s led to a couple problems where we’ve wanted to change the act out and we don’t have that great comic-book panel frame. So we boxed ourselves in a little bit, but we’ve had a lot of fun with that. I think it harkens back to The Wild Wild West. They did such a cool thing with that.

We’ve actually tried to go with pretty flat backgrounds. Like, in the morgue, in the police station, and even in her apartment for the most part, we’ve been conscious of while not trying to make it some sort of depressingly gray or brown. What we have wanted to do is keep those backgrounds flat and allow our wardrobe and props to be the center of attention, kind of put them in colors, keep the backgrounds a little more… muted is probably the word that I would [use].

On the show’s other zombies…

RT: We do meet a couple more zombies along the way and get to know them. Small spoiler alert. She meets a zombie suitor… I will confess that the idea at the center of the show [was] a zombie you can fall in love with or even one that you find attractive, a zombie you want to date. That’s the polite way of saying it. We were calling the show “ZILFs” at one point. [Laughs]

But it helped me a lot that Warm Bodies had made it out into the universe. And there was an example of, “Oh, yeah, that has a zombie who you fall in love with.” It gave us the confidence to say, “Yeah, a zombie can be the hero of our show.”

On David Anders’ character…

David Anders: Blaine is just a zombie crime boss trying to find his way in the world. It’s a lot of fun. That’s what drew me to the first script that Diane and Rob put together. It’s so funny and dark. And for the whole of my career, I have not been allowed to be funny, but allowed to be dark many times. So this was a chance for me to stretch my comedy muscles… Rob tells me when I’m not chewing enough scenery to chew more of it.

On Liv’s undead libido…

RM: Libido isn’t the problem. Libido isn’t the problem for Liv. Let’s just clear that up.

DR: Zombie-ism might be sexually transmitted, so that was something we had to take into consideration. But there’s sex in the show with people other than Blaine, though I think a show that’s just sex with David Anders would make a fine program. [Laughs.] I would call that appointment television myself…

DA: She’s not wrong. She’s not wrong.

RT: We do introduce a zombie gentleman caller in episode 5, so Liv’s long national nightmare ends at some point.

Rob Thomas’ iZombie premieres Tuesday, March 17, 2015 on The CW.

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