To say we're excited about Rob Thomas returning to television with a female-led mystery series is an understatement. We cannot wait for iZombie. And we got all the details in our exclusive interview with Thomas and lead zombie Rose McIver.
For those of you unaware, iZombie is the TV adaptation of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred's comic book of the same name. Set in the present day, main character Liv Moore gets bit and secretly becomes a zombie (it's unknown to the rest of the world that there are zombies about). To avoid murdering people for food, Liv takes a job at a morgue and discovers that she can inherit the memories and traits of the people whose brains she eats—and uses her new found abilities to solve various murders! As you do. So it's one part Buffy and two parts Veronica Mars. Perfect, but we'll let the showrunner and show lead explain:
What was it about the comic book [iZombie] that appealed to you?
Rob Thomas: I, actually, I've been interested in zombies for awhile. In fact, my tragic zombie story is that a few years ago I spent a few months developing a zombie apocalypse show that I was going to take out and pitch. We were literally scheduling those pitches when the front page of Variety said, "Frank Darabont sells Walking Dead to AMC." They were so similar. What they did was so similar to what we were doing, it just killed that project. So, I put zombies on the back burner for several years. The head of Warner Bros. development came to me with this comic book and asked me to develop it. What she said was, "CW needs another great female lead on the network." They need another Buffy; they need another Veronica. And she puts the comic book on my desk and says, "This is it, this is the one." But at the time, I was editing the Veronica Mars movie; I had already sold a couple pilots. I said no, and she wouldn't take no for an answer. She kept coming back to me and finally she just won that war. I said "OK I'll write it."
I was always excited about it creatively. I just felt like I didn't have the time or energy, but apparently I did. Actually what i did was I brought the Diane Ruggiero to write it with me, who I've worked with so much. That got me over the month.
Are we going to have inner zombie monologue on this?
Yes, yes we do. There will be inner zombie monologue. Definitely.
Does she have any good signoffs that you've already picked up on?
That's always, I think that's the fan's work. And I'm excited to see what they'll do with it. There should be plenty of room for fun fan interaction on this.
This is more like Buffy than it is Veronica, can you elaborate on that a little?
What I meant to say was that I think iZombie is more like Buffy than Veronica Mars was like Buffy. Veronica was very real world. There were no monsters in it. There was not a lot of action or violence in it. iZombie will have a bit more of that. Veronica Mars, we were really serious about trying to write great mysteries and spending a lot of our beats and story points on that. I think on iZombie, we're going to spend a little more time trying to get to fun zombie moments. We don't want it just to be a "zombie solves a murder case," each week. We want there to be a real, zombie mythology and zombie story lines. I would say in Veronica Mars there was always a big murder case that encompassed the season. In iZombie, there's a big zombie storyline that will sort of serve as the same role.
Like the cure?
That's pulling from zombie rules. What are your hard, fast zombie rules for iZombie?
Well our zombies, when they eat brains they inherit the memories of the brains they eat. They also get some of their traits. So in week three [Liv] eats the brain of a sociopathic, and she becomes a bit sociopathic. In the same episode she also eats the brain of a trivia champion and suddenly sounds like Cliff Clavin over the course of the episode. Generally, she'll get one kind of good trait and one difficult trait each episode. If they stop eating, they quit functioning and they start turning into the more prototypical slow-moving, dumb-witted zombies. And we kind of have everything they sort of start at functioning then kind of slink back into more World War Z, and if they keep eating they become slow moving and we call those "The Romeros." The Romero zombies.
You get your powers by eating brains, how many brains have you had to eat (up until now) while shooting? And what do they taste like?
Rose McIver: So, so far we're aiming to eat a brain an episode. It's sort of the goal. And we've been playing around with different recipes on set. We haven't quite mastered it. We have like a fondant, icing very, very sweet saccharine kind of brain. And then we also have a soy protein one, that's like tofu. Wouldn't recommend them. We're working on it, but yeah we get through quite a lot on set.
How many do you eat while you're shooting one episode. Are we seeing you eat 6 brains? Are you getting sick?
I have a new best friend on set called a spit bucket. So I actually don't eat any of them really anymore. I go to craft services and get a lot of gum. And in between these soy protein meals, I spit them out and have chewing gum and freshen up.
Your character is a good zombie. She uses her zombie powers for good and solves crimes with the cops. Why does she want to solve crimes at all? Why is this her passion? Why does she want to right wrongs?
Liv Moore was a medical student before she got attacked. She had this desire to help people. She really had a social purpose that she lost when she had to take another job working elsewhere, so she could eat brains. And when she discovers that she's able to eat the brains and help solve the crimes and bring some justice to those who have died. I think it just gives her more of a sense of purpose. And we're all looking for that identity and that just happens to be where Liv finds it. In a very unlikely place.
Let's talk about the berzerker zombie mode. That's what happens when you're not "checking" yourself. Do you look different? How does your character get to that state?
When Liv hasn't eaten brains she gets quite rabid. It's like high adrenaline. We're playing with it like it's adrenaline that she can't control. She can't switch it on and off. And it sometimes rears its head at ugly times. So she has to monitor herself like insulin. She has these brains that she keeps eating . When she doesn't [eat] the circles under my eyes get even darker then in real life, they actually stop covering them and bring a little more Rose to the party. And then she gets bright red, contact eyes and we have veins going through. It's a behavior thing as well, there's some mannerisms that come with it. So I hope people enjoy that.