With a glut of zombie-related TV shows filling up DVRs everywhere, “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas is preparing to offers up another entry in the genre, but with a twist: The first zombie detective procedural.
Thomas, along with executive producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright and key members of the cast, attended Comic-Con International in San Diego on Friday to offer fans a glimpse of “iZombie,” another series airing on The CW based on a DC Comics title — in this case Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s fan-favorite Vertigo series.
The series, which Thomas proudly describes as “Veronica Mars as a zombie,” centers on Liv (newcomer Rose McIver), a young woman struggling to live as a member of the undead following an unfortunate encounter with zombies at a party. She gets a job working at a police morgue — to ensure she has a steady supply of brains to eat.
The catch? She ingests the (temporary) memories of her meals, which comes in handy week-to-week as Liv sets out to right whatever wrongs befell her dinner. “In the pilot, Liv must solve a murder made to look like a suicide,” Thomas said. But the writer-producer added that not all of Liv’s cases will be murders.
“In one episode,” Thomas said, “she takes on a little bit of the traits of a sociopath and it’s an unpleasant ride — but the traits of her meals don’t completely take her over. She gets to still be in charge.”
Producers intended to screen the pilot during the panel, but those plans were scrapped at the last minute as certain roles were being re-cast and reshoots scheduled. Instead, the panel screened a sizzle reel of the pilot’s broad strokes, which went over very well with the enthusiastic crowd.
The footage set up Liv to be in the mold of “Veronica Mars” — a young and capable woman who narrates her adventures with wit and charm.
Unlike Veronica, Liv is college-aged. She has a fiance, whom she quickly keeps at arm’s length following a fateful party on a boat that changes — or maybe ends — her life forever. A drug dealer named Blaine (“Heroes”‘ David Anders) hands out vials of new drug Utopia, which quickly causes the party guests to go full “28 Days Later.”
Liv, pale-faced and disoriented, awakens the next day on a beach littered with bodies resting atop yellow tarps as local police and crime scene investigators work the scene. A cop runs away at the sight of Liv who quickly flees the crime scene to re-enter her life.
Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright pride themselves on the beats involving Liv and her family having an intervention regarding her new look; they think she is going through some kind of phase, she knows she can’t tell them the truth.
Grounding the first-ever zombie P.I. show in very human, very relatable situations is what drew McIver to the project. “Playing a zombie is OK,” McIver said. “Playing a medical student [facing these problems] is hard.” McIver added that, despite the show leaning heavily on the undead, it’s all about Liv trying to get back the life she once had before her condition wipes out any trace of it along with her humanity.
“It’s about ‘how do you find purpose, a life with meaning, when you’re… not really alive,” said McIver.
Thomas promises to explore these thematic questions by weaving the show’s procedural aspects through Liv’s attempts to cure her condition, which will serve as the series’ mythology. “Liv finds that she is the lynch pin in preventing the zombie apocalypse,” Thomas added, “but the show is predominately governed by the ‘A-story’ of investigating crimes.”
Liv will struggle to keep her condition at bay, especially when certain investigations escalate and force her to “Zomb out,” as Thomas calls it — which means Liv’s eyes get blood red and her appetite takes her to a very Romero-esque place. “If she doesn’t eat brains, she gets dumber, meaner,” Ruggiero-Wright said. In order to keep herself from going full zombie, Liv has to do that which keeps her from getting what she wants — being fully human again.
And while the show will have plenty of ass-kicking and witty banter that’s tonally in the “Buffy” wheelhouse, “iZombie” won’t mix with other supernatural elements like Joss Whedon’s series did. “We are a straight zombie show,” Thomas stated. “Liv will have a steady case load” to keep her busy without having vampires or demons to worry about.
Sorry, fans of the original comic — no were-terrier. But Thomas and Company promise plenty of character-driven storytelling to make up for it.
“iZombie” premieres on The CW in 2015.