It was a good time to be a fan of The CW’s Vertigo drama “iZombie” at WonderCon 2016. The series based on Chris Roberson and Mike Allred’s comic book was just recently picked up for its third season just as year two is getting ready to run to its finale.
Joining the panel were stars Rose McIver (Liv Moore), Malcolm Goodwin (Detective Clive Babineaux), Aly Michalka (Peyton Charles), Rahul Kohli (Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti), Robert Buckley (Major Lilywhite) and David Anders (Blaine McDonough) as well as executive producers/writers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.
Discussion started with the Season 3 pickup which came as a shock to the cast instead of a happy surprise. McIver said when she got the call, she thought some terrible thing had happened from cancellation to someone getting fired, but soon everyone perked up.
Thomas spoke to the evolution of Season 2, saying, “We like to think of each season as a big story…we want to have a finale each year that’s going to be the completion. We knew it’d be a big Max Rager season and Blaine would try to take over Seattle’s criminal world…we wanted this to feel like the end of a big chapter in a five, six, seven-year story. I just finished a cut of this finale, and last year’s finale when Major went into Meat Cute with a shotgun, we thought ‘This is as big as iZombie gets.’ But this year’s finale is a massive episode. It answers things and sets up what will happen in Season 3. Our final episodes run back-to-back on April 12, so tune in for a big ‘iZombie’ night.”
Asked if the turn to next year would involve more ideas from the comics, Thomas said the plan has always been to take the “big idea” from the comic of a young woman eating brains to get memories. They’ll continue to spin that premise in its own direction while drawing mostly on the visual look of Liv as a character based on Mike Allred’s designs. McIver said that when she initially did makeup tests for the character, everyone knew what the look would be, but they had to try out other options just to be sure. After an ’80s hair metal-style whig, they knew to stick to their guns.
Behind-the-scenes bits came to light involving the Japanese gelatin material used to make the fake brains. McIver said they’ve always been disgusting, but they’ve found real food combos to mask it well including the spices from clams casino. When in doubt, the actress said, pour on more hot sauce.
Looking forward to the mythology of the show’s zombie setup, Thomas revealed that the Season 2 story would eventually return to the boat party where Liv became undead. Meanwhile, the full-on zombies held under lock and key by the Max Rager company will have their own role to play. “If you see a zombie in ‘iZombie’ that has flesh falling off their face, they’re pretty much gone forever,” Thomas said.
The logistics of the mythology took a weird turn as the panel discussed zombie sex. The show has set rules that Ruggiero-Wright called “completely scientific” about how a dormant zombie can have sex with whomever they want. That doesn’t solve any of the romantic problems of the show’s cast, including the brewing love triangle between Ravi, Blaine and Peyton. McIver joked that the final decision on what man wins her heart will be which actor “gets more ripped” for shirtless screens. Michalka took a more serious route saying that her character’s attraction to Blaine is more physical. “I think Peyton brings insight to Blaine that is more honest…he’s not out to screw her over. She finds herself in this situation she can’t keep herself from.” Kohli joked that the conversation was veering towards “Friendzone” talk, but Michalka noted that true relationships were built on strong friendships, so the triangle could really go either way.
Goodwin’s character as the one person in the cast with no clue of the zombies came up, and the actor said that he thinks of his partner as a weird goth, and Liv works hard to keep the detective out of the loop. Thomas said, “If you’ve seen what Clive has seen, would you think ‘My partner has a personality disorder’ or ‘Are you a zombie?'” Goodwin said that his character doesn’t even think zombies are a remote possibility and to him believing in them is the same as believing in vampires or werewolves.
McIver said that next week when Liv eats the brain of a white trash stripper, she was told by Ruggiero-Writer to channel the writer herself to get the character right. “And I actually noticed the boys showed up to set on days they weren’t supposed to be there,” the actress said, jokingly ribbing her cast mates for being pervs. She said that trying to dance in a sexy style in a morgue with a whole crew watching her was one of the most awkward and challenging things she’s been asked to do on the series.
McIver did say that she’s wanted to do a musical project since she was a young actress who guest starred on “Xena Warrior Princess” where they did an all-singing installment. But Thomas said that when they did an episode that asked Buckley to sing a little, their dream of a musical episode died.
The writers do, however, try to match the characters to the strengths of the actors. While Thomas said he never allows improv on the show, he has written lines at actor’s requests including Blaine’s line “Daddy wants to play.”
Towards the end of the initial panel, the whole group went down the line and explained their favorite scenes in the show to date. Thomas like villain Mr. Boss’ recent murder of non-zombie Blaine. Buckley loved the club scene where Major is on Utopium. Goodwin loved the “bro brain” episode in a cut line where McIver was asked to say, “Dat ass, tho.” He said the crew said it for weeks on end after that. McIver’s favorite moment came from the same episode where she sang a Backstreet Boy’s tune with Ravi’s name -Â another scene that will only make it to the DVD extras. Thomas said a similar song from the country singer episode will hopefully make the DVD where Liv and Ravi duet on “Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” Kohli said his favorite song was the morgue fight he had with Blaine on one hand but also Ravi’s reconnection with Peyton on the other. Michalka liked the girl bonding scenes between Peyton and Liv in the last episode, and after she gave a heartfelt description of the moments they shared, McIver said, “And then I gave you a lapdance.” Anders’ own favorite scene was when he got to sing naked after his own “Daddy loves to sing” moment even though as he was filming it, it was incredibly tough to perform around his own crazy death.
Fan questions started with a young woman who was cosplaying as Liv who asked what brain of the other panelists on stage they’d want to eat. Several said Ruggiero-Wright was the brain to go to, though Kohli said that Goodwin is the brain to go for because of his wide range of jobs and skills over the years including musical and film editing techniques.
McIver said that it’s fun to play two personalities on the show each week, “But in my life I feel like I’m a different person each week. As an actor, one week I’m very zen and calm, but the next week I’m very hyper. We all have these different attitudes in us that can be awakened.”
A fan wrapped by asking if the cast wants to make any more appearances on similar cult show “Once Upon A Time,” and Anders and McIver both expressed an appreciation for their time in Storybrooke, and McIver explained that the creators of “Once” were college friends with Thomas, so there’s always a possibility of more for them if the shows can work out their individual schedules.