Executive Producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright and stars Rose McIver and Robert Buckley put aside their hunger for brains to join Kiel Phegley aboard the CBR Yacht at Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk all things "iZombie," the new CW series debuting March 17 based on Vertigo's "iZombie" comic by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred. The trio discusses the tone of the show, dubbing it a "crimedy," provide some backstory on Buckley's character, Major Lilywhite, and even explain what brains taste like.
On the tone present on set, and the bond between cast and crew on the series:
Rose McIver: I always think of the tone as zombie, comedy and procedural. That, to me, sums up what we are. I think we have elements of drama and adventure. We've got genre stuff with zombies. There's an innate humor when your lead character is a zombie and pretending to be a regular human. And then it's got a real procedural element where we solve crimes each week. For me tonally, that's how I always looked at it.
Diane Ruggiero-Wright: Well we try to ask her not to say that because zombie procedurals are so common that we don't want to get sucked into just another zombie fake psychic procedural, but tonally it's similar to "Veronica Mars" with Rob [Thomas] and myself, so "Crimedy," I believe, is what it's called. A shout out to Hart Hanson who I believe came up with that term for "Bones."
On writing the screenplay for "Veronica Mars" with Rob Thomas, and collaborating with him again for "iZombie":
Ruggiero-Wright: Rob just has twenty thousand things going on at once, and usually when he is working with me that means he has twenty-two-thousand. We did the movie together -- Rob obviously would have done that by himself. He had broken the story, but with the Kickstarter program and everything, he was just so overwhelmed that he needed a little help, but was very generous in bringing me on. When "iZombie" came -- I'm the big sci-fi fan -- he called and said, "They sent me this project called 'iZombie'" and I'm like, "I'm in!" "Does that mean one zombie? I don't care, I'm in." We work well together, even if there wasn't momentum I would like to think I'd get the call, but maybe I was just on speed dial and everyone else was busy.
Robert Buckley: I passed on it.
McIver: Yeah he asked me first to write, but I was snowed under, so he reached out to Diane.
Buckley: I was doing that "[Star Wars] Episode VII" rewrite. "Come on, J.J. Get it right.
On playing the character of Major Lilywhite, and Buckley's insight into the role:
Buckley: I appreciate the fact that you were expecting a gruff, tough guy. I just got stuck on Lilywhite and was thinking, "This guy, for sure, drinks with the pinky up." He's the guy -- he excuses himself when he burps. But no, that's not the case. A little back-story, was it the name is actually based on one of Rob Thomas' favorite college football players?
Ruggiero-Wright: And the hot guy from my high school.
Buckley: And the hot guy from Diane's high school. Hey, so, Major, former, perhaps presently hot guy from Diane's high school, thank you. I'm glad your name wasn't like "Duncan," sorry to all the Duncans.
Ruggiero-Wright: I pitched "Major Pasty-Ass" but then we cast you and it didn't work.
Buckley: You'd have to be like "Major Mystic-Tan-Ass." That's just too long with the hyphens. Okay, so it was very important in the character broke in the trades -- everyone, that one thing was "former collegiate football player" and it takes place like five years after college. That's as arbitrary as being like "The guy who didn't do his taxes six years ago," but apparently I played college football, and the main thing was that I had been dating Liv for eight years, and we were engaged, and then recently once she had her little zombie scare, her little zombie episode -- I've been put in that awkward friend zone. Which, you know, as guys, is totally comfortable and enjoyable. He's navigating those waters... It's safe to say his therapist isn't going broke this month.
On the show's decision to concentrate on people in their mid-to-late twenties several years after college instead of the teen and college focus of many other CW shows:
Ruggiero-Wright: Completely. There is definitely that pre-midlife crisis when you are just starting out and you're in your mid twenties and it's just, "Who am I?" And for the Liv character, "Who am I? And I'm dead. Who was I before?" It's all of that.
McIver: I feel like everything Liv hung her identity on has been swiped out underneath her. I think we do feel that to an extent, when you come out of school or a system where we've had certain things we can associate ourselves with. Just even normally it's like, "What do you do?" "Well, I do this..." When you first come out of school and you're finding yourself and your identity, add on top of that you are an undead zombie it steps up those stakes a little.
Ruggiero-Wright: Also life not being what you thought it would be. You think, "When I'm in my mid-twenties I'll have this down or things will be so rosy." And you get there and are like, "Oh shit."
Buckley: I have a question. What is the appropriate age for a zombie to have a midlife crisis?
Ruggiero-Wright: Oh, how old is your character? [To McIver] That's the appropriate age. For a regular zombie, a midlife crisis would probably be like seventy.
Buckley: She's just a pup, this one.
On McIver being the face of the show -- and more importantly, what brains taste like:
McIver: So far we haven't really got a recipe that I am one hundred percent behind. We've got a fondant and like cake icing kind of brain versions; we've also got a soy protein one that's really salty. And we have a lot of spit buckets, and that's been the go-to. I haven't adopted that as any meal in my own life -- yet.