Seattle is a great place for horror. The rain feels dramatic, the sky is often gray, and the town is wired with caffeine. This makes it an ideal setting for The CW’s “iZombie,” based on the Vertigo comic series of the same name. However, Seattle can also feel bright and fun, as the stars of the TV show likely discovered when they came to Emerald City Comicon 2016.
On Saturday of the aforementioned event, fans had the opportunity to hear from stars Rose McIver (Liv Moore) and David Anders (Blaine DeBeers) at the “iZombie” panel, joined by writer Chris Roberson, co-creator of the “iZombie” comic. Actress Clare Kramer (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) moderated the panel for the thousands present at the Seattle Convention Center and kicked things off by asking Roberson how he came up with the comic’s unique take on zombies.
“It was two things, really,” the writer explained. “One was that I wanted to do a zombie story. I love zombies, but zombies have been relegated to the ‘post-apocalyptic thing.’ The only time you ever see zombies is when everything is over. And I thought, ‘You know, vampire stories don’t have to be in 19th Century London, so why can’t I do a zombie story with regular people in the modern day?’ And the second piece was — zombies want brains, but what are they getting out of it? I thought it could be memories and personalities.”
For those unfamiliar with the program, the zombies in the world of “iZombie” are able to maintain their humanity and (mostly) pass as regular people provided they eat a somewhat steady diet of brains. If they don’t, they turn into the raging monsters typically seen in movies. However, eating brains has a secondary effect — the zombies temporarily absorb the memories and abilities of the brains former owners. McIver admitted this was part of the challenge and fun of playing Liv.
Kramer then questioned the actress about how she initially prepared to audition for the role. She wanted to know how one gets in the zombie mindset. McIver explained that since she never acts like an extra from “The Walking Dead,” it wasn’t too strange. However, she did face one challenge. “Honestly, it was hard to play the doctor part of Liv convincingly. I have to understand my dialogue to remember it, so I can’t really phone in any of the technical terms — I have to look them up,” said McIver. “I don’t know how Rahul [Kohli] — who plays Ravi — does it each week.”
As Liv’s personality can change from episode to episode, Kramer asked if either McIver or Anders ever try to plant seeds in the heads of the show’s writers. They both agreed there is something they’d like to try — singing. McIver said, “We’ve been plugging to get a musical episode, but we had a much better shot at it until Robert Buckley’s singing was aired last week.” The crowd roared at this admission.
The group then discussed the show’s success, and McIver asked all the Liv cosplayers in the room to stand up. She clapped enthusiastically as a handful of impressively dressed Liv zombies stood. This prompted Kramer to ask about the first time McIver ever saw her character being cosplayed.
“It was actually at the first San Diego Comic-Con after we had shot the pilot, but it hadn’t even aired. People were there as Gwen [the main character in the comic] — and that was really exciting… because we draw so much from the look of the comic,” she said.
This caused the conversation to turn to Roberson and the adaptation of his work. He said he initially kept an open mind. When he eventually read the pilot, he thought it was really funny and didn’t mind the changes from his story.
“I’m not precious about my stuff in the slightest, so the fact that they kept our basic idea and the look was terrific,” he explained. He then turned to McIver and added, “[Artist and co-creator] Mike Allred was so over the moon when you were cast. He had reservations up ’til that moment, and after that, he was like ‘I’m sold.'”
The tone of the show was brought up several times throughout the panel. The series crosses several genres, as it’s funny, romantic, serious, and yet contains horror. Anders probably described it best when he said, “It’s the best zom-com-rom-dram in the history of television!”
Back to the zombie side of things, Kramer noted that McIver’s character had to eat a lot of brains from week-to-week. She was curious about what the actress was actually eating and what it tasted like.
“So we have this great chef now, but initially, we didn’t have him,” McIver answered. “When we started this series and did the pilot, the brains were just gelatin covered in corn syrup and occasionally hot sauce. But we played around with it to try and get the right color; we used fondant — like, icing sugar — and it was just completely disgusting. And I was really polite at the time, and I was just like, ‘No guys, this is fine.’ And I ate so much.
“Then I got to know the crew really well, and I could say without hurting anyone’s feelings, ‘Um, this is really disgusting.’ So I started doing two things: I use a spit-bucket a lot, which is for the actual gelatin stuff I eat. And then we also hide it in these recipes. I mean, I want Liv to have a cook book… she does all these great things with brains. It got so good recently that we did this turkey chili, and if I avoided the gelatin bits, it was so tasty that I ended up taking a Tupperware container home and put it in my freezer.”
Looking at the show as a writer, Roberson was then asked by Kramer if he had a favorite episode. After thinking about it, he responded, “For one of the episodes, [co-showrunner and Executive Producer Diane Ruggiero-Wright] named a character after me and Allred. The vigilante-by-night, shop teacher-by-day character was named Chris Allred. So, that night — it was a fantastic episode — and I tweeted that Diane Ruggiero had helped me fulfill my lifelong ambition of having half of a high school shop teacher named after me!”
After the chuckles from the audience died down, Anders was questioned about his early career on television. He said his first appearance was on “Alias” as the evil Julian Sark — a role which remains special to him.
“That was my first experience. I got my SAG card with that, and I have J.J. Abrams to thank for my entire career — and to blame for only being allowed to play bad guys. It was an amazing experience to get to learn from all those award-winning actors.”
Kramer then steered the conversation to the actors’ passions outside the show. McIver offered up her love without a moment of hesitation: “Embroidery. I cross-stitch on set like it’s going out of fashion.”
“As for me, I love sports. I’m a Fan-ders for sports,” Anders said. The audience groaned at his playful pun. “Hey, I just planted the seed — it’s up to you to water it and make it grow. As an Oregon native, I’m a fanatic about the Oregon Ducks and my Portland Trailblazers, plus the Minnesota Vikings. And I go see them live, and I fly to different places for them.”
Regarding other things in his life that excite him, Anders gleefully talked about a role he recently performed. “I got to play Loki on a little show — but I’m not going to tell you what it is. The day before though, I had played 36 holes of golf and I was thinking, ‘I am far too red to play Tom Hiddleston right now.'”
As previously mentioned, the benefit of being one of the undead on “iZombie” is that actors get to try on various persona. This led a fan to ask McIver if there’s any personality she might be interested in playing with, also suggesting it might be fun to see Liv on toddler brains, which received a collective “Ewww!” from the audience. McIver responded with a wince and a smile.
“Here’s the thing — we might love to see that, but the circumstances in which Liv would have to eat the brains of a toddler are just too horrible to go down that avenue. What I’m really interested in is playing a hockey goon, like a big hockey thug. I used to figure skate when I was little, so the chance to be able to skate and play like a cool thug would be so fun.”
The second season finale of “iZombie” airs Tuesday April 12, and and the show will have a special guest: musician Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20, AKA the other Rob Thomas, with some fans present wondered wondering if this created confusion on the set. Anders pointed out that it’s likely a common occurrence online, as co-showrunner Rob Thomas’ Twitter bio even says, “Not the singer.”
“We actually refer to Rob Thomas the singer as ‘Rob Thomas 2.0’ and our Rob Thomas — our father-figure — is Rob Thomas 1.0,” McIver explained. “And when we had the singer on set the last couple of weeks, it was amazing. He just knows everything about the show, and he brought his wife, who also knows everything. It was so cool and really flattering.”
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