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Picking the Brains of “iZombie” Showrunners Thomas & Ruggiero-Wright About Season 2

by  in TV News Comment
Picking the Brains of “iZombie” Showrunners Thomas & Ruggiero-Wright About Season 2

Only “iZombie” could cap off one of its most amusing episodes to date with its darkest turn yet.

Season Two’s second episode, “Zombie Bro,” found Liv (Rose McIver) getting in touch with her inner fratboy — and kind of loving it — after dining on the brains of a collegiate murder victim led to many a hilarious bro-ment, but — SPOILER ALERT — the story also took a poignant twist when it was revealed that not only was Major (Robert Buckley) definitely not ready to rekindle his too-long dormant romance with Liv, he’s also hiding an intense addiction to Utopium that is likely to lead him into darker places than even zombies typically descend.

RELATED: CBR TV: “iZombie” Showrunners Expand Their Zombie Mythology in Season 2

And thus juicy season-spanning story arcs are born, as explained by the series’ showrunners Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who gathered before the press to address the plot points laid out in the first two episodes of The CW show’s new season, as well as a host of other undying questions that have risen both on screen and off.

How far down the rabbit hole will Major go?

Rob Thomas: He will have hit rock bottom. That’s the journey that he’s going on. He’s doing this horrible thing and can’t quite stand himself. We have a scene that I really adore in which he officially hits rock bottom. We have the creepiest actor playing a former Helton Shelter kid, and it’s Major out on the streets, trying to score Utopium and he ends up buying it from a kid he used to try to get to stay off drugs at Helton Shelter and the kids calls him on it. Major knows he’s made it all the way down at that point. But that’s a few episodes away.

Does the drug affect Major differently because it was also partly used to create him into a zombie?

Thomas: No. There’s one line in there… The idea that we’re playing with it, it’s like Ecstasy. Our Donnie character, I think, has the line “higher highs and lower lows.” So it’s just souped-up Ecstasy.

How long before other characters pick up on it?

Thomas: Pretty quickly. It’s pretty hard to hide. Ravi [Rahul Kohli] picks up on it pretty soon. Very quickly, I’d say. Like possibly if you watch one more episode, Ravi will be picking up on it.

Does this story give you a chance to go more dramatic?

Thomas: Yeah. We were excited about playing the moment where Liv and Major have it out. He certainly doesn’t want to have anything to do with her at the beginning of the season, and at a certain point not too far down the road, she will have had enough and will confront him. That was one of things we wanted to build toward early that does give us a hefty, dramatic scene with Major.

His big mission is to keep himself and Liv alive. In order to do that, he has to take out these zombies… You’re going to watch him do that for a long time. He’s going to — it’s going to be a moral crisis for him. It’s a big part of the reason he’s going into that Utopium well. It will be tearing him apart. And it doesn’t get any easier for him, for a long time.

Part of the journey is he isn’t going to sit back and take it all season. At some point, he’s got to figure out how to turn the tables on Max Rager. So it’s not like you will watch 22 episodes of him forlornly simply going about this task. One of the fun things about Season One — and what we pitched Robert Buckley when we got him to agree to do this — was there was going to be this journey: he would be a man of action. He’s been put in a pretty awful predicament, but part of the journey will be him trying to figure out a way out of it.

“iZombie’s” David Anders Gets a Taste of Humanity in Season 2

Could that lead him to be teaming up with Blaine [David Anders]? He might need a good source to dispose bodies and Blaine has a funeral home.

Thomas: We have no plans. We’re shooting episode 7 or 8 now and they have not been on screen together yet.

Diane Ruggiero-Wright: I don’t think Major is over the whole “you killed my kids” thing.

Thomas: That will be a tough thing to get past.

What can you tease us about Peyton’s return in Episode Three?

Thomas: Last year, she largely was a sounding board, and then later in the season a romantic or love interest for Ravi. This year, she is very much in the thick of it. She comes back in her Assistant DA position and she gets asked by the DA to take over the Utopian Task Force. That puts her right in the thick of the action, so it’s not just her popping into the apartment to hear how Liv is feeling. Yeah, she’s deep in it this year.

Can you tease what Ravi’s going to go through this season?

Thomas: Well, we see a little bit of love life for him, and we had sort of made the decision that when Peyton comes back that they don’t fall into a relationship, and that they’re both going in different directions. And then the first scene that we shot with the two of them together, like it’s in my handful of favorite things we’ve shot here in Season Two, and we’re somewhere in Episode Eight right now.

Those two were just so good in that scene that it’s one of those moments where I might rethink where I want it — because they’re so good together. And we didn’t see much of it last year… but anyway, very good. And a little bit of Ravi’s love life. He will also be incredibly involved with trying to remake a cure; trying to locate the tainted Utopium.

Also, in the same way in the episode last year where Liv had seen Clive [Malcolm Goodwin] when he was working as an undercover cop and Ravi joined her on that investigation, we have an episode early this year where Clive gets taken off the board and Ravi and Liv go out and investigate a case together, which is fun.

Ruggiero-Wright: Or a zombie “Hart to Hart.”

Ravi and Liv successfully cured two people of zombie-ism. How is Max Rager going to respond when they find that out?

Thomas: Um, well, they haven’t found out yet. Max Rager, they’ve got scientists working down there but they’re working in a different direction. They believe in zombie eradication and they just trying to pull the good stuff out of the zombies. I don’t know when or if they will — we certainly haven’t broken a story where they learn about the cure.

Are they successfully cured?

Thomas: We’ve got a whole ‘Flowers For Algernon’ playing here. We’ve got the one zombie rat/new hope, which will be sort of the canary in the coal mine for both Major and Blaine. Once stuff starts happening to that rat you have to figure it will eventually happen to Major and Blaine, as well.

Now that the show’s established and you know what works, how will you be stepping outside of that comfort zone at times?

Thomas: The world is getting bigger, without a doubt. There are more moving parts this season. Last year, Blaine was the sole Big Bad. By “sole,” I mean “only.”

Ruggiero-Wright: He was also the Big Bad of the soul. The soulful Big Bad.

Thomas: This year, Steven Weber is occupying a bunch of that space. I think Blaine has really fun, juicy stuff this year.

So we have those two things in play this year, and Blaine is going to try and become the crime lord of Seattle, and we eventually meet the crime lord of Seattle, and he will be a significant role as well. Eddie Jemison is playing the role of Mr. Boss.

How are dealing with sustaining the fact that Clive still doesn’t know that Liv is a zombie?

Thomas: It will be difficult. Already it’s one of those things I see tweeted out: how can Clive not figure it out? I always like to think, “Well, these are zombies. Maybe if he lived in a TV world, he might.” But I think for most cops — though he’s a cop who believes in a psychic, so…

But yeah. I’ll tell you, one of the things that’s a blessing and a curse. We’ve written scenes that haven’t made it in the show where Clive looks at Liv and goes, “You realize you start acting like the people whose death [we’re investigating]” — we’ve written that scene three different times, and it’s never made it into the episode. And part of the reason why is because Malcolm is so funny reacting to her brains, and there’s so much comedy gold.

Maybe at some point, someone will do one of those supercuts of Clive’s “Are you kidding me” faces and we’ll know it’s time to shut that down. Right now, we just enjoy Clive sitting there when Liv’s on some strange brain.

Ruggiero-Wright: And Malcolm does that outside of the show anyway, anytime she talks. Like, “What is she talking about? Where are you from?”

Things were pretty bad between Liv and her family in the season premiere. Is there going to be more follow-up on the state of that relationship?

Thomas: Yeah. We don’t get back to the family right away but we just shot a couple of episodes with them — I think [Episodes] 6 and 7 or somewhere in there. Originally when we broke the pilot, Eve and Evan were going to be series regulars and the thing that we learned — I mean, a couple things is trying to get a show to go on budget. But we would be killing ourselves. Our episodes are so tightly packed right now. We like having them in the show but it’s trying to get Peyton and all of our bad guys and a case of the week — it’s sometimes a real juggling act so… yeah, we’ll keep coming back to the family but much like Season One, every three or four episodes, something along those lines.

Ruggiero-Wright: There are some interesting, cool developments with the family, though, that you can look forward to if you’re a fan of the family.

“Zombie Bro” was one of the most fun brain changes for Liv — she really enjoyed living life as a bro.

Ruggiero-Wright: I feel like some brains are stronger than others, how it affects her. Maybe the force is strong in this one and the bro is strong in this one so I feel like it kind of takes her over a bit more than normal but she — it’s kind of hard to balance your professional and romantic lives when you’re on just party brain, party frat boy brain.

Thomas: It’s one of the few brains and she says it in the episode, “I love this brain!” She doesn’t have… you know, those guys who walk around on the planet who don’t seem to have a care in the world.

Ruggiero-Wright: Everything is like “Tits and Bacardi!” It’s just so great.

Thomas: To have a whole week without any introspection. No self-awareness, no introspection. That would be…

Ruggiero-Wright: We cut some of this out, too, but this was a time where she actually not only enjoyed being on the brain but she was like, “I kinda love this guy! We would’ve been bros.” She felt a little affection for him.

The thing about Rose, too, it’s almost annoying if it didn’t serve us so well, she’s good at everything so all these different things that you see her do, she actually does them. Rob was talking about the magic episode, so they have the magic instructor who comes in and teaches her magic — that happens. There’s a magic instructor who will teach you magic. And he taught her magic tricks and she was amazing. Like, she could do anything.

Instead of picking brains that are fun, I’m now just gonna pick a brain that I think she won’t be able to do and it will be bad for the show but screw it. I’m sick of it. Like, she can’t be that perfect. I’m going to find her weak spot and…

Thomas: We finally did something that we’ve been thinking we would do and get around to: last year, we thought there should be another occasion where she has to speak Romanian and she can’t and Clive is like “What the hell? You could speak Romanian three weeks ago?”

In those back-to-back episodes I was talking about, in the first one she’s on the brain of a basketball coach and is arguing basketball with Clive, who can’t believe she knows the intricacies of the triangle offense and then the very next episode she’s on a different brain and she comes face to face with an NBA all-star and has no clue and Clive is like ‘What? We were…” So we finally got around to paying that off.

Ruggiero-Wright: It’s like one of those girls who practices for a date really hard and makes you think they’re into sports…

As you throw these acting curveballs at Rose, is she just a savant who can just do it just like that, or do you see her go “Give me a minute” and then she’s got it?

Thomas: She studies. I know for “Grumpy Old Liv” brain we had her watching all these “All in the Family” episodes. Like, that’s what her study was for that. And the craziest thing, I think it’s even in there for a line, that she does a line in the show, in this Queens accent. But she studied it so hard, and she’s a Kiwi. And she actually learned it with the accent, which was not actually — we didn’t need her to go that far with the Archie Bunker, but she did.

Ruggiero-Wright: I just remember the pilot being, like, she had so much to do, obviously, and she had the Romanian coach that we didn’t see. But she was with her briefly, and I just remember coming in to talk to her. She’s waiting in between scenes. And I was like, “Oh, can I talk to you for a second? Are you busy?” She’s like, “I’m learning Romanian.” I’m like, “Oh, okay…” There’s no one in the room. She’s not holding anything. She’s just like practicing Romanian. It’s very “Matrix,” like, “I know kung fu.” But it’s really how Rose operates.

You’ve been mentioning brains, can you tease some of the upcoming brains?

Thomas: The next three are Real Housewife brain, country-western chanteuse brain, and then basketball coach brain.

Is there a brain that you came up with that you really wanted to see done, but didn’t work out?

Thomas: Yeah. It’s kind of the fun part. Back when we used to do “Party Down,” the most fun we had was like the first couple days just sitting around and thinking, ten parties. Porn awards, yes. That goes on the board. Or pet wedding. Well, we can’t.

Ruggiero-Wright: How did “pet wedding” not get up there?

Thomas: Well, because Christopher Guest had done dog so well, we felt we had nothing more to say.

Ruggiero-Wright: You had more to say about porn. [Laughs]

Thomas: We could talk about porn forever.

Ruggiero-Wright: But dogs — over.

Thomas: But with “iZombie,” kind of the fun is thinking of just “What’s the brain this week?”

How much fun are you having coming up with different ways she prepares the brains?

Thomas: That’s an alteration, something this year that we’re having a lot of fun with is, doing… well, Guy Ritchie or the “Shaun of the Dead” director, Edgar Wright — like, using those quick cut [snaps fingers]. And if you look at it, it makes no sense in some ways because she’s actually — we’re having them be thematic.

Ruggiero-Wright: But she hasn’t eaten the brain.

Thomas: But she hasn’t eaten the brain yet, so it is just a wink. Like down the road, she’s on a degenerate gambler brain, and she makes brains casino. Like it’s a little joke for anyone who’s paying attention, but she shouldn’t already be there.

Ruggiero-Wright: That’s just us being kind of ridiculous.

Thomas: But again, it’s silly, but we have fun in the writers’ room, the setting, “What would a stalker eat?”

Ruggiero-Wright: Yeah, and it took me a minute for that one, but they did ants-on-a-log, but it’s celery, so “stalk.” We just want to tell people what our thought process is and have as many people cringe and think, “How are these people professional writers?” And then just leave and get angry in their cars on the way home.

Thomas: These are fun episodes to name, like that stalker episode. There was a “Veronica Mars” episode called, “Look Who’s Stalking” And so we had this one for a while, the working title was, “Look Who’s Stalking Too.” We ended up going with the, “The Hurt Stalker,” which worked.

Ruggiero-Wright: I loved the “Even Cowgirls Get the Black and Blues” [episode title], because it’s that Tom Robbins book. We also have this writers’ assistant, John Belina, who helps the writers come up with their chapter titles. I think I came up with one good chapter title. If there’s ever a good one in mine, it’s from John Belina. He’s like a machine. He’s just like title after title.

Thomas: We do have a writers’ assistant who should just make a living doing pun chapter titles.

Ruggiero-Wright: Oh my God. He is the pun king. It’s amazing.

Thomas: For those who appreciate. We clearly do.

“iZombie” airs Tuesdays at 9 P.M. on The CW.

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