WC15: McIver, Thomas & More Talk Origins, Brains & Charm of "iZombie"

The sizzle reel opening WonderCon's "iZombie" panel provided glimpses of past episodes and a few brief looks at the rest of the CW show's first season, including main character Liv Moore [Rose McIver] getting into some pretty intense fighting.

After the footage ended, moderator Ben Blacker welcomed stars McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, David Anders and Robert Buckley to the stage, along with creators and executive producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.

Blacker started things off by talking to Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright -- who were treated to huge applause then their previous work on "Veronica Mars" was mentioned. "When Rob called me about the project, the first thing that I was interested in was the word zombie, which was in the title," Ruggiero-Wright recalled of her initial introduction to the concept of the show. "That pretty much sold me on it. I definitely wanted to do something genre, sci-fi. Just the idea of getting to do a different take on zombies is something I was really excited about."

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"When I first saw the comic book, it was because the head of Warner Bros. development brought it to me," Thomas said. "She didn't pitch it as the CW needs the next great zombie show. She pitched it to me as the CW needs the next kickass female lead on the network, the next Buffy, the next Veronica Mars. So it was an opportunity to do that, which was really exciting to me. But I do love zombies as well."

"I would have been really nervous about doing this show if the movie 'Warm Bodies' hadn't existed, because we wanted you to fall in love with our zombie, and don't know if I would've known if that's possible," Thomas continued. "It's a lifeless piece of flesh, will America fall in love with it? If we were trying to out-'Walking Dead' 'The Walking Dead,' I would have had no faith. It's only because we're doing a different spin on zombies that I felt like we could make it work."

"One of my favorite things about the show is that zombies exist in pop culture in our world, which is great fun for us, to be able to refer to them," Ruggiero-Wright said. "That's just the most fun, to be able to have [Liv] researching what to do about a zombie apocalypse by watching movies and TV shows."

Asked the group about the specific thrills and challenges of working on the show, Thomas answered first. "Most of what I've done has been quippy people in rooms. This is the first time in my career that I'm getting to deal with visual effects and violence and blood and action. It's new to me. It was interesting to try to direct this. The other thing that makes the show a lot of fun is the device of getting to put Liv in a new brain each week."

"That's my challenge," McIver said. "I spent a lot of time watching zombie movies, watching 'Veronica Mars,' watching 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' totally trying to get a sense of it. Then I get these texts each week that just say, okay, this week you're a martial artist. And I'm like, I spent four months preparing Liv! I don't know what a martial artist is!"

After Ruggiero-Wright interrupted to point out McIver's past as a Power Ranger -- which got a big round of applause -- the actor continued. "I get to take on different characters each week. It's so exciting, and it's part of what I love most about this character. It can be a fine line to work out how to incorporate those, and the humor and the novelty of those, and not for it to overwhelm Liv's personal journey that she's on."

"Rose is really good at everything," Ruggiero-Wright said. "She dances, she was a Power Ranger, she sings, she can do karate. There's nothing we can throw at her that she can't do." McIver responded that she and Anders were angling for a musical episode, so that they would both get to sing.

Blacker then opened the panel up to audience questions, the first of which was about the composition of the brains McIver eats as Liv. "It's made out of coconut agar-agar, which is like gelatin," McIver said. "And I have a spit bucket."

The next fan asked about what one thing from the comics the panel would like to see make it into the show. "I want her to get a terrier really bad," Ruggiero-Wright responded. "If we can't have a '60s ghost, then damn it, there's going to be a dog."

"We do get a mention of a were-terrier," Thomas added.

Of the creators of the "iZombie" comic book, Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, Thomas said, "They have been so incredibly lovely. We took several liberties with their work, and so often that can turn into a bad or contentious relationship, and they have just been fantastic to the show. We are so appreciative of them, and so grateful that Michael did our main title sequence."

Another fan asked whether it's best to stay faithful to the source material or be able to take liberties. "I think either of those are admirable," Thomas answered. "You just try to do the best show you can. The places where we deviated from the comic book, there's a certain logic to it for us. By making Liv work in the morgue rather than at a graveyard, we had a murder case of the week. That felt better for a television series. In the comic book, they have a whole monster universe. One of the reasons we made the decisions we did is because 'True Blood' was on the air, and they had a whole monster universe. We felt like they've got that territory covered, [so] we'll just keep it zombies. So those are the reasons we make those decisions. I don't know that there's a right or wrong answer to that. I think that you can be totally faithful to material you adapt if you feel that's your best shot at having a quality show. We deviated where we did for some pretty specific reasons."

The next question was about the possibility of a new love interest for Liv. Thomas hesitated a bit, and then said, "Yeah, there might be romance in the near future for zombie Liv."

Blacker asked about balancing the various aspects of the show, which includes soap opera, procedural and horror. "There are so many ingredients in this show," Thomas said. "It's your basic zom-com-rom-dram. A show hitting its stride out of the gate is so hard to do. We were juggling a lot of different genres and ideas: comedy and horror and drama and romance, blending all of those together and hoping that it came out right."

Blacker asked the cast members if they were surprised by anything that happened to their characters on the season so far. "I think with Ravi, I was surprised how we avoided stereotypes," Kohli said. "That was a big surprise for me, not because you guys are lazy, but in the sense that you're playing a doctor, who's a geek, who's a nerd, who's Indian. I was surprised how well-rounded he was as a character."

"We didn't know that Ravi was going to be dreamy," Ruggiero-Wright said. "At the studio, they call him 'Hot Doc.' He has Elvis hair."

Asked about her process for getting into character, McIver replied, "Every day the hair and makeup takes an hour and 45 minutes, and in that time I tend to kind of feel like I'm putting on Liv. It's more than I've ever had with any other character. It really does make me feel like I just get into the role. For each different character, honestly, less is more. For me, being really comfortable with the people I work with, it helps that these guys are all great friends of mine now. I find feeling confident and connected to the people around me the easiest way that I can prepare."

Getting into some future developments, a fan asked Anders if his character was planning a zombie racketeering business with his sale of brains. "He's got big designs on becoming King Z of the city by the sea," Anders said. "You're going to get inside his brains-dealing operation as the story goes along. Next week, in fact. You're going to meet some of his zombie henchman, too."

Blacker wrapped up the panel by asking what fans could anticipate in upcoming episodes of the show. "Robert Buckley takes his shirt off a few times," McIver promised.

"There's a hardcore bromance coming between Ravi and Major," Buckley said. "I don't want to get ahead of myself, but their celebrity crush name could be Rajer."

"That has been one of our favorite things in the show," Thomas said of the friendship. "Major needs a roommate, Ravi is available. The two of them playing together in scenes has been one of the delights of the show."

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