If the hardcore gore of The Walking Dead just isn’t your thing, the CW-fied take on zombies in the lighthearted new series iZombie, which premieres tonight, might be something to devour instead.
What’s a CW-fied zombie? Young. Pretty. Not Evil. (At least, not yet.) For an added twist, this one’s a crime-solver too. And it works.
Adorable, charming and drenched in goth-girl-cool, iZombie star Rose McIver is primed to be The CW’s next breakout star—she’s sort of a hybrid between Veronica Mars and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
It makes sense then that the “iZombie” comic book character has been transformed for the small screen by the Veronica Mars team of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.
“We think you can have a zombie be the hero of your show,” Thomas told TV reporters while promoting the show in Los Angeles.
“The whole idea at the center of the show [is] a zombie you can fall in love with, a zombie you want to date… We were calling the show ZILFs at one point,” he joked.
They cast the likable McIver as their walking dead girl Olivia “Liv” Moore (get the zombie irony there in her name? “live more”), a happily engaged medical resident who attends a fateful boat party that turns into a zombie feeding frenzy.
Liv survives the massacre … but is drastically transformed. Now undead and not loving it, Liv craves brains doused in hot sauce, adopts a platinum-pale new look and begins working at the morgue to have easy access to dinner without having to actually harm anyone.
There, she meets her only confidant, her boss Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), who quickly picks up on her “ssshhhh, I’m a Zombie” secret, unlike her own family and now ex-fiance who just can’t figure out what’s wrong with Liv, post-party disaster.
Zombie-ism does come with its own superpower here: Whenever Liv eats someone’s brains, she acquires the memories and skills of said corpse. More specifically, she often learns detailed knowledge of how that person died. Posing as a psychic, Liv shares that very useful information with homicide detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin), who drops by the coroner’s office regularly to investigate the deaths.
For McIver, the brain-teasing twist of inheriting different personalities and talents from week to week allows her to show off a lot of skills. One week she might have to learn karate for a storyline, the next week it’s speaking Romanian.
“It’s kind of a dream job in that sense where I’ve been able to try my hand at all different styles and characters and genres,” McIver explained to reporters. “It just feels like you’re working on a bunch of different shows, almost. It’s a pleasure, and it keeps it really alive.”
It’s also quite the challenge, never knowing what will be asked of her next. “I’ve never been more terrified receiving scripts in my life,” she added.
One thing she isn’t particularly stressed about is bringing a comic book character to life – despite the fan-pleasing pressures that generally ensue.
Perhaps that’s because McIver has a history of playing well-known characters – she played Tinkerbell on ABC’s Once Upon a Time and she played the Yellow Bear Power Ranger in Power Rangers R.P.M. (You also may recognize her from the critically acclaimed Showtime series Masters of Sex, where she played Beau Bridges and Allison Janney’s daughter, Vivian Scully.)
“I’ve had the most amazingly supportive audiences that have been very welcoming about me stepping into quite cult favorites, you know, these shows have these big followings,” McIver told reporters.
“And it’s really exciting with [this] show,” she continued, “We have this mythology behind it, but a real humanism that we’ve all worked on bringing to life. It just feels like it’s its own universe, and I feel like it has potential to have that same, hopefully, fandom [and] enthusiasm behind it.”
3 Fun Facts About iZombie:
1. Getting that “undead” look isn’t easy. “We have a two-hour process,” McIver revealed. “It’s a wig. It’s airbrushing my skin — any skin that’s exposed. And we cover me in this white and translucent makeup, and then there’s a lot of smoky eye work. When I put that on, it really does do a lot of the work for me in terms of making the character.”
2. Liv eats a lot of brains on the show — what are the brains made of? “It’s like coconut gelatin,” McIver said. “Independently, it would be okay, but to combine it with what looks like blood, we have vegetable juice poured all over it, and then a really sweet corn syrupy kind of sticky thing. So, it’s not really ideal.”
“It’s disgusting,” summed up co-star David Anders (Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries), who plays a mysterious zombie named Blaine.
3. The series is based on the comic book but .... “We didn’t hew terribly closely to the source material,” Thomas admitted to TV critics. “In the “iZombie” comic book, there’s a whole monster universe. There are terriers and ghosts. We wanted to stay strictly zombie, so we only have zombies in the show. And we really needed a story engine. We wanted to do a case of the week show. In the comic book, the main character is a gravedigger and that’s how she gets her brains. By making her an assistant medical examiner and putting her in the morgue, it gave us our case of the week that we wanted.”
iZombie premieres on March 17th at 9 p.m. on The CW.