Rose McIver as Olivia "Liv" Moore and Rahul Kohli as Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti in "iZombie." (Cate Cameron / The CW)Link
Clive Babineaux (Malcom Goodwin) in "iZombie." (Cate Cameron / The CW)Link
Rose McIver as Olivia "Liv" Moore in "iZombie." (Diyah Pera / The CW)Link
David Anders, Robert Buckley, Rahul Kohl, Malcolm Goodwin and Rose McIver at a party in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2015. (Hal Horowitz / Associated Press)Link
Rob Thomas, left, and Rose McIver at a party in Austin, Texas on March 14, 2015. (Hal Horowitz / Associated Press)Link
"iZombie" actress Rose McIver on May 15, 2014. (Charles Sykes / Associated Press)Link
The "iZombie" comic book series ended in 2012, but has been transformed into a TV show on The CW on March 17. (Vertigo / DC Entertainment)Link
The CW’s comic book-inspired series “iZombie” may have invented a new TV genre — the zombie comedy romantic drama, or “ZomComRomDram,” as the show’s creators and cast called it during their Saturday presentation at WonderCon.
The panel was attended by an enthusiastic crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center’s 9,100-seat arena.
The CW series, from co-creators Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright (both of “Veronica Mars”), is based on the comic book series of the same name by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred; the latter designed the show’s comic-style titles and bumpers.
The story centers on Rose McIver’s undead protagonist Olivia “Liv” Moore (get it?), a young woman whose recent zombification leads her to abandon her fiancé (Robert Buckley) and her prestigious medical residency in favor of assisting medical examiner Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) in the police morgue — the perfect place to procure brains. Ravi becomes an unexpected ally, helping Liv hide her secret while searching for a cure.
Liv’s steady diet of cerebrum and hot sauce keeps her passing as alive but comes with an unexpected side effect — memories and personality traits from the deceased. Liv puts the extra knowledge and skills to noble use, posing as a psychic to help Seattle Police Det. Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve murder cases.
Saturday’s panel included Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright, as well as McIver, Kohli, Buckley, Goodwin and David Anders, who plays antagonist zombie Blaine DeBeers.
During the panel, the show’s creators compared “iZombie” to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Joss Whedon’s long-running feminist horror series, and “Veronica Mars,” Thomas’ short-lived high school noir.
“IZombie” is Thomas’ second attempt at a zombie show after his plans for a darker, zombie apocalypse series “Death Valley” were dashed when AMC bought “The Walking Dead.” Years later, the head of Warner Bros. development team introduced him to the “iZombie” comic and its zombie girl with a heart of gold.
“If we were trying to out-Walking Dead ‘The Walking Dead,’ I would have had no faith in that,” Thomas said during the panel discussion. “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. It’s a lifeless piece of flesh; will America fall in love with it?”
McIver said she studied “Veronica Mars,” “Buffy” and a slate of zombie movies to prepare for the role. Goodwin, who plays the detective, went on ride-alongs with police officers. Kohli watched autopsy videos, looked at case files and interviewed pathologists. Then, he and McIver visited a morgue in Vancouver.
“It was important for both of us to know our roles as best as possible,” he said.
But for McIver, her role changes with each episode as her character adopts the abilities and personality of the person whose brain she consumes.
“That’s my challenge each week,” McIver said. “It’s so exciting, and it’s part of what I love most about this character, but it’s a challenge to play with the humor and novelty of those and not overwhelm Liv’s personal journey that she’s on.”
Ruggiero-Wright praised McIver’s diverse talents, which include singing, dancing and even martial arts from her turn as a Power Ranger in 2009.
“There’s nothing we can throw at her that she can’t do,” Ruggiero-Wright said.
The panelists also discussed some of the ways in which the TV series deviates from the comic book, which features more supernatural characters and sees the zombie protagonist as a grave digger instead of a medical resident.
“She can dig up anyone. It can be an old lady who had emphysema, and that doesn’t really give us a case of the week,” Thomas said. “We deviated where we did for pretty specific reasons.”
Kohli added that the show strived to honor the comic’s “heart and color.”
“Some of the best works have come from things that have been inspired by,” Kohli said. “Like ‘Old Boy’ doesn’t follow its comic book roots exactly, but it’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. ‘Watchmen’ followed the graphic novel shot by shot, but not everyone was happy with it.”
Kohli was also quick to praise the show’s writers, especially for “avoiding stereotypes.”
“You’re playing a doctor who’s a geek, who’s a nerd, who’s Indian, and OK, cool, he’s funny,” he said. “And then you’re like, ‘OK, he’s going to be this asexual nerd.’ And he wasn’t.”
Instead, his character is charming and effusive, but Ruggiero-Wright credits that to Kohli’s performance.
“We didn’t know that Ravi was going to be dreamy,” she joked. “At the studio, they call him Hot Doc.”
The cast members spoke warmly of the camaraderie on set — something that can be a bit of a rarity, Thomas said.
“This has been a dream season of television for us,” he said. “If they could all be like this, it could be the best job in the world.”
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