Based on the comic book of the same name, the quirky and deliciously fun new CW series iZombie follows Olivia “Liv” Moore (Rose McIver), as she navigates her life as a newly turned zombie. Being one of the newly undead, Liv has taken a job in the Seattle coroner’s office to satiate her urge to devour fresh human brains, but when she does so, she experiences visions from the point of view of the person she consumes and decides to use her new ability to help investigate and solve crimes.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Rose McIver talked about her desire to sign on for this zombie procedural, wanting to do something with some comedy in it, how lucky Liv is to have someone to confide in about her newly undead status, how risky it is for Liv to take on the emotions and mannerisms of the people whose brains she eats, how challenging it is to always be having to eat on the show, her favorite case so far, and how difficult it’s going to get for Liv to keep what’s happened to her a secret.
Collider: Had you been looking to do a TV show, or was this just too much fun to pass up?
ROSE McIVER: Really, I’m never much of a goal-setter. Whenever I’ve tried to make big, solid plans, they don’t happen. I’m more into whatever the circumstances are that present themselves, making wise decisions around that. So, when this show came up, it was a very busy pilot season and there were a couple of things I was interested in, but there’s a lot of stuff that you’ve seen before. For me, when I read this, I had not seen or read anything like this before. It’s a zombie procedural with a bit of everything. I really was craving doing something with some comedy in it. I’ve done a lot of drama, and as a lifestyle, going to work and laughing every day is just great. It’s great for your mental health, and it’s great for setting up a nice year. It has delivered on that, and more. Going to work, every day, with the cast that we have and the crew that we work with is just a pleasure. We’re like, “The material that we’re working with is good. I like the people that I’m working with. This can’t go a second season. It’s too lucky. Something has gotta go. Life doesn’t give you that.” It just seemed like the right decision, at the time, and so far, it’s been a really wonderful ride.
Did you take to the comedy pretty easily, or have you had to take some time to figure that out?
McIVER: It’s a very specific tone that we have, and it took a couple of episodes to figure out exactly how we were going to play that. But I trust that our showrunner and our executives all had such a strong sense of the vision they wanted, and there’s so much trust that they placed in us. For me, it’s just about playing the integrity of the whole thing. That’s what’s funny. There is humor, every day, in the bleakest of circumstances. It’s not about playing it for laughs. It’s about having to find the humor, in order to survive. She has to find the humor, in order to be able to be a zombie, and have lost her love, and not know what she’s doing with her life. Of course, there’s humor. Either that, or it’s never going to be a TV show. For me, that just made sense. That’s how I like to conduct my life, anyway, so the humor came quite naturally.
What does it mean to Liv that she has someone to confide in about all of this, with her boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti?
McIVER: It’s just the right person at the right time, and god Liv’s lucky. Imagine how miserable her life would be, if she didn’t have a confidante like that. The dynamic between Ravi and Liv is one of my favorites in the show. It’s a real partnership and understanding of each other. He’s very emotionally supportive of her, and he’s very enthusiastic about her finding a new sense of purpose and self. We all need those friends, whatever the loss or life change that you’ve experienced. You need somebody to say, “There’s a good thing happening right here. Look at it. What are you going to do about it?” He does that for her. He helps her see the brighter side of stuff.
Does she ever get concerned that maybe he sees her as a bit of a guinea pig?
McIVER: I’m sure, to an extent. She knows he’s a very caring person, and he has never done anything to exploit her. Out of her own insecurity, maybe she could feel that, but all of his behavior suggests that he really does believable that this is a fascinating thing that he can help her with. It should be a win-win situation for both of them.
Liv doesn’t just see what happened to people when she eats their brains, but she really takes on their mannerisms and feelings. How challenging does that get for her?
McIVER: That’s a huge risk. She has to eat a brain, in order to survive, and when she discovers that she is able to help solve crimes, there is a real obligation to eat certain people’s brains, in order to help solve the mystery. You have to hear me walking around supermarkets, talking after work. I must sound insane to people. “Oh, my god, the brain I ate today was exhausting!” People’s heads turn, constantly. But, she knows that it’s a risk and that it’s a burden that she has to carry. There’s that risk that maybe this person is going to make her a terrible person or she’ll do something that she’s going to regret. There’s also so much fun that she has with them. What I wanted to do, as a little girl, was live a million lives in one. That’s why I became an actor. And Liv gets to do that. She gets to experience things from different perspectives. It helps build her empathy and encourages her to see different perspectives on life. There are some really great things about it, as well. She just has to be careful about where and when she consumes brains and try to navigate through them as best she can.
How difficult is it to always have to be eating on the show? Is it hard to make eating brains look sexy?
McIVER: I think it’s hard to make eating look sexy, in general. I’ve never mastered that. So, eating brains is an added challenge. The props department has done a great job, in making it interesting and funny and aesthetically something that is cool to watch. I just try to buy into that, as much as possible, and forget that I’m chewing on Chinese gelatin.
Is there a case that you’ve enjoyed the most?
McIVER: In the second episode, where I eat the painter’s brain, and I’m this very passionate, sensual person, that was one of the most fun for me, in terms of it just being a huge departure from Liv, as we’ve known her so far. It set itself up for some very funny interactions, and it also affected her own life, in a way that was high-stakes and high-risk. I think that was one of the most effective brain-eating situations for me. I thought that was interesting and funny.
Liv has to disguise what’s really going on by pretending that she’s psychic. Will Detective Clive Babineaux begin to suspect that something else is going on there?
McIVER: Absolutely! To me, it’s great for the drama and the comedy. There have been so many times now when Clive has almost caught her eating a brain, or saying something about being a zombie. It really elevates that risk, but it can also be really, really funny. And Malcolm [Goodwin], who plays Clive, is just hilarious. They’re saying they want to stop giving him lines and just let him play the expressions because he is so funny. His face sometimes makes me laugh.
Will it get harder and harder for Liv to keep her lives separate?
McIVER: Yeah, it definitely gets more and more difficult. The more that other people start to suspect things, it feels like the walls are closing in on her, a little bit. That builds towards some big climactic moments, in the first season. Having Ravi be her partner in this disguise is very helpful to her. She can confide in him and he can help protect her secrets. That’s a saving grace.
iZombie airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.