Saturday at WonderCon in Anaheim, con-goers got to meet and interact with the the people behind the recently launched CW series iZombie. Actors Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley and David Anders as well as Executive Producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright were at the convention, and participated in a panel. Here's a report:
The lights in the arena dim as Katie Tisherman from Warner Bros. publicity walks on stage to introduce the panel. Before the cast takes the stage, the sizzle reel for season one of iZombie plays and ends to massive applause. Nerdist’s Ben Blacker hits the stage and introduces himself to the audience.
Exec Producer Rob Thomas is the first on the stage, followed by Goodwin, McIver, Kohli, Wright, Anders, and Buckley.
Blacker asks the producers what they love about iZombie. Wright answers first and says the first thing she was interested in was that the word ‘zombie’ was in the title, and that coincided with her desire to take on sci-fi and horror.
Thomas talks about how Warner Bros. Development brought the idea to him because they were looking for a character that would be the next Buffy or Veronica Mars. Thomas goes on to talk about how, seven years ago, his producing partner and he broke a show called Death Valley that involved zombies. They scheduled pitch meetings but Walking Dead beat them to air.
Blacker continues by talking about how these are not like zombies we have seen before and asks how the creators came up with a different take on zombies. Rob Thomas says that first they read the comic book and that Warm Bodies was a lead-in for them by having America falling in love with a zombie. They had no intention on beating Walking Dead and since they were doing a different spin on zombies, they could make it work. Wright talks about how, behind the scenes, full on zombies in makeup are called "Romeros" and how the writers got to do a lot of research on zombies. Blacker points out how the show is really about Liv and not about the zombies. Thomas says he just points the camera at Rose and go.
Blacker asks Rose McIver how she is like and unlike Liv. Rose responds that she is socially responsible. She explains that Liv works at a morgue to get her brains and that she is also contradictory, sensitive, committed to relationships, flirty and sassy. Blacker then asks Malcolm Goodwin the same question. Goodwin responds in that Clyde believes in physics and so does he. Goodwin goes on to tell a story about calling a psychic and the lady on the phone was right about things that transpired in thirty minutes. Goodwin also points out that Clyde wears turtle necks and he doesn’t.
Blacker asks Rahul about his background in comedy. Rahul says that he did a lot of theater back in London but iZombie is his first TV show; comedy-wise, the script is funny on the page. His character has verbal diarrhea and says whatever he wants whenever he wants.
Blacker asks Robert Buckley how is he like his character on the show. Buckley responds that he has been through some pretty rough breakups and that he didn’t cope with them as well as his character.
Blacker then asks David Anders about his characters. Anders says that he is the heavy. “I have played them before - I have been instructed to chew as much scenery as I can.”
Blacker asks the panel what the specific thrills are to writing or performing this show. Thomas chimes in and says that, as a writer, most of what he has written is quippy people in rooms - funny, fast dialogue. This is the first in his career where he is dealing with action and blood. The other fun is the story device of putting Liv into a new brain every week. What would be fun to make Rose play this week?
Rose adds that they didn’t get a lot of time to prepare for the pilot. She started by watching zombie movies after the series got picked up, trying to prepare Liv. Then the next week they made her a martial artist and she only got three days to learn that. “You were a power ranger!” quips Wright.
Blacker points out how it can be a physically demanding show and asks the actors how they manage. Rose quickly points out that the “cat’s out of the bag- I was a power ranger!”
Wright says Rose can do everything like sing and karate. Rose adds that she wants a musical episode and Wright agrees. Wright jokes that Anders sang at Comic-Con International: San Diego and bras just bombarded the stage.
Blacker asks the cast and creators what was left on the table this season as far as details and story bits. Thomas points out that this sort of thing happens a lot in pilots, but you have a 41 minute show and an eighty page draft. He explains that originally, the Clyde character didn’t believe in psychics. Then that changed to Clyde has a psychic aunt and that’s why he believes. Then in the final version, he just believes.
After that, the Q&A portion of the panel begins. A woman named Anne asks what the brains that they eat on set are made of. Rose jokes that they are real brains at first and then relents that they are coconut gelatin and she uses a spit bucket that she keeps in her office.
The next question is: what’s one thing from the comic you want in the show? Wright says terriers and the audience laughs. Thomas brings up the were-terriers from the comic. Blacker points out that the creators of the comic are fans of the show as well. Thomas adds that they have taken many liberties with the source material and the creators have been really supportive. Mike Allred even did the title sequence.
Question number three, a fan asks Rose what ability she got in the show that she would want off-screen. Rose says to speak Romanian and more languages in general. She had to learn it at 2am the day before they shot it. Wright and Thomas joke that porn star is a power they want to see next.
The next question is for Rob Thomas. A fan says that on Veronica Mars, he introduced a lot of new bands, and asks if there be any new bands for iZombie? Rob replies that he has gotten older but doesn’t want to stop looking for new bands. A writer on the show made a reference to EDM and he didn’t know anything about it, so they all started calling him Old Man Thomas. Thomas adds that he loves the title song. He goes on to point out that, when he doesn’t have a show on the air no one sends him music but when he does he get music from everyone. Veronica Mars didn’t have a music supervisor so he had to pick out all of the songs. iZombie has a younger, hipper, person helping with music. He has the old man music on the show now.
Blacker asks Rahul if he believes in psychics and Rahul jokes that Brits are too cynical to believe in any of that.
An audience member asks the panel what is more important: being faithful to comic or changes that can surprise the audience. Thomas replies that both are admirable but you just try to do the best show. He points out how they deviated from the comic where Liv is a grave digger, but that doesn’t lend to the story as a case of the week. However, in the morgue it could be a murder of the week situation. Wright adds that there are more monsters in the comic but True Blood nailed it, so they just wanted to keep it at zombies. Wright adds again that the creators of the comic are very supportive. Rahul chimes in and points out that, as a comic book fan, some of the best works have come from the adaptations of popular works and cites the Watchmen movie as a bad example and Old Boy as a good example.
For the next question, the audience member asks if Liv will have a love interest. Thomas asks the audience in the arena if they want to hear the answer. He admits, “yeah, there might be romance in the future for Zombie Liv."
Blacker asks the panel about balance on the show between the different story elements. They all joke about how they started referring to the show as a Zob-com-rom-dram. Thomas adds that hitting the stride right out of the gate his difficult but this show is a dream team of television. He says the network, studio and actors can all butt heads on a show but from day one everyone has been on the same page and everything has run smooth.
Blacker says how it’s interesting when you write the pilot, but then you cast it and it can change. He asks if anyone was surprised by things that have or haven’t happened to your characters. Rose jokes that Rahul thought he would get more action and would be fighting ladies off. Rahul laughs and says he was surprised that the show avoided stereotypes even though his character is a nerdy Indian doctor.
An audience member asks if there will ever be a cross over with other CW shows like The Flash and Arrow and Wright jokes that it will be ‘Brain the Virgin.'
Blacker asks the panel if there is lot of learning lingo with law and medicine for the actors? Malcolm Goodwin said he did ride-alongs and played a detective before. Rahul spent a lot of time watching autopsy videos, case files, and interviewed pathologists. He and Rose visited a real morgue and had a look at the bodies and noticed the smell.
The next question is for Rose. The attendee asked if she has a process when getting into character. Rose replies that the hair and makeup process is forty five minutes, and that it feels like she is putting on Liv and just stepping into the role. That, and being comfortable with the people she works with, are wonderful and she can feel confidence in that.
A young audience member asks the panel what they wanted to be when they grew up. Rahul jokes he wanted to a corrupt police officer. Anders says that he wanted to be a basketball player and that he used to be good in high school. Robert said he wanted to be a marine biologist and live with dolphins. Goodwin adds that he has had fifty-seven day jobs including a backpacker. Originally he wanted to be a scientist and narrator because that’s what he did at school. Rose says she wanted to be an elementary school teacher. Wright says she always wanted to be Wonder Woman. Rob Thomas finishes by telling the audience that his father was a high school counselor and he wanted to do that.
Someone from the audience asks David Anders about his character. He talks about the characters’ racketeering business. Anders has plans on being “the King Z in Seattle”. Everyone on the panel groans at this joke.
For the last question of the afternoon, an audience member asks if the cast and crew were fans of zombies before the show. Rahul excitedly replies that he played Resident Evil and loved Shaun of the Dead. Rose loved 28 Days Later. Rob Thomas adds that he loved Zombieland. The whole panel chimes in on their love Walking Dead and Rahul wants to do a crossover.
Blacker ends the panel by asking if there is anything excited that’s coming up on the show that they can share. Thomas relents that there will be a love interest and that there is a bro-mance brewing. The audience laughs, smitten, and there is applause all around as the panelists shuffle off the stage.