Big things happened during Tuesday's iZombie season finale, and while now the wait is on until season two, Newsarama has something to help tide you over -- the third part in our interview series with some of the most ardent comic fans who work on the the CW show based on Chris Roberson and Mike Allred's DC/Vertigo series.
Our previous interviews with show co-developer Diane Ruggiero-Wright and co-star Rahul Kohli got pretty geeky, but this one with Robert Buckley, who plays zombie Liv Moore’s ex-fiancé Major Lillywhite, gets nerdcore. Seriously. This might be some of the most geeking out we’ve ever done in an interview.
Buckley’s known as a romantic lead from a number of TV shows, including One Tree Hill and Lipstick Jungle, and for facing the devil on 666 Park Avenue. But we were warned by our previous interviewees that Buckley was a huge comics fan, and this interview did not disappoint. Sit back to learn of his favorite books, his art collection, and his efforts to convert us to #TeamMajor.
Newsarama: Rob, thanks for talking with us.
Robert Buckley: My pleasure. Sorry I was running late!
Nrama: Oh, no problem. Now, we talked to Diane and Rahul before, and they were both saying that while they were pretty big comic book fans…they were nothing compared to you.
Buckley: You know what? I can actually blame my slight tardiness on my comic book addiction. I had to go by my local shop to make sure I picked up Fight Club 2 from Dark Horse. I had to make sure I got all the variants.
Nrama: Y’know, it’s too bad you guys are both straight and he’s off the market, because I would tell you to marry Scott Porter. We did an interview back when he was doing Friday Night Lights and he was late for that exact same reason.
Buckley: That is so funny – Scott and I worked together when I did a couple episodes of Hart of Dixie, and we just immediately bonded over comics and HeroClix and everything. Jaime King is looking at us like, “What is happening?” We’re going “You’re reading that?! You like HeroClix?! Did we just become best friends?!” One of those moments, you know? [laughs]
Nrama: What are some books you’re enjoying – both right now and of all time?
Buckley: Oh my God. Uh – right now, I’m enjoying the Saga series – huge fan. And I’ve turned on a lot of my friends onto it, some unwillingly, and they all love it.
I really love the New 52 Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. And growing up, I loved Jim Lee – remember when he did that reinvention of X-Men, that classic fold-out cover?
Nrama: Yes! There were like five or six of them.
Buckley: Right! I just fell in love with the X-Men right then, I just loved Wolverine. And as I got older, I found myself gravitating towards characters that had darker origins like Batman and Daredevil.
I’ve branched out – Blacksad is a book I found and just fell in love with.
Nrama: Aw man, the artist on that is going to be in my area at Heroes Con in a few weeks. I am psyched about meeting him.
Buckley: Really?! Oh my God. Where’s this?
Nrama: North Carolina. Actually a few hours from my hometown, which you knew as Tree Hill.
Buckley: Oh my God, I am jealous. Isn’t that just an incredible series?! It’s so beautiful. One of my favorite things is when there’s someone who’s never really read comics or didn’t like them as a kid, and then I get to introduce them to my favorite titles, and getting to talk about them.
The staples I have – Saga, Blacksad, the New 52 Batman. I’ll introduce different books to different people, but Blacksad is always in there.
I’m a sucker for artwork – to the point where I was actually avoiding Watchmen, because I went, “Oh, that’s old-school artwork!” And it took me like three tries to get into it, and the third time I actually sat down and got myself to read enough to go, “Oh my God, this is incredible.” I ended up falling totally in love with it.
Books like Blacksad and Watchmen, where the art is just beautiful – that’s what I love.
Nrama: Do you collect any original artwork?
Buckley: Funny you should say that – I love collecting original artwork, and I think I started in your old hometown, when I was on One Tree Hill. I discovered original artwork online, and went “Holy smokes! I can buy the pages and covers of books I own?!” And I was just hooked.
It was, “Well, Jim Lee is my favorite artist, I gotta get a Jim Lee…” and then it just escalated from there. I have amassed an absurd collection that I am sure one day my future wife is gonna have to tell me “You need to pick your favorite five and put the other 400 in storage.”
Nrama: I’m single and already have that problem. What are some of your grail pieces?
Buckley: One of my absolute favorites – for my 31st birthday, Jim Lee drew this killer Batman piece for me that wound up being the cover of last year’s San Diego Comic-Con booklet.
Nrama: [long pause] Rob, I’m just going to have to say this: I kind of want to kill you.
Buckley: [laughs] “When this interview’s over, I’m going to make you sound like a monster, and I hope you get a canker sore.”
Nrama: I want to beat on you like those zombie drug dealers were doing recently.
Buckley: There’s been no shortage of beatings for my character this season. I think of all the shows I’ve been on, this has had the most number of beatings per episode.
Nrama: You mentioned getting Fight Club comic books, and Jared Leto’s been in the news as the Joker in Suicide Squad lately, and now I’m just thinking of his character in the Fight Club film --
Buckley: “I just wanted to destroy something beautiful.”
Nrama: How’s it been, playing that? Because your character’s kind of the golden boy who’s been going down the very, very bad path.
Buckley: I love it. I started referring to Major as “The Human Pincushion” by the third episode in a row where I was showing up with stitches and just beaten to heck.
And I loved it! Because the character starts off as very charming and likable, and the guy every mother wants their daughter to marry…which is lovely if you’re trying to marry off your daughter, but not super-interesting to watch week after week.
So I liked that the story was going to get dark. I remember very early on, when I first got involved with the project, I asked if I could get to talk to Rob Thomas.
And I did, we had a phone call and he was great, and I asked, “Are you looking for Major to sort of be the love interest at a distance, kind of solely existing in that capacity, or will he have his own arc, his own story?”And he reassured me that yes, Major would have this story, this very interesting journey.
It was great, because at Comic-Con International: San Diego last year, we’d just shown the pilot and were walking back, and Rob says to me, “Hey, I had an idea…” And he pitches me the story. I’m like, “Oh my God, yes! Please, just do that!”
Basically, Rob was, “His story is going to get very dark.” And I was sold from there. I liked the idea of the token good guy who’s being put in this position where people are going crazy, and things are getting violent and confusing. That’s so much fun to play as an actor, and I think it’s a lot more fun for viewers to watch.
Nrama: It’s been a lot of fun watching the character unravel, particularly with episode 11, “Astroburger”, the way things build to that climax and the way the character reacts to what he’s learned.
Buckley: I have such a soft spot for that episode. I remember getting that script and reading it, and I was sitting there going, “Oh my God! Finally! They’re going to have the talk!” Every episode was, “How long can they keep this guy in the dark?” So Liv tells Major, and he’s kind of understanding, which is unusual, and then you get to the end and it was all a hallucination –
Nrama: You got Shyamalan-ed, man!
Buckley: They threw a Shyamalan twist at me. But I loved it. It takes you to this lovely Disney ending extreme, and then goes, “By the way – the exact opposite actually happened.” He shows up with brains and goes, “Zombies are real, and I’m gonna take ‘em all out.”
Nrama: It’s a nice moment, because the character moves forward, but not in the way you expect. You have that nice, supportive moment, and then the reality is he does find out about zombies, but instead of learning about Liv and accepting her, he’s now “Major, Zombie Killer.”
Buckley: Right. But the thing is, to him, he’s – I think, Major wants justice for what’s happened to these kids who’ve been eaten by the zombies. No one’s looking into it; he wants to expose what’s going on. And the person he swears this vow to is actually a zombie! The irony of that moment, and the way Rose McIver plays it – “Oh good! Oh s**t!” is just terrific.
Nrama: She’s very good with the reactions. I was talking with Diane about it.
Buckley: Rose is – I can’t stress enough how talented she is, and how great a job she does. Because every week, her character changes. All of us, we’ve got our character, and we get to flesh them out and figure out who they are, and that’s the adventure we go on every week.
Every week, it’s a moving target for her. Every week, there’s that new character. Most of the time, when you’re playing a character, you find your comfort zone, your groove. You sort of know how, instinctually, your character would respond. She doesn’t have that luxury, because every week she’s eating a new set of brains.
So she has this new challenge – “Okay, whose brains were these? How would that type of person react?” And she has to do that in an American accent. So she’s doing a play and bouncing a soccer ball on her feet and reciting the alphabet backwards, all at the same time.
Nrama: They do those “Stay tuned for an all-new iZombie!” promos with her, and she’s got the full accent, and it’s so disconcerting because you forget she’s not American!
Buckley: I know! She has a wonderful American accent, she really does. It’s a heavy workload for her. She comes in for over an hour of hair and makeup every morning, and is in almost every scene, and thank God she has such a fun demeanor, and is so nice to everyone, and is so fun to work with. If she wasn’t such a delight, that would trickle down and affect everyone else.
And instead, she’s so much fun to work with, and she’s great, so you always have to bring your A-game. We lucked out with our cast, everyone is great, but Rosie does such a fantastic job.
Nrama: Were you a fan, or aware of, the original iZombie comic book series or Veronica Mars before you did this series?
Buckley: I was aware of Veronica Mars – I shot two telenovelas in San Diego while they were shooting Veronica Mars there. So my involvement with that show was limited to one day accidentally wandering into their craft service truck, and then realizing that I was staring at people I didn’t recognize while I was filling my pockets with food. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Can I keep the snacks?”
So that was all I knew of Veronica Mars. I watched that a bit afterward, but Party Down – I was a huge, huge fan of that show.
As far as the iZombie comic book, I was aware of it, but I hadn’t ever actually read it. Being a comics fan and going to the shop every week, I knew the title, and was familiar with Michael Allred’s work, but I never actually sat down and read it.
Nrama: Do you want to sit down and read it now, or do you want to keep it separate, because the show goes down such a different path?
Buckley: It’s funny you should say that. I started to read it, and then stopped myself after the first two volumes of the trade paperbacks, because I wanted to get a grasp of where the series was coming from, and wanted to be able to tell fans of the comic how the show was similar and different.
The thing I liked the most about the comic book was that wry, self-aware, sarcastic narration, getting to hear the comic’s version of Liv’s thoughts, being aware of her situation and snarky. They brought that to the show, and it works so well, because those moments of levity are so great.
They humanize her and allow us to connect to her to a degree, have a bit more of a relationship to her, as opposed to her being a full-on zombie. It’s better than if you’re an observer from a distance – you don’t get to do things like watch her love life and care about her relationships and stuff.
Nrama: Actually, I have to ask about the love life, because I was giving Diane a hard time for this – now, how were you when it came to #TeamLowell? Because I hate to tell you this – I was a fan. Were you #TeamMajor? Obviously, you had a vested interest…
Buckley: Really? Come on Zack, that had to be rhetorical. Obviously, I’m #TeamMajor.
I mean, come on! Eight years of dating – he put in his time! And he really held out for her – six months after the boat incident is when we meet present-day Major, and he’s still holding out for Liv pretty well.
I think Major has a ridiculous amount of love for Liv. If I was engaged to someone and they just dropped it, cut me out of their life, I don’t know I’d be as cool, calm and collected as he is.
Nrama: I’ll say this – this interview has pushed me in the #TeamMajor direction.
Buckley: Oh, thank God, Zack. I was worried I was going to have to start cajoling you, bribing you with Jim Lee art and such.
Nrama: …see, I should start dissing you now.
Buckley: I showed my hand too soon.
Nrama: But it’s been fun to see that arc, that back-and-forth and evolution of the characters and their relationship.
Buckley: Yeah, definitely. And it’s been a lot of fun to play.
Nrama: Our time’s almost up, so anything you’d like to say to iZombie fans, or to people who maybe haven’t tried the show?
Buckley: To the fans, I would like to say thank you for all the support and positive feedback. I didn’t know how this show was going to be received, because it was so different. And I think it’s great we’ve found an audience that’s willing to get on board and go along for the crazy ride.
So I really do have a lot of love for fans – I live-Tweet episodes (@RobertBuckley), and get to talk with them, and I just love that, that going back and forth.
And to the producers, I want to say thanks for giving me a job, and keeping me employed. I really appreciate that.
And to you, this has been a wonderful interview, and shamelessly, we need everyone we can aboard #TeamMajor. So support that ‘ship!