There’s nowhere that says zombies can’t be valuable members of society. Sure, they devour people and spread a world-ending plague, but some of them probably just want to live a quiet, simple undead existence, right? Can a zombie be the hero of episodic television? Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas is betting yes, and his new series iZombie features actress Rose McIver as Olivia “Liv” Moore (get it? Live More?), a medical student who is turned into one of the shuffling masses while at a party, but she is able to keep from going full walker by eating brains, which she obtains in ready supply from her job in the city morgue. Upshot: also absorbs the memories of the dead people, so she can help solve their murders, too. She’s like a superhero! But, one with a lot more skin issues. Nerdist spoke to McIver, in full Liv makeup, along with several other outlets at a set visit back in October, when the series still had no premiere date (it does now; it’s Tuesday, March 17th at 9, after The Flash) and she told us all about what it’s like to eat brains.
Her look for the show is very striking, a pallid, almost geisha-white skin color and bright platinum hair. McIver told us the look isn’t as weird as she originally thought. “Walking around Vancouver, I have seen a couple of people that, post-shooting this, I’m very suspicious of. There’s some amazingly fair skin and white-haired kind of combinations.” She also adds that Liv isn’t really that anxious to disguise her distinct new look. “She doesn’t try to dye it or hide it. This is who she is now. And she does get a few….there are a few snarky comments made by new people we meet in the script that kind of allude to her coloring. But we play it off as humor rather than investigate that too much.”
Liv’s look also changes for the scary when she hasn’t had brains in awhile, but only around the eyes. “They get darker and redder,” McIver said. “Then CGI put in contacts. We don’t use contacts. We tried contacts in the pilot but we actually managed to get the best effect with post-production. So we’ve got this milky kind of eye color that comes in as well. And those are the two very significant things that happens when she hasn’t had brains. And also you see more prominent veins.”
The character has more or less secluded herself from her former friends and relationships following her change in circumstances, but the series will explore whether or not there are any more zombies like her, the living in society kind. “Initially she really does think she’s the only person out there. She has no idea that anybody else….I mean, I guess she knew she potentially contracted zombieism from someone, but she doesn’t really know that there’s a community out there at all,” McIver told us. “Throughout the first few episodes you’ll start to kind of get hints of whether there are other zombies, what they look like, how they manage to hide it, all those sorts of things.”
In the pilot, there is a glimmer of hope that Liv might one day get to be cured. McIver told us this is the spark the character needs to keep going. “I think it gives her a sense of purpose,” she said. “It feels, to me, like the fact that she is a zombie… it wasn’t what drew me to her in the first place. It was the fact that coming out of college, and relationships fall apart, or things change and you have massive questions about your identity and changes in circumstance make that happen. And she now has to rediscover herself and in the course of the pilot she does. And she finds this way that she can use who she’s become and where her circumstances have landed her to kind of contribute to a community and to have some fulfillment in life. And I think we all do that. It’s just a fairly bizarre example of it, which brings a lot of novel fun.”
Through the course of the series, McIver has to eat a LOT of brains. Liv mixes them with various other seasonings and types of food to make things more versatile, but the actress told us the fake brains she has to eat aren’t always the tastiest things, especially mixed with sauces. “We’ve really got it down to something a lot better than it was. Coconut kind of gelatin,” she says, not particularly cheerfully. “And the weak spot is the hot sauce, which we’ve used kind of V8 tomato juice kind of stuff. Vegetable juice. And that with gelatin is just a combination you’re never going to love! Umm, but, it’s fine, it’s definitely not unbearable, and I have spit-buckets on hand.”
“What is quite fun is that each episode, Liv spices up how she eats her brains,” McIver added much more cheerily. “She doesn’t eat them all the same way. She might blend them or have them in a taco… we still kind of see how she’s trying to have a varied and interesting diet despite a quite strange requirement.” Would Liv have made herself a Pinterest board? “That’s what we should start, actually. We need to get our social media department starting up Liv’s Pinterest board. Yeah, brilliant, thank you. We’re writing that one down.”
Eating brains isn’t all fun, of course; McIver told us Liv certainly has guilt about eating the brains of the recently deceased. “I think there’s an awareness that it’s her cross to bear and she doesn’t love having to eat a brain to do it,” the actress said. “But she’s ethical. She’s done it the best way that she possibly can. She works at a morgue. There’s an amazing amount of respect. And he has to do it, or she’s going to murder. She doesn’t beat herself up about that too much.” The real downside for Liv is the lying. “More than anything, she’s sad that she can’t be honest with the people that she loves,” McIver said. “We do see interaction with family, particularly through the police avenue. Yeah, that’s a challenge. [Being a medical examiner] is something she obviously wasn’t trying to do; she wanted to be a surgeon. That’s something that definitely provides some of the emotional conflict for her in the show is actually having to deal with people she knows, for example, that might be caught up in various cases.”
And the cases will indeed be varied when iZombie, a very different kind of police procedural/character drama, premieres on The CW, Tuesday, March 17th, at 9:00pm.