Shock Q&A: Rose McIver on iZombie



In iZombie – now three episodes into its run on the CW – Rose McIver plays Liv, a zombie who works in the morgue so she can eat a fresh supply of brains, which keeps her from turning into a moaning, staggering monster. She also gets powers and memories from the brains she devours, which enables her to solve the mysteries they hold. McIver spoke to Shock about her zombie education for the show and some of the powers we’ll see her exhibit this season… 

Shock Till You Drop: Would you have been game for a stricter adaptation of the comic book, as well as this version that’s more inspired by?

Rose McIver: I’ve worked on adaptations before of novels. It’s a different medium. It’s a different form. It’s not going to be exactly the same. I think there definitely is some great departure from the comic book, and I know that can be upsetting to fans but I think what we’ve tried to do is really the heart of Liv and the wry sarcastic sense of humor that she was written with. They did such a good job with it that I think for Rob [Thomas] it was easy to go, “Yeah, we’ll definitely use that and bring that to life.” And I think look-wise, we’ve tried to pay heed to the way that she was designed in the comics as well. I’ve got that short blonde wig and the whole look. It’s never going to be a direct replica, but I think that there are ways in which we’ve really honored it and I’m excited about sharing some of that.

Shock: How well do you know zombie movies and lore? The idea of eating brains fist happened in 1985’s Return of the Living Dead.

McIver: I had seen one zombie movie. I’d seen Shaun of the Dead. That was all I’d seen of zombies really. So it was a baptism by fire and I just stared watching. I watched Night of the Living Dead, I watched 28 Days Later. I tried to get a selection of the different tones in which zombies were explored and I really enjoy it. I think it’s fascinating. I love the really human elements of both of those films, when it’s a family member that’s at risk. That happens in both those films. To me, that became really loaded and grounded and human. I think we do that in this show as well, with a lot of humor and bizarre, surreal working in a morgue ethical behavior. I tried to catch up on it but I didn’t know a ton about it to begin with.

Shock: When you did go back and watch the Romero movies were you surprised?

McIver: I’ve probably seen clips before so I knew the Walking Dead idea of the groaning and the mannerisms and the physicality. So it wasn’t a shock to see that. It was just cool to start to put it in a context and understand how they first made those. Learning a little bit about the makeup and the effects that they did. It’s so hands on. It’s like independent cinema which I love. I worked with Peter Jackson and he did Brain Dead which I guess had a different name out here.

Shock: Dead Alive.

McIver: Yeah, right. I know that the way he works, like the hands on multi-department stuff, that’s been integral in a lot of zombie films. The special effects they create themselves, I love that way of working so I think when I watch things like Night of the Living Dead and read a little bit about how that was to film, it really appealed to me. I think we are very collaborative on our show as well. It’s not an independent film but definitely everybody’s voices are heard and everybody brings a different thing to the table and is appreciated for that. It feels kind of grass rootsy down home, and I like that.

Shock: Do you miss the oversoul and undersoul from the comic book?

McIver: Yes, and some of the were-terrier concepts. I think there’s so much going on in our show already, with the procedural element and the drama and the comedy and the zombies, that you have to draw a line somewhere about how much you incorporate into a show. But I think that’s a really cool part of the graphic novel and I enjoyed that.

Shock: There’s always season two.

McIver: Exactly, exactly. There’s always three, four, five and six, you know.

Shock: In episode three, you actually get to zombie out a little more in the pit with the other zombie. How did you decide how far that would go?

McIver: You know what’s been great? I think there’s a real release in fast turnaround television where you have to move quickly, because I could have thought about that for a long time and thought about the different ways of playing it, but I didn’t have long. I had two days working with the stunt team and I had to just think on my feet. I went with instincts. I know Rob so well. I know his tone, I know what he needed from it. I think just moving quickly and creating it and committing to it was what I did with that, and I think it works. I’m happy with how far to push it when I rage out.

Shock: Does that happen more often for Liv in the series?

McIver: It does. It happens when she hasn’t eaten or when she has a surge of adrenaline, so we see it a few times.

Shock: In episode four, when you say, “I know kung fu,” were you obviously paying homage to Keanu?

McIver: Yup, yup, absolutely. We had that quite a lot. There’s a couple of good references I don’t want to spoil that come up later in the season, but it’s funny. I know quite a few of them but Rob and Diane are pop culture geniuses and they know everything. Some of the references that they cite, I’ve had to look up or go to some of the other cast members and be like, “Why am I saying this line?” They say, “Oh, don’t you get you’re saying…?” There’s a reference to Soylent Green about “cerebellum sashimi is people.” I didn’t know what that was. So there’s a few things like that they’ve been really clever about putting them in and it keeps me sharp.

Shock: Keanu had months to learn kung fu for The Matrix. How long did you have?

McIver: I used to be a Power Ranger so luckily I had worked with martial arts a little bit before.

Shock: So it all came back to you?

McIver: Yeah, just sort of reawakening those old rusty muscles. We did a couple of days of stunts.

Shock: So what do the brains you have to eat on camera taste like?

McIver: It’s gelatin. It’s coconut agar and it’s fairly disgusting. We have a lot of spit bucket work. It would be fine if it were just that, but then they drown it in corn syrup and hot sauce and all sorts of different things for the look that just don’t go together. They just would never end up together in a meal, so it doesn’t taste delicious but I think the look is fantastic so I’ll bite the bullet, or bite the brain so to speak.