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The CW kicked off its time at the Television Critics Association on Sunday with a lively session featuring the cast and creators of its latest DC Comics adaptation iZombie.
From Veronica Mars executive producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero, the series stars Rose McIver as Liv and is based on the DC Comics title of the same name. The drama centers on a medical student-turned-zombie (McIver) who takes a job in the Coroner’s Office in order to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat so that she can maintain her humanity. However, with every brain she eats, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective, she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head.
“We didn’t hue terribly close to the source material,” Thomas told reporters of the comic that also features ghosts and vampires. “In the comic, there’s a whole monster universe … and we wanted to stay strictly zombie. We really needed a story engine. We wanted a case-of-the-week show. In the comic, the character is a grave digger. By making her an assistant medical examiner and putting her in the morgue, it gave us our case of the week that we wanted.”
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iZombie of course comes as the undead remains a major theme on both broadcast and cable with AMC’s ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead as well as ABC’s Resurrection and A&E’s reboot of The Returned.
Producers stressed that the series — which naturally features young and attractive zombies including McIver and villain David Anders’ Blaine — would see its undead start to decay and become “a Romero” if they don’t eat brains. (Thomas also joked that McIver’s Liv remains attractive for the sole purpose of creating a sexy marketing poster for The CW, which has become typecast as the home for young and attractive casts.)
“The center of the show is a zombie you can fall in love with,” Thomas said. “A zombie you want to date. We were calling the show ZILFs. It helped me a lot that Warm Bodies had made it out in the universe and there was an example of a zombie you fall in love with. It gave us the confidence to say a zombie can be a hero of our show.”
Producers stressed that Liv’s decision to remain an “out and proud” zombie will eventually be addressed as they stressed the new rules for their zombie show. With every case of the week, the brains that Liv eats will see her inherit some of the skills of the dearly departed — and those skills have a limited shelf life that vanish when she consumes a new brain. The brains, producers said, keep her from turning into a “Romero” zombie, which is one of the big elements producers retained from the comic.
“I’ve never been more terrified of receiving scripts in my life!” McIver joked of the expanding skill sets Liv has each week, which in the pilot include learning Romanian (for which she worked with a dialogue coach) and eventually training with martial arts fighters.
While iZombie features McIver providing key voiceover in the series — a trademark of Thomas and Ruggiero’s Veronica Mars with star Kristen Bell — producers said the characters are very different.
“Veronica is hardened,” Thomas said. “I always wanted us, at our best in those voiceovers, to strive for this very Raymond Chandler-esque character with a hard-boiled and cynical world view. Liv in iZombie is a more naturally softer character. Part of the journey for her is a return to sweetness and light that are worth going on living for. The attitudes are different.”
To that end, the series also features an ongoing love triangle after Liv breaks off her engagement to co-star Robert Buckley‘s Major after she wakes up as a zombie following a disastrous party on a boat in which Blaine transforms her — creating an instant obstacle for the duo. Meanwhile, Liv’s partner in crime at the morgue, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli) will provide the biggest glimmer of hope as he’s the only one who is aware of her zombie transformation and becomes infatuated with curing her.
“We wanted to give her some glimmer of hope out there, the possibility that maybe if she keeps plugging away there could be a good future for her,” Thomas said when asked if the series ends with a cure. “I think we’re going to have fun with that notion of the show way before episode 100.”
iZombie premieres Tuesday, March 17 at 9 p.m., moving Supernatural to Wednesdays starting March 18. (For more of The CW’s midseason plans, check out THR‘s premiere dates guide.)
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