Rob Thomas unleashes iZombie
Post-The Walking Dead and post-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it's hard to avoid zombies and comics on TV. iZombie, the latest DC Entertainment adaptation on the CW Network, is a little of both. Liv (Rose McIver, Once Upon a Time's Tinker Bell) is a high-achieving medical student with a handsome boyfriend and loving friends – that is, until she becomes the sole survivor of a zombie attack on a boat party. Well, mostly survived. Technically, she's dead. On the bright side, as long as she eats the odd brain, she can still hold down a job, even if her friends and family keep hassling her about her newly developed ennui and pallid complexion. With the focus on the emotional ups and downs of being undead, series creator Rob Thomas says he'll leave the zombie apocalypse to other shows "with more lenient broadcast standards, one where you can actually show zombies getting blown to bits."
Thomas, most famous for creating high school supersleuth Veronica Mars, was inspired by two tales with Austin connections. First, and obviously, the original iZombie comic by fellow UT graduate Chris Roberson (see "Chris the Conqueror," July 29, 2011); but 2013's revenant romantic comedy Warm Bodies, produced by Austinite Cori Stern, was key in getting the show greenlit. "It would have been a bit of a tougher sell if there hadn't already been out in pop culture a zombie that we liked."
Thomas almost took a pass on the show himself. When Warner Bros. first approached him two years ago, he was preoccupied with finishing the Veronica Mars movie, and he credits Warner's Executive Vice President for Development Susan Rovner for helping him refocus. "She's a persuasive lady," he explains. "She said, 'The CW needs the next kick-ass female hero,' and she put the comic book in front of me with the picture of [Liv] on the cover and said, 'This is the one.'"
To transition the story from monthly comic to weekly show, Thomas made some tweaks, and he's waiting for the inevitable fan complaints. "I'm sweating it," he said. "Happily, and this makes a big difference, Chris and [artist Michael Allred] have been so supportive." So gone are all the supernatural trimmings, the mummies, ghosts, and were-terriers that were key to the quirky comic. Thomas admits he didn't want to tread on the multi-monster territory of True Blood and Being Human, but the single threat interested him more. "I like zombies caused by viruses. I like the fake science more than I like the supernatural."
One structural change from the comic is that, post-death, Liv works in a city morgue, not a graveyard. Thomas calls that "a practical thing because I want to do a case-of-the-week show, and by putting it in a police morgue, it meant I had a murder case waiting for me each week." Beyond the crime stats, the real story is Liv finding there's a lot of life beyond the grave. Thomas says, "It opens up the world to her. Being dead, she stops and smells the roses."
iZombie premieres at SXSW on March 16, 1pm, in the Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center, and broadcasts March 17, 8pm, on the CW.