Interview: Rose McIver and Robert Buckley Gave Us a Preview of iZombie’s Final Season
You wouldn’t necessarily know what a dark turn The CW’s iZombie has taken from talking to the leads of the show. They were all smiles and laughter when the Mary Sue visited the set last fall, and while there was definitely some sadness about reaching the end, they all seemed excited to tell the story.
Coyotes smuggling people past borders patrolled by armed, angry civilians. Privileged classes dressing up and painting their faces to play another culture. Secret hand signals flashed on the news—which may or may not be fake—and a very select few get rich off the suffering. No, it’s not the bleak real world of 2019 America … it’s the bleak situation in the final season of the CW’s iZombie.
There’s a lot of commentary on the present day in the first few episodes of the show’s fifth season, something you might not have guessed would be at the center of the story when it debuted years ago. Back then, it was as funny and bubbly as a procedural about a zombie medical examiner who eats brains to solve crimes could be, but in recent years, as the show’s fictional Seattle was walled off to contain the spreading zombie threat, things have become much darker.
By the way, we did get to taste the gelatin brains, and they’re only palatable when coated in strawberry jam to make them look extra fresh.
Lead actress Rose McIver, who plays the Liv Moore, the zombie who first stole our hearts and ate our brains, is excited for the challenges and liberation of getting to the final season. “I feel like I’m pulling out all the stops,” McIver said of her performance this year. “It’s kind of nice, you’re not metering yourself anymore.” The show similarly is going all out for the finale. “If we have ideas, use them … it’s been pretty full-on.”
At the time we visited, it was midseason, and the actors weren’t sure of where it all would go, including Robert Buckley, who plays Major Lillywhite, the current commander of the military contracting firm Filmore Graves (gotta love the names on this show) that runs things for the zombies in Seattle. “I don’t know what’s happening,” Buckley shared. “The stakes are high enough right now that I think we’re pulling out all the stops.
That means straddling many different stories and even tones—wacky comedy, politically charged drama, and of course, romance. Though Major began the show as Liv’s ex-fiancée, he’s definitely become his own person—well, zombie—and his story has been just as fraught as hers, which is why I think there’s still some room for those crazy undead kids to work it out before the show ends.
McIver and Buckley certainly hope so, and it does help that none of their other romances have worked out at all. “You’ve had like four boyfriends die!” Buckley semi-joked to McIver, while comparing their characters’ terrible romantic history and admitting, “I want it to work,” when it comes to Liv and Major.
“I’ll settle for Major. We’ve already seen what we look like as an old married couple,” McIver laughingly agreed before getting more serious. “I think it makes you know each other that much better,” McIver said. “You don’t really know somebody when you think they’re perfect.”
Buckley shared that series co-creator Rob Thomas did hint, before the pilot was filmed, that he could see Major and Liv getting together in season five or six, so now is the time, even though they’ve been at odds in recent seasons. “I think there’s a mutual respect, and understanding, that neither of us had it quite right,” McIver said of their previous conflicts, which are mostly resolved going into season five. “Liv had to see where Major was coming from … there’s a definite respect for each other.”
Buckley added, “We have the same goal with different executions … we’re both just trying to protect people.”
McIver also explained, “We’ve forgiven each other, but you don’t forget all the difficulty that you’ve gone through … it’s a very complicated thing.” That may be why the actors continue to ship their characters, or the exploration of them together. “I champion them as a relationship, in the end, because I think they know the textures of each other,” McIver said, “and how they show grief together … it’s not smooth sailing; it’s a journey that they’re on.”
That’s for sure. Seattle, if you’ll recall, has been cut off from the rest of country in terms of the brain supply for the hungry zombie population. Blaine (David Anders) is now the kingpin in charge of smuggling brains into the city. It’s made him rich, but he’s still the bad boy we love. The cast shared that there will be an episode this season entirely about Blaine, from his perspective, and they’re most excited because it will be directed by cast member Malcom Goodwin (Clive Babineaux).
“That’s been my favorite episode this year,” Buckley shared, effusive over the behind-the-camera talent of his cast mate. “Everyone genuinely showed up ready to help him. He’s also, like, crazy positive.”
“He was incredibly prepared … He was so confident,” McIver added, noting that although this was Goodwin’s first time directing for television, he’s directed several features.
Aside from a Blaine episode, fans can look forward to seeing Ravi on thug brain, more D&D parties, Liv on “’90s brain” and some awesome dance moves from Clive, Ravi, and Liv when two professional dancers are murdered. McIver enjoyed “Salsa brain” but shared, “I was quite ready for that to end. It was really hard!” It being the many dance rehearsals and choreography sessions the brains required. Trust me, though, it paid off, and the episode is a delight.
We’ll also see the return of a characters we haven’t seen for a very long time: Liv’s mother and brother. “It’s worth the wait,” McIver promises. “It’s really clever.”
But the big question, as always, is whether there will be a real cure for the zombies in the endgame of the series, and who will take it. “I don’t want to feel like she has to reverse,” said McIver on the topic of whether Liv would change back to human. In part, this is because the zombies on the show have always represented minorities and marginalized groups. She says, “My instinct isn’t just to heal her.”
Buckley said the same of Major: “He seems to gravitate to championing the underdog, and I think, when he became a zombie, it sort of gave him a sense of purpose again in advocating for the less fortunate.” Zombies as a metaphor for minorities will be a huge theme this season, but it also just looks to be a fun final trip to the brain bank.
iZombie premieres Thursday, May 2 at 8PM on The CW.
(images: Michael Courtney/The CW)
Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon passionate about corgis, fandom, and awesome girls. Follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.
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