Rose McIver of iZombie | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Rose McIver of iZombie

Brains on Toast

Mar 29, 2016 iZombie Photography by Luc Richard Bookmark and Share

Feasting on brains hardly seems like leading lady fare, but Rose McIver is more than eager to dig in. In fact, the 27-year-old actress relishes her monstrous starring on role iZombie (a hit TV series in its second season on CW, based on the cult Vertigo/DC comic book of the same name). That’s because it allows her to delve into the minutia of being undeadfrom hiding her zombie affliction like a secret identity to turning cerebral cortexes into appetizing snacks to contending with colleagues who mistake her postmortem paleness and chilly demeanor as an “emo-goth” act.

During a recent phone interview, the New Zealand-born actress dropped her convincing onscreen American accent, letting her charming Kiwi lilt shine through while explaining the series’ unique take on the well-trodden zombie genre: “We wanted to have a little bit of the gore and psychological stuff, but we also wanted to have a laugh about it and be self-aware.”

Several of those humorous elements have made iZombie a hit with critics and audiencesbe it the apt naming of McIver’s character, Liv, or how the character watches Night of the Living Dead to research her affliction. The former owners of the brains she devours aren’t Liv’s prey, per se. Instead, they are murder victims for whom she seeks justicewhile also keeping her supernatural cravings at bayby nibbling on their neural pathways in the morgue (where she works) and, in turn, absorbing memories about their killings. Temporarily succumbing to those victims’ whimslike the kleptomania of the woman she tries to avenge in the pilotis a side effect that is unfortunate for Liv, but entertaining for the audience.

Taking on those new characteristics from episode to episode is one of the challenges that keeps McIver so engaged with the role. However, she says, the difficulties lying in that task are different than one might expect. For instance, Liv isn’t completely transformed into the person whose brain she eats, meaning McIver isn’t playing a new character in each episode.

“I think part of the challenge is maintaining Liv each week, and her integrity,” McIver says. “So I try to find different ways to incorporate the characteristics of each person whose brain is eaten by Liv, but still have the audience invested in Liv as a character.”

Striking that balance sometimes requires McIver to draw on other talents. In one such episode, Liv began spinning expert pirouettes after devouring a ballerina’s brain, a plotline that the writers developed upon learning about the actress’ dance studies as a girl back in Auckland. But sometimes the learning curve on iZombie is far steeper, requiring McIver to study up on casino jargon when Liv gobbled up the mind of a gambling addict, or to spend time researching with one of the Real Housewives after her character ate the brains of an uppity lady who behaved like a reality TV star.

But one of the funnestand strangestskills she has learned is how to stomach the ugly, squiggly fake cerebellum that the scripts call for her to chomp on. For McIver, accomplishing that feat was mind over matter in every sense of the word. “It’s often made from clumps of gelatine, bits of corn syrup, and vegetable juice,” she said of the phony brains made for the series, adding: “During my last episode, the crew made a concoction of bread crumbs and mushroomswith bits of fake brain in the mix, of course. It was actually pretty delicious. After we finished the shoot I kept eating it, which everyone found to be pretty hilarious.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is its debut online.]

(iZombie airs Tuesdays at 9/8 Central on the CW.)


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