Rose McIver on life as a zombie and becoming a role model for girls

Rose McIver, who plays iZombie's undead sleuth, is glad the character is a role model

In iZombie's second season, Rahul Kohli stars as Dr Ravi Chakrabarti with Rose McIver as Liv Moore. PHOTO: WARNER TV

Zombies have acquired a bad reputation over the years, often portrayed as soulless ghouls with an insatiable craving for human flesh and little regard for personal grooming.

The television show iZombie, on the other hand, has an attractive, well-intentioned and crime-solving zombie as its heroine, Liv Moore.

And she has become something of a feminist symbol, too, with critics praising creator Rob Thomas - who was also behind the cult TV series Veronica Mars (2004 to 2007) - for making Liv a smart, fearless and independent young woman.

Rose McIver, the New Zealand actress who plays her, says the character has become an unlikely role model for many fans, which may explain why the series has been ratings gold for The CW, the youth-oriented network it airs on in the United States.

The current second season airs in Singapore on Warner TV (StarHub TV Channel 515 and Singtel TV Channel 306) on Wednesdays at 9pm.

Speaking to The Straits Times in Vancouver, where the show is filmed, the 27-year-old actress reveals that some viewers even try to recreate Liv's pale complexion and Goth-style make-up, which for young fans symbolises the outsider status they identify with.

"People love Liv's make-up, even more than dressing up like her. All over Twitter, I've seen iZombie make-up tutorials. I think what's cool is she doesn't look like everybody else you see on television and I think that's really liberating.

"As a teenager, I had a terrible haircut and I didn't look like all the girls I saw on TV. To have a hero who can embrace that she is herself and that she is something else is definitely getting a bit of a response from audiences. And I think that's great for young women's self- esteem, especially."

The series follows Liv as she adjusts to her newfound undead status. She gets a job at the coroner's office, where she discovers that eating murder victims' brains allows her to re-live their experiences and channel their personalities, making her ideally positioned to unmask the killers.

The series is reinventing the zombie genre, McIver says, adding that it is not simply a carbon copy of the hit show The Walking Dead and its spin-off Fear The Walking Dead, where zombies are the stereotypical foot-dragging, dead-eyed hordes.

"I didn't know a ton about zombies before this project. And when I read the title, I was like, 'iZombie, oh gosh, I hope this isn't just like a wannabe The Walking Dead or something.'"

But the iZombie comic series the show is loosely based on "was just so imaginative and original and nothing like any zombie project I've seen before".

As the show's cast and creator are fond of saying, they have made the first TV show to combine romantic comedy with zombie horror and drama, a new sub-genre they have dubbed "the zom-rom-com-dram".

The actress believes the genre as a whole is still evolving and has gradually moved from the classic horror of 1968's Night Of The Living Dead to comedies such as Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and Warm Bodies (2013), a romance.

"I think what is interesting about this genre is it has been able to transcend more than just one era," says the performer, who was on the children's TV series Power Rangers RPM (2009) and had guest-starred on shows such as Once Upon A Time (2013 to 2014).

"It started as one thing, with Night Of The Living Dead and those sorts of films, and it was very thrilling and exciting. And then we've seen with Shaun Of The Dead, Warm Bodies and now our show how some of those ideas can be subverted.

"I think that keeps the genre alive, so it never feels stale."

Another thing that never gets stale: the "brains" she has to eat each episode - the crew is still coming up with new ways to make them using different foods.

"We've tried tofu and I liked it. But the texture wasn't quite right," McIver says. "Most of the time, we use gelatin or agar-agar. But it's more the things that we put it in - like a stew or a soup or a pizza - that determines how it's going to be presented and what we're going to use.

"We used turkey last week because it was cooked brain and that worked. Actually, that turkey soup was delicious, it was like broth. I got the recipe - it was really good."

As disgusting as some of the other fake-brain concoctions are, though, she is relieved no one is forcing her to eat animal brains. "I mean, I'm just eating jelly. It doesn't taste good, but it's definitely my best option."

•iZombie's second season is showing on Warner TV (StarHub TV Channel 515 and Singtel TV Channel 306) on Wednesdays at 9pm.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline Rose McIver on life as a zombie and becoming a role model for girls. Subscribe