It’s a brave new world on iZombie. Last season culminated with the existence of the walking dead becoming public knowledge. Monday's Season 4 premiere picked up three months later; Seattle has been walled off from the rest of the world, and Liv no longer needs to hide her undead nature. In fact, each Seattle detective has been partnered with a zombie to solve cases. On the surface, humans and zombies co-exist in harmony. However, escalating problems, including an increased demand for brains, could bring this precarious structure crashing down.
Back in November, while visiting the set, SYFY WIRE spoke to Rose McIver about navigating the new climate in Seattle, the brains Liv will be munching on, rising tension with Major, and this season’s big bads.
We know that you are rapping this season. Can you talk about how you prepared and when you got that script, what your reaction was to it?
Oh, that’s out now. That’s awesome. Yes, gosh. I still do enjoy really good rap music, but, I had a phase as a teenager when I got really into it and thought I could rap. I was definitely not a good rapper. I definitely had listened to a lot and have a fairly good understanding of it and reference points. I worked a little bit with friends I knew. On this show, we don’t really get a lot of time to prep, so there wasn’t a way to do a rapping boot camp or anything. [There were] good conversations with people who knew a lot more than I did about the field. Then, working with Bisanne [Masoud] and Talia [Gonzalez], who wrote the episode, and kind of tweaking and adjusting and making sure I felt comfortable with the flow of the lyrics.
It’s cool. We want to have a little bit of a twinkle in our eye about it the whole time. I don’t want Liv to be a bad rapper, but, I also want it to be clear. It’s not something she would naturally have had a grasp of, so, singling out people who take themselves very seriously about that.
So, Liv is on the side of the law. Major is with Fillmore-Graves. How does that work for the two of them, to be on opposite sides?
It’s really challenging. They love each other dearly. There’s a world in which they could have been a great couple and maybe, ultimately, are able to get to that place. But, right now, politics are very much in the way.
The way I think about it is, in my life, not so much with romantic relationships but with friends and loved ones, there’s a lot of political activity that people feel very strongly about in various ways. It’s very, very hard to maintain your cool and connect and respect each other when there’s such a decisive situation going on. There are many decisive situations going on. I think Liv deals with that with Major. She doesn’t think his approach is the right approach, or that Fillmore-Graves' is, and really struggles to respect him in that time and has to assume a healthy distance in order to protect any friendship or dynamic they may have in the future.
What has been the most difficult brain the show has given you to do in the 50-plus episodes you’ve done so far?
I don’t even remember half of them, honestly.
The most unappealing one was the bigoted, racist brain… the Archie Bunker-style brain. I just didn’t love coming to work and playing that every day, or be it a clever way of serving a certain storyline. It wasn’t as much of a joy as, for example, coming to work and playing an erotic literature writer. That was fun. That was challenging in that respect. Hockey-goon brain was challenging in a physical respect because I had one official day to spend on the ice in hockey skates for the first time. I hadn’t picked up my figure skates since I was 14, [and I'd never worn] hockey skates, so it was completely different. And that was a very challenging thing to try and seem proficient and knowledgeable about the mannerisms and the little bits and pieces. That was a new world for me. That was challenging, but I had great support around me. We had an amazing stunt team that was also involved.
Now that the truth is out there regarding the existence of zombies, are we going to see Liv reunite with her family? Because they’ve been gone since Season 1.
You know, I’d love that. We have so many storylines that we are servicing in this show, and we have so many regulars with their own storylines, that it hasn’t made sense quite yet for that to be a focal story point.
It’s definitely hovering there. I hope we come back to that soon. I am fascinated by Liv’s Dad, who he is. There was talk about trying to bring it in this season, but it’s been such a dense plot. I think the writers have focused, at the moment, on what’s going on in Seattle.
Liv’s love life got quite complicated last year, especially towards the end. What’s in store in that respect in Season 4?
She gets a new boyfriend, at some point, during the season. His name is Levon. I was very excited that their ship name would be Livon, which was clearly no accident, knowing our writers. He’s completely different to her boyfriends we’ve met in the past. I fear for his safety, as I do for all Liv’s love interests. It’s different, it’s new and he’s a documentary filmmaker. It’s a version of a person Liv connects with that we haven’t seen before, which is cool.
Is there a big bad this season, or does all the conflict come out of the politics and environment?
There are multiple big bads, and they aren’t really big bads, as such. They are sort of nuanced shades of big bad and different kinds that antagonize different portions of the zombie or human population.
We have Angus, who is running a zombie church. He’s pulled out of the well and decides the words that he has heard from while he was in the well, which were actually from his son Blaine, were the words of God, and he’s sort of lost his mind a little bit. He begins running this church that is very zealous and pro-zombie and anti-human.
We see Fillmore-Graves and their approach, which certainly antagonizes many people, Liv included.
And, then we have Blaine, who is continuously this big bad that, for many reasons, Liv has to keep at bay and without too much conflict because they have a lot of common friends and common enemies. It’s a very challenging position for her to be in. I think she still struggles with that because she clearly hates him and everything he’s done to her and the people she loves. But, he can also help her. He has friends in high places and she has to dance between those two things quite a lot.
This season seems to be much darker in nature. The show, in general, has a lot of humor. Is there going to be a balance to that or is this season going to be much more serious?
Weirdly, I think it’s funnier than our prior seasons. I really do. I think that they’ve heightened that contrast quite a lot. There’s strong drama and there’s strong comedy. I believe we have to. In the times of the most conflict and grave situations, you have to have a sense of humor about things because how else do you get through? We feel that in this show this season.
You can look forward to Major on wrestling brain and Liv on romantic-comedy brain at the same time. There’s plenty of humor that finds its way through this, and I think its some of the funniest writing that I’ve experienced on the show.
Can you talk about rom-com brain a little bit?
I watched a lot of Bridget Jones and Notting Hill and all the classics… First Wives Club…. Leading up to it. It’s really one of my favorite episodes. It’s a two-parter episode, so we get a lot of it.
We see things in slow motion. We have the fans on the face. We have Liv reacting to things in a way that certainly doesn’t fly with the people around her, as often is the case. [The episodes] also lean into [tropes] and makes a lot of great references to the films I grew up loving. It’s pretty early on in the season and I think people will certainly remind themselves of the comedy that we are capable of in the show.
Does Liv feel less special now that she’s not the only zombie paired with a cop in town?
Yeah, I’ve had a little bit of a funny, jealous moment about that. You know, it’s great. There’s part of her that believes she’s paved the way for people to do this and to solve crimes. But, yeah, you are being held in comparison now. People know your tricks and know how it works.
I would like to think, ultimately, she has a big enough heart and is happy that people are able to do this and help solve crimes. But, I’m sure it presses her buttons a little bit that she’s not the only one and it’s not only her purpose anymore.
What has it been like exploring this expanded world? There are issues of politics and immigration. Has it been a refreshing change?
Absolutely. I think we’ve always contributed to a dialogue in pop culture about some of the things that are going on, the issues. I think we’ve continued to do that, but because it’s in a wider context, we’re able to look at it more socially.
Seeing the way [the] other is treated, or, when you are scared, it’s all well and good to have opinions that, “Everybody should be allowed to do everything.” Then, when you are personally affected, how much that changed. There are many shades of grey and it asks a lot of questions rather than giving any definitive answers, which I think is pretty important right now. It helps people, hopefully, to reflect a little bit on why they feel the way they do about what’s going on in the world right now.
The cure is still missing. How important is that in the bigger picture?
Well, it’s very important in the bigger picture of the show. I feel like, ultimately, Liv wants to be cured. It’s hard because I think she found her purpose through being a zombie, but, the inability to have children, or to have to eat brains of people who have died for a living for her is clearly not the long game. They are very game to find out who stole the cure.
Now, obviously, there’s a wall around Seattle. Risks of cures and zombies getting in and out are really threatening. It’s very much a focus of this season. It becomes more so, later, throughout the arc this year.
You can catch iZombie on The CW Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET.