Fans of the CW series “iZombie” would have a hard time recognizing series star Rose McIver away from work.
Her complexion is quiet rosy, a sharp contrast to the pale pallor she has as a functioning zombie in the TV series based on the comic book of the same name. Gone is the platinum hair, replaced by a much darker color. And then there’s that New Zealand accent.
The real world transformation pales in comparison to her work on the series that’s a hybrid of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Veronica Mars” and “The Walking Dead.” McIver plays a zombie who can hold on to her humanity by eating brains. A job in the morgue gives her access to a smorgasbord of cerebellums.
There’s a hitch. In each episode, McIver’s character of Liv takes on the personality of the person’s brains she’s eaten. That’s taken her from stripper to vigilante to basketball coach. These varied personalities come into play as she helps solve the mystery behind the death of the person who supplied her with the brains on the menu.
Getting to play a character with so many different personalities is why McIver loves her job so much.
“I get to play the variety and do a little of everything. But I’m genuinely terrified knowing what brains I might not have a clue how to perform,” McIver says.
The writers tried to calm her fears. Before the season started, they showed her a list of 35 brains she could potentially eat. The list ranged from the sublime to the absurd.
McIver was allowed to veto one brain idea on the list. Her vote was not to eat the brains of a cat lady simply because the actor considers herself a dog person.
Even ideas that scared McIver ended up being fun to play.
“A dominatrix brain was pretty fun. Conspiracy theorist. ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was easily one that I didn’t expect to have as much fun with and I loved,” McIver says.
McIver does bring plenty of different acting experience that helps her play so many varied personalities. Her resume ranges from playing the Yellow Ranger on “Power Rangers R.P.M.” to a role on “Masters of Sex.” Fans of “Once Upon a Time” will know her as Tinker Bell.
When it comes to “iZombie,” not only does McIver have to come up with the right way to play the personality of the week, she has to go through the on-screen process of eating the brains that trigger the transformations. The writers have had fun with having Liv cook up the brains in a variety of ways to make them look more appetizing.
What McIver is having to eat is a coconut-flavored gelatin covered in corn syrup. The crew has tried to make the brains as appetizing as possible but McIver still finds them disgusting.
The good part is that she normally spits out the concoction after the cameras capture her taking a bite. At least once, that wasn’t possible.
“The one almost unmanageable one for me was where it was like a milkshake. She had to chug a milkshake and you can’t spit that. So I did that over and over again, and I was pretty done after that,” McIver says. “They are not great, but come on. I get to play a zombie and get through this great show. It’s like, what a self-indulgent problem.”
The new personality challengers for McIver begins anew as season three begins Tuesday, April 4, on the CW Network.
- 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, KFRE (Channel 59.1)