Fact, the showrunner from “iZombie” (who previously found fame as the creator of “Veronica Mars”) is named Rob Thomas. This makes him name twins with lead singer from the ’90s rock band Matchbox Twenty, Rob Thomas. So naturally the singer’s cameo on the series was bound to happen, we just didn’t think they would kill him.
Talking to the L.A. Times in the Comic-Con video studio, the showrunner and lead actress Rose McIver revealed how it all went down with the singer on set. Plus find out why Rahul Kohli disliked his on-screen dog pal, Minor.
How long did [the Rob Thomas reveal] happen? Did you guys know about it?
Rob Thomas: Rob Thomas and I have been in touch via Twitter for a long time because we get each other’s stuff all the time and we just kind of forward it to the other person. And he’s always been very friendly. In the [writer’s] room we were talking about initially that there should be a Super Max jingle, and could we get Rob Thomas to sing the Super Max jingle just to make things weird?
So I just direct-messaged Rob and he was down with it immediately. And then we thought, “Well what if he played the Super Max release party, that would be even cooler.” Rob was on tour at the time but he responded within the hour. And what I didn’t realize — and this was the best part of it — is that he’s a fan of the show. And in fact, when we sent him the script to the finale, he said, “Listen, is it OK if I don’t read this yet? Because I don’t want to be caught up, I don’t want to be spoiled on anything that’s going to happen.” And I said no, you’re going to shoot this before those other episodes, so I’m afraid there’s no other way — you do have to read this script.
Rose McIver: And by the way, he wasn’t just a fan, he was a fan of the show, and it was intimidating because I thought, “Oh my God we get Rob Thomas on the show, this is so great, how nice of him to come and pop his head in or whatever.”
He showed up, and he and his wife knew every single plot point — it was so intimidating. I’d sit down, they’d know Liv’s back story better than I did. They’d ask a question and I’d feel like I was in the hot seat. They’re like, “Episode 201, what exactly did you wear, like why did you choose that outfit?” It was the scariest interview ever, and it was Rob Thomas the super fan.
When did [the idea to have the zombies singing come to you]?
Thomas: We were in the writer’s room breaking that final episode and one of the big ideas in “iZombie” is that if the zombie eats the brain of a human that you get their attributes, and when we landed on that idea in the writers room that [a] Fillmore Graves mercenary would be singing Rob Thomas on the way out, it made us so happy. And then it was just finding the right song, and we thought “Unwell” was sort of the perfect song to go out on.
McIver: And by the way, the actor who had to sing that, that was the scariest thing. I mean the poor guy. He did a great job, but he was terrified. Rob is lying there with his gelatin brains falling out his skull like “N-n-n-no, you go, you do this one.”
How often do you get [the “iZombie] theme song stuck in your head?
Rahul Kohli: We still sing it.
McIver: We sing it every time.
Kohli: When we live tweet and we’re watching … I think it’s one of the best intros I’ve seen on television in a long time. You know the intro’s dying, like that kind of idea, and “iZombie” just gets you in the mood.
Thomas: Yeah, outside of “Kimmy Schmidt” — that one is pretty amazing.
Kohli: And that Marvel one about the blind dude. That intro is quite good too.
Thomas: I think if there were an Emmy Award for theme song choice, we would get a nomination, I think, for that. The first year we were here at Comic-Con, I remember I had landed on that song and I was very excited, and I had our music editor cut together a 23-second bit of it, and I was handing my earphones off to each cast member, saying “What do you think of this,” and it went over pretty big.
McIver: It was one of the most exciting parts in the pilot because it felt like things came together to me, for some reason it just really so felt like the show, it felt like it solidified so much.
Kohli: I wanted a Rick Ross song. But that’s why I’m not showrunner.
McIver: You were fighting for “Careless Whisper.”
There’s going to be a character that won’t be returning next season, Minor [the dog]. Are you going to miss him? Was it fun working with him? Or is it a her?
McIver: It’s a him.
Thomas: It is most definitely a him. In fact, part of the problem with Minor was trying to find an angle we could shoot him in which we weren’t showing off what a him he was. In his headshot we did not see his manliness, but we sure saw it when we started shooting the show. It was tough to get a good angle on that dog.
How many times did you have to cut?
McIver: It’s funny that you should say that because it was quite tough. It was a very specific look, that dog. He was very lovely...
Kohli: No he wasn’t, but he wasn’t a well-trained dog. That’s my biggest show falling out.
Drama between you and Minor?
Kohli: Yeah, well the thing is you don’t realize that when you’re working with animals, it’s the first time I had worked with animals, so you’ve got like all these little gadgets on you. So the scene was Ravi sees Payton, sees the dog, and then when the dog comes in, he then sees Payton. And I’d been thinking about all this stuff, like how’s he going to feel when he sees Payton. I’ve got this bleeper on me so the dog can hear, I’m holding raw chicken in my hands, I’m trying to play this scene with Allie and then just came this “bleep, bleep,” and the dog just going mental, yeah we didn’t get on.
McIver: But luckily you got on much better with the rats.
Kohli: No. You couldn’t have picked a worse thing.
McIver: I want to get RSPCA to flag this guy.
Thomas: If you watch the evolution of “iZombie,” at first it was Robbie handling the rats and doing all the rat work. We had no idea how much Rahul did not like the rats, and so the evolution, it’s always Liv holding the rats now, and Rose will let them crawl all over her, it’s no problem.
McIver: Don’t cheapen me!
Thomas: We have to build in a little extra Rahul time if there are rats.
Kohli: And I’m alright with that. I’m from London! Rats are like mutants in London. Domestic or not, I can’t be messing with rats.
Are there any animals you do like?
Kohli: Oh, no.
McIver: That’s not true. Wow, you really turned on a dime. He wanted to get a hairless cat and call it Rose.
Kohli: Oh yes, Rose doesn’t like cats. She hates cats. So I now love cats. I want to have all of them, all the cats.
McIver: So contrary.
How are the new characters going to impact the next season? Do you guys get to work with them a lot?
Thomas: We’re going to be replacing energy drink company Max Rager with a military contractor company called Fillmore Graves. ... And we will go anywhere with our names, that is true. And we’ll spend a lot of time with that group. They are a zombie outfit bent on protecting zombies.
Liv and Major and Clive will certainly be very wrapped up in the Fillmore Graves world. And they won’t be the only bad guys this year. But one of the things that we like to do on the show is build each season like it’s its own contained story, that there is, that we’re going to build to an ending. This year we know there are going to be 13 episodes, which is much easier to plan when they sort of give you a number. Last year it was going to be variable, and so it’s hard to plan out those last few episodes. We sort of jammed nine episodes worth of story into our final six last year when we found out we were doing 19. So this year, we know, we’ve got a plan, and it should feel like a new “iZombie” story.
Rose, are there any zombies that you are keen on playing in the new season?
McIver: You mean brains I want to eat? Yeah, there’s a few, there’s a couple. I’m very excited that in Episode 2, Liv and Major will be eating the brains of a father and daughter — Liv eating the father and Major eating the daughter.
Kohli: I didn’t know that, that’s the first time I heard that.
McIver: Really? I mean I’m spoilers galore. I just received a nasty text from him about any spoilers coming out.
Thomas: That’s fair game.
McIver: Well you heard it here first.