iZombie is a spunky new series on the CW, that follows Liv Moore (Rose McIver), an overzealous medical student who while attending a party is caught in the throes of a massive zombie feeding! Now a member of the undead and fighting intense cravings for brains, she takes a job at the coroners where she can secretly nibble on the head contents of the recently deceased. To her surprise, these fresh brainy remains give Liv more than just a full stomach– they also give her visions.
Rahul Kohli, who plays Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, Liv’s new cohort and the only person who knows her gruesome secret, aids in her behind the scenes plans to bulk up on brainy matter while simultaneously helping local law enforcement solve cases with her newfound “psychic” abilities.
Kohli, who is as hilarious as he is charming was gracious enough to chat with me before the series premiere of his new zombie-esque comedy. We not only talked about his character and the excitement he feels towards Liv’s “condition,” but chatted about what a colossal nerd he is in real life, which is totally amazing by the way. I also requested that if iZombie should get a second season (which I’m confident it will) he’s mandated to throw down (on the football field) with The 100 cast, aka his Vancouver lot neighbors.
Let’s get snacking!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: So let’s talk about your new show, iZombie. Tell us a little bit about the series and the character you pay in it.
RAHUL KOHLI: Well it’s a zombie, comedy, procedural dramedy and I play a medical pathologist called Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti and he’s basically Liv’s confidant. He’s the only one that knows she’s a zombie and he supports her and is very enthusiastic about her condition. He wants to cure her and along the way they become very good friends.
MM: What was the audition process like and what initially drew you to the role?
RK: What drew me to the role is I’m a big comic book fan. I had heard of iZombie before and it was quite exciting, the prospect of being part of that comic book, adaptation world. I knew Rob Thomas from Veronica Mars and stuff. But the audition process what quite unorthodox for me because I was actually living in London at the time and iZombie had looked in America. They had searched all over Canada and they had begun to search in London. A lot of actors were putting themselves on tape and being put on tape and it was being sent over. So I literally got the sides on a Friday, was being put on tape on a Monday, did it again on a Wednesday after getting notes from Rob Thomas and on Friday they cast me in the role just like that.
MM: Oh wow, that’s exciting.
RK: Yeah it was a bit of a whirlwind.
MM: How’s it been working with your co-star, Rose McIver who plays Liv? Does the whole ast have lots of fun on set?
RK: Oh definitely. We’re like a big family. Me and Rose, we kind of became like brother and sister. We’re both the youngins of the cast. Most of the time, most of my scenes with Rose were in the morgue, singing songs between takes. It’s a very fun atmosphere. We were very lucky on this one. The cast and the crew were always in high spirits. We still all hang out. We wrapped in January but we see each other pretty much every couple of days.
MM: That’s amazing. What about social media. Are fans already flocking to it or sending you any crazy messages?
RK: Yeah, actually. We’ve been getting a lot of — I’m in a unique position because everyone else on my show has quite a large following from their previous work. For me, when I booked iZombie I had 200 followers and they verified my account. It kind of stayed that way for the most part because nobody knew what show I was on. I never really got hit up the same way the other actors did. But recently, I have been. Journalists actually, everyone was sent screeners so they had seen the first four eps. I’ve been getting a lot of tweets from people who have seen the show and really taken to it or my character and have messaged me to let me know.
MM: That’s awesome. Were you kind of anticipating that people would really love this show?
RK: I want to say we were quite confident in the sense that we, obviously we’ve read the scripts and we’ve seen a fair amount of episodes. It’s got all the ingredients. It really does feel like one of those shows, and I don’t think it’s going to be a middle ground one. I don’t think it’s going to be a kind of “meh” people are indifferent about. I think it’ll be a huge hit or — it’ll be one of the two. It’s like Buffy. I think it has all the makings to just be this huge cult, not even cult, just this big hit. It’s a very entertaining show. It has really broad appeal in terms of age and gender and taste. It just seems to have elements in there that everyone can gravitate towards.
MM: How does iZombie differ from other zombie- themed shows or movies out there?
RK: Well firstly, all the zombie themed things that I’ve seen tend to deal with the apocalypse and surviving and it had those themes and the zombie is the evil, I guess that they’re constantly running away from. Our show, there isn’t an apocalypse. That hasn’t started yet. It’s very contained. And it’s not about survival for Rose’s character Liv, she’s already dead. It’s about a new beginning, about how to live with that, how to move on with that, how to best use it and understand it. There are other zombies. There’s more than just one zombie, obviously. But that’s the biggest difference. Zombies, right now they represent the end of the world, us having to return to basics, and dealing with that where as like I said, ours is a personal story about someone going through something and having to overcome those challenges.
MM: Yeah and she’s a very self-aware zombie that you don’t see in any of the other those shows. It seems like your character is very excited to find out more about her. Did you have to learn any new terminology to play Dr. Ravi? Did you get tripped up on any of the doctor jargon?
RK: Well I took it upon myself, I as an actor, specifically with this character, I tend to focus quite heavily, in my preparation on the choice of career. I believe that as people, our career choices, they do speak about our personalities in certain ways. If you’re a fireman, to me that says that you’re courageous. It’s a noble job. It does say something about your characteristics. So a man that works in the morgue, who performs autopsies, I wanted to do more research about that. So I interviewed pathologists back in London. I had telephone interviews with them, picking their brains about just their feelings towards it and how they cope and that was hugely beneficial. I also spent an unhealthy amount of time pouring over case files and watching autopsy videos being conducted, how to do them, seeing old cases where bodies are exhumed after six months. I really went quite far into the research. Then when I went to Vancouver, I went to the morgue and spent some time there with the pathologist and she showed me some bodies that were a couple days old and some of the apparatus they use. I got to smell that. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
MM: When you commit, you commit. Do you and your character share any similar personality traits?
RK: I would say that we’re both big, fat nerds. It’s kind of gone full circle too. You don’t want to play a caricature, right? You don’t want to play a stereotype. When you get the intelligent doctor, you don’t want to slap nerd on him straight away. I kind of avoided that but what happened was, I guess I was more nerdy than he was and the writers began to stick in video game references and Star Wars things, for me, I guess. So we kind of share the same things and now there’s a lot of — throughout the season you’ll see he has a keen interest in technology. He’s a huge gamer and I think gaming also takes center stage in one of our episodes. It’s a great ep, actually. I’d say that’s probably our biggest similarity and obviously we look the same and we both have beards.
MM: That’s great that you were able to kind of bring yourself to the character and they changed some stuff to fit your personality.
RK: I wouldn’t normally want to do that. It’s one thing to relate to their emotions and try to put yourself in their shoes in those scenes. But it’s another to bring your own stuff. I remember, there was a moment where we had to pick football teams because there were two Londoners on the show during the season and the characters talk about football. I really didn’t want it to be the same football team as me. I don’t know why. It was kind of like, if you’re playing a different person it’s old if you both do the same things and you both like the same things — so I stayed away from my real passion which is Liverpool Football club and I chose this other team. It was just nice like the writers kind of felt like this is real stuff and he loves Star Wars and he loves video games. Let’s give him some dialogue about it. It was nice to have that. It was.