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WonderCon 2016: "Bordertown" & "iZombie"

When Mark Hentemann ("Family Guy") was first creating "Bordertown" five years ago, he could not have known that Donald Trump would make his animated comedy timely. 

"Bordertown" is set in a fictitious town, Mexifornia, in the Southwest desert and is about two neighbors: Bud Buckwald (voiced by Hank Azaria) and Ernesto Gonzalez (voiced by Nicholas Gonzalez). Bud is a border patrol agent with a wife, Janice (voiced by Alex Borstein), and three kids: Sanford, Becky (also Borstein) and Gert (Missi Pyle). Ernesto has been in the U.S. for about a decade and runs a landscaping service. His wife Maria (Stephanie Escajeda) takes care of their college-educated nephew, J.C. Gonzalez (also Nicholas Gonzalez), and their own two kids Ruiz (Efren Ramirez) and Pepito (Jacqueline Piñol).

So far, six episodes have aired and can currently be viewed on Hulu. The next episode is set for April 3. In roundtable discussions, Hentemann acknowledged that with the rise of Trump as a presidential candidate, "We tried to make it absurd, but we didn't go far enough."

Pyle, who voices Bud's five-year-old beauty queen contestant daughter, Gert, noted that "Everything has become so politically correct and then Trump comes up and blows everything up."

Borstein noted that, as in real life, the women tend to be the voice of reason even though the show itself was developed by two men: Hentemann and Seth MacFarlane, with consulting producers Lalo Alcaraz ("La Cucaracha") and Gustavo Arellano ("Ask a Mexican"). Conceding that Trump has made their show more topical, she described Trump's appeal "like Beatlemania, but he's not cute or talented," adding, "I love him as a cartoon character. Unfortunately, he's alive."

Pyle said, "It is really fascinating how much he resonates with people." In a sense, it is as if the country is a reality show. He has "grabbed on to that fear and used it for his own self-interest."

While the first episode, "The Engagement," deals with J.C. becoming engaged to Becky and then being wrongfully deported, the second episode, "Borderwall," has Bud sponsoring the building of a border wall, but conversely, helping to smuggle in illegal immigrants via an underground tunnel.

Both noted that they are cautious in their use of social media. Pyle did a Hillary Clinton spoof for "Funny or Die" (April 12, 2015). She was surprised at the reactions. "The anger is so overwhelming. It is so intense." Borstein had a similar experience when Brian the dog died on "Family Guy" (November 24, 2013), on which she voices Lois. The reaction to that episode, "Life of Brian," was "vicious and scary." Despite the weak critical response, Borstein and Pyle commented that they haven't received any negative reactions for "Bordertown."

Hentemann feels that the country is becoming more multicultural, and the potential for whites to become a minority, makes "a white guy losing his place in the world" ripe territory for comedy. With Trump stoking the fires of fear, Hentemann is both happy and horrified. Upcoming episodes will deal with Bud becoming involved with a drug lord, the mysterious event associated with the Santa Ana winds and Gert having a heart attack.

"Bordertown" airs on Sundays 7/6c and is available to stream on Hulu.

As fans of the TV series "iZombie" know, you are what you eat. So it wasn't surprising that one cosplay fan of the show asked a brainy question at WonderCon. The CW show has been renewed for a third season and, for WonderCon, Rose McIver (Liv Moore), Malcolm Goodwin (Detective Clive Babineaux), Aly Michalka (Peyton Charles), Rahul Kohli (Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti), Robert Buckley (Major Lilywhite) and David Anders (Blaine McDonough), as well as executive producers/writers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, were on stage at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live on Friday afternoon. 

Loosely inspired by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred's comic book series "iZOMBIE," the show was developed by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright, who co-wrote the film "Veronica Mars," which Thomas directed. The premise is that a Seattle medical resident, Olivia "Liv" Moore (Rose McIver) attends a boat party which ends disastrously. A dealer, Blaine (David Anders), has been selling a new designer drug Utopium. Attacked by one of the Utopium users, Liv turns into a zombie. Unable to tell her fiancé Major (Robert Buckley) the truth, she breaks up with him and finds a job as a medical examiner in at the King County morgue where brains are readily available.

When she eats the brains of murder victims, she takes on the personality of that person and has memory flashbacks that help Detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve their homicides. Her boss, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti (Rahul Kohli), knows about her condition and tells Clive that Liv is psychic while attempting to formulate a cure.

At the end of season one, there was a shootout at Blaine's underground gourmet brain delivery joint, Meat Cute. Ravi thought he had a cure but instead of taking it, Liv uses it on Blaine and Major. This season, we learn that there are side effects to the cure and the cure isn't permanent. Major becomes unwillingly involved with the CEO behind Super Max, Vaughn Du Clark (Steven Weber). The exact link between the Max Rager energy sports drink and zombies has yet to be revealed. The CEO, however, is aware of the existence of zombies, but attempts to have the zombies eliminated with Major as his hitman.

Blaine takes over a funeral home and starts dealing Utopium again. That brings him in direct and deadly competition with another crime boss.

The brain question brought up during the audience Q&A session was if the panelists had a choice which of the other panelist's brains would they eat. Most of the panelists responded that Ruggiero-Wright was their brain of choice with Thomas joking that he wouldn't have to share credit then. Kohli thought Goodwin would be ideal because of his wide range of skills. Goodwin has been a producer, director, editor and writer. 

In this week's episode, Liv will be eating the brains of a stripper in "Pour Some Sugar, Zombie." This time, it won't be just for Clive, but also for her best friend, Peyton (Aly Michalka), an Assistant District Attorney, building a case against a crime boss competitor with Blaine. Peyton happens to be in a love triangle between bad boy Blaine and the good doctor Ravi.

McIver joked that her cast mates showed up to see her dancing when they didn't have to be there, but also confessed that trying to be stripper sexy was one of the most challenging things she's done for the show.  She does enjoy being able to have different personalities each week, depending upon the brain she's been served. For the record, McIver confessed that the fake brains aren't very tasty and the hot sauce does help. 

At this point, Clive is the only main character who doesn't know about zombies. Thomas explained, “If you’ve seen what Clive has seen, would you think ‘My partner has a personality disorder’ or ‘Are you a zombie?’” Goodwin said that Clive doesn't even consider the possibility of zombies any more than vampires or werewolves. 

In response to a fan question, McIver and Anders both said they would be open to appearing on Disney's "Once Upon a Time." McIver had portrayed Tinker Bell for eight episodes in the 2013-2014 season.  Anders has a recurring role as Dr. Whale (Frankenstein) in 14 episodes, beginning in 2011 and last seen in 2015. 

Thomas revealed that before the end of this season, the show will re-visit that fateful boat party where Liv became a member of the undead. "iZombie" is gearing up for a two-hour finale: "Dead Beat" and "Salivation Army" on April 12

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, and the Pasadena Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

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