With most shows, stories and characters are planned out months in advance. Creators, writers, and producers know exactly where the show is going, which characters will play important roles in future episodes, and how the whole thing will play out. But every so often, an actor’s performance in a small role will be so inspiring and interesting that it changes the showrunner’s plans for the future of the series. That exciting moment happened for The CW show iZombie, all because of Vancouver-born actress Leanne Lapp.
Growing up in Western Canada, Lapp lived a childhood full of performance—she even belonged to an improv troupe in high school, competing in the Canadian Improv Games in Ottawa and placing seventh out of four hundred high schools. After graduation, Leanne started working professionally as an actress in Vancouver. She made appearances on shows such as AMC’s The Killing, FOX’s Fringe, and Syfy’s Continuum. This past spring, Lapp appeared in the Season 1 finale episode of iZombie, playing a mysterious femme fatale named Gilda. Her performance was so inspiring that the show’s creators wrote Gilda into the second season as a recurring guest star. A one-off role blooming into something bigger is every actor’s dream—and now, it’s Lapp’s reality.
With the Season 2 premiere of iZombie fast approaching, The Hudsucker sat down with Leanne to chat about acting, impressing the producers, and all things zombie.
The Hudsucker: Your childhood was filled with performance work, and you competed on an improv team in high school. Do you still get chances to do improv? How does that differ from more conventional acting?
Leanne Lapp: Improv was, by far, the best part of high school! Those years can be a pretty turbulent time in any young person’s life, and it just felt so freeing to go up on stage, with no inhibitions, and make people laugh. I don’t get much of a chance to do live improv anymore, but I’m constantly utilizing tricks of the trade in my on-camera work. Sometimes I’ll get on set and the director will want something completely different from what I’ve prepared. Improv has given me the ability to adapt quickly to any curve ball thrown my way.
The Hudsucker: Do you have a favorite type of role to play?
Lapp: I’m probably the only actor to say this, but I actually don’t! I’ve played a wide range of characters and loved them all. I feel very lucky not to have been pushed into a stereotype. For me, choosing a project has everything to do with the story and who’s involved in telling it. That’s what really gets me excited about my job!
The Hudsucker: What was the transition like going from school to acting professionally? Were there any big lessons for you to learn?
Lapp: It was a big one. I sort of came into acting thinking that the job would be all about performance. Then I got on to my first set with about eighty other people, all doing their respective jobs, and was like, “Woah!” I very quickly realized that acting was only one piece of the puzzle. Getting all the technical stuff down, like hitting your mark and getting the blocking right, seems like it would be simple… but it definitely takes a while for you to adapt to.
The Hudsucker: Do you have a particularly memorable role or time on a particular set in your career so far?
Lapp: I really loved working on the show Rogue on Directv. I played Frankie, a greasy, ditzy party girl you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole! It was such a different role from anything I’d ever played and the director and producers basically gave me free reign to try whatever I wanted. There are a few improvised bits we shot that actually made it in the show!
The Hudsucker: What has your experience been like working on iZombie?
Lapp: It’s been absolutely wonderful! Everyone who works on that show is the very best in their field. It’s incredibly humbling to work with them every day and it really pushes me to work as hard as possible.
The Hudsucker: What can you tell us about Gilda, your character?
Lapp: There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Gilda, but what I can tell you is that she’s up to no good! She appears in the Season 1 finale as this classic femme fatale. She works for some very powerful people and she really shakes things up in Season 2!
The Hudsucker: Gilda went from being a one-off role in the Season 1 finale to being a recurring character in Season 2. How did you find out that decision had been made? How did it make you feeling knowing that your performance had inspired the show’s creators?
Lapp: Originally the show had no plans to bring Gilda back, so I was totally surprised and over the moon with happiness when I found out! I was actually seventy-two hours away from getting on a plane to New York for theatre school when my agent called and was like, “Don’t get on the plane!” A few days later, I got an email from iZombie show creator Rob Thomas, welcoming me to the show and explaining their plans for my character. I read it and then happy-danced around my house!
The Hudsucker: What will iZombie fans get to see from you and the rest of the show that they didn’t get a chance to see in Season 1?
Lapp: As the season progresses, you’ll get to learn more and more about Gilda; where she comes from and what her motivations are. As for the rest of the show, you’ll just have to wait and see! I’m so excited for everyone to see how it all unfolds!
The Hudsucker: Do you like zombie-based media? How would you fare in a zombie apocalypse?
Lapp: I love it! I’m actually a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I’ve read all the comics and love anything zombie-related, so if I wasn’t on iZombie, you can bet I’d be fan-girling with the best of them! I’ve actually thought about what I would do in a zombie apocalypse quite a bit (embarrassing, I know) and while I like to think I could take it, in reality, I’m very weak and not athletic so I probably wouldn’t last very long.
The Hudsucker: What else do you have coming up on the horizon?
Lapp: We’re still filming the show, so right now that takes up most of my time. But I’m excited to see what the future holds!
Season 2 of iZombie premieres tonight, October 6, at 9pm EST on The CW.