“I haven’t come to a comic con promoting an ‘Evil Dead’ since probably ‘Army of Darkness,'” “Ash vs Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell declared during an interview with press at Comic-Con International in San Diego. “But I don’t think I even came to Comic-Con at that time for ‘Army of Darkness’ — which was 24 years ago. It’s great. It’s the maximum potential, because now people aren’t going, [whiny voice] ‘Hey, I remember you. You’re the guy that was Ash.’ They’re like, ‘You’re fucking Ash! You’re playing Ash.’ It makes people very happy.”
Campbell, along with co-star Lucy Lawless, Writer Chris DeGregorio and Executive Producers Sam and Ivan Raimi, joined the press for a series of roundtable interviews promoting their new Starz series, with each one noticeably excited by what the return of Ash, the Deadites and the rest of the “Evil Dead” mythology means for the franchise’s fans.
“Great!” replied Campbell when asked how he felt about his return as Ash. “Very exciting. Weird though. I mean really weird. Putting stumps back on, getting covered in blood again — which reminded me how much I hate fake blood. I had not been covered in blood in a long time and I was like, ‘Aw shit, this is what it is.’ And it’s winter in New Zealand, so everything is cold. The studios are cold, you’re getting cold blood put on you — a nice warm bath at the end of the night is always nice.”
“He didn’t squawk for a minute,” Sam Raimi said of his longtime friend’s return to action. “Bruce has always been really gung ho about doing any stunts, any physical abuse. He really never complains but I did see a lot more pads being put on and I saw him limping around quietly. I tried not to focus on him stumbling around the set.” This may be reflected in Ash himself, as Sam promised that Campbell’s character will “be crankier, maybe less open to new ideas” with Ivan adding Ash will be even “a little more impatient.”
“I use a lot of arnica for the bruises and pains,” Campbell continued, giving some insight into how he’s dealing with the injuries that come when battling undead demons from Hell. “I had to fight myself the other day, so you’re doing both sides in the fight. So just when you thought you were done, I have to do the other half of the fight. And I’m like, ‘Aw, fuck,’ because you read the script and you think, ‘That’d be fun.’ And then you have to do it.” Asked if he was saying Evil Ash is back, Campbell demurely responded, “You said that, I didn’t say that. And I didn’t say he was evil — I just said I fight myself. It might be in a mirror.”
“The story starts 30 years after the other ‘Evil Dead’ stories,” Sam Raimi said, giving a rather firm sense of where the new series takes place. “[Ash has] been hiding out, living his low life and he inadvertently reawakens the evil dead. He’s called to service again and has to do battle with them.” But those missing 30 years won’t be delved into — at least not yet. “We don’t really explore the 30 years in the first season, and I think he has had some experiences that would be worth talking about. And some he would prefer not to.”
Campbell had a stronger response than Raimi did when asked about where Ash has been since the end of “Army of Darkness.” “Loserville,” he replied bluntly. “He’s on a one way trip to Loserville. He hasn’t been doing shit for 30 years. He’s been hiding, and he has one bad night and everything comes back. And now he’s screwed. He’s still a loser stock boy. He’s the oldest stock boy in the country. But they can’t fire him, because he’s got seniority.”
In addition to his seniority, Ash also has a new cast of characters to aid him in his fight against the Necronomicon’s spawn. “It’s very dysfunctional,” he explained, reflecting upon the family feel of the group. “It’s like ‘Full House’ with carnage and mayhem… Pablo (Ray Santiago) is an illegal immigrant, and Ash is not against pointing it out. Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly, a sort of a disfranchised farm girl. Jill Marie Jones plays a state trooper who gets way in over her head. It’s a great little eclectic group, so I’m only the pasty white guy in the group.”
Of course, not every new character is an ally of Ash. Lucy Lawless’ character, Ruby Knowby, is actively working against the unlikely hero. “She’s got a family history and a chip on her shoulder,” Lawless said of her character, who is the only surviving daughter of Professor Raymond Knowby, the man who unleashed the events leading up to the original “Evil Dead” film in 1981. “She’s hunting Ash down. Ruby is the thorn in Ash’s side. She’s gunning for him. By the end of the season, you know exactly what she’s about and how much trouble he’s in.” But don’t expect Ruby and Ash to get together… at least not if Lawless has any say in it. “I love working with Bruce. We trust each other. It’s a little bit of a brother and sister thing. Please no romance with Bruce! That would be horror.” In fact, she’s so comfortable with Campbell that, during the interview, she referred to Bruce as Ash and vice versa. “I can’t help it,” she said, acknowledging the mix-up and laughing. “They’re so similar!”
“The way Ash brings about the Deadite plague is so wrong. It is so wrong,” the actress said when pressed about how the Evil Dead return. “He’s incorrigible and it’s so wrong, it’s brilliant. He’s a bit of a Lothario but he’s hysterical. It’s more like the second ‘Evil Dead’ movie — it’s got that insane humor.” She also revealed that, like Ash’s boomstick, Ruby also has a signature weapon — which looks suspiciously like the Kandarian dagger from the original “Evil Dead” films. “It’s a dagger of sorts, but she has to be extremely careful with it because it has some powers which are problematic.”
Writer Chris DiGregorio offered his view on the balance the new show strikes between horror and comedy, saying that one trick is to make sure the former “is real and sometimes over the top enough to be funny. In those moments when it’s not a specific horror or action or genre type scene, we do lead off of Bruce… He’s such an amazing character and he’s such a great lead to have in the show. He’s so naturally funny — that’s what you want. He’s giving you such a unique take on what the horror or action scene is.”
DiGregorio said he feels a responsibility to both the longtime “Evil Dead” fanbase as well as the show’s potential new viewers, and “Ash vs. Evil Dead’s” half hour format helps in making this feasible. “It is frenetic and crazy and just, like, insane and it’s funny and it’s caring and it’s all these things,” he said. “I think at a certain point, if you are a fan or a casual observer, there is one thing you’re like, ‘Wait a minute! Why’d they do that?’ In the middle of asking that question, there is something else happening that is awesome. It really lends itself to doing a lot of things that a lot of people would like.”
“In the television world, what we’re really following is his character,” Sam Raimi said, indicating some of the changes fans will see in how Ash’s new adventure unfolds in comparison to the previous installments. “We’re not really going to have the strength of big budgets for big special effects of a future world. Let’s concentrate on the character, which is what TV’s strength is, and therefore put him in our world where we can focus on Bruce.” He reinforced this small screen advantage when discussing special effects. “We tried to do everything practical that we could,” said Sam. “We used digital to clean up wires or sometimes paint things out but basically it’s a practical effects show.”
Campbell indicated that while “Ash vs Evil Dead” was initially planned as a movie “Sam [Raimi] makes some very expensive movies. What are we going to make — a $200 million ‘Evil Dead’ movie? I don’t think so. The economics partly dictate it.” Campbell said the crew thought to themselves, “Why don’t we take this idiot [Ash], make an ensemble of it and see where it goes?”
As for whether we’ll ever see a continuation from the alternate “Evil Dead” ending where Ash awakens in a dystopic future wasteland, Sam Raimi said they “talked about trying to write different versions of ‘Evil Dead 4,’ and one of the versions followed dual paths — two realities at once, following what happened in the Japanese release version where Ash is sent into the far-flung, destroyed future and one that simultaneously followed him where ‘Army of Darkness’ ended where he was in our time. But then we said that’s a terrible idea and we decided let’s follow him from this world.”
“Yeah, I’ll go with that,” Campbell quipped when informed that Ash was recently voted the greatest horror movie character ever. Asked why he thought that was the case, he said that “there aren’t that many good guys anymore. They’re all bad guys. Jason, Freddy — they’re all assholes. Ash is an asshole but he’s a good guy. I think that’s really why. He’s a hero in the horror world — a trash-talking hero. He’s bold, he’s brash, he’s Ash.”
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” premieres this Halloween on Starz.
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