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Ash vs Evil Dead: Sam Raimi drops intel on the new show

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Starz

Sam Raimi is an A-list Hollywood director best known for a big-budget superhero trilogy and a Wizard of Oz prequel. But for some (like yours truly), he is most beloved for his work on a cult favorite horror franchise known as Evil Dead. Geeks rejoiced at the news the Raimi would once again team up with old cohorts Bruce Campbell and producer Rob Tapert to reincarnate the franchise as a TV series on Starz, with Ash vs Evil Dead (debuting this fall).

We’ve already given you the first exclusive image, pages from the Necronomicon, more exclusive photos, an explanation from Raimi as to why he loves tormenting Campbell on screen, and a deep dive from Bruce Campbell himself. Now it’s time to hear more from Raimi (who will indeed direct the first episode), who talks about returning to where his whole career began, Ash’s new sidekicks, and explains why TV is the perfect home for deadites.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you guys talked about potentially doing an Evil Dead 4 for a long time, and now it’s transformed into this TV series. Why the TV show and not a movie?

SAM RAIMI: Well, it was really a financial concern. Bob Tapert, myself, and Bruce Campbell have been talking for the longest time about making another Evil Dead sequel. And they’ve never really been successful in the theaters. They seem to have a long shelf-life on DVD and on Netflix and on videotape — when that was around — and online now. But the theatrical releases have never really done well. It always takes them a long time to catch on for some reason. So we’re thinking about making another feature, but we thought, “We don’t want it to open like the last three did.” We always have these great expectations when we hear the fans are interested, but they never really do well in the theaters.

So, we’ve since had a lot of experience with television and it seems what the fans have evolved to really like about the Evil Dead films is Bruce Campbell and the character of Ash. And television, where we have recently gotten a lot of experience, seems to really succeed on the basis of a character that the audience likes. And the landscape of television has evolved such that you can really show anything on cable TV now.

So it just so happens that the world has changed to the point where we felt they really want the character, and TV might be the medium for it — not a single movie — and they can really get to know him and hate him and love him, and they’ll get exasperated by his outrageous and sometimes foolish decisions, his big ego, and his blowhard nature. And the cable will allow us to tell really intense horror stories, and have outrageous gore, and crazy visuals. So, it just so happens that the world had changed as such that it seemed like cable TV was the place for the next Evil Dead.

How would you describe the tone of the series? Because in the movies, the tones are all a little different. The first one is straight-up horror, and then you have the slapstick with the second one, and then with Army of Darkness a little more action and a camp sort of vibe.

The tone of the series is — we’re trying for the horror of the first Evil Dead, and the character of Ash as he really developed in the second Evil Dead. So, probably a bit of a combination.

How has Ash changed? Because he’s young and stupid at first, and then he slowly transforms into young and very cocky. Now we see Ash 22 years later. What’s he like? What’s that character been through and what is he now?

He’s gone through tremendous changes. He’s now old, cocky, and stupid.

Firing on all cylinders, it sounds like!

Yes, he is! Really, I’m not exaggerating. He has regressed. He’s back to being a stock boy, and he’s working now at the Value Stop and he’s still a little bit of a blowhard. He’s been hiding out pretty much, trying to lay low since his last two encounters with the evil dead. And old age is starting to set in on him. He’s got some teeth problems, and he could be incontinent perhaps. He might be wearing a diaper. And he’s got a few problems coming his way, but because of a foolish mistake he makes, the evil dead are again awakened and that’s what kicks off the series.

So he’s responsible, yet again for unleashing these deadites.

Absolutely. He’s the only one stupid enough to really tamper with those spirits, and he does. But he’s also still a really good monster fighter. So, he’s also going to be kicking some deadite buttocks, if you’ll pardon the French.

What was it like for you shooting this first episode and getting back back into the saddle with this story and this character again?

It was really not hard to get back into cause I’m really just working with my old friends — guys who I’ve done nothing but make movies with all my life. So it was the easiest thing in the world. It becomes, really, to work and have fun and to make these stories together, because it’s not about anything else. It’s not about the egos, or trying to make money. The fans really want to see this, and so it’s wonderful to have the chance to make something that people want to see. It’s really kind of rare for us. Doesn’t happen a lot.

Any time travel we can expect in the series? Or is this all going to take place in modern day?

It’s true that in the Evil Dead movies that is an aspect of the story line, time travel. In the second one, as you know, there’s a portal that opens up and Ash is sucked back in time to the middle ages. But the series so far, I’ll just say in the first nine episodes — ’cause we’re still working on the 10th one — we’ve not opened the world of time travel yet. There’s so much to do just in in the modern day world with Ash and the friends he makes and the partners that fight with him and the team he forms — we didn’t have to open that up just yet.

You’re talking about the team that he’s with. What can you tell us about the other characters we’re going to be meeting on the show?

Well, there’s two particular individuals that he’s going to team up with. One is Pablo Simon Bolivar, who is an illegal immigrant. He’s Ash’s coworker and he’s Ash’s loyal friend. And he recognizes what Ash has in store for him. He knows that Ash has been placed in the center of the battle against this growing evil and he feels like his place is right by Ash’s side. He’s got a history of being born in Honduras and his uncle was a shaman, a bruho. And Pablo was supposed to become a bruho, but he left his [father’s] side to experience the American dream. And he’s here as an illegal immigrant, in fact. And as our country is busy trying to deport him, he’s trying to save the world from the evil dead, basically. He’s Ash’s good friend. He’s sort of like Sancho to Ash’s Don Quixote. He recognizes in Ash — somehow — some nobility, some goodness, way, way deep down inside. And even when Ash loses sight of that, Pablo reminds him that he’s the one monster fighter the world needs. So he’s going to become Ash’s partner.

And also this character Kelly Maxwell. She’s a very sweet girl originally … but she became a victim of the evil dead herself. She has a vendetta against them and she’s gonna join up with these two and go after them with a vengeance. Her story is a much more personal “hunt them down and never stop until the last of these things are dead and cut up and buried. And reburied. And reburied. And reburied.” But they get together and they form a team, and Ash is at the center of it.

And I know Lucy Lawless is appearing in the show as Ruby. What can you tell me about her character?

She is a very mysterious character in the show. There is another character, Amanda Fisher, who is a state police detective who experienced the evil dead and her partner was possessed, and she had to murder her partner, and nobody believed her, and they’re throwing her out of the force. She thinks she’s losing her mind when Ruby comes upon her. And Ruby, starts to explain to her, “There’s more to this world than meets the eye. There are things out there you don’t understand.” She sort of leads Amanda Fisher down the path of learning about the supernatural and the spirits from the Necronomicon, and that they really do exist in our world.

We’re going to learn that Ruby believes Ash is responsible for — and he is, actually — but she thinks he’s also an evil character, which he’s not. She’s going to hunt Ash down, and she’s going to use Amanda Fisher — this Michigan state police detective, who also has her own agenda — to be her huntress, her woman in the field. So, for a time, she’ll become Ash’s adversary until she learns the truth. But then we’re going to learn something else about Ruby, which might turn the tables. Don’t wanna spoil that surprise for you.

I’m sure Xena fans are looking forward to seeing Lucy and Bruce reunited together. Anything else you can say that we haven’t touched upon?

Just that I somehow feel that at Starz maybe we found our home. Evil Dead used to be at home on the big screen drive-in theaters. That’s really what it was for. And then the drive-ins went away. And I do think Evil Dead was the perfect drive-in movie. You go with your buddies, have a hooting good time, watch with that tinny sound speaker that you put back in the inside of the car. It was outrageous, but just bright and broad enough to get through the windscreen of your car, and still be effective. And you thought you’d lose a lot from the subtle translation of being at a drive-in. And I think the other Evil Dead movies were never really at home in the movie theaters. They were too fancy for them. And though I haven’t seen it play on TV, being at Starz on this cable channel — I think it’s found its home, its new version of the drive-in again, on the small screen. I’m kind of excited for the show to be on television.

For more ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.