First you want to kill him. Then you want to kiss him. That paraphrase from Army of Darkness pretty much sums up Bruce Campbell’s Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy. The buffoon has a habit of unwittingly unleashing evil spirits, yet then manages to somehow vanquish them through sheer will and badassery. Now he’s back at it in Starz’s TV series incarnation (and, yes, incantation) of the franchise, Ash vs Evil Dead (debuting this fall).
We’ve already given you the exclusive first look at the return of Ash, as well as more shots from the new show, and exclusive pages from the dreaded Necronomicon (a.k.a. Book of the Dead). And Sam Riami (who will be back directing the first episode of the series) was even kind of enough to explain to us why he loves torturing his longtime friend so much. Now it’s time for Campbell himself to give his deep dive on what to expect from the return of Evil Dead, including his “so not be ripped off” guarantee.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Bruce, why don’t you start off by telling me what the tone of the series is going to be. Because we had the straight-up horror of the first Evil Dead, then the “splatstick” of the second one, and then the action adventure of Army of Darkness.
BRUCE CAMPBELL: The answer is “yes” [laughs]. It’s everything! If you watch the show you’ll go, “Did he just say what I think he said?” And then you’ll go, “Did I just see what I think I just saw?”
How does having a weekly TV show as opposed to a movie change the structure of the story that you’re going to tell here? How does that change your story?
Well now we have 10 30-minute things, so we have 300 minutes of story coming. So, what it does is you have to expand it. You have to create the world. You have to expand the world. You have to expand your characters. Ash can’t walk around in a room breaking stuff over his head. You have to interact with other people. So, Ash is basically enlisting his sidekicks if you will, his team — and they venture out. It’s kind of a traveling roadshow of horror. They have to put this back in the box. And it’s a hell of a job to put this back in the box. It’s obviously bigger than anyone ever imagined. So, this team of people — who are marginally qualified — have to pretty much overcome ridiculous odds. And they’re not the right people for it. That’s what I like about it.
Tell us a little bit about the team and their backstories and how Ash is at working with others — which has sometimes been a problem for him.
Well, Ash is not a team player. And Ash has not progressed past stock boy since Army of Darkness, essentially. One of them is one of his coworkers from Value Stop — Pablo, who is an illegal immigrant. He’s a guy who loves the American way, and he was sort of working his way up. And Kelly is a new employee at the store. Ash only marginally met Kelly. She’s sort of a disenfranchised youth who comes from a farm family. It’s kind of an eclectic threesome, the three of us. Ray Santiago plays Pablo and Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly. And then Jill Marie Jones is playing a cop who gets involved in this whole thing, too. And then, the great Lucy Lawless, who’s playing quite the mysterious figure.
And, obviously, a reunion for you guys from your Xena days! How is it working again with Lucy?
Oh, it’s awesome! When we knew we were gonna come back down here to do it. This is Lucy’s home country, so we were like, ‘We have to get Lucy for the show!’ It wasn’t even a question. Thankfully, she was just finishing up Salem. So now we got her, and she’s always a blast. Over the years, you wanna work with people that you like working with, and she’s of them. Lucy’s the real deal. She likes pronounced characters, and she gets to do a fun one with this character of Ruby.
There’s been talk of this for so long and you have stayed connected to the franchise for a long time with the remake and everything. But what was it like when you actually started filming this and you had to strap the chainsaw on again, so to speak. What was it like getting back to this character?
Ridiculous. Almost unimaginable. Sam and I had one moment where the art department wanted to meet with us and have us walk through Ash’s trailer, to double check some of the stuff that he would have in that — so that gave us the willies. You know, he has Faygo Redpop in his trailer. This is all crap from Michigan. These guys just did a great job coming up with stuff that was so Michigan, and so Evil Dead! Sam and I just looked at each other; we were like, “Oh my God! We’re back! We’re right there again!” It was that type of realization when you put the saw back on. It’s a weird feeling, like someone rode over your grave.
And what’s it like getting to work with Sam again?
It’s great! Cause I have not actually worked with the master — I perform the occasional little gag thing in his movies — but we really haven’t had that concentrated, day-to-day, on set, for weeks at a time thing in 24 years. And I missed it. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it cause he is such a ridiculous director. He’s blossomed into this totally A-list Hollywood director, but there are a lot of guys who are hacks who are A-List Hollywood directors. Sam’s a really good director. And he’s only gotten better since Army of Darkness. And, I’ve picked up, hopefully, a few skills along the way. So, it’s great to apply our mutual craft, again, together, after so many years. It was an absolute delight, and one of those moments where you’re kinda sorta giggly cause you can’t believe we actually pulled it off, that we were able to do this again.
In the past it’s been such a physical role. We already spoke about how much Sam loves to torture you, but did you have to get in shape to take this pounding?
Well, I had to do more sit-ups, less tequila. It pretty much boils down to that. Yeah, you have to be ready for some rough and tumble. So, for me, at my age, it’s a lot of stretching. That’s really what’s it’s all about. But, beyond that, I have a fabulous stuntman, who we are employing wonderfully, and providing for his family. It’s a combo platter: I do more than the average actor, but you can’t hurt or kill your star. They have a great stunt team, and we do a lot of wonderful fakery and this and that, but I kinda enjoy getting back into the rough and tumble. Some actors, it’s weird when they do action stuff. It confuses them. They’re used to dialogue, or drama, or light comedy. But, action is a very specific thing to shoot and I enjoy it. I enjoy the little pieces of it, of putting together some cool little moment. I’ve managed to survive halfway through, so, just got to get to the end of July. Then I’m off and running! Putting the ol’ promotion hat on. It’s a dog and pony show after that.
You guys do a lot of practical, physical stunts, but you also used a lot of special effects and different techniques in Army of Darkness. So will this be a bit of both?
We’re creating a world. So, we’re fabricating more stuff than you normally would for a show. Even if it’s, let’s say, a bookstore. Our bookstore doesn’t look like the average bookstore. Our diner doesn’t look like a normal diner. So, it’s all been Evil Dead-ized. So, we’re creating a world. That’s it’s own special effect. And, yeah, we’re using today’s methods and we’re using yesterday’s methods. Sam is a mix-and-match kind of guy. He’s a bait and switch. He’ll show you some stop motion animation, and throw in an old fashion matte shot. He’ll show you a miniature or he’ll show you a little digital. He’s not a one-stop guy. So, Sam’s always, “Look here! Look here!” He’s a magician at heart. I was his assistant. We did bar mitzvahs. So Sam’s always used to the sleight of hand, sort of deal.
I love those matte shots. Like at the bridge in Evil Dead 2 — that was a great shot!
Yeah! They’re cool. So, our show is kinda like that. We’re using, really, everything that’s available to present this world to people. And so far, so good. This is really a nice quality show. I’m gonna feel good about presenting this to people. I really am. They will so not be ripped off by what we’re gonna do.
Is that the Bruce Campbell Guarantee: “You will so not be ripped off”?
Yeah! Exactly! And I mean that from a horror point of view. The attempted entertainment value? Pretty high! Pretty high! The only difference now is you don’t see the hoses. You don’t see all the tubes that you used to see in the first Evil Dead. We’ve moved past that. But when we do blood effects, it’s not digital. The other day, the guy brought in a keg! He had a keg on a cart, with the tubes coming out of the keg. This was a high-pressure situation. And then they hit us the other day with mortars. We’re using kegs to pump this blood. We’re using mortars — like air mortars! — to blow this s—. You kill a monster, it’s ugly.
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