Bruce Campbell on Ash Vs Evil Dead’s “crazy-ass journey” and Season 2

The great Bruce Campbell on Ash, gore, stunts, Oldsmobiles and why “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”

Ash vs Evil Dead

As obsessive fans of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, we were a little apprehensive about Ash Vs Evil Dead. An Evil Dead TV show? Would that work? The answers to those two questions were “Yes!” and “Also yes,” as the team behind the blood-drenched horror comedy classics reunited for a gore-soaked, funny and faithful follow-up that found Ash in trouble again decades later.

With the help of new sidekicks Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago), Ash had to set out to send the Deadites back to where they came from with the help of the Necromonicon…Obviously, Ash being Ash, things did not go smoothly. The show was a huge success and the second season is just around the corner, unleashing a brilliant red-band trailer at Comic-Con. To celebrate the first season’s DVD release in the UK, we got some time with Campbell to talk blood, guts, Oldsmobiles, stunts, and what we can look forward to in Season 2.

How does it feel to be playing Ash so regularly, getting to explore the character on a weekly basis?

Good. Good. It’s a chance to finally flesh a two-dimensional character out. In television you’ve got to come up with all kinds of crazy storylines and scenarios. You can have Ash interact with good guys, bad guys, monsters, creeps, weirdos, men, women, children.

You can’t help but flesh a character out that way, and that’s been the most fun, to just have him talk. What does that sound like? What does he talk like? Is he a gangster, tough guy, idiot? Idiot savant? So it’s been really fun to do that. I just challenge the writers: “If you bring the good stuff, I’ll say it.”

Has it been tricky to keep the essence of the character intact even as you’re developing him?

Yes, you always have to walk a very fine line. You want him to be the same guy but he does have to evolve because he has been, through his own mistakes, sucked back into this life of having to save the world and that was not part of his plan. Not at this age or level or skill or ability, but he had to.

I kind of like that it’s ultimately the story of a middle aged man who’s got to get his shit together! And it ain’t gonna be easy!

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Have you enjoyed having the characters of Kelly and Pablo there as regular sidekicks and scene partners?

Oh, for sure, you need to spread the love a little bit, and spread the workload! We were very glad with Ray and Dana. You don’t know when you hire these actors, they could be stiffs, they could be idiots, they could be lazy, whatever. But we really found a couple of good eggs; they’re working really hard. I think the public has accepted them too.

They’re great sidekicks, they’re fun, they’re different; they have their own flavour. And in Season 2, the character development is much more extensive. Pablo is going to go through some crazy shit in Season 2, Kelly’s going to evolve much more into her own being and Ash will continue to marginally save the world.

Were you at all hesitant about launching back into the stunts?

I still am hesitant! I pulled a hamstring this year doing this stuff. The inner you goes “C’mon, you can do that! Let the car hit you! You did that back in high school, you can do that!” I go “OK, yeah, I’ll do that!” And about three, four takes into it you go, “That was stupid. That was really, really stupid.” So I keep my stunt guy Raicho Vasilev very busy. He’s a great stunt guy.

You need a combination, I’ll do more than the average actor, I got hoisted up in the harnesses plenty this year, but we have to be smart. If you hurt your lead guy, you don’t want to stop shooting. I’m saying that as a producer!

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Did you warn Ray and Dana about the amount of gore they’d be covered in?

Well, I needed to remind myself, it wasn’t even about them! When it first got on me, I was like “Holy shit, I forgot about this!” How horrifying it is and how miserable it is and how sticky and cold and all the above. It smells weird, and it dyes your skin and there’s almost nothing good about it.

So yeah, we warned ‘em, but then at the same time, you catch yourself complaining and you go wait a second, you told those actors not to complain! It was a harsh reminder for all of us that these movies were never easy, the TV show is not going to be easy. In Season 2…poor Ray, the physical crap that he had to go through, my hat’s off to him. He beat me in Season 2.

Was there anything particular in the first season that was particularly difficult to pull off?

Oh, Sam wants Ash flying through the air to connect with the chainsaw mid-air, you know. That’s great on paper, but to actually do it is a whole other ballgame. It’s stuff like that.

The Evil Dead movies have never been about two people in a diner talking about their problems. We shot a scene in the first season of Ash in a diner eating pancakes and I looked around going, “When’s the other shoe going to drop here, this can’t last long…” And of course it didn’t. It’s weird; this is not a show where normal stuff happens. So we’re glad to be shooting in New Zealand, this trained crew from Hercules, Xena, Avatar, Lord Of The Rings. These people can do it all, so we kind of had to shoot it down there.

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Was it all strange playing this character for directors who weren’t Sam Raimi?

Yeah, I pitied the new directors, because that was just a cruel trick to shove them in there after Sam. I had great sympathy for the guys from the first season because they really stepped up and tried to bring that same flavour, and it’s the same thing in Season 2. You work with the directors that you feel really got it and those that didn’t, they move on, and you try to create a team.

As long as the core is the same. Rob Tapert is still the guy at head office, so if I have any issues, I just kick in his door and shout at him. Rob goes all the way back, Sam Raimi goes all the way back. So there’s enough of us around that we’re not totally isolated, and Starz has been a great partner because they don’t hassle us about content.

Yeah, I couldn’t believe some of the things you got away with!

Oh yeah, wait until you see Season 2, you ain’t seen nothin’!

Is there a level of comfort now going into a second season?

Well, you know you got the job, but there’s also this thing called expectations now. The first season, people were more like, “Meh, let’s see what’s going to happen.” If you liked Season One, then you go, “Alright, try and beat that!” So we hope to not get caught in a silly competition with the audience, you know, that’s not what this is about.

It’s about Ash going on a crazy ass journey and we think we’ve expanded that. You have to grow your story, grow your cast. We’ve got Lee Majors coming in to play my dad, Ted Raimi’s back to play my boyhood friend, it’s a great supporting cast this year. I want people to see it.

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We know Lucy Lawless is back in Season Two, how has it been working with her?

Lucy’s great. Second season you’ll see a lot more of her, she’s a much more fully entwined character. She’s great because she’s a huge addition to this cast. You need asskickers to save the world and Lucy’s good at it. But we were both laughing the other day, sitting in our chairs on set, she’s rubbing her shoulder, I’m grabbing my hamstring, we’re like “Man, what the hell’s going on here? This is like 20 years ago doing Xena!”

How does it feel, after all these years, to finally have new Evil Dead to show people?

It’s a huge relief, I can’t even tell you! Because I go to these conventions, I press the flesh, I see a lot of these people and they won’t shut up about it. So I would joke with them, I would lie to them, I would make up stories “Oh we’re starting next week, blah blah blah…” Anything just to stall!

It’s really nice to be able to say “Alright, you want it? You got it.” And it’s unfiltered, it’s not a watered down version. Sure, Ash is a middle aged grumpy old man now but once you get past that, it’s the same fun, same carnage, same mayhem. It was really just a relief just to finally have something, and the fact that they liked it enough that we got a second season out of it.

Now we’re waiting to see about Season 3 and beyond. We’re lobbying Starz for 3 and 4 in order to give the fans the confidence that they deserve, so you can know in your mind that “Ok, this is a series.” The interesting thing is I think the TV show is starting to generate renewed interest in the old movies so we’ll see what comes of that. Maybe another movie.

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Was it at all odd driving the Oldsmobile again, and to go back onto that cabin set?

The cabin and the car were weird. The car is original, it’s Sam Raimi’s personal family car. I used to drive around in it in high school. There’s a certain sound when you open the door, it would make this very pathetic little noise, and the art department had Sam and I come down, because they shipped it out in a container to New Zealand which is not an easy feat. We went down to look at all the stuff they put on the dashboard and I opened the door and there was that sound and I looked at Sam, like, “This is ridiculous, man!” The same sound from high school. That was crazy.

The re-do of the cabin they did, both outside and inside, was just impressive as hell. Rob Tapert and I were the only guys on set who would have known the original perspective of what you would have seen down this hallway, or through that window. And these guys, I don’t know how they did it but it was like a virtual reality game.

Everywhere I looked it was the right door leaf, the laughing lamp from Evil Dead 2, the deer’s head on the wall, the stone head in the fireplace. It was just insane. I’m not a method actor but I didn’t have to do much acting to walk around looking creeped out!

Finally, is there anything you can tease about Season 2 that you’re really excited about?

Yeah, Season 2, I think it might even be the second episode, there’s a sequence in there…I think even John Waters would cringe. Even the man who made Pink Flamingos would cringe. And the great Lee Majors is coming as my father, and Lee is just great in the show. I’m excited!

Ash Vs. Evil Dead is out on DVD on 19th September, from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.