Starting tomorrow, just in time for Halloween, Ash Williams makes his long-awaited return in Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz. Bruce Campbell, the actor who’s played Ash over the past 30 years, chatted about making the move to TV and (gasp!) some personal growth ahead for Ash in his latest battle with the Deadites.
Ash is the unwitting survivor of Evil Dead where a group of college kids read from the Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead) and accidentally raise Deadites. (Whoops!) Directed by Sam Raimi, the film and its sequel Evil Dead 2 became horror classics for its mix of horror, comedy, one-liners and big, operatic style. Ash’s adventures continued further in some additional movies and video games, but will not be considered part of the Ash vs. Evil Dead story due to legal issues.
Bruce, who’s also an executive producer on the show, takes it all in stride since “everything that Ash needed was in the first two movies anyway, so it’s all good.” The rights were held by different companies “so it’s very complicated to put together. And I’m just really grateful that it all worked out.”
The result will be a whole lot more Ash with 10 episodes of Ash vs. Evil Dead and another 10 more on the way since Starz just renewed the show days before it even premiered.
“If you want to entertain people continuously with Ash, it’s got to be in a form of a TV show,” says Bruce. “People have only seen four and a half hour’s worth of Ash. In this first season alone, we’re going to do five new hours of Ash.”
That’s right, 10 episodes for 5 hours worth of Ash this season. Ash vs. Evil Dead will use a half-hour comedy-friendly format. “A half-hour is the only format that gives us the pace that we need and the tone that we need and I think it’s perfect for a modern audience.”
In the premiere episode, Ash has accidentally used the Necronomicon and the Deadites are on the rise. Ash remains humanities best hope against the Deadites. Not good news when you consider that “he has no special skill. He is not trained. He was not part of any government agency. Nothing,” says Bruce. “He’s a good guy. He might be an idiot, but he’s a good guy and he’s always going to try to do the right thing against ridiculous odds.”
After 30 years, Bruce had no trouble getting back into Ash’s mindset though it’s now more “difficult to get out of the bed the morning after you do a fight scene. My recuperative powers aren’t as strong.” Also, he’s now vividly reminded of “how much I hate fake blood. That hatred, it runs deep. It runs really deep.”
Something else has also been in the movies since the beginning, Ash’s ride. “The ’72 Delta 88 is the same car that’s been in all the movies. It’s the exact car. It’s not a different car which is pretty incredible. We had it put on a boat and shipped to New Zealand,” says Bruce fondly.
But will this new Evil Dead goodness, we will see Ash evolve, just a little. “I think we’ll start see more of a leader with Ash — a little more of actual hero. The jerk stuff will still be there. Pure Ash. I mean you’ll get that. But we’re going to, hopefully, see a little improved Ash.”
Ash has to be a leader since two of his big box store co-workers, Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), inadvertently get pulled into the fight against the Deadites. “He has to be a leader, more of a guy that’s going to inspire people. He’s going to be like a teacher, educator, kind of mentor/tormentor, like an uncle-father type. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
With those two on his side, Ash will face more than Deadites this season. “Ash is going to meet many new demons and entities and forces he had not encountered before. That’s the cool thing of doing a weekly TV show. You can hit him with a bunch of demons.”
“It’s Ash getting out in the wild, you know, getting into suburbia. So that’s the fun thing to do is interact with other people.” Yes, Bruce did just say the “wilds of suburbia.”
Another new character is the mysterious Ruby (Lucy Lawless) who appears to know something about the Deadites. Bruce is thrilled that Lucy was able to join the cast: “She’s a badass. She’s a great addition to the show. She can step in and do anything we need her to do which is spectacular. She’s a great actress with an incredible amount of versatility. She can do comedy which is great and she can kick ass.”
Even with these new tweaks, the show manages to maintain that unique Evil Dead tone since they “do whatever entertains us on the set. And that’s really the bottom line.” Of course that’s made more complicated by being a TV series where many different directors work on the show over the course of the season. Up till now, Bruce has only worked with Sam Raimi with this character.
“It’s heartbreaking, because you’re used to the old man yelling at you. If somebody starts yelling at me, I’m like ‘I’ll punch you in the face, man.’ So there’s definitely an adjustment,” confesses Bruce. “We found a great set. The guys were really happy with the directors that we had. I have no complaints. So it’s hard on everybody. It was me missing the old man and probably directors going ‘what’s with this guy?’ because we had to figure everything out. But I feel I’m the voice of Ash so I can be at least a constant influence on the character.”
Bruce tends to go for broke with Ash so he’s also challenging directors to push the character: “Sam put the star of the show in a man-girdle. That takes balls for a writer or director to do that with his character so, I challenge other directors. I’m like ‘I bet you can’t be as daring as Sam as far as messing with the character and really showing their flaws, their naked flaws.’”
In the end, the team came back together because of the support of the fans. The movies were not commercial successes, but the fans made them cult hits as Bruce explains: “They were too expensive. They didn’t make any money. So people began to think we were lazy or we didn’t want to go back to it. I got news for you, pal, there’s no money in the bank for it. Thankfully, the fans have stepped up through all the DVD reissues. There were 86 versions of Army of Darkness after that. It became an American movie classic on AMC. So fans drove it. And they drove it at these personal appearances by tour since ’88. They haven’t let it go.”
The fans have also been quite vocal since the series was announced. “They’re like ‘it’s about time!’ They feel like they’ve marched. Their years of tormenting us have finally paid off. And I think they’re actually satisfied that it’s as close to the real thing as you’re going to get, short of putting the original elements back together again.”
“We will always give them the basic which is carnage, mayhem, some good one-liners, an unusual hero. So this time it’s maybe done a little classier.”
“My hope is to go to conventions and with those guys [newest cast members] and watch them get swamped. That would be the greatest joy of mine is to watch Dana and Ray and Jill Marie Jones go to these conventions and be tormented. It would make me very happy.”
“This is for the fans…We’re here. And it’s a good day.”
Starz marathons the Evil Dead movies tonight and tomorrow, on Halloween, Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres. Groovy!
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