Bruce Campbell has taken on many roles, but none as iconic as that of Ashley "Ash" Williams in the Evil Dead trilogy. Starz has picked the Ash vs Evil Dead series starring Campbell, with Sam Raimi and others joining Campbell for executive producer duties.
Campbell took the time to chat with reporters this past week about the series, getting back into character and how Ash has (or hasn't) changed over the years. Read on for excerpts from the conversation!
You've done so much with this character. What are you looking forward to doing with him now that you have all this experience and the opportunity to do it?
Well, you know, people have only seen four and a half hours worth of Ash. In this first season alone, we're going to do five new hours of Ash. So I'm actually looking forward to finally seeing who Ash is going to interact with other people now. He has to be a leader. So it's a slightly different story in that the character has to evolve. The story has to get bigger.
And I'm looking forward to that so that I can take enough time to finally be with Ash. The other movies, you know, I had a week that went by without any dialogue. Like shooting, Evil Dead 2 got trapped in the cabin. So its Ash getting out in the wild, you know, getting into suburbia. So that's the fun thing to do is interact with other people.
Ash appeals to genre fans because he's sort of a societal outcast but he has one really specific skill set: in his case fighting demons. Do you think that is why the horror fans embrace Ash?
Yes, I think it's the correct assessment. Plus the fact that he has no special skill. He is not trained. He was not part of any government agency. Nothing. So I think when you watch him, you go that could be me. The guy that works at 7-11. I mean I could do that. Why not? I'm sick over trained heroes. I'm really bored with that. Guys that are just ripped to shreds and, you know, full of skills. That's boring me. Give me the drive mechanic that picks up a weapon, you know. Now I'm interested. That's my hero.
Can you talk a little bit about the ways that we're going to see Ash fighting personal demons as well as literal ones within these series?
Well, if it was an hour show, we'd go into his past. Thank the heavens it's a half hour show so we're going to get into Ash and there will be enough about Ash that will make us want him to be our hero forever and ever for all times. And in order to do that, we have to humanize him a little bit. So I think we'll start see more of a leader with Ash – a little more of actual hero qualities – and, you know, the jerk stuff will still be there. Pure Ash. I mean you'll get that. But I mean this time around we're going to hopefully see a likely improved Ash. We'll see.
What are the modern day trends in horror do you wish to avoid in your show?
Torture porn. Just because it's a bore. I don't care one way or another about it. I don't want to rail too much about torture porn. It's just low grade film making. I would just like to focus on a variety of horror. I want to mess with people's minds. You want to startle them. You want to shock them. You want to disturb them. And you want to keep them on edge. Horror films are great. You can grab an audience by the scruff of their necks and force them to look at that screen. I think that's really cool.
What was it like being reunited with Lucy Lawless and what has her presence added to this show?
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. So we're lucky, lucky, lucky. So I think you can look forward to her having an increasingly expanding role in this show and that's critical to me because I've always loved Lucy.
She was great when I worked with her on Xena and knowing that she was getting available. She wasn't available right away during this first season. So when she was, I was like her husband's my partner. I said, Rob, you better sit down with your wife at dinner and you better lock this in. So, yes, it's important to get her back. We're really happy. Lucky.
Sam Raimi explained at the Comic-Con panel that other than his deed, Ash hasn't really grown in the last 30 years. But do you think during the course of this season, we'll get to see an evolution of his character?
Yes. And thanks for asking that. Because you have to. Ash is going to be, you know, he's always sort of a pronounced character and he's always going to have his quirks. But, yes, he has to be a leader. The other people in this show around him have to see something in him to make them to follow him on this quest. They obviously because of what's going to happen to them, they will have a personal stake in this well. So but, yes, Ash has to be a guy who you can actually sit down and reason with from time to time and try to convince him of something. Yes, there's a lot of decision making to be done and he will have to involve other people against his will.
How do you think the fans will react once the pilot is released on Halloween and was it complicated to get back in the mindset of Ash?
No, it's not complicated to get back in the mindset of Ash. It's difficult to get out of the bed the morning after you do a fight scene. My recuperative powers aren't as strong. What was the first part of your question? He can't hear me anymore; can he? Oh, fan reaction to coming out on Halloween. Well, you know, we did it for them so I hope they like it. It's got everything they've always demanded. So this time it's maybe done a little classier.
Ash is no longer just by himself in the cabin. He has a pair of friends and companions in Ray and Dana’s characters. I was just wondering what it's like to kind of share the blood splatter this time around with Ray [Santiago] and Dana [DeLorenzo]? I like it because now I only get a third of it. Now, they get part of it. Spread the love, man. Spread the blood around. And it was great to see them all being initiated.
That was a wonderful experience to see the true horror and shock on their faces when they see that stuff. They just nail them. Right in your face. The reactions on each face. You could tell his expression was totally pissed. And it's great because it works perfectly for the scene. Because when they first get hit with the blood, none of us have to act because we're all like, oh my God, because you act just like you would.
So the first episode captures that great balance of horror and comedy from the films. Will you keep that balance going forward or will there be more episodes that are more horror centric and more serious or ones that are more completely slap sticky or is the balance going to be more maintained?
I think we're going to keep a pretty good balance. It's a horror show where we do take the horror seriously. So a fan of only horror I don't think will be insulted by our approach of horror. We take it very seriously and hopefully we'll give them some good stuff to freak out about. The comedy for me let's everybody know that wink this is ultimately entertainment. For me, it takes the creepiness out a little bit because it's still over the top. But it becomes nothing that you can see on the six o'clock news. That's what has always appealed to me about this approach.
The supporting cast is really wonderful and the chemistry with you and Ray Santiago is especially great. How long did it take to find him and what’s it like working together, because it comes across beautifully on screen.
You never know. You never know until you audition. So as executive producer, I pick my battles in what I get involved in. And one of them is casting because I know I'm going to be stuck on a set with those people. So we went through a lot of rigorous stuff. We had to make sure these people were healthy and rigorous and had a lot of patience and could deal with a lot of special effects – a lot of just difficult, uncomfortable film making.
So Ray, I thought, we got fortunate with. He's got a spectacular way about him. He's got a great mug and sweet guy. And so I think I hope my hope is to go to conventions and with those guys 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.
What personally would you like to change about Ash on the series from which we see on the movies as he grows, evolves and change?
Well, I don't want to get too ethereal about it. There's not a whole lot I want to change. He's just becoming more of a leader. More of a guy that's going to, you know, inspire people and you know he's going to be like a teacher, educator, kind of mentor tormentor. So there will be a little more of that. You know kind of an Ash figure to some of the characters in the film between Dana and Ray. You’re going to have a little bit of that, like an uncle father type. So that's what I'm looking forward to.
Ash vs Evil Dead has the perfect feel for Halloween. Are there any favorite horror movies that you like to watch around this time of year?
I like the original Exorcist. The very first one done by William Friedkin. It's just so well done. It's a professionally made movie but it's really, really disturbing. And Linda Blair is just off the charts great.
You have the opportunity to expand upon the mythology of Evil Dead and to kind of expand what kind of creatures Ash will face. Is that going to happen in season one?
Well, absolutely. You know it's not like we're going to have a creature of the week but Ash is going to need 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 raises the stakes when there is something for the hero to lose. Is Ash going to have a significant love interest in the series, or is he going to be satisfied with having two-condom sex with the stranger?
You're going to see. Ash considers himself an aging Lazarus. He's not giving up on that. You're going to see a little something-something from the old man.
Tune into Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 1 tonight on Stars at 9/8c and be sure to come back for a full review shortly after it airs!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.