Every San Diego Comic-Con offers a different experience and a unique hue to its vintage. Thus it’s impossible to rank one SDCC adventure over another, yet there are moments at each that stand tall. And running into Bruce Campbell and friends on several occasions this past week while they were promoting Ash vs Evil Dead season 2 certainly qualifies as a hard-to-top highlight.
Indeed, we were able to catch up with Groovy Bruce’s even groovier chin, as well as at different points Rob Tapert, who is executive producer on Ash vs Evil Dead, and fellow cast members Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, and Ray Santiago, during a roundtable interview and the season 2 premiere screening. During it all, we learned some pretty nifty details about what we can all expect from more Deadite action this fall, baby. Well besides copious amounts of gore and chainsaw action…
Season 2 Will Frequently Reference Army of Darkness
If you were paying close attention to which clips or backstory elements were referenced where during the first season of Ash vs Evil Dead, you likely noticed a lack of nods to Army of Darkness, the wild ride that saw Ashley J. Williams travel back to the Middle Ages. He even had stopped shopping “S-Mart” during the intervening 23 years.
However, Rob Tapert previously confirmed during SDCC that there would indeed be references to Army of Darkness in season 2. And when I talked to him during the roundtable interview, he elaborated that they always could make connections to the third Evil Dead movie… and explained why they had not.
“We could always mention Army of Darkness and perhaps try to license footage from MGM, who controls the title,” Tapert explained. “But we’ve never been prevented from saying Ash had this experience of going back into the past. It just didn’t fit into the storytelling of telling these people, ‘Hey I went back to the past and had this crazy experience!’ There was enough other nuttiness and nonsense going on. [We could always] add later for another season.”
He also asked me if I liked Army of Darkness, which, like any primitive screwhead, I of course do! It’s my favorite of the original three films. But perhaps explaining the focus of the TV series for season 2—where Ash goes back to his hometown—Tapert had a different opinion.
“You know what? It was my least favorite of all three. I was an Evil Dead 1 guy.”
Army of Darkness Might Be Connected to Ruby’s Past
Similarly, once it was established that the history of Army of Darkness would play a part on the second season, it was only apropos to note that Lucy Lawless’ Ruby was revealed in the season 1 finale to be thousands of years old. She even wrote the damned Necronomicon, which led to my asking if there would be overlap between Ruby’s backstory and Darkness.
““Could be,” Lawless said to me with a curious smile. “You—tricky monkey. Very good. There may well be some exploration of worlds and portals between worlds.”
Tapert elaborated, “In the current season coming up, we do not go back to the Middle Ages. But going forward, there have certainly been those conversations as to what we can do.”
Cheryl’s Death Will Play a Major Role in Season 2
One of the many entertaining things about the Evil Dead trilogy is how they shamelessly ignore their own continuity. Ellen Sandweiss’ Cheryl was, after all, Ash’s sister in 1981’s original The Evil Dead. She is the first possessed and the last to (re)die at the end, but she is absolutely ignored and never mentioned again in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. But that will change in a major way with the sophomore year of Ash where Ash goes home… to a father and community that still blames him for her death, as well as the deaths of all his friends from the original film. Yes, even scummy Scotty.
“You know that’s an interesting thing,” Tapert told me. “We still have not adequately, for the fans, said, ‘Are we making a continuing story of Evil Dead 1 or Evil Dead II? Which Linda is it and how did all that play out?’ So, we just keep rambling forward. So yeah, Cheryl is from The Evil Dead 1 but forgotten in Evil Dead II, and not really referenced. So yes, we bring her back. At the end of [Ash vs Evil Dead]this season, we went, ‘No, it’s Cheryl and it’s that Evil Dead, and it’s Scotty and those people. So, we’ve committed that much.”
Similarly, Lee Majors, who plays Ash’s estranged father, said this will be one of the many issues separating the two aging warhorses.
Says Major, “He holds the death of his daughter against him, yeah. He thinks he was a little bit responsible for it. He thinks he’s a little bit of a nutcase, really. And so, he’s just, ‘You’re here, do what you’re going to do, and get the heck out.’”
Majors also said when I first mentioned Cheryl, “Yeah, she does show up.” Whether he meant her character’s impact or a cameo, well…
There Will Likely Be Cameos from the Original Film
As Tapert said above, they are now making a conscious choice of following the “continuity” (if that’s what you want to call it) of the original movie. Add in the wrinkle that when asked about Cheryl, Bruce Campbell had this to say:
“That’s pretty crazy too. There’s a few this season, a few ‘holy shit’ moments as far as casting goes. Some of which I can’t tell you. But there’s going to be one particular one where you go, ‘Oh, get out of town. Get. Out. Of. Town.’” When pressed whether he was referring to stunt casting, Campbell replied, “It’s casting and the role that they’re playing, and/or reprising a role.”
Add in the fact that Majors said that “she shows up,” it leads me to at least consider it a strong possibility that Sandweiss will be reprising her role as Cheryl. After all, she goes back to school days with Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, and appeared for a cameo in Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful in 2013.
Ash Has Become an Urban Legend in His Hometown Called “Ashy Slashy”
In addition to being hated by his father, Ash is also the boogeyman in his childhood home, Elk Grove. Instead of being a local hero, he is to them what Freddy Krueger is to the fictional Springwood, Ohio in A Nightmare on Elm Street. They even have a nursery rhyme for him.
“In the town, I’m known as Ashy-Slashy,” hinted Campbell. “It’s a bad nickname. They’ve made up an urban song that kids sing. Oh, it’s bad!”
Alas, Campbell declined singing even a few verses of the melody. But I can attest that it appears in the season 2 premiere, but it’s sung by neither children or Ash…
Expect Lee Majors and Ted Raimi in Deadite Makeup
The two big additions to the cast in season 2 are Lee Majors and Ted Raimi, respectively playing Ash’s father and childhood friend. While we were unable to speak to Raimi at either the roundtables or during the season 2 premiere screening, we know that both will likely become possessed by bad Deadite mojo over the course of the second season.
When Majors is asked if he’ll be in Deadite makeup, he said he dons the stuff “a couple of times.” Additionally, when I asked Campbell whether his pal Ted Raimi will likewise wear the kind of prosthetics that tortured him on the set of Evil Dead II, Campbell just smirked, ““Well what do you think? It’s Evil Dead!”
Ruby and Kelly Will Eventually Join Forces
While the banned SDCC trailer for season 2 has already revealed Ruby joins the Scooby gang in Ash vs Evil Dead—much to Kelly and Pablo’s protests during the first episode—both actresses confirmed that their characters will eventually form a special bond while kicking ass.
“She’s very much brought into the fold,” Lawless said about Ruby this season. “It’s very much an uneasy fit, but she knows she needs them but they’re not—Ash feels that he needs her, but the other two, Pablo and Kelly, are pretty uncivil. And then there’s a bit of girl power with Ruby and Kelly teaming up.”
Dana DeLorenzo also pointed out in a separate roundtable interview that while Pablo is overcoming some post-traumatic stress caused by being forced to birth evil in season 1, Kelly is coming into her own as a separate hero.
“Kelly struggles this season with Ash and his think-never attitude. She wants to avenge her parents. Ash is perfectly fine drinking out of a keg. And so, she doesn’t really want to join up with Ruby, she doesn’t trust her, but at least Ruby is taking action. So together, they join forces and become this lethal super-duo. And from there on out, Kelly starts to forge her own path thanks to Ruby’s encouragement.”
Pablo Will Be Dealing with Supernatural PTSD
Meanwhile, fans can expect Pablo to be surviving his own recovery from the bad juju of wearing the Book of the Dead on his face. This includes coming to terms with visions he’s having of demons, Ruby, and whatever else might be out there.
“I think for my character, Pablo is still dealing with the trauma of what happened to him,” Ray Santiago said. “Birthing Ruby’s demon spawn out his mouth has traumatized him, and he is undeniably connected to the Necromnicon now in a way he never imagined. And we will see him struggle and go through the journey of being tortured by the evil force, but ultimately, maybe, becoming a version of the hero he never saw inside of him. I think that’s sort of where we might go this season.”
But Santiago also revealed some new “family” dynamics between the cast this year.
“It’s like I was adopted by this idiot-man who has a chainsaw for a hand. So, I’ve got this new family, right? I think Pablo always wanted a white dad. I think I said that in the second season but I don’t know if it made it to the cut… So, Ruby is like my weird stepmom who abuses me, and he’s like my drunk dad, and [Kelly] is like my hot sister! That’s how I see it, and then Lee’s like my racist grandpa.”
Bruce Campbell Wants Seasons 3 and 4 Greenlit Together
Currently, Starz has not yet renewed Ash vs Evil Dead for season 3. But it seems likely that it’ll happen given the immediate cult appeal the first season earned… and it will likely only grow. Hence, Campbell explained to us why he and fellow producers are pushing their premium cable network to soon sign off on two more seasons of Ash together.
Campbell said, “We want seasons 3 and 4 from Starz. I think they’re starting to see that it’s catching on. And everyone needs programming, and I think it would be a great nod to the fans. Because what happens is if they say, ‘We’re going to [greenlight] two more seasons, 3 and 4, the fans will go ‘then we’re good.’ I mean, they will. And now they’ll go, ‘I’ll get to it,’ because now there’s enough content, and it will be real to them—it’s weird how those things sometimes work. If they squeeze out the seasons, fans go, ‘oh, c’mon!’ But if you get two? They’re like, ‘DAMN! This is good!’ Your binge factor now, it goes up. Instead of 10 episodes, you’ve got 20. So, we’ll see what we can do. We’re continuing to torment Starz.”
Campbell Also Wants an Ending in Place
Similarly, Bruce Campbell is keeping an on the future. He wants at least five seasons for Ash vs Evil Dead, but to get there, he is starting to stress to writers his desire to have an ending and journey in place, likening the process to how J. Michael Straczynski approached creating Babylon 5.
“Mostly, I’m encouraging our writing staff with coming up with the big, big picture and find out where does the series actually end and then go backwards,” Campbell explained. “So that everything we do from here forward, if this piece doesn’t fit then it doesn’t go in, you know what I mean? But if you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know where you’re going. It’s like history, the purpose of history. If you don’t know where you came from, you don’t where you came from.
“So that’s what we’re hoping to do now, because it seems like we’re very likely going to go for another season. You’ve got to start thinking of stuff like that. What is the Babylon 5 bible? I mean those guys, that [Straczynski], he pitched it as five seasons. And he knew exactly where it was going to go from the second they started shooting. That’s impressive as hell. That’s a lot of work to know five seasons of a show and then pull it off?!”
More Ash vs Evil Dead Could Lead to Evil Dead 4
All this talk of doing more Ash vs Evil Dead leads the mind to wonder whether we’ll still get Evil Dead 4, which last year Sam Raimi teased as a collaboration between himself and Fede Alvarez with Campbell’s Ash and Jane Levy’s Mia (from 2013’s Evil Dead remake) joining chainsawed forces. In fact, I asked Campbell exactly that.
“Well one thing leads to the next,” Campbell said. “The success of the movies over time led to this show. If the show is successful, it’ll reenergize the whole deal, whether it’s Starz or whatever and go, ‘Hey man, let’s make a movie. So, success begets success. So as long as we stay on the air, yeah chances are very good. Every extra year that it stays on the air is an exponential increase possibility of making it into a movie. Like never say never, I’m game either way, man.”
Bruce Campbell is Ready to Continue Playing Ash Forever
At this point, Bruce Campbell has been playing Ash Williams for over 35 years. There have been long intervals in his career that have been chainsaw-free, but the character keeps crawling back like a particularly resilient Deadite. And Campbell seems at peace with that even after starring in other popular projects like the cult hit Bubba Ho-Tep and USA’s ratings darling Burn Notice.
“I’m happy to take Ash to the end now. I’ll do it,” Campbell said with a small laugh. “You know, every actor goes through the denial phase of ‘look, I’ve done a lot of other projects and blah blah blah blah blah.’ Look, if they want Ash? I’m going to choke you on him. You’ll have more Ash than you ever wanted in your whole life.”
Ash vs Evil Dead season 2 will aim to keep that promise this fall on Starz.