Spoilers ahead if you’re not up to date and one for the pilot episode if you’ve been avoiding the trailers.
While chatting with Dana DeLorenzo about the return of Kelly Maxwell in the third season of Starz’ insanely entertaining splatterfest Ash Vs Evil Dead, she hands down won the title of the most enthusiastic, generous interviewee I’ve ever spoken to.
The prospect of talking all things Deadite was already exciting, but nothing could have prepared me for how passionate DeLorenzo is about her work on the show. (Little did she know, but the first person I ever interviewed for Den of Geek was Bruce Campbell, almost a decade ago, adding a lovely level of synchronicity to our conversation.)
In her role as Kelly, we’ve seen her excel at extreme bad assery (ahh the meat slicer), fight her own hand in the Ashy Slashy episode and perform demonic possession with such allure that you’ll question your own moral values. She’s also a character that recalls the best of action heroines, especially Sarah Connor, with her focused anger and determination making her a force to be reckoned with, but cracking occasionally to show enough heart, keeping Kelly from becoming too cold.
I’ve always championed horror for its roster of strong female leads, giving us Nancy and Laurie in A Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween respectively back at the dawn of slasher movies, and Kelly represents a true upgrade for the 21st century.
Without further ado…
Congratulations firstly on having three seasons of awesome, kick-ass episodes under your belt – how does it feel?
Oh man, I don’t even know how to encompass that. It’s shocking to me to realise that ‘oh my goodness, we have shot three seasons!’, because it’s been such a wild, insane ride in the most wonderful, bloody way! I just can’t believe it’s gone by that quickly and that we have this much already done and I’m like ‘Wait a minute, I feel like we’re just starting, I wanna go forever!” But I have to tell you, this is one of those dream jobs that keeps getting better and better in every sense of the word, in every way. Whether that’s through the character and the way I got to grow and grow into this character, the expanse of cast that continues to grace our stage, the storylines, the fans – every part about this job just keeps snowballing into greater things and I’m just so grateful , I’m having the time of my life, really.
I’m so excited it’s this time again, because usually the show airs in October, so I’ve been in withdrawal, like I’ve been waiting as anxiously as the fans! [Laughs] If not more so. Sometimes I think I’m even more intense than the fans, I’m like the one that scares the fans away, because I’m so intense and excited to talk and meet them, that they’re the ones slowly backing away, like all creeped out because [laughs] I get so excited! So, I’ve been waiting with bated breath since everybody else has.
That’s great though, because you want the enthusiasm to be there – especially from an interview perspective, as there’s nothing worse than short answers!
Yeah, then I think that’s my greatest flaw I suppose, could be something you appreciate, which is – I don’t know how to give one word answers, in fact, I don’t know how to stop talking, or end an answer! So, you definitely don’t need to worry about that with me, at all! [laughs] Feel free to just cut me off, because truly I feel like maybe secretly, that’s why the universe was conspiring in my favour to make me an actor, to instill that from the age of two – this person needs to be an actor solely, so that dialogue can be written for me, so I know when to stop talking, that’s when they put a full stop at the end of a sentence. Truly, my full stop is ‘and’. That’s my full stop. [laughs]
You mentioned how the job has evolved for you as an actor, but as a viewer Ash Vs Evil Dead has gone from strength to strength too. It’s been great to have the cabin and other throwbacks to the films, but with each season it’s felt like its own entity and it’s all the better for it, especially for you in terms of Kelly’s development.
Oh for sure, well I’m happy to hear that we keep entertaining you season after season and we do try our best, everybody involved, from the writers to crew, to truly, truly, from the beginning to post – everything, we’re all very passionate about this show, because it’s a love letter to very passionate fans. So every year we have to push ourselves and challenge ourselves and that, in this case, means being really warped and having disturbing minds, to try to outdo the gore and the grossness and the gag and the laughs of the year before! [laughs] So, I’m happy to hear that we’re doing that for you.
Sometimes when I’ve spoken to actors about working on TV shows, where you have different writers and directors from episode, to episode, it can be a little disorientating, but I get the impression with Ash Vs Evil Dead that it helps to keep things fresh – how is it from your perspective?
Oh no, it’s definitely disorientating – half the time I’m like ‘Whatta, whatta, what? Today I’m hanging upside down by a tree and tomorrow I’m getting my head dipped in a bed pan by a puppet? Oh well, okay great!’ It’s disorientating, but in the best way. So you’re right, but for me it serves the character and it serves the show because that’s kind of what this world is – you had better expect the unexpected, both as the audience and as the characters as the story unfolds. So yes, it does lend itself to keeping it fresh and I’ll tell you one thing – boredom is never a word that you’ll hear, involved in making the show, ever.
There’s never a dull moment and we actually move very fast, so a lot of people say how fast the show goes by when you’re watching it within thirty minutes and it feels that fast when you’re making it, there’s so much jam packed in there. Especially because we’re doing all the genres – we’re not just horror, we’re doing comedy and then in the same day we’re doing big, massive action stunts with fight sequences and then we’re doing blood rigs, so you do have to be on your toes, but that’s exciting, man! I mean how lucky are we that we, as actors, work that muscle, you know?
It’s interesting to me that Kelly’s rage is what’s kept her going and has become her focus – when we start season three it’s showing no sign of slowing down, she’s had to go away to stay in the fight and found Dalton in the process. Do you think that Kelly’s worried that if she finds peace it will affect her ability to fight?
Oh man, you nailed it. You’ve made a very astute observation! We’ve touched upon this, strictly throughout the first couple seasons, but yes, Kelly needs to stay in the fight. Kelly is a warrior and at the beginning of season three, she’s warrior without a war, which is why she hightails it out of there. She can’t set up shop like Ash and Pablo, in friggin’ Elk Grove and just live some ‘normal life’. They’re perfectly happy with that, but that is Kelly’s worst nightmare, because as we’ve touched upon Pablo has often been the one that says to her in the earlier seasons – I think it was episode six, season one – “Do you not want to find the book? Do you really not want this to be over, so that you can stay in the fight, because the revenge is going to continue?”
And then again we see her – actually I really loved this moment – when you’re about to see Kelly really vulnerable, when Pablo was saying at the bar scene in season two “You don’t need anything in your life, you don’t need a house, you don’t need a job, you don’t anyone to love, you’ve got you.” He was saying it as a compliment, but that actually hit Kelly really hard and she’s like ‘Yep, oh right I have nothing! This is all I have.’ So you’re exactly right in that she needs to stay in the fight, which is why she becomes this aggressive… overly aggressive bartender! Beating the crap out of guys, because they put too many hands in the pretzels!
Because they weren’t paying customers!
Exactly, yeah! So she gets so excited – the reason we don’t see the rage, maybe not even the first few episodes, is because Kelly is just so pumped, she’s just back into the fight against evil, because this is her purpose and that is why actually, we’ll come to find out with Dalton, why they are kindred spirits and why they have this particular chemistry, because they’re the doers. They’re the ones who need to take the fight to evil, not wait around for it.
So what I love so much about season three for Kelly and something I personally, as the actor playing her have been begging and hoping for is for her to finally have some agency and to call the shots for once. And that scene that started in season two, with good Ruby’s dying words to Kelly to forge her path – that’s what season three is about, where Kelly finally follows her own lead and not in a way that goes against Ash, she’s been a good soldier, what I mean is instead of being just the common sense who encourages better decisions like “Are you sure we should be drinking ketamine today?” Now she seizes the opportunity to grab evil by the balls – or the bollocks, if you will! [laughs]
Potentially ending the battle once and for all, without anyone else she cares about getting hurt and – you see the thing about me not ending a sentence by the way! – then to tie into the rage, we see a little bit of a rollercoaster of emotions from Kelly within the first five episodes, where she starts of super excited to just be back in it and then the worst thing that could happen to her, happens, which is – she gets her hands tied. She gets put in this catch twenty two situation, painted in a corner that she can’t fight her way out of, that she can’t shoot her way out of, because it’s such a precarious situation. She can’t take action, or else someone she loves will die.
So, that rage builds up! The worst thing you could do to Kelly is bench her, so that is it, finally, thanks to her being with Brandy in the moment and Brandy having enough Ash Williams DNA in her to shoot first, think never, suddenly opens up this window of opportunity for Kelly, to finally get her game on and oh-my-god, she goes ballistic! I’m telling you, it is the rage and it is Kelly in all her glory, that is reminiscent of the deli slicer scene and it all comes down to this one moment for Kelly in season three, everything we’ve been building up towards, every skill she’s learned, every insane, epic battle and fights she’s had, every foul thing she’s ever said – it all gets used in this moment and I’m so excited for you to see it!
I can’t wait! You mentioned Kelly taking the lead, especially after ‘good’ Ruby’s dying words to her, but now Brandy is on the scene and I’m curious as to where that dynamic is heading, because although Brandy is an innocent, up to this point Ash has referred to Kelly as the daughter he never had, so will the relationship between Brandy and Kelly be more sisterly, or confrontational?
It’s both, it starts a little bit rocky and then does go into sort of a mentor, sisterly relationship and you’re right, Kelly has been this figure for Ash and likewise. She’s an orphan, she watched her father get eye forked, so in a way – although I would say that Ash is more like her big brother, because they like to bust each other’s chops – though she’d never admit it, she takes pride in that and then all of the sudden she goes back into town and it’s really great, because Ash and Pablo are like ‘Who’s the guy?’ and Kelly’s like ‘Who’s the girl!?’ And whoopsy – oh wow, Ash Williams has a real daughter now, which is twofold.
I think with Kelly, she has too many walls up to admit that it in anyway affects her, it’s actually more for what Kelly is afraid of, is that the minute Brandy is there, she’s like ‘Oh great, a whole other obstacle and now we have a bigger liability, because evil is going to come for her to get to Ash.’ I mean it’s just going to happen and also just that the poor girl, the therapy she’s going to have to go through with Ash Williams as a dad in the beginning, this is too hilarious to even think about! So Kelly at first gets stuck with babysitting duties, in a way, because Brandy’s such a rebel without a cause teenager, meanwhile I want to be fighting.
But with that, what is so awesome is that very quickly Kelly realises how similar Brandy is to Kelly. Their journeys – Kelly was thrown into the fight, Kelly lost her mother, so does Brandy and so Kelly lets her guard down, because she’s like ‘Wait a minute, I’ve been in the same situation and I wasn’t in High School, I was a little bit older!’ [laughs] So she does take her under her wing and it’s really fun to watch her struggle between knowing when to comfort Brandy and when to call her on her shit, like she does with Ash.
But with Kelly you’ll see her really trying to – as quickly as possible, because time is running out with evil – take the teenager out and put the warrior in. Because as soon as we clear that teenage stubbornness, along with the added stubbornness of being Ash Williams’ daughter, she knows that she innately has a skill set and Kelly is doing her best to show her the ropes and get her there quickly as possible! And, it’s a really lovely relationship that forms and I very much enjoyed that for the journey for Kelly, I think that was very appropriate.
And for the last question, if you don’t mind going back in time a bit – season one, episode five was obviously Kelly’s possession and for me was outstanding in a lot of ways, but the funny thing about her being possessed was that it not only enabled me to see a different side to the character and get more involved with her journey, but also it must have been amazing for you as an actress with the scope of what happens to Kelly – is that an episode that still stands out for you?
Oh my goodness, of course! Because actually The Exorcist was the first horror film I saw, you know I am Italian Catholic so of course it’s going to be the first horror film I see [laughs] watching it with my parents when I was ten! And actually thanks to my parents though, because I was huge horror kid because of that. So that had been a bucket list, I know that sounds crazy, like ‘Oh wait, you want to play possessed, that’s a little weird?’ but Linda Blair’s performance has always been – when I found out she was around my age when she did that, at the time my mind was absolutely blown, so you know things during those formative years when you’re at that age, stay with you.
So I never, in my wildest dreams, did I think that I’d ever get to do that in my life. I mean at this point I was working at a bar when I auditioned for the show, so would have just been happy to get a spot on a commercial! But I knew that was going to happen, because in the screen test Sam Raimi asked me “Are you going to be ok with prosthetics?” but I hadn’t got the job that day, they just had to make sure and get me on camera officially confirming it! [laughs] They asked “Can you fit into prosthetics, because we’re going to have Kelly get possessed?” I have the video, it was sent to me by the casting director of that screen test, that maybe will be released someday, but when he rings and says “You’re going to be possessed”, I put my arms up like I’ve just won a marathon and I basically run around the room, honestly, like a weirdo, I was so – you see me being – I’m so happy!
So, yeah when I got to do that – and like you say it went very quickly, but it was great because in a way, the Ash William’s motto of ‘shoot first, think never’ absolutely applies to shooting the show, because you just move so fast and it was one of the most physically difficult couple of days – I actually [talks really quickly!] got electrocuted whilst on set, but I’m not allowed to tell people that, but it’s fine! Got a little shocked when I was tied up to that metal pole, but it was hilarious! But it was so rewarding and I’m so grateful that I got to do that and then, also though, that I got to come back to the role, because I wasn’t a Deadite I was possessed by Eligos demon, so I loved that I got to do that and still come back and be a good guy which is unusual. I mean that’s the sweet spot!
And can you tease anything about where Kelly and Pablo’s relationship might be heading?
This is my tease, with Kelly and Pablo potentially going to the next level – body parts definitely touch! [I laugh quite loudly, knowing full well what she’s talking about!] Thank you, I was very proud of that! I had to find a way to tease [what’s coming] and I haven’t even seen the episodes yet!
Oh you haven’t?
No! How did you enjoy them? Or did you not like them! [laughs]
I loved them, they’re fantastic!
I’m excited for you to see episode six, the one I was talking about where Kelly finally gets that epic battle with evil. So I’m excited for you to see that in all of its glory and unconventional weapon use and oooh boy, it’s exciting!
Dana DeLorenzo, thank you very much!
Ash Vs Evil Dead returns on the 25th February in the US and on Virgin TV in the UK on 26th February. Come get some.