Bruce Campbell interview: Ash Vs Evil Dead

In the run-up to Ash Vs Evil Dead season 1 coming out on DVD, we chatted to Ash himself, Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell...

The Evil Dead series exploded on to TV screens last year with the new Starz show Ash Vs Evil Dead, winning great reviews and fan adoration in the process. We caught up with Ash Williams himself, Bruce Campbell ahead of the season two US premiere on the 2nd of October to talk the future of the show, keeping an audience invested in so much carnage and whether the events of Army Of Darkness will have any impact on the story…

As someone who really dug the remake, I can remember the whole audience going completely crazy at your cameo which implied a return for Ash. At the time was a TV series something that was being considered, or another film?

No, that was Fede Alvarez’s idea of being funny.

Right, so it wasn’t placed to imply another instalment as such?

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No, that’s what fans love to do. Fans love to create a history around random things. So no, that was just a very random, fun thing that Fede wanted to do. And, you know, people can read into it what they like.

Can we expect to see the story of the remake meet up with the show at any point?

You can’t expect anything. In the Evil Dead movies you can only expect the unexpected. These were never designed to be a franchise. These were a very slow growing series of movies and the TV show was a natural outgrowth; it made more sense to do a TV show than a 75-million-dollar movie, for example. It’s dictated by economics and look, a lot of the difference between Army Of Darkness and now is that Army Of Darkness flopped, which most people forget; the series was dead after that. It took until the late nineties to rekindle it on DVD, so we’re actually really glad to celebrate the release of the Ash Vs Evil Dead DVD so DVD collectors can add it to the rest of the series.

And as someone who has played this character for over thirty years, how much input do you have in the direction of the series?

I have a lot of input. The three original partners, we’re all involved in the direction of the show and we all have to get on the same page about what Ash’s journey is over the next three, four, five years. That’s what we want to concentrate on now; the big picture.

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One thing I really love about the show is the deepening of Ash’s character, particularly seen through his relationships with Kelly and Pablo and the Jacksonville backstory. How do you as an actor find getting to explore these, I guess, new shades to a character you’ve played for so long?

Well, you gotta have someone to talk to. Ash can’t run around in a cabin by himself talking to his hand. So I’m very glad to have all those characters to bounce ideas off of. And we’ve found what I feel are a great group of actors. Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago, they really prove their mettle and they’re evolving into full characters. You’ll see in Season Two it’s a whole new ball game for them; Pablo’s gonna go on a great journey this season, Kelly will start evolving into something a little bit bigger than just a bitter victim and Ash will become more aligned with his true destiny, which is to save the world at whatever cost. So a lot of fun stuff in season two; there are a lot of ‘holy shit’ moments, a lot of Easter eggs, very substantial Easter eggs, there are a lot of nods to the fans. It’s a very fan friendly season coming up.

The show is really good at maintaining a lot of heart and even warmth despite all the carnage; was that a conscious decision going in or something that developed more organically in the writing process?

Rob Tapert as the showrunner worked on Xena and in those days the mantra of any given scene was ‘where’s the heart’? If you have a hero’s story you have to have people care, even if it’s a silly half hour crazy over the top show. You still have to follow Ash and his sidekicks willingly and in order to do that you have to put them in situations that we care about, that we’re worried about. Yeah, we’re conscious of that. If you can’t relate to the characters, if you don’t care about the characters then it doesn’t matter what you do to them. You gotta make people care, then you torment them.

There seems to be a bit of a mini trend lately of resurrecting classic horror properties for TV; by way of example Hannibal, Bates Motel, Scream, Damien and the forthcoming Exorcist. By and large the success has been mixed; some of those have been cancelled, others have had mixed reviews yet Ash Vs Evil Dead seems to have struck a major chord, even with people I know who haven’t seen the movies. What do you think it is about this show that makes it so easy to love?

Well I think a half hour runtime doesn’t hurt. It keeps it pacy and allows a little more room for humour. If it was an hour show you couldn’t maintain that edgy humour; it would have to be more serious and ponderous. A half hour goes a little quicker, and we have a spoonful of sugar to help the carnage go down. We’re not a grim horror show; we’re a little more celebratory and we don’t shy away from the genre, we don’t make fun of ourselves , we celebrate it and lots of people can appreciate that. And Ash, even though he’s an idiot, is a good guy. He’s fighting for the right side and not all of the horror series have a protagonist who’s a good guy. Freddie and Jason, they’re the bad guys. You can have fun with the movies but it’s hard to get behind the character. Ash is no different to your neighbour next door, so hopefully you root for him.

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I think that helps the show walk a really fine line, and the fact that Ash is so bumbling is what makes him so endearing. But going forward into season two, is that going to lead to any disillusionment from Kelly and Pablo towards him?

Once you get to know a friend really well you’re gonna find out all their flaws. You’re gonna find out when they get angry, you’re gonna find out that they cheated you out of money, you’re gonna get to know them really well. And they’ll get to know all of Ash’s foibles just as I’ll get to know theirs. But at the end of the day Ash will always be there when push comes to shove. He’s a flawed hero, but he ultimately is a hero. He’s a moral character, albeit a tragic one.

You definitely know that whatever happens he’s gonna come through in the end and save the day.

He fails a lot, but he’ll certainly try.

The more he fails, the more satisfying his success, when it comes, will be.

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Yeah. And I look forward to season two for viewers because in the first three episodes we have some of the most outrageous footage imaginable

I can’t wait. I reviewed it for Den of Geek last year and the biggest problem I had was that I was trying to be this critical even handed reviewer but I couldn’t help writing these long raves week after week after week.

The Evil Dead movies haven’t enjoyed all stellar reviews; the reviews are usually about 50/50. We’re just glad to be working with a really talented New Zealand crew, all these people who go back to Spartacus, Lord Of The Rings and Avatar. Some incredibly talented people down where we shoot in Auckland. We’ve got Lucy Lawless on board, she’s gonna be kicking some ass in season two, Lee Majors comes on as my dad, which is the best piece of casting in the history of television, my old pal Chet comes back, played by Ted Raimi, and Ted and I have been in 47 projects together. So it’s a fun expansion of the family. Ash goes back home in Elk Grove this year to clean up some problems in his home town.

Lastly, I’ve read that Army Of Darkness will be addressed this season; without spoilers, how much of an impact will the events of that film have on the show going forward?

It actually has nothing to do with the storyline or anything. What we realised is that there are elements that are in Army Of Darkness that we may wind up using, but they’re elements that were also in Evil Dead 2, so people shouldn’t really overthink that. It’s not like we’re gonna suddenly go to the middle ages, but you know, time travel is an aspect of the show, so we’re keen to use that but it’s not like the show’s gonna take a big U-turn.

Bruce Campbell, thank you very much!

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