Spoilers ahead if you’ve avoided the season three trailer and by the nature of who the new characters are.
Come the 26th of February (or the 25th if you’re lucky enough to live in the US) the third season of Ash Vs Evil Dead will be upon us, which promises to send Mr Williams and chums into a whole new realm of insanity – parenthood. Yes indeed, Ash, quite possibly the worst role model of all time, is about to discover he’s a daddy. Thankfully his daughter, Brandy (played by Arielle Carver-O’Neill) is already a teenager, so already on a better path than she no doubt would have been had she grown up with a father who, until recently, her home town had branded a murderer.
Having seen the first half of season three, what’s evident is that Brandy is able to bring an unexpected element of reality to the show – after all when tragic deaths start piling up in the local high school, things suddenly feel more sinister and grounded, so we asked Arielle if that was an appeal for her going into the show, “It was actually and I talked a lot with the directors, producers and show runner and they all really wanted Brandy to be that sense of reality, to be that more relatable representation of the audience kind of situation. So, that was good, I really liked it – it was interesting actually, because, especially in the first two episodes, I spent so much time crying, I forgot it was a comedy while we were filming and then all the sudden, I watched it for the first time and I was like ‘oh yeah, this is funny!’ I completely forgot! [laughs]”
And no doubt trying to stay in a dramatic moment with Bruce Campbell’s constant one-liners and bad parenting must have made that an especially difficult challenge? “[She laughs] There were moments, yes, when it was really hard not to laugh, but, it’s surprisingly… you know the thing with comedy that I’ve learnt, especially with Bruce, is it’s got to be real for you and then the comedy just happens. So a lot of the time, especially with his one-liners and stuff, I found myself looking at him thinking ‘What the hell did you just say? Is this guy for real?’ Because in reality that’s probably how you’d react with someone like that – just imagine him as this guy on the street, not an icon like Bruce Campbell. That helps keep the laugher at bay, but at the same time there was definitely moments, because he’s fantastic at that sort of thing!”
Within the course of the opening episode in season three, it’s clear that Brandy will have bigger problems than just a dysfunctional family to deal with, as her (in)famous father also brings baggage in the form of endless Deadite persecution, with the charge being led by evil 80s throwback Ruby (hooray!) and poor Brandy is now a target by proxy, as the heir apparent – she’s in evil’s crosshair. “Oh exactly, yeah, one hundred percent,” Arielle says, “Bruce puts it – and I’m going to steal his line, because it’s the best way to say it – but evil is like the mafia. They come after your family to get to you. And so the minute they find out he’s got some family out there, they’re on it, like that, so really they’re after her from the get go.”
And without her giving too much away, is the relationship between Brandy and Ash going to form the core of the third season? “It is, it is definitely… it’s hard not to ruin it! [laughs] But it’s creating a whole new layer to Ash – he’s still the character that everybody knows and loves but he’s in a whole new different situation, a whole new kind of fight. All of the sudden there’s motivation he’s never had before and that can only make a character deeper, so that’s definitely a core element and then of course Brandy is new to this world of evil so, there’s her journey, which she goes on as well.
We find out her similarities to Ash and their differences – as pretty apparent from the beginning. As time goes on, they do realise they’re more alike than they thought.” So a bit of genetic hard coding in there somewhere? “Exactly. You figure out she is definitely Ash’s daughter!” We can only hope she gets a limb substitute at some point and really follows in her father’s footsteps…
Over the years in geekdom, the fictional siblings of heroic icons hasn’t always gone down too well, from the piano intervention in Superman Returns to the Mutt mess up in Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull. Thankfully though, I can confirm that from what I’ve seen off Arielle’s work in so far, her performance is pitch perfect, especially when Brandy is having to start her evil induction on page one and could so easily have become a drag on Ash Vs Evil Dead‘s pacing. Is she prepared for the fandom that will ensue from being involved with such a show though, yet alone playing the daughter of a horror legend?
“I don’t know if I can to prepare myself for that, I mean I am very nervous now the show’s coming out, just because Ash’s daughter is a big deal to the fans and it’s such a honour to be that kind of character, that I hope that people like it. But at the same time, I think you just have to let that go in a sense, because I could fret over it – whether people will like it, or not – but at the same time, that’s not going to change anything and all I can do is have fun making it, give it my best and hope they enjoy it, which is exactly what I do. I hope that they like it.”
There’s also another challenge that every actor must face when joining the Evil Dead world – lots and lots of blood and gore, but we’d heard that Arielle wasn’t the biggest fan of horror before signing on… “[She laughs!] Oh my god, the rumours have started! I was bad with horror, I’m good now. It took some time, but I think this job has actually made me good with horror, because I used to get scared from spoof movies, like Scary Movie, I used to get so frightened from those and then they’re meant to be funny, they’re not meant to be scary – I was a kid at the time! But I was never good with horror and then when I got my audition, I was like ‘No, I should probably watch the show, though it’s going to be difficult’. But I sat down to watch the first episode and after that I could not stop watching it, I binged watched the whole thing in a single day and then from then onwards, I then was like, ‘You know what? I can handle horror, horror is cool. And now I’m watching American Horror Story and all of those things!”
And how did she cope with the sheer volume of blood and prosthetics? “Oh, I actually loved it. I was a little worried because of course with my history with horror, I was never great with gore. But it’s weird, you kind of get used to walking past a giant vat of limbs and a severed head sitting there on stage and you get used to that sort of happening on a daily basis.”
“Blood, on the other hand, I never got used to, but I did enjoy it because it’s an incredible adrenaline rush. I mean, they shoot you with a high pressure air tank and then gallons of blood and a big long hose and they get ready to hit you with it and it’s just this loud… kind of like scary, because you only get one shot at it. And you can’t control your face when it happens. There’s not preparation that you can do because you don’t know what exactly it’s going to feel like, it’s different every time and how long they’re going to hit you with the blood. I think that the first time I ever got a blood cannon, the director let it roll for about thirty seconds, so it’s just thirty seconds of a constant stream of blood, hitting me in the face and it was went on for a long time and it was very cold! [laughs] So no acting required? “No. No acting required. Genuine shock!”
Joining Arielle as a new face on Ash Vs Evil Dead this season is Mr Lindsay Farris, a fellow Australian and actor of stage and screen, whose character Dalton adds a new layer to the mythology as part of the Knights of Sumeria (think Brothers of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade) who feels comically compelled to bend the knee every time Ash walks into a room – not something that will do anything to flatten his already overblown ego.
Unlike his co-star though, Mr Farris has been a fan of the franchise since the start as he tells us, “Yeah, when I was a kid, my grandmother, used to kind of have a bonding experience with me and my uncle – we’d come from like country, New South Wales in Australia and when I was like a thirteen, fourteen year old, once maybe every couple of months, we’d put on two films: one was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and one was Evil Dead and she used to have that on Betamax – if you know what that is? (Oh yes indeed, I do!) So we would sit there and watch it and it was because the rest of my family hated horror, but my grandma loved it and so I grew up on this show and particularly those punchlines that Bruce Campbell throws in Evil Dead.”
“That’s kind of my world, I grew up on that and it set the precedent for my love of horror, because all the horror that I still love the most these days, go back to those original, prosthetics sort of worlds, like Dead Alive, I think it’s called Brain Dead in the UK and Peter Jackson’s earlier films and I just love that style of horror, where it’s this perfect blend of comedy and horror. So I’m a fan boy in real life that happens to play a fan boy on the show!”
So the total opposite of Arielle and since so many actors seem to work in horror, but have no previous love for it, or no stomach for the gore, that must surely make Mr Farris the only, literal worthy one? “[He bursts out laughing] I wouldn’t say the worthy one! I mean my character is searching for the prophesised one, that turns out to be Ash Williams/Bruce Campbell. I think he’s more the worthy one, you know, we’re just trying to even remotely come up to his bench mark. I mean Bruce Campbell is kind of one of the best mentors you could hope for on a television and film set, because he’s just – you’d think, or maybe you wouldn’t think, but all of those punch lines – he comes straight from his trailer to set, goes ‘Boom!’ nails it on the first take and then he’s just gone again and you go ‘how do you do that?’ and he’s happy to try to teach you everything he knows, you know? He’s a brilliant mentor/father figure and I guess he plays one in season three too!”
At this point I think it’s worth confessing that although I’ve been a huge Evil Dead fan for decades, I actually held off on watching the show for a while, as I was so worried it would somehow let me down, or prove to be a disappointment, which was only heightened by the involvement of the original creators as it meant it couldn’t be written off as non-canon. My worry was needless though and the show continues to delight in the way that only the Evil Dead universe can, but had Lindsey followed Ash Vs Evil Dead from its first airing? “No, I mean because I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia, so it took a while for us to get the show down there. But I was very familiar with the Evil Dead franchise, but then coming to the States – the show’s got an international fan base, but in somewhere like America there are environments where those fans can kind of clump together, like Comic Con, so you certainly have more of awareness of it happening it here, you know. I think the best thing about the show is it still has Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell at the helm – you’ve got those original creators.”
“It’s never going off to a sort of new, weird, suddenly it’s bought by other random people that’s just going to destroy the core ethic of the show, so they’ve still adhered to the prosthetics, it’s not just all CGI and blue screen and making stuff up – they point a blood cannon at your face and fire it and you really don’t act, it’s like immediate and you can’t help but do what to do, you know? So, I think it’s the fact that it’s held on to those roots that make the show still connect so much with fans.”
And as a fan did he stand there and welcome the deluge, shouting for them to give him his baptism of blood? “That’s right! The show is such an unexpected… I could get the scripts just before we start shooting and every script you go ‘Really? This what we’re doing? The first villain we meet is this mascot, really?’ And also Dalton the character, is in the same boat as I am – he’s very good with the theoretical principles behind the bad guys in the show, but in terms of practice he’s never seen a Deadite up until we meet him in episode one and the first Deadite he meets is a mascot, it’s just equally surprising for him!”
Auditioning always sounds like a nerve wracking prospect, especially when you’re joining an already established show, yet alone being an actor who grew up with the mythology, so how was his process of jumping on board? “I think because I was jetting about a bit, I was in London which where you are, yeah? I was in London, I just finished doing a show with Alan Ball and Elton John called Virtuoso, that was all wrapped up and then I was looking at what other projects were around. We had a bit of post-production in Los Angeles and the script came and the character was so hardcore, like he was written kind of with this Texan feel originally. Even first when I read him he was almost like a – and this sounds really bad as an analogy – but almost like a Tommy Wiseau/Disaster Artist type, with a hardcore Texan vibe and I thought ‘What is this guy?’ And he was putting cigarettes out on his arm, so I mean that was kind of what I first encountered and I was like ‘I’ll give it a go’ [chuckles] and then the character has evolved so much – I mean you’ve seen the first couple of episodes, he’s kind of more like a contemporary knight. So I sent out a tape from Los Angeles that went to Rob Tapert, I think, in New Zealand and then within two weeks I was on a plane!”
One thing looks certain for Dalton though, as he appears side by side with Dana (who’s been off on her own adventure, which is how she encounters him, but more on that soon…) he could well get in the way of the Pablo and Kelly dynamic/relationship. So without giving anything away, does Lindsay think there is there likely to be friction, or jealousy between the trio in season three?
“I think there’s a lot of suspicion and mystery that surrounds both Pablo and Dalton in this season. The dynamic that Dalton has with Kelly, is very different to the dynamic she has with Pablo. Pablo and Kelly are kind of two sides of the same coin, but I imagine Dalton like this guy travelling across the country on a motorcycle with a shotgun, trying to find his identity, through his ridiculous concept that’s been passed down through generation to generation. Kelly’s friends have opened a hardware stores and Pablo’s selling computers chips! There’s something about Pablo that Dalton doesn’t feel is quite right, you know? The theory is his world and the tattoos that Pablo has, Dalton has read and seen before and understands the Sumerian language, unlike the rest of that group does. So, there’s a lot of suspicion, I wouldn’t say jealously, but a lot of mistrust within the group, I think, with that new dynamic.”
Thanks to Arielle Carver-O’Neill and Lindsay Farris for their time; Ash Vs Evil Dead returns on the 25th February in the US and on Virgin TV in the UK on 26th February. Groovy.