Bruce Campbell talks Ash’s Groovy Return to Evil Dead

Ash vs Evil Dead Key Art

The sounds of revving chainsaw and the screams dead-ites will be heard everywhere this weekend, and not because it’s Halloween. No, it’s for the long-awaited series premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead.

While this year may have been one dubbed the year of comebacks of many franchises, especially emphasis on one rhyming with ‘Star Wars’, to me, however, this is the comeback I’ve been waiting my whole life for. Ash (Bruce Campbell) is my Luke Skywalker and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Evil Dead has become a fan favorite movie since its conception, developing a cult status almost immediately for its over the top gore and original style. It was the blueprint for generations of horror directors, and really helped kick the door open for horror/dark comedy to become a popular genre of its own.

Recently I had the privilege of speaking to the cult hero/ badass of the century Bruce Campbell, and to sum it up…it was one groovy conversation.

Bruce took some time and spoke to us all about the new Evil Dead television series, Ash vs. The Evil Dead airing on Starz on tomorrow night. This is the show, in Bruce’s own words, fans have truly been waiting for. We got some inside scoop on all the new torture Ash will be going through, how legal mumbo-jumbo gets in the way of things, and how after all these years he’s more excited than ever to be back kicking some serious ass and taking some less than human names.

Ash vs Evil Dead

What was it like to playing Ash again after so much time and is (Sam Raimi) still torturing you the way he did when you guys were growing up?

The answer is good and yes. It’s great to get back to this character. It’s probably the most fun character there is to play. Now we can use all of our experience to barrier on this character again and flesh him out even more. And, yes, Sam is just as cruel as he always is.

Well done. How does it feel putting the chainsaw back on?

It reminded me of how much I hate fake blood. That hatred it runs deep. It runs really deep. It’s one of my least favorite things is adhesive, surgical adhesive and they had to use that for appliances, make up appliances and, yes, fake blood. Because it’s chronic. It gets everywhere.

And is there a connection between the Evil Dead (2013), which you had a cameo in.

Bruce Campbell (as Ash) (2)

No connection whatsoever. That was a director who had a whim, who goes, ‘I have this great idea. It has nothing to do with anything but I want to do it.’ I was like, yes, whatever. So, no, no connection whatsoever.

You said in the past that the video games that had come out for Play Station were Evil Dead sequels and we should look at them that way. Will any of those story lines be referenced or did you use them for any personal reference inside your head?

I’m glad I’m not running for office because guys like you would dig up crap I said randomly 16 years ago. So that’s why I’m not a politician. Because to you I could say that was bologna I made up at the time. Okay. I lied. You got? I lied. So now we move onto the truth. And the truth is I’m glad we had something to finally show fans where I’m not put on the spot all the time to try to make crap up.

You know I’m attracted to bombs. We got to clarify that. The bombs. The last three bombed, they were the most expensive. They were too expensive. They didn’t make any money. So people began to think we were lazy or we didn’t want to go back to it. I got news for you, pal, there’s no money in the bank for it. You’re not making anything if there’s no money. So it’s just the raw truth of it. Thankfully, the fans have stepped up through all the DVD reissues. There were 86 versions of Army of Darkness after that. It became an American movie classic, you know, on AMC. And so fans drove it. And they drove it at these personal appearances by tour since ’88. They haven’t let it go. So they finally got it. So regardless of what I said, when I said or how I said it, we’re here. And it’s a good day.

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?

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 how 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, 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.

You just mentioned how much of a bomb Army of Darkness was. It’s curious because nothing from Army of Darkness was mentioned in the theme of Pablo explaining the Evil Dead to them. Is that intentional? Are you guys not going to reference any events to that movie in the series?

Correct.

Correct like you’re skipping it over it? It’s not cannon anymore. Or he’s not going to be going back to the other world?

Correct in that that’s not material that we can do legally so we’re not going to do it. It’s a whole complicated bunch of legal mambo jumbo that’s not even worth going into. The three movies were made by three different companies. So that should tell you call your uncle the lawyer and talk to him about it. He’ll laugh. He’ll go really three movies, three companies and you want to make a TV show. This should be fun. So it’s very complicated to put together. And I’m just really grateful that it all worked out. Here we are. But it means there are things we can include, things we can’t. But, you know, everything that Ash needed was in the first two movies anyway. Anything he ever used so it’s all good.

How and why did STARZ become the home of this series?

They had what we needed. They gave the budget we were looking for and they gave us the leeway we were looking for and they give us unrestricted content that those movies demand. So they were really — out of the suitors that we had — they were actually the only company that I’m aware out there that could give us that criteria and that did it. That sealed the deal right there. And these guys are growing as a company.

(l tor) Executive Producers Robert Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.
(l tor) Executive Producers Robert Tapert, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi.

I like being part of companies that are growing and expanding rather than shrinking and contracting. They’re willing to stay on the cutting edge. They want to do shows that people not only like but they like a lot. I think we provided something like that for them and I think we’re attracted to them because this show can actually play around the world. Not all TVs can. We started overseas and in the UK and then spread over the world. I think we’re good partners. I think we’re good for each other.

Should fans be looking for easter eggs hidden in scenes other than just Oldsmobile, the Delta 88.

Well, it’s not even like we’re hiding anything. You know we are bringing back all that stuff. The problem is, you know, it’s a lot of Michigan stuff mostly. It’s Michigan Easter Eggs. There’s Michigan State University, Camp Chappaqua, the place where (Sam) went to camp, Faygo Red pop, Coney Island, you know, like chili dogs that everybody eats in Michigan. And it takes place in Michigan. So, yes, there’s tons of Easter Eggs. There’s no question about it. You’ll see them in the show. We don’t hide them. The ’72 Delta 88 is the same car that’s been in all the movies. It’s the exact car. It’s not a different car which is pretty incredible. We had it put on a boat and shipped to New Zealand.

Ash appeals to genre fans because he’s a societal outcast and he has one really specific skill set — in his case fighting demons. How do you feel that is? 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 of 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.

In Ash versus Evil Dead are there any advancements in special effects that you are grateful for that you did not have while shooting the film.

Ash vs. Evil Dead Key Art and Marketing Shoot 2015

Well, we tried to keep the blood real. Digital blood is not effective. We had that in a couple of cases in this pilot. We’re not a big proponent of digitals. The funny thing is we have better ways of delivering the blood but it doesn’t make any of it easier or better. It just makes them better at hitting me. Their aim is better now. The chance of getting it right on the first take is better now.

We do a lot more testing. We’ve used anything from a seed spreader to a paint brush dipped in blood, you know, splattered it on us that way to a Hudson sprayer to a beer keg that converted to a pressurized basically a blood sprayer and then we had a cannon. So the good news the systems are all better but it doesn’t make my life any easier. It makes it worse.

When you’re working away from Sam Raimi, obviously there are a bunch of different directors on the series, was there any difficulty for you to, like, move away from him when it comes to this particular character just being familiar working with him?

Yes, it’s heartbreaking. Because, you know, you’re used to the old man yelling at you. If somebody starts yelling at me, I’m like I’ll punch you in the face, man. So there’s definitely an adjustment. And we look we found a great set. The guys were really happy with the directors that we had. I have no complaints. So it’s hard on everybody. It was me missing the old man and probably directors going, you know, what’s with this guy. Because we had to figure everything out. But, you know, I feel I’m the voice of Ash so I can be at least a constant influence on the character.

What are the modern day trends in horror do you wish to avoid in your show?

Torture forms. 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 forms. 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.

So what’s been the biggest differences in filming Ash for a television series versus filming him in the motion picture world?

Speed is the number one only because you’re on a TV base. And TV is a very efficient median. You get in, you get out. You do it. And I love TV. I love the pace of it because nothing gets stale. Making the other Evil Dead movies, they were great and very informative and very educational for all of us but they are tedious as hell. I think movies are tedious. So bring your big, thick book to work in a big Hollywood movie. But the TV pace will never let you get that bored. You know by lunchtime you’ve given little Billy his medicine back, kissed the girl and killed the bad guy.

Ash vs Evil Dead

Ash is very different between when he’s fighting and when he’s just being Ash. Where does this come from because there is literally a shift in personality. He goes from kind of bumbling, lovable kind of thing to badass.

It’s about contrast. I think with your characters you’ve got to do that. There’s Mickey Mantle at the plate and Mickey Mantle out to drink with the boys. I heard a note from a director to an actor. This is related to me by a friend. And the director said, “I want you to be a different character in every scene.” And the actor was astounded –“What are you crazy? I’m only playing one character.” The director’s point was that there was so much depth to humans and each individual. So in order to come close to the complexity to the most boring average person, you’d have to play each scene as a completely different character to even start to see the glimpses of all the sides of a person or even a character. So even though I’m doing a cheesy horror series there is still some art to it.

The huge variety of media and genres that you worked with from your responses it seems that it’s more where you can delve into, where you can extend your creativity and just goes. That seems to be what draws you. But is there any particular genre and or media that does draw you a little more or that you might be interested in working in further?

Interesting question. It’s funny. Yes, I go where the work is good. I had some people who represented me years ago who could not understand why I would go to Auckland, New Zealand into the southern hemisphere to work on the show Hercules and then on Xena and Jack of All Trades. They just couldn’t understand it. It was a syndicated show. There’s no network. They got no respect at all. No Emmys. No nothing. And I’m like, ‘You don’t get it. You’re not down there on the set with us. We can get away with murder. Murder. And we do. We take the script and we look at it and we see what we can do. We can work with the director, work with the other actors. If somebody has an idea, they do it. It’s the most creative set I’ve ever been on.’ And the last time I checked as actors, that’s what you’re looking for is creativity. You’re not looking for the Rolls Royce and, you know, the big fancy trailer. Those are supposed to be the byproducts of having fun and then getting good at what you do.

Ash vs Evil Dead

So, I’ll chase that to the end of the Earth which is one of the main reasons when I was going to be Auckland, New Zealand for this show – I mean I have crew members that I know down there that I’ve known for 20 years. These people are extremely gifted at what they do and it makes our job easy because they make it look good and we make it look easy.

And it’s only because now that I work with people that I know that make it so much better. You see them come out of their trailer, you’re cracking jokes, you punch them in the arm, you know, you’re messing with them when they’re on camera trying to get them to break up. You know there’ s a lot of work play involved. And that’s a big appeal to it too. But other than that, the comedy. The comedy can lift your spirits.

What was it like being reunited with Lucy Lawless and what is 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. 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 (Rob Tapert) 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.

Have you had any desire to write or direct an episode of the series?

No, this is really Sam’s baby and I’m sort of in the Burn Notice territory as a director which gives me a great position with the star because I didn’t get in any kind of authoritative figure with them. I’m a fair director when I direct. I kind of want what I want. And, no, this works great. I have so much to do with Ash, I don’t really have any desire for that.

Lucy Lawless (as Ruby) - Episode 106

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 it’s 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.

Are there already any talks about a season two?

Bruce Campbell (as Ash) (3)

Well, the only hints that I would say that production has to prepare for the next season. Meaning you have to send the leases on warehouses and you have to get a writer’s room going. So there are things that are taking place that would indicate that. But there’s been no official announcement. But we haven’t been stopped from doing the necessary press for another season. How’s that for you?

The franchise has evolved through the comics and the games and the fan fiction and that it has definitely evolved the character of Ash. Was there any of that discussed before going into the series that the expectations from fans might be a little bit different?

No, I don’t think the fan’s expectations have changed from the basics. We will always give them the basic which is carnage, mayhem, some good one-liners, an unusual hero. I think part of the attraction that fans will continue to like is that he’s a good guy. He might be an idiot but he’s a good guy and he’s always going to try to do the right thing against ridiculous odds.

The first episode captured that great balance of horror and comedy from the films. Will you be keeping with that balance or if we’re going to see more episodes that are more horror or ones that are more completely slap sticky?

Ash vs Evil Dead

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.

You’ve probably been approached by any number of writers with all kinds of ideas for Ash and the Evil Dead. For years, there was the Ash versus Freddy versus Jason rumor floating around. Can you talk about a little bit about the crazier Evil Dead ideas you’ve been pitched over the years?

It was mostly the one was a conversation with New Line about doing Ash versus Jason versus Freddy. And I was interested because I wanted to kill them both but we were informed that no one is killing anybody and we would only have control over what happens to the Ash character. We couldn’t control the story. We couldn’t control what Ash does to anybody else. I’m like this sounds really not creative. So I’m so glad that we’re back to this again because we can finally do it right.

I wanted to talk about one of my favorite things in some of Sam’s other films are the cameos that you do. There’s usually funniest parts of the films to me. I’m just wondering, Sam has done cameos at Evil Dead. I’m wondering if we can expect any cameos from him at all throughout the season?

Oh, cameos from Sam? Oh my God, I don’t think so. Sam is more like Howard Hughes these days. He is Oz the great and powerful, you know, hiding behind the curtains. He just wants to work his magic back in a mysterious way.

It’s a surprise to see that Ash still has the Necronomicon in his possession after all he’s been through. Will we find out why he had it? Did he have a choice in a flashback? And also is this season self-contained in case there’s not a second season?

Ash vs Evil Dead

Every show that’s designed as a TV show has to be designed for multiple seasons. It will feel contained. I think you will feel very satisfied by the end of the season but there’s no question about it. It’s designed for more. And as far as the Necrinomicon I wouldn’t get too much into why Ash did or didn’t have the book. I think it’s an Ash thing not to do anything, to chuck it away. He tried to burn it and it didn’t work anyway.

After completing the first film did you guys expect to get this big? And the second part of that question is why now instead of like ten years ago that you decided to produce this show?

Well, no one can expect anything to happen. The film industry, the entertainment industry. It’s always, you never know what’s going to happen next. So, no — no one had any idea. We didn’t think we were going to finish the stupid movie. It took at least three years to finish the movie. Second part. That was the second part. Let’s go back. Patch me in. Don’t ask two part questions, reporters, because I’m going to forget the second part. Just ask a single question. It will be a lot easier on all of us.

Speaking of the Necrinomicon it just seems like with the show you have the opportunity to expand upon the mythology of it 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.

Do you think Ash has ever used his chainsaw for yard work and what do you think the recipe is for the perfect Evil Dead episode?

Ash vs Evil Dead

Well the recipe is the right mix. It’s like baking a cake. You know if you use baking powder instead of baking soda, it’s a disaster. So in our case if our floor gets a little dark, we can lighten with a little humor. And if we get a little loopy, we can hit it with some horror, you know? But pace and a sense of fun is also very important too.

If you could expand on another character that you played, who would that be — Briscoe, Ace, Boomer, Fantail?

I would expand Briscoe for sure. Because you know every actor wants to be a cowboy. That was a great year. It was one pretty much solid year of being a cowboy and promoting and doing this stuff. If I never did it again, I’d be okay with it because it was a very fulfilling year, very hard working year. But I wouldn’t mind going back to that. He was a good character. He was really fun. It’s probably the closest to an actual good guy like a real heroic type who hopefully, you know, was smart enough to be interesting.

In the first episode we see Ash trolling for some last call ass and just happened to grab some Magnum condoms. Was that your personal contribution to the beginning of the episode?

No, mine was that he was going to take two condoms. He goes to take one condom, he thinks about it and he goes, no, I think I might need two. It might be a two condom night. The magnum is what it is.

Are you like Ash in every way?

Oh, dear God. Every actor is going to have a little of something of them in any character they play. Any actor says they crawl inside their role and disappear they’re not telling the truth. I think what you do is with a character you take the worst sides of yourself and you amplify them or you take the best sides of yourself and you amplify them or you kind of mix it all around. Yes, there’s going to be a little bit of Ash in me and a little bit of me in him. No way to get around it.

Ash vs Evil Dead
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Laura Dengrove is the one of youngest members of the Pop-Break staff and is a critic for television/movies of all types on Pop-Break. She’s going into her second year at college where she will be studying to obtain her bachelors degree at Rutgers University for Journalism/Public Relations. She was the editor for the Arts and Entertainment section of her school newspaper, runs her own blog (Pop Culture Darling), and interns for Design New Jersey. She also has an in-depth knowledge about all things True Blood and an avid Eric and Sookie shipper.
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Hello! My name is Laura Dengrove. I am currently a Junior at Rutgers University, double majoring in Journalism/Media Studies and Cinema Studies. I am a film critic and interviewer by choice, professional Linda Belcher impersonator by birth.