Starz’s 10-episode half-hour series Ash vs. Evil Dead is the long-awaited follow-up to the classic horror film franchise from Sam Raimi (who also directed the first episode). Aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter Ash (Bruce Campbell) has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of Deadites. But when a plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons, whether he likes it or not.
Having gotten the opportunity to screen the first two episodes, I can say that it’s funny, it’s over-the-top gory, and it’s absolutely everything that I want and expect from The Evil Dead franchise. During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor Bruce Campbell talked about how gratifying it is that there are still so many fans of Ash and Evil Dead, why it was more feasible to continue this story as a TV series, how bizarre it was to get back on set and into this character’s shoes, why he likes the half-hour pacing of the show, pushing the envelope on the blood and gore, getting to have sidekicks, why he hates that car, and that he feels they’re only just getting started with the story.
Collider: Could you ever have imagined, when you first started playing this character, that you would still be here, playing him and talking about him on his own TV show?
BRUCE CAMPBELL: No, how could we? We didn’t think we’d finish the first movie. It was four years of stopping and starting, and stopping and starting. It was a long, grueling road. We had no idea.
Did you ever think you’d play a character that could grow with you, throughout your life?
CAMPBELL: No. How would you know that? Ash was dead. Who knew that we would resurrect him? There was no way to predict it. You just go with the flow, as an actor.
Was there a point, after a certain number of years of people still asking about it, that you knew the fans for this character were never going to go away?
CAMPBELL: Every decade. I’ve done conventions since ‘88, and I’ve heard it since then. It’s good, though. It’s very gratifying that someone likes what you’re selling.
Initially, there had been talk of more movies, but then this show came about. How did the conversation turn to TV?
CAMPBELL: Sam Raimi makes big power movies now. Does Evil Dead need to be $100 million? No. Would we do it for $500,000 again? No. So, where’s the happy medium? The happy medium is television. And if you find a good suitor, you can do it for years. With movies, you roll the dice. If people don’t show that weekend, you’re doomed. TV allows you to percolate a little bit, and it gives you a chance for people to find it. Starz is still young enough that I think they’ll give us the benefit of the doubt. They’re not an ancient machine that’s been rolling for 80 years. These guys are changing their business model and making it work for them. It’s exciting to be a part of their change. They have a good, eclectic mix of shows, and not just the same thing. It’s smart.
What was it like to get back on set, playing this character?
CAMPBELL: It was crazy. It was very bizarre. We had to recreate certain sets. It was just crazy to see the craftsmanship that was involved in recreating some of this world. If you’ve actually been in some of these locations, you know what it really looked like. They fact that they’d never been there, but were able to recreate it with such detail was really astounding. It’s really cool. It’s a great crew, down there in New Zealand.
Were there aspects of Ash that you didn’t want to include this time?
CAMPBELL: Now, it’s just about exploring him and expanding him. He’s gotta talk to people now. He can’t just hide in a cabin for an hour and a half, or in this case, half an hour. He has to interact. It’s been fun expanding what he sounds like, what he’s like, and whether he has a girlfriend. He’s a loser. He lies about how he lost his hand. He’ll go to bars when they’re closing to get what he can get. He’s a tragic character when we meet him.
Do you enjoy the pacing of a 30-minute show?
CAMPBELL: Yeah. You can cram so much in, if you don’t have to cut away to commercials. You don’t have the same structure. You can just barge through it. It allows us to do the pace that needs to be done to add the comedic elements. Comedy needs pace. You can’t just sit there. It’s gotta move. That’s why the movies have always been pretty short. They’re mid-80s and rarely get into 90 minutes. So, it’s a perfect fit. And Starz is the perfect fit because of the content. You want to be able to have all of the carnage and mayhem that you want to do, without restriction. People who like carnage are gonna love this show. There’s a lot of it.
People were initially worried that the TV show might not be as gory as the movies.
CAMPBELL: I actually think it might be bloodier. There’s a lot of blood. It’s unrated. We’re shooting unrated stuff. We have to cover some lines for other markets.
Do you personally enjoy doing the gore? Is that fun to shoot?
CAMPBELL: I don’t have a problem with it. It’s all based on the character. I don’t care about the genre so much. I’m good with horror, but I like other genres, too. This is a way to do two genres in one. It’s not just what I call dreary horror or torture porn horror. It’s a whole different kind. You have to have horror that is entertaining, where you can laugh. Most people don’t want you to laugh at horror. They just want you to just be disgusted and terrified. We also never wanted to do anything that you could see on the 6 o’clock news, like a guy with a machete scalping women. I would never be in that kind of movie. It just doesn’t interest me. I don’t want to see anything I could see on the news. You’re never going to see any of this on the 6 o’clock news. It’s too ridiculous, too over-the-top and too crazy, but that’s the beauty of it. You can watch it safely. Nothing is going to make you feel like it’s going to affect you for the rest of your life. It’s all about just being entertaining. It’s not about horror or comedy. It’s about whether you’re entertaining the audience. If not, how do you then do that?
What do you most enjoy about playing Ash?
CAMPBELL: How flawed he is. He’s a loser. It’s awesome! He’s not a Navy SEAL. He’s not FBI or CIA. He’s none of that traditional shit. We got a note from the studio about how Ash handles his shotgun and that it’s improper, and we were like, “Yeah, ‘cause he didn’t really know what he’s doing.” It’s difficult for a middle-aged guy to kick zombie ass, after getting out of bed in the morning. He’s got a bad back. He’s got arthritis.
Are you liking having sidekicks?
CAMPBELL: Now he’s got partners and can send them off on missions. They can divide and conquer. That’s better. I like sidekicks. It’s also smart to have a set of younger actors. People don’t always want to look at me. They want to look at other people. Dana DeLorenzo is great, and so are Ray Santiago and Jill Marie Jones. These are good-looking, young, talented actors. I think it’s great.
How do they come into his orbit?
CAMPBELL: Well, two of them are co-workers and one of them is investigating a crime that’s a horrible murder by Deadites. They think it’s a crime scene, and all roads lead back to Ash. So, the cop wants to get him, and Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless, wants to get him because she blames him for the murder of her family. There are chicks, left and right, that want to take him down. I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s something wrong about that.
Were there any really fun days on set?
CAMPBELL: Everyone wants to know about how fun these shows are, but these are not traditionally fun shows. We have a good time on set, but we’re not playing music between takes.
Any particularly memorable scenes?
CAMPBELL: I was blinded during a shot. I could not see, there was so much blood. My eyes were full of blood. My mouth has been full of blood. You have to stop and spit it out, and then continue. I had forgotten how much I hate that. It had been awhile.
Would you say there’s more blood now?
CAMPBELL: It’s at least as much. Certain sequences are epic. We’ve gotta give ‘em what they what. When we were raising money in Detroit, an old distributor told us, “I’m gonna give you guys a piece of advice. If it’s a horror movie, you’ve gotta keep the blood running down the screen. You’ve gotta have blood, if it’s a horror movie, and a lot of it.” We have a lot of blood. The cool thing is how we’ve come up with new ways to disperse the blood. If you don’t have any money and you want to make a horror movie, take a six-inch wide brush for house painting and dip that in a bucket of blood, and then just flick your wrist. You’ll get this great speckled splash of blood, and it will cost you nothing. It will cost you $6.50 to buy the paint brush. There are all kinds of new toys now. That’s the exciting part. We had to go old school last time, and now we’re a little more new school. And we don’t go digital crazy either. We’re very practical. We might just use digital to remove a tube. When you don’t know where the blood is going to come from, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know where it’s coming from or how much there will be, and that’s the fun part.
How did it feel to get back into the car?
CAMPBELL: It’s the same car from high school. Sam has had it in storage the whole time. It’s in every one of his movies. Watch Darkman and you’ll see that car. That’s Uncle Ben’s car in Spider-Man. In A Simple Plan, they’re planning the murder in this car. Sam’s mother drove us around in that car in high school. That’s the same car. I get in that car and the flood of memories is absurd, and not even just from the movies. My life is in that car. Sam has such an obsession with that car that I want to kill it. He has an unnatural obsession and I feel he needs to grow and move on from that. So, he doesn’t like me to be alone with the car. As long as I can destroy the car personality, with my bare hands and a sledge hammer, I’ll be happy.
Now that you’ve revisited Ash and lived in this world again, do you want to do more seasons?
CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah, I’m ready. We’re just getting started. Now, I’m feeling comfortable. It’s much clearer now. It had been awhile, so I had to get back in the saddle. Aside from the physical aspects of it, I had to get back in Ash’s mentality. He’s a great hero, though. At the end of the day, he comes through.
By the end of this season, will we see where another season could go?
CAMPBELL: There are through-lines that have not been filled out. We’ve gotta drag people from season to season. So, there is definitely some unfinished business at the end of the season. Plus, we have an ending that is a great ending for a first season. It will be so surprising.
Ash vs. Evil Dead airs on Saturday nights on Starz.