Evil Dead fans weren’t sure if writer/director Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell would ever do anything else with the franchise after Army of Darkness in 1992. There was always talk, but this resulted in a mildly successful remake in 2013 and scattered news bits about a possible fourth entry to the original series. These ultimately came to nothing, because Raimi, Campbell and the original players still involved decided to make Ash vs. Evil Dead for television instead.
Since its premiere on Halloween 2015, the series has succeeded in satisfying old fans and rounding up new ones for the continuing adventures of Ashley “Ash” J. Williams. This pleases Campbell, who’s been attached to the character and the property for almost 35 years. In a sense, Campbell is Ash, which led to a sometimes testy, but always enjoyable conversation with Uproxx about the Evil Dead films, the show’s popularity and everyone’s plans for the second season.
What made you decide to come back to Ash and this world after 23 years?
We kept being pressured by fans to do something, so we tried and did a remake a few years ago. It was pretty well received and made some money, but it fell under the category of “close, but no cigar.” Fans were very vocal about it and said, “Yeah, that’s fine, but we want Ash and we want Sam.” So, we kept toying with making another movie. Sam makes these giant movies now, so was there really going to be a $200 million Evil Dead? I don’t think it would have fit. Rob Tapert’s done a lot of TV. I’ve done a lot of TV. So, we brought it to Sam like that. Like, “What if we did this as a TV show?” People can get way more page count than they’d ever had before from a TV show.
I loved that the pilot felt like another Evil Dead movie, but then it kept going as the series progressed.
Yeah, that’s right. Between three movies, you only get four and half hours of material. After one season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, you get five fresh hours. It’s the best we can do and the most output anyone could ever expect.
Precisely, but aside from length, Ash vs. Evil Dead pairs Ash with other people. It’s something we’ve never really seen before, and it’s refreshing.
Of course. Ash has to deal with other people now. He has to have full adult discussions with people about having to do stuff.
He’s not really good at it.
Oh no. He’s not wired that way. You know, that can be a bumpy ride, too, and that’s part of the fun.
Other than what we’ve seen, did you create a backstory to fill in the gaps for Ash?
He’s been doing jack shit! There was no backstory. There’s no backstory to do. He hasn’t been doing anything. He’s been hiding. He’s been PTSD-ing.
That’s a good point…
No, no, no. Don’t ever fall into the trap of overthinking Ash. Shoot first, think never.
True, but as Raimi has pointed out, Ash isn’t that much of a hero.
Yeah, but he’s the hero that you have. You fight with the army that you have. That’s the army that we have. At least Ash has the balls to try something. He’s not a pussy.
At the same time, does he really grow as a character? He seems to be.
Well, it’s television. There’s time for a long curve. You don’t want to march these things out too quickly. You let characters grow, you let them evolve. Our characters are going to go through everything, obviously.
You’ve got a great supporting cast, especially Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago.
They’re dual sidekicks. This first season was probably tougher on them than it was on me. They were going to have to deal with it no matter what they thought. We just made sure to pick actors we thought could bring it, both physically and mentally. That they could do humor, horror and that they were also very patient and willing to be covered with blood. There’s a lot of physical discomfort. So, they passed the test wonderfully, and people have accepted those two. Jill Marie Jones, as well, and the great Lucy Lawless. She’ll be playing a more defined role coming up.
At the beginning, people were always asking what we were doing with Ruby since she wasn’t around all that much. That’s because we had to work her in because she wasn’t available for the first half of the season. She was working on Salem. So, we sort of shoehorned her into it; that’s how bad we wanted her. Now that she’s available, we can do her proper.
Good to know Lawless will be featured more in the second season. What’s it been like working with her again?
She’ll be all over the second season, and I’m really looking forward to it since she’ll be much more involved. We had to ease her in this season. Lucy’s one of the top five people I’ve ever worked with. She’s stunning, she’s beautiful and, on top of that, she’s incredibly professional. No matter what she’s thinking in her brain, even if she wants to kill somebody, she’ll never say it. She’s just a great ambassador. She keeps me calm, because I get crabbier a lot easier than she does. So, she’s very good at diffusing my impatience and things like that. She’s just great. Believe me, the second I knew we were going to New Zealand, I told Rob Tapert, “You better tell your wife over dinner that she’s going to be in this show.” It wasn’t that easy because she’s a very sought-after actress.
I hadn’t seen the films in a while, so I forgot how gory they were. The show, too.
That it is, sir. That it is.
Did the crew take joy in throwing all that at you guys?
Oh yeah. There’s a lot of joy in Mudville.
Not tired of it?
Well, I should be clear. I’ve never liked blood. So, it’s not like, now that I’m old and crabby, I don’t like it. I never liked it when I was 21. What’s to like about having a can of Alpo dog food thrown in your face? What’s to like about that? You do it because it’s the effect, and it’s part of the story. It’s also part of the fun — the gross-out factor is always kind of fun. But do I like it? No, because once fake blood gets on you, it gets on everything. In very subtle ways.
You pick up a glass and you take a sip. It’s always going to be on that glass now. You touch a piece of paper, it’s always going to be on that piece of paper. You open the door, it’s going to be on that door handle. So, like an old lady, I have to put plastic covering all over the inside of my trailer. When I eat lunch, I put a napkin on me to keep me off the food, not the food off of me. It’s a whole different turn of events.
Was this a tactic you’d learned before?
Oh yeah, I learned that on Evil Dead II. You have to wear a napkin to keep yourself off the food.
Did you warn the new cast, or did you let them figure it out for themselves?
There are some things I was willing to tell them, and other things they just needed to find out for themselves. Ash is the mentor, but Bruce the actor is the tormentor. I have no sympathy for any other actors.
Not to spoil anything for our readers, but after watching the finale, I was a little disappointed in Ash.
Well, that’s Ash! Did you think he would… What did you think he would do? It would be silly to think otherwise.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, but I still felt surprised.
It was an appropriate Ash decision.
Check out the season finale of Ash vs. Evil Dead on Saturday, Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Starz. Until then, here’s a preview...