The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness star Bruce Campbell recently chatted about his return to the role of Ash for a new TV series coming to Starz titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. The 10 30-minute episode first season was given the official go back in November.
The show is expected for late 2015, with producers Sam Raimi (who will also direct the pilot) and Rob Tapert also involved, and picks up right where you might expect: with Ash living in a trailer park, still working some dead-end job. That’s when those rascally Deadites return, leading Ash on a road trip with two co-workers.
See what Campbell had to say about the series below.
Campbell’s interview was with Entertainment Weekly, who first asked him how Ash vs. Evil Dead came to find life:
“We realized if we made another movie, frankly, it would probably be too expensive. But in the format of a TV show, we could give people exactly what they wanted and expand the character and the story even more. Ash would probably have more dialogue in one season than in three movies. He’ll have to become a more fleshed-out character as well. And we never burned Evil Dead as a franchise out—it’s not like we did 13 of these movies. So we felt like, what the heck, let’s give it a try. Walking Dead is Walking Dead, but we were kind of first. And I would say it’s about as big of a counterpart to Walking Dead as you could program, because Walking Dead is unrelentingly grim and hugely popular. We’re going to give people a little of the old fashioned splatstick—horror and comedy. The fans have been really good to us over the years. This is an opportunity to do something with full street cred. [Fan reaction to last year’s Evil Dead remake] was all, ‘Yeah yeah, that was nice, fellas, but we still want the real deal.’ This is it. Sam’s back. I’m back. [Executive producer Rob Tapert’s] back. Love it or hate it, this will be the real deal.”
When asked how this latest version of Ash differs from the character in the previous movies—described by Campbell as “In the first Evil Dead, [Ash is] just this guy. In Evil Dead II, he’s a little wiser and a little more weary and a little more willing to fight these damn things. By Army of Darkness, he’s just this bragging ugly American.”—Campbell answered:
“He continues being a trash-talking know-it-all who doesn’t really know anything. He’s the ultimate anti-hero. He’s a guy with no appreciable skills. He’s not a former Navy SEAL, he’s not a former CIA or FBI. He’s no special anything. He’s just a guy from S-Mart, you know? And think that’s part of what people relate too. All these super hero movies—I rather relate to a garage mechanic who gets into a sticky situation. That’s what I look forward to playing—a guy with horrible flaws. In Army of Darkness he can’t memorize three words and he’s responsible for the deaths of a 100 people—this is your lead character!”
Campbell was then asked if there was anything specifically he felt needed to happen or not happen for the show to work, he responded:
“Mostly we had to get Sam. That was the bottom line. I wouldn’t take it seriously if they didn’t get Sam, and neither would the fans. So we’re on the right road. And any other incoming directors would be apprenticing under his style and method. Like Fargo the TV show—there are rules about how you shoot that show, about how it’s supposed to look. So in our case, once they learn the system, the Evil Dead way, we can really have a blast with it.”
And of just how involved Raimi might be after the pilot:
“We’re going to get him as much as we possibly can. He’s a director of gigantic Hollywood movies, so we’re pretty fortunate for him to bless this project, and get it started, and do the pilot, and let people know we’re back and up and running. And Sam really shines in post-production. He loves the editing room. So he’ll have his hands on this whether he’s physically there or not, and he will certainly get us going. We’re just as concerned as the fans [about making it right], it’s not like we don’t care. We’ll be all over this thing like a cheap suit.”
One thing fans will likely be very interested in is how much CGI will be used in Ash vs. Evil Dead. The original movies are known for their amazing over-the-top practical effects, and fans will want the CG work kept to a minimum for the series no doubt. Campbell was asked about this too:
“[CGI] still ain’t cheap, and it takes a long time to do. I have a hunch we’ll do what we’ve always done—a kind of combo platter, which is better for the audience anyway. Army had everything from front-screen projection to miniatures to stop-motion to guys in rubber suits. We mixed it all up so people won’t know what’s coming at them.”
Another interesting question asked was how much of Campbell is part of Ash, which Campbell answered and expanded upon with why he’s drawn to roles like this one:
“Ash is me on a bad day. Ash is me on a good day. Ash is me at my smartest and at my dumbest. You can’t just be one thing. You have to make horrible mistakes and sometimes learn from them. No actor can get completely away from themselves. You can hide behind wigs and silly voices and fake teeth, and there are actors who love to do movie after movie like that, but you can only escape so much. I’ve always been attracted to certain types of material. I always like material that’s a little snarky and has more of an edge to it. I like comedy; it’s good for the soul. I like horror because it makes you go through a cathartic experience. I like things that just aren’t boring. I’d rather play Bubba Ho-Tep—a 68-year-old Elvis with cancer on his penis in an East Texas nursing home. As an actor, you look at that part and go, ‘Nobody has ever played that before.’ So you can stake out your own territory. If you’re doing the same action shit over and over, then it’s ho-hum, baby. People are like, ‘Why don’t you want to be in The Expendables’ I’m like, ‘So I can have one line of dialogue every 10 minutes?’ ‘Duck! Get down! Now!’ That’s not my idea of a good time.”
And no, Bruce was not offered a role in The Expendables, as he was asked: “No. No one has asked. But fans are like, ‘You should be in The Expendables!’ I’m like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t.’”
Lastly, Campbell revealed that Starz was willing to meet some “creative parameters” in order for Ash vs. Evil Dead to move forward. When asked what those parameters were, Campbell said:
“I’m not going to tell you! But I’ll say this: 35 years later, we don’t want a lot of people bugging us about stuff. We know this series. We know the character. We’re experienced producers, Sam is an experienced director, I’m an experienced actor. Let us do our thing. And Starz has been really supportive in that respect and as a result we’re very happy.
The first Evil Dead, there was no director’s cut—there was only the director’s cut. Army of the Darkness was the only movie the got re-edited because it was a classic studio scenario. So we were very determined, if we’re going to go down this road again, that we’re going to be in the driver’s seat so we can give fans exactly what they want. Once you get too many chefs, it starts to taste different. We want it to taste exactly like the Evil Dead movies, and I think with the setup with Starz we can do exactly that. We also don’t have to cut to a stupid Dodge commercial. The writers don’t have to create a false cliffhangers [after every act break] because we’re not going to a commercial.
We get to be as creative as we want on the page as well. I was really was not sure this was ever going to happen. When Starz pulled the trigger I was like, ‘Hot damn! It actually happened!’ After all these years of all the baloney, of sequel/remake/re-imagining…it’s finally back. It’s not going to be the same Ash, but it will be the same Ash. That’s the bottom line. I don’t know what possessed us to ultimately do it other than we think we can bring something to the table. Because the last Army of Darkness—I’ve been married as long as it’s been since we did the last movie. We feel we now have 23 more years of experience to hopefully provide an entertaining half hour of outrageousness.”
Those are just some of the highlights of the Bruce Campbell interview. You can read much more of the chat over at EW.