Bruce Campbell is a certified nerd god, thanks to his iconic work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead and Army of Darkness movies. Much to the delight of fans, the actor (who wonderfully has no filter) is finally reprising the role after over a decade of false starts in the STARZ original series Ash vs Evil Dead, which reunites him with director Sam Raimi. In a career highlight, I got to speak with Bruce during a recent conference call with journalists. You can check out the highlights below just in time for the show’s Halloween debut.
On if it’s good to be playing Ash again, and if Sam Raimi is still torturing him on set:
Bruce Campbell: The answer is good and yes. I mean 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 flesh him out even more. And, yes, Sam is just as cruel as he always is.
It reminded me of how much I hate fake blood. That hatred, it runs deep, it runs really deep. 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.
On if this series is connected to the 2013 Evil Dead film, where he appeared in a cameo:
Bruce Campbell: 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 connection whatsoever.
On whether Army of Darkness is part of the show’s continuity, since it isn’t referenced in the first episode:
Bruce Campbell: Correct in that it’s not material that we can do legally, so we’re not going to do it. It’s a whole complicated bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that’s not even worth going into. The three movies were made by three different companies. So that should tell you to 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.
On whether the Evil Dead Playstation games were considered canon, since he’d previously stated that fact:
Bruce Campbell: 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 it? 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’ve gotta 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 re-issues. 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.
On what he’s looking forward to doing with Ash on the show:
Bruce Campbell: Well, you know, 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, you know, I had a week that went by without any dialogue. Like shooting, Evil Dead 2 got trapped in the cabin. So it’s Ash getting out in the wild, you know, getting into suburbia. So that’s the fun thing to do, is interact with other people.
On why STARZ was the right place for Ash vs Evil Dead:
Bruce Campbell: 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 of out there that could give us that criteria and that did it. That sealed the deal right there.
And, you know, these guys are growing as a company. I like being part of companies that are growing and expanding rather than shrinking and contracting. And they’re willing to stay on the cutting edge. And they want to do shows that people not only like, but they like a lot. And 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.
On whether he is a fan of H.P. Lovecraft like Sam Raimi, who took inspiration from his works for Evil Dead:
Bruce Campbell: No, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about Lovecraft. I read lots of Spider-man comics. I read a comic called Sad Sack. It was a silly, farmy comedy comic. So that was me. I didn’t really get into that. You know, we didn’t get into horror until we decided to make our first feature film, because horror was the only type of genre that you could make cheap movies and no one cared.
Like, you couldn’t make a cheap drama. That would be too low-budget. Drama’s had to have good photography and well-known actors and stuff. And horror films, you could still make drive-in movies back in those days. So that’s what we did. And horror, I appreciate now is one of the few genres that can wind the audience up and make them pay attention. I kind of like that. It’s one of the few genres that can be very manipulative there.
On whether the appeal of Ash is that he’s just a regular guy that works a crappy job:
Bruce Campbell: 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 over-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.
On advancement of special effects for Ash vs Evil Dead:
Bruce Campbell: Well, we tried to keep the blood real. Digital blood is not effective. We had that in a couple of cases in this pilot. You know, we’re not a big proponent of digitals. So 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.
On what modern-day trends in horror he hopes to avoid in the show:
Bruce Campbell: Torture Porn, 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 Porn. 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.
On whether they had to work hard to re-capture the look and tone of the original for the series:
Bruce Campbell: We don’t. What we do is, we do whatever entertains us on the set, and that’s really the bottom line. The tone meetings I think come after [Sam] leaves the directors and talks about it. But [Sam] and I never talk about films. He’s the one that’s like, you know, if you put the star of your show in a man girdle before the title sequence of the show. That takes balls for a director – a writer or director – to create that or do that with his character so, I challenge other directors. I’m like, “I bet you can’t be as daring as [Sam] as far as messing with the character and really showing their flaws – their naked flaws.”
On being reunited with Lucy Lawless:
Bruce Campbell: 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 she wasn’t available right away during this first season. Her husband is [co-executive producer] Rob Tapert, my partner, and I said, “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.
On whether he would like to write or direct an episode of the series:
Bruce Campbell: No, this is really Sam’s baby and I’m sort of in the Burn Notice territory as a director, also, which gives me a great position with the stars, 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.
On getting to share blood splatter moments with his co-stars Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo:
Bruce Campbell: I like it because now I only get a third of it. Now, they get part of it. Spread the love, man. Spread the blood around. And it was great to see them all being initiated. That was a wonderful experience, to see the true horror and shock on their faces when they see that stuff.
They just nail them. Right in your face. The reactions on each face. You could tell [Ray’s] expression was totally pissed. And it’s great because it works perfectly for the scene. Because when they first get hit with the blood, none of us have to act, because we’re all like, “Oh my God,” because you act just like you would.
On whether fan expectations have changed so many years later:
Bruce Campbell: No, I don’t think the fan’s expectations have changed from the basics. We will always give them the basics, 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.
This time out, rather than being confined in a cabin like in Evil Dead, Ash is out in the free world. Will the Deadite action this season be more on a global scale?
Bruce Campbell: Well, I don’t think it’s one of these situations where it’s like World War Z or something like that. No, I think this is something more like local, regional at least for right now. But it’s definitely a threat and it’s definitely coming from one area. It’s definitely near where Ash is.
On the other projects, included Ash vs Freddy vs Jason, that were pitched over the years before getting to make Ash vs Evil Dead:
Bruce Campbell: Look, the good news here is none of us are tormented about doing some bastardized version of the show or the movie. This is going to be as true to form as possible with the whole approach.
It was mostly the one conversation with New Line about doing Ash vs Jason vs 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.
On why they opted to not do the standard 60-minute length for the episodes:
Bruce Campbell: Because then it would be boring, and not what we wanted, and not a comedy. A half hour is the only format that gives us the pace that we need and the tone that we need, and I think it’s perfect for a modern audience. I don’t know if we need a ponderant Ash. We need a quick-witted fast-moving Ash.
On whether we’ll see Ash fight any new kinds of demons or monsters:
Bruce Campbell: 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.
Ash vs Evil Dead debuts Halloween night and airs on Saturdays thereafter, exclusively on STARZ.