B-movie star and best-selling author Bruce Campbell is ready to kick some Ash as the eponymous hero of Starz’s new Evil Dead series. We caught up with Groovy Bruce on the set of Ash vs. Evil Dead in Auckland, New Zealand, where the actor with the killer chin talked about what’s wrong with today’s horror shows and why Standards & Practices can kiss his ass.
Lori Rackl for Rotten Tomatoes: It’s been a long time since we last saw Ash. What’s he been up to all these years?
Campbell: Jack s–t. Hiding from responsibility in Michigan, which is a good place to hide. He’s had some sex over the last 30 years — always meaningless. He’s been living what he thinks is a normal life, but it’s really kind of a depressing life. Now, he’s had greatness thrust upon him through the actions of his own misdeeds.
Rotten Tomatoes: Does it blow your mind that you’re here in New Zealand with your high school buddy (director Sam Raimi), making a TV show based on a film you shot in 1979?
Campbell: How could it not? It’s even weirder being directed by Sam again as that character. I’m as astounded as anyone that we’re here. It’s ridiculous. Just the fact that all the pieces came together … Rob [Tapert] had established a really good set-up here as a producer for years. Sam had become a big feature guy. I’d just finished seven years on Burn Notice, which at the time was the number-one show on cable. We were all busy, but it all came together.
Rotten Tomatoes: How much pressure did fans put on you for more Evil Dead?
Campbell: I get tormented at all these conventions I go to. I’ve been going to them since ’88, and even then they were saying, “Give us another one,” because we’d only done two at that point. We did Army of Darkness 24 years ago, which is a lifetime in and of itself. We did the Evil Dead remake two years ago. It was well received but people still weren’t fully satisfied. They’re like, “Thanks for trying to distract us. We want the real thing.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Is there an upside to doing this as a TV series instead of another movie?
Campbell: The characterization we have to do for Ash for 10 episodes is so much more than we’d do in one movie. I’ve only done six hours worth of this character. At the end of one season, there will be five new hours — almost as much as three movies. I’ll probably have more dialogue in this than I had in the Evil Dead movies combined.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Sam has been known to put his actors through the wringer, physically. At 57, you’re a little older than when you guys started. Is it tough to keep up?
Campbell: I’ll do more than the average actor, but I’m smart enough to know why stunt guys exist.
Rotten Tomatoes: You and Sam go way back as childhood friends growing up in suburban Detroit. Did you bond over a love of horror movies?
Campbell: Horror had nothing to do with it. All the early, amateur stuff we did in high school — the Super 8s — it was all comedy based on, like, The Three Stooges. All broad, slapstick comedy. Sam is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever see on camera. He just ended up behind the camera. Sam claims it was Rob who said, “If you’re going to make a movie, you’ve got to make a horror movie, something people will pay to see.” That’s why we threw down with horror. We weren’t even really interested in it.
Rotten Tomatoes: What’s the ratio of horror-to-comedy in Ash vs Evil Dead?
Campbell: It’s 70/30 in horror’s favor. You have to take the horror seriously but there’s gags aplenty. Most people, when they do horror it’s just grim. It’s The Walking Dead. No jokes allowed. That never really appealed to us. The first Evil Dead movie isn’t meant to be camp, although it’s hokey dialogue said by inexperienced actors, so you’re going to get unintentional laughs. And the movie has really extreme violence. Sometimes that will create giggles in and of itself. But the second one was co-written by Scott Spiegel, who’s the biggest fan of the The Three Stooges. That one took on the first hint of weirdness. And Army of Darkness is really just an adventure movie. It’s not even really horror.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did the network ask you to tone anything down for TV?
Campbell: We found a good home on Starz. We had multiple suitors for this — it’s a good, under-exploited property — but Starz is the only company we went to. Story-wise they’re involved, but in the execution of it they never go, “Golly, do we need to say the F word?” Or, “Should that character be smoking?” Standards & Practices, they can kiss my ass because it relates to freedom of expression. Creative freedom is everything in this business. Without it, you have nothing.
Rotten Tomatoes: Starz also has a reputation for quickly giving new shows a second season.
Campbell: From your lips to Starz’s ears.
Ash vs. Evil Dead, which was renewed for a second season on Wednesday, premieres this Saturday, Oct. 31, on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.