Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) may be the greatest survivor in horror history. Nobody else, except for maybe Jamie Lee Curtis, has survived three movies in a franchise, and not even she got a Halloween TV series. Entering season 3 of Ash vs Evil Dead, Campbell says they may have finally found Ash’s breaking point.
Chopping up all of his demonically possessed friends in the woods didn’t break him. Traveling back to medieval times to fight more “Deadites” didn’t do it. Returning to Elk Grove, and the 1980s, didn’t do it. So what could season 3 have in store that Ash hasn’t faced yet?
Bruce Campbell spoke with Rotten Tomatoes by phone while he was on a book tour for his second autobiography, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor. Campbell teased Ash’s breakdown and eight other things about the new season and the Evil Dead franchise as a whole.
Army of Darkness let Ash go medieval on an army of Deadites. The Bard comes a little later in history, but Campbell says Ash will feel the burden of a Hamlet or Macbeth.
“Wait ‘til you see season 3, man,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be Shakespearean this year.”
To chainsaw or not to chainsaw. That is the question.
“Ash is finally going to be pushed over the edge which is really fun to do,” Campbell continued. “He’s going to become unhinged. It’s pretty edgy. It’s pretty out there. Ash is going to become unhinged essentially.”
Since Ash became a hero of Elk Grove, he stuck around to capitalize on it. What other kind of store could Ash Williams open but a hardware store? You’ll see his commercial for Ashy Slashy’s Hardware in the season premiere.
“The fun there was to imitate every sh–y commercial you’ve ever seen,” Campbell said. “We’ve all seen ‘em. ‘Or your mattress is freeeeeee.’ Every local town has ‘em, so we figured Ash would fall right into the same trap, try and capitalize on his fame in the cheapest way possible.”
The Williams family keeps growing. Ash’s dad (Lee Majors) is promised a return, even though he splattered in season 2. In season 3, Ash meets his long-lost daughter, Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill), and — wouldn’t you know it? — she takes after Dad.
“She does in many ways, and I love the fact that Ash doesn’t like it when she swears,” Williams said. “He’s becoming the paternal figure. He will be against his better nature. He’s got to rise to the occasion. What’s fun is to see a guy who is so over all this, he has to not only save the world, but raise an unruly daughter at the same time. I love that dynamic.”
Honestly, it’s surprising that this is Ash’s first offspring. If he’d hung around the Middle Ages another nine months, he might’ve found out about more.
“I would expect that he might have some lineage back then, yeah,” Campbell speculated.
It’s been some 35 years of Ash chainsawing demons. At a certain point, he’s got to face the facts. It’s not just a coincidence he keeps reading from the Necronomicon.
“It all comes to a head at the end of the season where we start to pay off some of the mythology,” Campbell said. “Who is Ash? Why is he foretold in an ancient book? It was time to get into that. The myth combined with sh– getting weirder and bigger and worse, it’s one big pressure cooker of a season.”
With new cast members joining the fight, there isn’t quite so much pressure on Campbell to do all the gore and action. You’ll see him in an epic Deadite battle using all the instruments of a high school music room in the season premiere, but then his costars share the load.
“My daughter this year get probably more blood than I do,” Campbell said. “Dana [DeLorenzo] and Ray [Santiago], who I call The Kids, they get hammered this year too. Everyone gets it. I might be slightly blood-lighter this year. We’ll see. I’m not sure what the stats are. There’s plenty of blood to go around, no question about it.”
But it’s all integral to the plot, of course.
“Yeah, we don’t play the ‘can you top this’ game,” Campbell said. “We don’t shy away from gore but we don’t chase it too much either. Overall, there’s more focus on the big story this season but plenty of sh– happens in between and plenty of twisted stuff on top of that, I might add.”
“Ash is an idiot,” Campbell said. So he admits that and embraces Ash’s most bonehead moves. But the important thing is that Ash remains the good guy. He’ll always be our man with the chainsaw.
“If you don’t give a sh– about your lead character, you’re doomed,” Williams said. “There has to be enough qualities about him that you go ‘OK, I’ll root for the guy.’ He is a good guy. That’s what sets him apart in the horror world. There are very few good guys in horror franchises. As flawed as he is, he’s still a good guy you can root for.”
Season 2 had Ash return to the cabin in the woods in the ’80s. This was after he returned to Elk Grove to answer for the town’s suspicions when he returned alone from the camping trip in Evil Dead 2. Williams suggested the audience not concern themselves too much with the chronology of events. That’s not what’s important here.
“Look, timelines are all screwed up anyway, so none of that really matters,” Campbell said. “It was fun just to explore his hometown, go into his room, meet his girlfriend, meet his family. That to me was the fun part. Just going to Elk Grove was awesome.”
It did answer a question everyone had to be wondering though: What would regular people think of his missing friends and this crazy story about demons and time travel?
“That’s right,” Campbell said. “What would be his myth? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Misunderstood or heroic?”
The Evil Dead served its purpose. It launched director Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert, and Campbell’s careers. But they’ve all moved on. The original The Evil Dead was more of a straight horror movie, but they’re not nostalgic for that. They’re happy with the transition to comedy in the sequels and TV series.
“Nah, to me the first Evil Dead was just kind of failed melodrama,” Campbell said. “Very earnest, clunky dialogue said by earnest, inexperienced actors. That’s what that was. No, I don’t need to go back to that. I actually like the tone that we’ve hit with Ash vs Evil Dead, which is basically 50/50: 50 percent humor, 50 percent horror.”
The Evil Dead movies were locked in a trilogy for decades. There was a remake that could’ve started a new film series, but it’s been Ash vs Evil Dead that brought back hope for a new Ash movie.
Campbell says keep waiting. By the end of season 3, this story line will beg to continue with another season.
“Well, at the end of season 3, we’re free to go anywhere because it’s going to be a game changer,” Campbell said. “Yes, we’re willing to take these leaps. We’ve just taken a leap.”
Nothing is guaranteed on television, but Campbell is pushing for a fourth season with all his might.
“Well, we’ll be lucky to get a fourth season,” Campbell said. “We teed it up huge. Now we just want to see if Starz/Lionsgate wants to pull the trigger. This is the TV game. It’s a rough game, so we’re waiting to hear about a fourth season. One crisis at a time.”
Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 premieres on Sunday, February 25 on Starz.