The deadliest force Bruce Campbell faces in Ash vs Evil Dead may not be the Deadites after all — it may be Xena herself. Lucy Lawless plays a new character in the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series and she’s not too happy with Ash.
Lawless has her own history with Evil Dead in real life. Evil Dead creators Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert produced Xena: Warrior Princess (and she got married to Tapert). She also worked with them on Spartacus.
Over the summer, Rotten Tomatoes sat down to lunch with Lawless before Starz presented their Ash Vs Evil Dead panel to the Television Critics Association, and we couldn’t wait to find out how she’s going to give Ash more hell than he’s already been through!
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Were you ever interested in The Evil Dead before you married Rob Tapert?
Lucy Lawless: There was some talk about it for the last 10 years. Rob’s kind of the television guy so he would want to do it in the television format, but figuring out what that is and writing it, it’d be easy to mess this one up… Fans have very high expectations. You don’t want to let them down. I think it was just time now because Bruce was of the age where it was now funny to go back and find Ash exactly where we left him. Now he’s an aging Lothario and it’s hysterically funny.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do your fans have very high standards for what they see you in?
Lawless: My fans are very forgiving. I don’t get any negativity about not playing Xena, because every role cannot be a feminist icon. Sometimes you want to play the victim. Sometimes you want to play somebody who’s weak. They seem to stick with me throughout so I’m very grateful for that, but if you were to remake Xena, look out if you in some way don’t honor the original intent of the show, the friendship. You would have a lot of fan expectation. They feel a lot of ownership I think over it.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you appear in the first episode of Ash Vs. Evil Dead?
Lawless: I’m there but like Jaws, I’m a fin, I’m a shadow. I’m a music sting — dun dun dun dun dun dun duh — but I’m coming. I’m tracking him down.
Rotten Tomatoes: Tell us about her.
Lawless: My character is obsessive about getting to Ash Williams and putting him down like a dog, because he’s responsible for the Deadite plague. She holds him responsible for the death of her father, Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon back in the movies. So she lost her family. She’s looking for payback.
Rotten Tomatoes: Doesn’t that mean her sister was also there in the cabin with Ash in Evil Dead II?
Rotten Tomatoes: Is the Evil Dead style of action very different than anything you’ve ever done before?
Lawless: Every time I do a new show, I think, “Well, this is the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done.” On Salem, I was bleeding out young virgins over a bathtub and washing down my young protege in virgin’s blood to take away her burns so I’m thinking, “This is absolutely the most grotesque setup for a scene ever.” And then come on Ash Vs. Evil Dead and I have those moments every other day. It takes the cake in every direction.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get drenched in blood?
Lawless: I’m the one character so far who has managed to avoid that, but I do come in contact with a pretty horrible bonfire at some point.
Rotten Tomatoes: Sam Raimi likes to throw eyeballs in leading ladies’ mouths, so watch out.
Lawless: [Laughs] That says it all actually. The show is like throwing eyeballs in ladies’ mouths. It’s going to shock you. It’s really distasteful and we don’t apologize, and really, really funny.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get to be funny?
Lawless: No, the thing with the show is that nobody can occupy the same space as Ash. Bruce Campbell is a force of nature and a beloved, brilliant performer. You can’t have two Bruces in a show, so you’ve got to play it really straight. Everybody else plays it really straight and therefore it’s funny. You’ve got to be the straight man.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’ve done historical drama recently with Salem and Spartacus. Was it nice to get back to something modern day?
Lawless: Oh, I love modern clothes. I love modern clothes. I wear a lot of tight pants in this, to be honest. Thank God for spandex, that’s all I can tell you.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you see the Evil Dead movies in their time, before you married Rob?
Lawless: I didn’t see them in their time. I saw them when I was 17 and I stomped out after the first five minutes where the girl gets, shall we say, mutilated by the evil roots of the tree. I was so mortally offended that I got up and I stomped out saying, “These people are misogynists and sick and that movie’s awful.” Twelve years later, I was married to one of them. Trick of fate.
Rotten Tomatoes: Have you gone back and reconsidered the earlier movies?
Lawless: You know what, I haven’t but I should do that. I’ve seen Evil Dead II a number of times and this is more like that. It’s more like the later Evil Deads. It’s obviously that brilliant slapstick comedy and Bruce, to this day, will trip himself and fall just to make me laugh. I’m a great laugher. I’m not good at telling jokes but I’m a great laugher so I’m his best audience.
Rotten Tomatoes: Are you shooting out in the woods like the classic Evil Dead movies?
Lawless: Yes, lots of woods. You’re going to love it. You’re a real fan, aren’t you?
Rotten Tomatoes: Yeah, Evil Dead II was the first movie that really made me take notice of filmmaking and how you could do different things than traditional films. The way Sam uses the camera, like the eyeball cam. I actually saw II first.
Lawless: As you say, technically that was really innovative use of cameras. Sam really pioneered some stuff that everybody uses now.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is Ash Vs. Evil Dead bringing that back?
Lawless: Yeah, it’s horror and it’s comedy, but it’s not at the same time. This is not like Scary Movie because the horror has to be real. I think that’s very much a Sam thing. Also, his kooky sensibility like eyeballs into ladies’ mouths. Even the word “ladies” in that sentence is funny, right? There’s a certain uncanniness to the execution of the shows. The trick is how do you sustain this over 10 episodes? That’s why the half-hour format is really brilliant. It’s how young people watch now. You’ll record it all and then watch it in an orgy of craziness. This is going to play at your house on an endless loop for years, and in frat houses across the country, not that you live in a frat house.
Rotten Tomatoes: I never did, but now I hope you don’t think I’m really into violence. It’s the comedy of the Evil Dead movies I love.
Lawless: I’m not judging you, baby. Me too. The show is violent. I’ve not shied away from violence in my life because that’s some of the more intense parts of human nature and the human experience. We’re not making a bloody sitcom here. We are nasty, we are distasteful and very, very funny. If you don’t like these things, it’s best you stay away.
Episode two of Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Saturday on Starz at 9 p.m. Read season one reviews here.