24 years after the release of “Army of Darkness”, Ash Williams is back to fight the Deadites. With a new Starz series set to air this Halloween, Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Craig DiGregorio and Sam and Ivan Raimi came to San Diego Comic-Con to meet die-hard fans eager for the show’s premiere, as well as introduce a new generation to the adventures and misfortunes of their chainsaw-wielding protagonist. After meeting legions of fans in the convention center, the group met with an audience of press to discuss their revival of the beloved franchise.
Bruce Campbell (Ash Williams)
Blast Magazine: It has been 24 years since “Army of Darkness” was released. What is it like playing Ash again?
Bruce Campbell: It’s very exciting but really weird. Everything about it is weird from putting on the stumps to being covered in fake blood. I had forgotten how much I hated fake blood but this definitely made me remember. It’s winter in New Zealand and everything is cold. Trust me, cold blood sucks. A nice warm bath at the end of night is always really nice. Just add some bath salts in there and take me away.
Audience: What has it been like doing the stunts again?
Campbell: It’s hard, bad and painful. I use a lot of arnica to get rid of bruises and pains. I had to fight myself the other day and just when you think you’re done, you have to do the other side of the fight. It’s a big challenge.
Audience: Are you saying that evil Ash is back?
Campbell: You said that, not me. I didn’t say he was evil. I just said I fight myself. It might be in a mirror.
Audience: When did it hit you that you were playing such an iconic character?
Campbell: I’ve never felt that I’m iconic. That’s for the pundits to say. The “Evil Dead” movies didn’t have a meteoric rise. They were films that made very little noise in the beginning. The first “Evil Dead” couldn’t even get released in the states and it had to have a successful run overseas first. The movie was like a bank loan. How do you get a bank loan? You prove to the bank that you don’t need their money. It’s so absurd. In this case, we finally got a distribution deal when they realized we didn’t need them.
Audience: At the beginning of this series, where do we find Ash?
Campbell: He’s on a one-way trip to Loserville. He’s been hiding and doing nothing for 30 years. He has one bad night and everything comes back. I’m worried for the earth because Ash is the only guy who can save us and that’s what is so sad about this. You’re stuck with the guy. I think it’s funny and it kind of cracks me up that Ash is the hero because he is so not qualified.
Blast Magazine: You have come to Comic Con in the past for other projects. What is it like coming this year as Ash?
Campbell: It’s special because you’re here for the real deal now. I haven’t come to a Comic-Con for an “Evil Dead” movie. It’s great and the maximum potential because now people aren’t going to say that I’m the guy who was Ash. Now, I am Ash. It makes people really happy. They’re not looking in the past anymore. My past is my future. Therefore we are in the present. I don’t even know what that means.
Lucy Lawless (Ruby Knoby)
Blast Magazine: Your character Ruby wasn’t in the original films. What can you tell us about her?
Lucy Lawless: Ruby is the thorn in Ash’s side. She is gunning for him and she’s like Jaws. It’s a bit of a slow build but by the end of the season, you’ll know exactly what she’s about. Her name is Ruby Knoby like the holder of the book in the original films, Professor Knoby. She has a family history with Ash and a huge chip on her shoulder. She’s hunting Bruce down. I mean Ash. I can’t help it; they are just so similar.
Blast Magazine: What was your motivation to be a part of this project?
Lawless: I love these guys. My husband [Robert Tapert] dropped out of college with Bruce and Sam to make the “Evil Dead” movies, so it’s part of the family business. When you marry one of those guys, you marry them all. They quote each other and are very close. At a very formative time in their lives, they were intensely intertwined so it’s fun to be a part of the gang.
Blast Magazine: This is not your first time here. What has your Comic-Con experience been like this year?
Lawless: It’s been magnificent. When you come to Comic-Con and you have a show that you are proud and confident about, that’s quite different than coming with an unknown entity that you are hoping people like. Everybody already has anticipation for this project. Bruce is fully delighted to be here. This gives the hard-core fans everything they ever dreamed. I’ve seen the first three episodes and they are great. The horror is perfect and the humor is fantastic. It puts those genres together in a really beautiful way and it’s a new type of television.
Audience: People think of you as the original kick-ass woman because you were “Xena: The Warrior Princess” It’s more common today, but do women appreciate that and see you as a role model?
Lawless: There were a lot of women in history who kicked ass before me, like Joan of Arc. There was also Ripley and Wonder Woman. My character was more of a flawed hero and that’s what made her new. I get a lot of credit for that, but I’m really a link in the chain. Interestingly enough, African-American women were huge fans of the show as well as women in Turkey, Iran and the Philippines. I think it’s because the show wasn’t about American justice, but about universal themes of love, fidelity, fear and courage. People can relate to that story all over the world.
Audience: Ash is known for his chainsaw. Does Ruby have a signature weapon?
Lawless: She sure does. She has a very particular weapon that is a dagger of sorts. She has to be extremely careful because it has powers that can be problematic.
Craig DiGregorio (Executive Producer/Showrunner)
Blast Magazine: The “Evil Dead” franchise is known for mixing humor and horror. What is the balance of these two genres in this new series?
Craig DiGregorio: I’m not going to give you a percentage because I don’t think that’s fair. I can say that the horror is real and in those moments when it’s not a specific genre-type scene, we do lean on humor a lot more. Ash is such a great character and Bruce is so naturally funny. Even during the action and horror scenes, Bruce (and Ash) gives such a unique take on what a scene is. You can’t pull Ash out of any scene, so it is naturally going to be funny. There is really horror and action and they’ve really gone all out for this show.
Audience: How far out are the episodes planned? Is there an overarching idea of how far this series will go?
DiGregorio: I have ideas in my head for Season 2 and 3. If you looked at what we pitched for Season 1 and what it ended up being, it was pretty close. Some things shifted but the big ideas stayed, which was nice to see. I have a big idea for Season 2 that I think will work well, but I don’t want to box us into something. We can go into the writer’s room and get pitched a great idea and use that. I never want to be close-minded and I’m always open to the next great idea. The episodes are planned out lightly but not to the detriment of the show.
Audience: How much input do the actors get for their roles and do they improv many of their lines?
DiGregorio: There is a bit of improv from everyone. We always tell the actors that if they think that something would sound better a certain way, do it that way. Bruce knows his character better than anyone in the world and when he changes a line, it’s always for the better. Input from the actors is an evolving thing. This isn’t a static show, especially for the characters around Ash. They evolve as they go and the actors help us with that growth.
Audience: When were you first exposed to the “Evil Dead” franchise and what were your initial thoughts?
DiGregorio: I was really young and my dad was a huge fan of “Army of Darkness.” He showed me that one first and then I watched the other two films on my own. I was a huge fan of the franchise from the beginning and I love the idea of mixing genres. When I heard this was happening, I wanted to at least talk to these guys about how to do it. I guess I talked well enough.
Blast Magazine: Do you think it helped to be a fan of the films before being a part of this television series?
DiGregorio: It does help to be a fan but you also have to objective. I think I would be doing the franchise a disservice if I said that everything was perfect. There is a long process of talking ideas through. There are certain things that we can add now that I always wanted in the originals. Because of the transition from feature film to television, we do have to adjust certain things we do. In the end, we come to exactly what it should be.
Sam and Ivan Raimi (Head Writers/Executive Producers)
Blast Magazine: How did you balance creating something for die-hard fans who know everything about Ash and people who have never seen an “Evil Dead” film before?
Sam Raimi: It wasn’t difficult for us because Ash is so dumb and he doesn’t have anything in his life that is too complex for new viewers to understand. He’s basically fighting for his life again against the evil dead but he’s still the same blow-hard, ego-inflated and socially-challenged guy we started with. The show will start 30 years after “Army of Darkness” and Ash has been hiding out and living this basic life when he reawakens the evil dead again. He is called to service and has to battle with them. The show is definitely focused on moving forward and we aren’t exploring the missing 30 years in the first season.
Audience: When you approached Bruce with the idea of doing this show, what did he think about the stunt work he was going to have to do?
Sam: He didn’t pause for a minute. Bruce has always been really eager to do his own stunts and take all of the physical abuse. He never complained but I did see him putting on a lot more pads and limping around between takes. He told me he does a lot more stretching now.
Audience: What was the decision behind half-hour episodes over a full hour?
Ivan Raimi: In the beginning, we were wondering which way to go. Comedies are traditionally 30 minutes, while horror and drama are an hour. Our show falls right in between those two. We never like to give a lot of the backstory that often pads the later parts of episodes. We wanted to stick to the main story and the action and focus on Ash. We thought that 30 minutes allows us to be more fun and punchy and leaves the audience wanting more at the end of each episode.
Audience: What can you tell us about some of the new characters that we are going to see this season?
Sam: Ray Santiago plays a character named Pablo Simon Bolivar and he is an illegal immigrant from Honduras. He has been hiding out in the states and he meets Ash at the Value Mart where they both work. The authorities are hunting him down to kick him out of America while he works to save the world. He strives for the American dream yet the authorities want to get rid of him. He is going to become Ash’s conscience like Sancho Panza to Don Quixote, if you believe Ash is that noble. He is the only person who can see some tiny spark of nobility and goodness in Ash, although it’s deep down there.
Blast Magazine: Evil Dead was released in 1981. Why do you think that 34 years later, Ash is still such a beloved character?
Ivan: I think that people want to believe that they could be a hero, even though they are flawed. They may not be the smartest or bravest or most athletic, but they still think that they could be a hero in their own mind. I think that Ash is easy to identify with and deep down he usually chooses good over evil.
Sam: Unlike Peter Parker, who is a good kid and really smart but just kind of awkward, Ash’s intelligence is challenged and he’s really backward socially. He’s got a lot of real human flaws. It’s kind of like we tell the audience that there are four different monsters that want to destroy them and one human who will fight for them. Who do they want to identify with? Well, the human is an idiot and an egotist, but he’s all you’ve got. The audience is left in a horrible position, but for some reason, they like being stuck with him.