“Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” celebrates its 30th anniversary today. JOIN US as we have a candid, roundtable discussion with Ash vs Evil Dead star, Bruce Campbell.
*This interview took place during New York Comic Con in October of 2016.
Last year at New York Comic Con, Universal Monsters Universe was invited to attend as press. With press and media credentials comes great perks, and maybe even a little responsibility. I was invited to sit in on the round table discussions for Starz’ popular series, Ash vs Evil Dead. We’ve presented interviews on Universal Monsters Universe before, but round tables are always a little extra special. Why? Well, it’s pretty much like speed dating for media pundits, geek journalists, and just geeks. It’s actually a whole lot like speed dating, except there’s always a general pay off and that’s getting to sit next to and talk to one of your icons.
I’ve been a fan of Bruce Campbell since before I even knew who Bruce Campbell was. But let’s face it, we all know who Bruce “The Chin” Campbell is. Interestingly, I started out as a fan of Campbell since back during his days on FOX’s Hercules and Xena. However, as I grew up and sometime after learning “How To Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way” and that “Chins Could Kill,” I saw Evil Dead. And then I saw Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (and hey, today’s the 30th anniversary. Groovy!) And Army of Darkness.
The Evil Dead films are some of the most important horror/comedy films in the history of horror/comedy. And, in the 90’s when video chains were still a thing, there could never be a time when you would walk down the horror aisle and not see the covers of Sam Raimi’s awesome contribution to the world of cabins in the woods, demons, NSFW tree scenes, and chainsaws. Case in point, the first time I watched the Evil Dead films were with my dad, in my room, with my cat. It. was. awesome!
So, fast forward to October 2016, and getting the chance to sit right next to Bruce Campbell was a big deal. It was one of the highlights of my NYCC 2016 experience and a definite stand out among the three I’ve attended as press. For those that don’t really know how Bruce Campbell is, he’s just as fast paced, sharp, and witty as you’d expect him to be. If he doesn’t like a question being asked, he’ll skip over it, and you’ll probably respect him for it (even if it was your own question.) Yet, he’s one of the coolest people to talk to and he’s very fun to be around.
I’ve been sitting on this Bruce Campbell interview for a while and you may even remember I had teased it on the UMU Facebook page back in October. Here it is… I hope you find it as groovy as I did.
Bruce Campbell: (looking at name card) This is my name, spelled correctly. Who’s Den of Geek? Is that me?
I have a question…
BC: I have no opening statement.
The first season of Ash vs Evil Dead was partially based on some concepts of what was originally going to be Evil Dead 4.
BC: Very loosely. Very little of that survived.
Okay, gotcha. So I was curious, at this point, at the end of season one, have we seen whatever those concepts were?
BC: Not necessarily. You’re overthinking it. Those are random ideas that have been assembled by Sam [Raimi]. Once they got morphed into doing a t.v. show, very little of that survived because an entire premise of another Evil Dead movie has nothing to do with starting a t.v. show or finding our hero 30 years later. A whole different ball game so not much would be similar just because of the needs of each particular format.
Having gone through this with Sam [Raimi] over the years, what sort of advice, survival training, whatever, did you give to your new, young co-stars?
BC: Just get ready. Get ready for this to be the most difficult job of your life, but potentially the most rewarding. And you may also be stigmatized for the rest of your life, too, because it’s part of it. The sort of good news and bad news of being an actor – the good news is they like what you do, the bad news is that’s the only thing they like.
I’m aware that improv is such a big part of the series…
BC: It is only when we need it. That’s not the intent. The intent is to show up and do the work that’s on the page, but if the work that’s on the page falls flat, it’s our responsibility to do what we can to assist it. Some episodes there isn’t much ad-libbing at all. And others there’s a shit ton.
How many ideas have you been able to bring to the character of Ash?
BC: I don’t keep track. A lot. Lots. Every word out of my mouth is a word that I’ve approved. I don’t say any word that I don’t approve. So any word that Ash says has been approved by me.
Is it crazy for 30 years later to still be playing Ash?
BC: More than that. The first Evil Dead was 1979. So I’ve been doing that 37 years later. Weird, but good. I’m really enjoying the character. It’s the bets character I’ve ever played and now we’re fleshing him out past the two-dimensional, smarmy talking, guy. Now he has to be a hero, he has to interact, and be a leader, he has to be compassionate, he has to care, and they have to work as a team now. He has to work with other people. He has to talk. Ash has dialogue. Lots of it. He’s a chatty Cathy now. He never used to be that talkative. I like it.
He actually had a lot of growth in the first season.
BC: There’s more now. We never saw his hometown. We never saw him after school. Now you could go Joseph Campbell. You could do an epic story. Ash is foretold in an ancient book. He’s not just some schlub in a motor home. The guy’s got something else going on. We need to find out what that it.
How do you feel about the reception the show has received?
BC: Good. We’re very happy, yeah, we’re delighted. We’re relieved. All of the above. People could have gone, ‘hey, nice try.’
I think we were all ‘wow’ when “Ash vs Evil Dead” was announced.
BC: Yeah, we’re actually doing it. It took a hell of a long time. It took a little too long, but we’re playing into it. Ash wears a man girdle now. He has dentures, he dyes his hair. You know, we’re milking it now. He was the wrong guy for the job 25 years ago and now he’s really thee wrong guy for the job. And that, to me, as an actor? I’m interested. I want to play that character.
Was it a hard decision to come back to play Ash?
BC: No, it’s just hard to pull it off. It’s hard to actually go through and do it. I’m very glad when the five months are over in the year. Now I could go promote it for five months.
How much fun was it to have Lee Majors on set?
BC: Lee [Major] is awesome. You never know that until you meet the guy. He could have been an asshole. Happens all the time. Lee’s an old school, he’s a gentleman. Never leaves the set, really. Just finds a little corner and sits down. You’re like ‘Lee, the trailer’s right over there’ ‘No, I’m good.’ You know, the first three shows of his, he slept on the backlot. He had an apartment. They worked him so many hours. ‘Well, I guess I’ll go to bed now.’ And he’d get up and then go right back to work. Like damn! So that guy has done his time. You have to have respect for that.
There’s been such a boom of horror on television in the past years. Since you’ve been so involved in cult horror for decades now, why do you think t.v. is the next platform…
BC: This is just a genre that caught on. It’ll die down like every other genre. But horror has always been one of the four or five main genres that will never go away. But, you know, westerns pop up every so often. Everybody does a western and then they die down and people go ‘Fuck those westerns.’ And then they won’t make anymore for ten years. Then Kevin Costner will go make a western or Clint Eastwood will make a western. So genres pop up and they get hot and then die down. Thankfully because of The Walking Dead, they’ve helped bring horror mainstream. Evil Dead was banned in six countries. Germany just unbanned it after all these years. From like ’83… are you fucking kidding me? So horror has come out of the shadows. You don’t whisper ‘I did a couple of horror movies.’ As an actor, you put it right on your resume now. ‘Fuck you.’ This is valid as any other genre and it is. It’s just a genre. It’s not better or worse than any other genre. But it’s one of the few genres that could get an audience viscerally engaged. Comedies are the only other genre.
As a character, as a person, what are your hopes for the character of Ash?
BC: He has to be a hero and he has to be a villain, at the same time. He has to be both. Not a villain, but he’s a very, very flawed hero. He’s one of the most flawed heroes on television. I wouldn’t have it any other way. He swears, he drinks, he smokes marijuana. In season two, he smokes angel dust. I mean the guy is a piece of work. I love every minute of it because, look, I’ve done the hero thing. The Adventures of Brisco County Junior – helping Billy get the medicine, kiss the girl, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. He has no bad habits whatsoever. I’ve played that guy, that guy is fun to play… for a while. I’d way more like to play a guy that’s got some serious issues.
BC: Sam Axe, same thing. He had his own characteristics.
BC: Thank you. I’m taking my card and I’m going.
*Steven Biscotti and Universal Monsters Universe would like to thank Beth Rinehart of Starz for coordinating the interviews for ‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ and Bruce Campbell for speaking with us.
“Ash vs Evil Dead” will return for season 3.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)