Evil Dead is back. Starz is digging up the original Evil Dead franchise (along with the creators and star) and giving the horror comedy its own series. But how will this work? Where is Ash? What happened to the Deadites? We got all your questions answered.
Executive producer Robert Tapert and Evil Dead superstar and executive producer Bruce Campbell joined additional executive producer Sam Raimi (who is also writing and directing the pilot) for an hour-long conference call that we attended. The trio was asked absolutely everything you could ever want to know about their new series Ash Vs. The Evil Dead. Seriously, they discussed everything — even a possible Jack of All Trades reunion. They also spilled a lot of the Deadite beans on the plot, new characters and overall feel for this new television series.
What can we expect from this series tonally? Would it be more in line with sort of the comedic elements of Army of Darkness or is it sort of more hard-line horror? Or a mix of both?
Sam Raimi: It’s a mix of both. We have elements of the Evil Dead films, which have always — like you say — have very hard edged, intense horror designed to really frighten the audience. And no holds barred there. Starz has really taken the reins off of us and allowed us to go to town and thrill the audience, chill them, and scare the heck out of them.
But also, as you mentioned, there is a comedic element that is alive in this, and it’s the thing we found the audience has always liked the most about the Evil Dead movies. More and more, we seem to realize the thing that made them different was Bruce Campbell. And more and more we brought him to the forefront of the pictures.
First, he was just the guy that happened to star in the movie because he was the last survivor — and our best friend and the only actor I ever worked with. But then we started to realize, gee, the audience really likes this guy and he’s the thing that actually makes it special.
And by the second one, it all became about him. And finally we delved into Bruce’s natural strength of — he’s got a lot of strengths, but — comedy is one of his real inner strengths as a performer. And I think the third one, Army of Darkness, really tried to capitalize on that. And the character that he had been creating over the first two, we tried to all take it a step further — my brother Ivan, Bruce, Robin, myself. Ivan was the co-writer of that one, Army of Darkness.
And this third one, I think what we tried to do was go back to the horror of the first and second Evil Dead, but with the character of Ash that Bruce had created, over the second and third Evil Dead. So that’s really a combination of something we haven’t quite seen before.
So continuing on that, will this series live in the same universe as Army of Darkness and Evil Dead? Like will we be seeing S-Mart and other locations familiar?
Rob Tapert: The answer to that question is it doesn’t really exist in the exact same universe. It’s a slightly altered universe. It takes place somewhere in an alternate universe after Evil Dead 2. That might seem like a confusing answer, but that’s the — I don’t want to spoil too much for the audience, but that’s the truest answer I can give you.
Will we be seeing similar locations? Can you answer that or no?
Rob Tapert: Similar, yes. We would be seeing similar locations, meaning it lives in a modern-day world with Ash battling evil in this era, the modern day.
So is it discounting Army of Darkness then? Like does not exist in this world? Is that sort of what you’re saying?
Rob Tapert: The Army of Darkness, does it exist? Well certainly Ash went through that experience, but we’re not really referencing it in terms of we’re not referencing specifics from that but he certainly has that in his memory.
Well I know in previous interviews, you guys have said that Ash will be a little bit different than he was in terms of where you left him in the films. In terms of that, are we also going to see maybe different, maybe updated designs of Deadites or are they still going to sort of carry that sort of pulp sort of reference from the designs from the film?
Rob Tapert: So we’re — we certainly will play to what we once did with Deadites, even through the remake, but we’re trying to expand the universe so the story telling over the first ten episodes, we will encounter Deadites, which are very different than other forces of evil out there. And then we will take the audience — we’ll expose the audience to new entities that were not yet presented in the Evil Dead universe so that the audience is surprised.
Bruce Campbell: I would add that because you’re doing a TV show now and not a feature film, you actually have to structure everything differently. You have to structure the storytelling differently, and you have to create a much larger world, because the demands of the audience are much — it’s every week you’re now entertaining them. So you can’t have a — you have to have a multiplicity of stories and angles and tangents. So it’s going to be — I’d say — a much bigger story.
My question is specifically about Ash and his head space. How is he still sane? Why is not just a total basket case at this point in his life?
Bruce Campbell: What makes you think he’s not? He is a basket case. We’re going to find, you know, Ash is potentially damaged goods and God forbid, this is our hero — which is what really appeals to me personally as an actor. You know, you have a lead guy who in Army of Darkness was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people because he couldn’t remember three words.
This is a guy who has to save the entire world. So I’m excited to see what will happen.
Rob Tapert: Yes, he’s no finer or nobler or saner of a character than when we last saw him. In fact, if anything I think he’s digressed. He’s certainly aged quite a bit. And his courage hasn’t been whipped up to a frenzy, let’s put it that way. He’s kind of sunk into some of his lowest — all of our lowest instincts and that’s where we find him. And it’s from that low point that I think our hero will have to be born. That’s the start of our show.
The world that we’re in, has it been continually beset by the Deadites between the ‘80s and now? Or has Ash just been licking his wounds the whole time and this is like an unpleasant blast from the past from him?
Sam Raimi: That’s it. He’s been — the Deadites have been fairly dormant over the last 20 to 30 years. And Ash has been kind of living a low life hiding out. And our story really begins when they come back and someone is needed to stand up against them.
Bruce Campbell: Greatness is forced upon him.
Is it his fault they come back?
Sam Raimi: Of course.
Ash has been notoriously unlucky in love. Will the series find him meeting the special someone? Is that something might be coming our way?
Sam Raimi: I think you’re right — but I think those girls that he’s been in love with have been slightly more unlucky than him. Bruce, what do you think about your love stories?
Bruce Campbell: Well, Ash is, you know, there is a bit of arrested development there, so he’s going to have some struggles. Because there are bigger issues. We’re talking life and death. So if there’s some romantic aspects, I would be very careful going out on a date with Ash, personally, because people who get close to him usually wind up dead.
Because it’s a television audience, is that something that’s going to — you automatically want to throw in there, I guess.
Bruce Campbell: Well, I don’t know that we automatically do anything. We want to make sure it’s part of the inherent story. But because it’s a TV concept now and a much bigger world, then you bet he’s going to run into a number of characters over the multiple seasons that this will play out.
So yes, that will sort of an evolving thing too, but that’ll be a fun aspect to bring in, that - and Ash doesn’t always have a lot of time for that, you know? There’s usually creatures breaking down his door or trying to tear his head off. So you know, I think that’s an aspect that we’re going to look into and also have fun with.
Sam Raimi: Bruce, give him some sugar, baby.
Bruce Campbell: I will give some sugar. There’s going to be some sugar to give.
In earlier interviews, it kind of hinted that there may or may not be time travel, and it wasn’t really answered. So I was wondering if that’s still the case, if you know any more about that.
Sam Raimi: Well right now, the first season it seems like it takes place in the here and now. And with Ash 30 years later — what he’s become and what he again has to face. But it’s certainly an element of the Necronomicon that some of the passages not only call forth demons, but portals in time and space. Perhaps by the end of this season — because we haven’t really discussed episodes nine and ten too much — or the second season, if the story took us there, we know it’s part of the Evil Dead universe and always a possibility.
But right now, it’s not in the work that we’re doing.
We’ve gotten some hints about what the story’s about, but I’m wondering if it’s going to be one big story, as in you have to watch every episode to get what’s going on, or can you kind of drop in in the middle of the season and catch and episode and not worry about having seen the other episodes?
Rob Tapert: You know, it is a serialized storytelling, since it’s on premium cable, so there’s an overarching plot. But each episode is still a self-contained story. The characters themselves are on a bigger journey, and therefore those who turn in every week will be rewarded, but the casual viewer can come in and out and kind of get what’s going on.
Sam Raimi: I really appreciate that Starz let us keep this half hour idea. That’s what makes it really cool to me is that we can really fire on all cylinders and really be outrageous and fast-paced and non-stop without a lot of secondary character exposition that sometimes you find in these hour shows. They have to pad them out.
But Starz took this unusual approach of ours, embraced it, and they’ve been nothing but supportive.
Does this show kind of cancel out any hope for the fans of the Evil Dead remake that there might be a sequel to that?
Sam Raimi: I love the Evil Dead remake. I think (Freddy Alvarez) did a brilliant job with Rob producing and I mean, Bruce also helping. And also with his partner (unintelligible) to write it. But I love that movie and I hope there will be a sequel.
But we wanted to make - after we had made his movie, as much as the fans loved it, they also seemed to want to see Bruce again in this series. So we thought this is our time. If we’re ever going to do it, we have to satisfy that crowd. Now is a good time. And television seems like an interesting format to take it forward in.
So we just chose to make Bruce’s story right now. I hope we can get (Freddy) back to continue the new Evil Dead series once we’ve reestablished Bruce’s story.
Among horror fans, Ash is pretty much loved by all. I mean, even non-horror fans have told me how much they love Ash and the Evil Dead movies. So what do you think it is about that particular character that draws people in? Besides his striking good looks. And also Bruce, how does it feel to revisit your character, Ash?
Bruce Campbell: You know what? Ash has no special skills. He’s not a former Navy Seal. He’s not FBI. He’s not CIA. He’s not trained by anybody. So he is the average viewer. And so I think in this particular case, Ash has stood the test of time. I’m not going to take any credit for it. It just I think the way the character’s been set up, the way that Sam has written it is that he’s a relatable hero. And I think in entertainment, there has to be an aspect of that, particularly in television. You got to get them coming back for more every week and you’ve got to be able to relate to that character.
And hopefully the audience will root for Ash, laugh at him, be completely frustrated by his inabilities sometimes, and - but he’s the guy that you’re stuck with. You want to be not in the actual foxhole with him, but you want to be in the next foxhole because he’s the guy that you want in a crunch time, but, you know, it’s going to be hit or miss.
And to me, that’s the joy of the character, that, you know, a lot of these heroes in movies, they’re too flawless and it drives me insane. And so this was like hell yes, I get to play this guy again.
And then, to work with Sam and look, we’ve all been through a lot of experiences over the last 30 years, Rob and Sam and myself producing and acting and directing and all these different things. We can now bring our experience to the concept that got us into the business. And that to me is one of the most exciting prospects is you know, when I did Evil Dead, the thing that I’m arguably the most known for, I was the least experienced in my life. So the irony is everybody knows the movie where I was the shittiest version of myself as an actor.
So 30 years later, I’ve learned a few tricks. Sam’s learned a few tricks. Rob’s learned a few tricks. And now we get to apply that toward this. And to me, that’s really one of the most exciting parts about it, is to now get back in there as an adult actor and make this character hum.
How does it feel to be able to have this huge sandbox to expand the Evil Dead universe and expand on the character of Ash?
Rob Tapert: I’m just going to jump into start this, and then I’m going to hand it over to Sam. One of the reasons that it was fun to bring this to television, which is more of a character-based thing, as the series and our interests shifted from how can we entertain the audience? We realized we want to spend more time with the character of Ash, and TV is the medium that allows us to go and now do basically a season of Evil Dead which covers more ground than the three movies did in total combined time.
So it really has, by going into television to tell this story and on a premium cable network, where there’s really kind of no holds barred, it allowed us to really spend time with the character Ash, spend time doing great horror, and have the unique tone that the Evil Dead movies had and with a partner that we know will be supportive in Starz. Sam, you want to add to that?
Sam Raimi: I forgot the question after that long-winded answer. Sorry.
Bruce Campbell: It’s about the sandbox, Sam, the sandbox.
Sam Raimi: The sandbox.
Bruce Campbell: The big sandbox.
Sam Raimi: How do we like the bigger sandbox? I love the opportunity to work with Bruce and Rob. I love that. And just like Bruce says, we all learned a lot. We’ve all been friends through these 30 years and now we can reapply our skills, as Bruce says, to the original project that we brought to the screen. So that’s the best part.
The bigger sandbox is actually the worrisome part. How will these new writers, how will the new actors, new technicians, new directors and producers continue to tell the story? It’s hard to let go of complete control of something that’s so close to us. So the bigger sandbox part is the part that scares me, actually. But I will say I’ve had great collaborators in my brother Ivan, a writer, and our new show runner Craig DiGregorio, who’s done a great job, his right hand man, (Rob Wright), another great writer. And there’s a whole bunch of — I won’t name them all but — writers in the room, they really seem to be fans of Bruce and they love horror. And they seem to be the right mix for the show.
But it’s that bigger sandbox part that’s the scariest part for me when something you’ve held so close to you, like your child, sending him off to kindergarten. It feels like that a little bit. You trust in them a little bit with other great creators, other great writers, great directors, but still you have to trust your child a little bit with another and as a mother it can be disconcerting, just because of the unknown.
You mentioned mentioned that you had started kind of right after the sequel, or you knew that you wanted to do something and do a TV show with Bruce. What was the actual starting point for the story? Did you already have a bunch of stories in mind or did you guys collaborate? How did the idea for the story and the starting point come from?
Sam Raimi: Well Ivan, my brother, and myself kept hearing — when I would be on promotion for any other movie — the reporters who I’d be speaking with would feign interest in that picture that I was working on. And then they’d say to me, “But when’s the next Evil Dead coming out?”
And I tried to ignore that for the longest time, because I really wanted to make different types of pictures and, you know, try and grow as a director and a writer. And - but I kept hearing that again and again. And so I said to my brother Ivan, “We probably should start working on an Evil Dead story. It seems like there’s really - people want to see that.”
So we tried to write some different stories, and we tried a number of times with a lot of different ideas — from futuristic versions that follow an ending that’s only on some of the Army of Darkness, to picking up where Evil Dead One left off, to all sorts of outrageous possibilities — never really being satisfied. Tried to keep putting it away.
But even when I was finishing up on my Spiderman promotions, or even other horror movies, people still came back and said, “When is the next Evil Dead?” So I finally said, “Ivan, we’ve got to write this thing.” And when I presented some ideas to Rob and Bruce, it was a little too expensive and it didn’t seem to make sense to the feature, because it was never even a big crowd for the Evil Dead films, just a very small but fanatical, you know, devoted, loyal fans — which I really appreciate.
But there was never a big enough crowd to merit a Hollywood-sized movie. And some of the ideas we had were that. So Rob I think suggested maybe, you know, Rob has a tremendous amount of experience as a successful producer now. And he said how about as a TV show? And we thought yes, the best part of what we’ve got is really Ash anyways. And although we had not ever written a television show, really - actually that’s not true. We had written on television shows, but I never thought about Evil Dead as a TV show.
We thought yes, Bruce is actually a TV star. Rob’s a great TV producer. We can learn how to work in TV, Ivan and I, and it’s all about the character of Ash and supposedly, we’ve heard often that the strength of television is of character, and that’s the strength of our show. So it kind of evolved in that way.
Bruce Campbell: And I would add to this, that I go to conventions a lot. And I’m driven insane by the fans at conventions. I’ve heard it. I’ve been doing conventions since 1988 and I hear it every convention I go to, same as Sam. We were tortured for years and so guess what? Now they’re going to get it. They’re going to get hours of this guy.
So, you know, and though like Sam I’m very happy with the Evil Dead remake, but - and we did it because of the clamor. People, they wouldn’t stop, so we’re like well let’s give them something. And while that movie was very successful, there was still sort of a grumbling, a low level grumbling of yes, well it ain’t the real thing.
So now, thankfully, this all came together so we can give them the real thing over and over, because people are never satisfied. So we’re never going to stop giving it to them.
Wondering right now, we’re seeing a lot of really terrific makeup effects on television, and television is pushing a lot of boundaries with those effects and the gore. Kind of in the tradition of the Evil Dead films, I’m wondering will the show - does the TV show allow you the space to have a lot of great effects on it?
Rob Tapert: Yes, we absolutely want to continue the Evil Dead tradition. We’re working with a great makeup effects artist down in New Zealand called (Roger Murray). We worked with him on various things over the years, and, you know, that’s one of the expectations from the franchise — of makeup effects, gore effects. So absolutely we plan to have those and to continue on with what the audience expects from the franchise in yet a new and different way.
Bruce Campbell: I’ll add to that also. This is not going to be a watered down version of Evil Dead. The very first Evil Dead has no rating. The second Evil Dead has no rating. Only Army of Darkness was the only one that was ever rated. So thankfully, by partnering with Starz, the gloves are off and we have no restrictions — almost literally. And that’s going to suit the Evil Dead fan because they don’t like it watered down. They want the hardcore stuff and they’re going to get it.
You’ve talked a lot about how you’re expanding the world of Evil Dead with the show. Can you talk about the new characters that are going to be populating in this world with Ash?
Sam Raimi: Ash is going to make friends and enemies in the show, and we’re going to be introducing them. I’m wondering how much I should say about the characters that won’t give away stuff.
Rob Tapert: I think you can talk through who’s in it.
Sam Raimi: Okay will you go through our cast and tell them a little bit about them for me, Robbie?
Rob Tapert: Well the cast - so Ash on this incarnation has a team that forms around him. Pablo, a young immigrant who wants to be part of the American fabric and forget his roots, and through his encounters with Ash and the Evil Dead, rediscovers what really is important to him. He’s played by Ray Santiago.
Bruce Campbell: That’s Pablo Simon Bolivar.
Rob Tapert: Another character in this is Dana DeLorenzo, who plays the character of Kelly. She is a wonderful comedian and actress. She had her own — well she’s part of a radio show that played for years that was very successful as another character, another name.
Sam Raimi: Kelly Maxwell.
Rob Tapert: Kelly Maxwell, and she is I’m going to say Pablo’s love interest. She at first doesn’t believe in Ash and wants nothing to do with him but eventually becomes part of the team as the go about realizing that there is something greater at play in a series of Evil Dead-like attacks.
They are joined by Jill Marie Jones, who plays the part of Amanda Fisher, a police officer who sees something that she doesn’t believe and it causes her great problems in her profession. And she is on the trail to hunt down Ash because she believes that he is responsible for this series of bodies.
Bruce Campbell: She’s a Michigan State Police Detective.
Rob Tapert: As a Michigan State Police Detective. And eventually she teams up with Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless, who is — she knows something about the Evil Dead and she also is on the hunt for Ash. And so kind of that is the core team over the first season. And there’s many other side characters who come and go, but that’s the core team for the first season.
Bruce Campbell: And I have to say, I’m excited for all off these actors. Ray and Dana have experience. They’ve been around. But this is a - they’re still young, enthusiastic actors. And it’s really great to have that going in. And the great Lucy Lawless, who I worked with back in the Xena days and, you know, I’ve acted with her and directed her and you know, when she came onboard, that was such an added plus because we know what we’re getting with her, which is something great usually.
Sam Raimi: Yes, she’s always been a brilliant actress. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her just on one day on the original Spiderman picture. I mean as a director. And I loved it. And I’m really looking forward to introducing her in this pilot episode. I can’t wait to work with her in finally a substantial role.
You kind of hinted at this a little bit. I’m kind of wondering, assuming the season goes really well — which of course it will — is there a possibility, have you guys talked about bringing Ash back to the big screen? I know you mentioned that, you know, it was maybe a more core fan base, but is that a possibility if the season really blows up?
Bruce Campbell: It’s a possibility no matter what happens, because I think we always want to keep that ability in the back of our minds to tell a story on the big old screen. So nothing will preclude anything, regardless of what happens. We made the movies over, you know, a 12 year period and the last one was 24 years ago. But I think in the back of our minds, we always want that ability to do that.
Is this just a smokescreen to get the Jack of All Trades crew back together?
Bruce Campbell: Well I’m sure Rob can expand on this, but I will say that coming back down to New Zealand — the last time I was here was for Jack of All Trades 15 years ago. So the crews were excellent then and they’re even more experienced now because of both, you know, Rob producing Spartacus and all of the Peter Jackson movies. There’s a really talented group of people down here now.
And, you know, the nice thing is walking into the production office — there’s about a half a dozen faces that go all the way back. And so, you know, Rob you can explain it if you want, but I can say that Rob has put a tremendous team together down here that they’ve worked together for years and that really helps the cohesion. You don’t have to spell everything out with somebody. You know how each other works and you know their strengths and weaknesses.
And so when I heard it was going to be in New Zealand, that was really — people were like well, geez what’s that like going to New Zealand? It’s a pleasure coming to New Zealand. It’s a very civilized place and the crews are excellent.
Sam Raimi: And I’d like to say, Auckland is a great first class city. It’s a little jewel, an unknown jewel, and New Zealand is this beautiful raft floating in the Pacific. It’s gorgeous here and — not that we get out that much, but — the crews are Hollywood first rate. And the stages we’re working on are beautiful and there’s great artistic talent down here. So I’m thrilled to have a chance to work in this country finally. To direct here is great.
[On] the technology of chainsaws. It’s probably come a long way since you originally strapped on the chainsaw. Are you guys - is there any new prop that you’re working with?
Sam Raimi: Bruce has stored his rig these last 30 years just in case — in case this TV show ever came up. And you know, he’s been living in fear of a resurgence of the Evil Dead, of the Deadites and so that old, rusted hulk of his, that’s the one thing he’s kept oiled up and in tip top shape just in case. So I think we will see that sweet baby come back — come roaring to life and slicing and dicing on the Deadites.
Bruce Campbell: And I think as far as the sound of the chainsaw goes, it’s important that we don’t use a digital sound, that we use an analog — something that was recorded on reel-to-reel tape for that chainsaw, because it has to have a bite and an edge, and only analog can give you that. Digital’s very clean and wonderful, but it doesn’t have the gnarly sound. So I hope we can get a 1970 nine recording of that. Maybe we’ll steal it from the original movie because that...
Sam Raimi: I got it, Bruce. I got it on reel-to-reel.
Bruce Campbell: Excellent.
With the Evil Dead soundtracks, they’re pretty iconic. With the new Ash vs Evil Dead, will we get to see a brand new soundtrack and if so, would we see any familiar faces like Joseph LoDuca return to make it?
Rob Tapert: Yes, Joe LoDuca will be doing the soundtrack on this. We’re also working with something we really haven’t done on the Evil Dead. We’re working with some older classic rock music from the 70s and early 80s because of course Ash became stunted due to the developments in his life at that time and has never gone past those moments. So...
Sam Raimi: We’ll also be working with some older generation talent in post-production, like the older gentleman Bob Murawski is going to be editing this pilot episode. And he cut the original Army of Darkness. So a lot...
Bruce Campbell: And I believe Bob has since won an Academy Award for Hurt Locker.
Sam Raimi: So yes, the answer is we will be doing that and we will be taking old sound, old music and rebending it and shaping it in a new fashion. But yes, it’ll definitely...
Rob Tapert: And old timers like Bob Murawski.
We were just talking about the mini Xena reunion. Can you give us any more details on Ruby’s character?
Sam Raimi: She’s a woman of mystery and we don’t want to reveal too much about her real agenda or why she so desperately wants to track Ash down. But she’s had an unpleasant experience that I think Ash was involved with, we’re going to learn about. But I don’t want to spoil what the writers have in store for you right now — except to say she’s completely justified in her actions.
And she’s going to become a formidable person to have on Ash’s tail.
You keep mentioning multiple seasons of this, and I certainly hope that’s the case. But kind of two parts — first off, how many seasons have you mapped out? And secondly, you’re all busy with so many different projects. Is this the kind of show that if Bruce or Ash kind of left the show and if each of you kind of decided to step back a little bit in your duties, could you see this show continuing on and perhaps the torch being passed to someone else creatively and on camera? And I’d like to hear from all of you on this.
Bruce Campbell: I’m not going anywhere. This is a show I’m going to devote basically every ounce of my aging energy into. And you know, this is something that you don’t take lightly. This was a long road to get here, starting back in 1979. So this isn’t something that - now creatively, if they decide that Ash is no longer needed, then I’ll happily step aside.
But I have — this isn’t a hobby for me.
Rob Tapert: And I’ll second that. Bruce has made some — without giving any spoilers — supreme sacrifices in order to (unintelligible) the character of Ash, and we are very appreciative of those sacrifices that he’s made. And I have to - and he will - it would be a joyless process that the mantle would be passed to anybody else. And I just don’t see that as a possible outcome in this.
Sam Raimi: I feel the same way. I think we’re really doing this to work together again as a team. I mean, it’s hard to say if one of us dropped out what would happen, but it’s not what we’re into it for. We really love the project and working together and watching Bruce on screen bring his magic to the screen and we really like the Evil Dead stories and that’s why we’re here — to stick with it and try and entertain the audience.