With the hotly anticipated television continuation of the Evil Dead film series “Ash vs. Evil Dead” in pre-production, we caught up exclusively this week with series executive producer and star Bruce Campbell, and fans can rejoice because the boomstick is back in a BIG way.
“We have a wonderful room of talented writers,” Campbell told us of the show, whose first episode will be directed by series originator Sam Raimi from a script he wrote with Ivan Raimi, Craig DiGregorio, and Tom Spezialy. Sam Raimi will also serve as series executive producer along with Rob Tapert and Campbell with DiGregorio to serve as executive producer/showrunner.
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With ten episodes ordered, Campbell told us that principal photography is slated for this April in New Zealand with a planned series debut on Starz and promised of his portrayal of the horror icon he helped to create (spoilers follow), “I’m bringing everything to the table. It’s a feisty version of Ash, who’s grizzled and just wants to be left alone.”
Having had a chance to read an early version of the pilot episode last year, I can concur. In it we are introduced to a nomadic Ash, a figure who’s not only haunted by traumatic memories but also terrorized by the unwelcome continuance of Deadite attacks, which have followed him to the myriad Midwestern trailer parks he’s been forced to call home. In an effort to eke out an existence and in keeping with his previous choice of career, the character spends his days working at Ted’s Superclub as a stock room trainee and, in true Ash fashion, his evenings chasing skirt in roadside bars.
It’s a pitch perfect blend of comedy and horror, and it’s Ash through and through, which is a good thing, given the vocal fan disappointment over Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead reboot, which chose to not feature the character. We asked Campbell if he felt the passionate fan response assisted in the return of his chainsaw arm-wearing, smart-ass antihero.
“People would just not let it go,” offered Campbell (who originated the role in 1981’s The Evil Dead and reprised it in 1987 in Evil Dead II and once again in 1992 in Army of Darkness) of Alvarez’s retool, which he produced. “They may have liked the film, but they wanted Ash [to be in it].”
Joining Campbell for “Ash vs. Evil Dead” are previously announced actors Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo, the former portraying Ash’s idealistic immigrant sidekick “Pablo Simon Bolivar” and the latter “Kelly Maxwell,” a moody wild child trying to outrun her past.
“I was there during the casting process, and they’re very talented,” said Campbell. “Aside from the ensemble [aspect], they each needed to be able to hold their own because they’ll have their own series of missions. It’s an epic tale. How could you not [plan for that]? I’m a strong proponent of the ‘big picture’ plan, and we are planning for five seasons.”
As for what we can expect, Campbell offered, “We are competitive with ‘The Walking Dead,’ like, ‘We’ll show those fuckers!’ [Our] Deadites are very clever. They not stupid shufflers. They can mimic people; they can drive cars. They’re a fun threat. They [‘The Walking Dead’] are right up there [though] with being responsible for the current resurgence [of horror].”
Reflecting on returning to the property with cohort Raimi thirty-four years following its initial release, the actor (who recently wrapped shooting the trivia series “Last Man Standing,” which he hosts for CONtv, and who also is re-releasing his self-authored books If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor and Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way in digital format) stated, “It’s the last laugh. We’ve come full circle. The first Evil Dead film allowed for the most artistic freedom on anything I’ve worked on. Starz is giving us the same opportunity with this series.”
As for his standing within the genre world (he’s beloved by film fans and convention-goers alike, a circuit he’s been historically quite active within),“A lot of actors do one [convention] and then never go back,” he stated. “I think they don’t like being stared at. For me, the conventions are my bread and butter. They put my kids through school. I thank the fans. I just learned early on that you should never stay in the hotel [where the convention is being held], or you’ll end up in the elevator with Darth Vader,” Campbell laughed.
Resuming sincerity, he finished, “It’s great, but we’re all just schmoes at the end of the day. If you forget that, you are doomed.”