Bruce Campbell is a true renaissance man. In addition to an epic acting career, Campbell is an accomplished director, producer, and writer. Campbell’s engaging presence graced both the big and small screens. An essential part of several universes with dedicated fan bases, including “The Evil Dead,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Bubba Ho-Tep,” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” Campbell emerged as the epitome of cult icon.
Campbell began his acting career collaborating with high school friend Sam Raimi. Among their first projects was a short film, “Within the Woods,” which later served as the basis of 1981’s “The Evil Dead,” the movie that propelled Campbell into stardom. Spanning three films, a remake, and several spin-offs including video games and comics, Bruce Campbell is back in familiar territory, starring in the forthcoming STARZ TV series “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” We had the great pleasure of chatting with Campbell in an Oct. 27, 2015 conference call.
The third entry in the “Evil Dead” trilogy, “Army of Darkness,” debuted in 1992. So how does the veteran actor feel about portraying Ash again after so long? “The answer is good,” he enlightened. “I mean it’s great to get back to this character. It’s probably the most fun character there is to play. Now we can use all of our experience…on this character again and flesh him out even more.”
Together, Campbell and Raimi deliver quite a bit of experience. They’ve collaborated on several films and shows, including the “Evil Dead” trilogy, “Jack of All Trades,” and Campbell even had cameos in Raimi’s “Spider-Man” series. According to Campbell, the 2013 version will not tie into “Ash vs. Evil Dead.” After portraying Ash for so long, Campbell is excited to witness Ash’s development. “…I’m actually looking forward to finally seeing how Ash is going to interact with other people now. He has to be a leader. So it’s a slightly different story in that the character has to evolve.” During the previous films, Ash was mainly isolated, or in Medieval times. Now he’s in present society, and in the suburbs. It’s an entirely different dynamic, throwing several new elements into the narrative.
Fans of the franchise will note that “Ash vs. Evil Dead” resumes with Ash back in modern day, whereas “Army of Darkness” left Ash trapped in ancient times. Campbell explained that it’s being skipped over in the canon for legal reasons. “It’s a whole complicated bunch of legal mambo jambo,” he conceded. “The three movies were made by three different companies,” he added. A common misconception among fans is that “Evil Dead 2” is a remake of the original film. On the contrary, the recap of “The Evil Dead” is related to copyright issues, where Raimi was unable to license clips from the first movie. Similarly, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” will not incorporate the plots from spin-offs, like the comics and video games.
The “Evil Dead” franchise remains unique among horror films for several reasons, notably its humor and special effects. While over 20 years have elapsed since “Army of Darkness,” effects won’t be completely CGI. “…we tried to keep the blood real. Digital blood is not effective.” However, Campbell isn’t fond of being doused in faux-blood. “[Filming ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’] reminded me of how much I hate fake blood. That hatred it runs deep. It runs really deep.” It’s unfortunate for Campbell, as the show generously pours on the blood.
Though “Ash vs. Evil Dead” arrives many years after the original “The Evil Dead” trilogy concluded, and in a different medium, the core of the franchise remains intact. The successful union between comedy and horror is a primary component. “I think we’re going to keep a pretty good balance. It’s a horror show where we do take the horror seriously,” Campbell explained. Yet slapstick plays an important role as well. Campbell clarified, “The comedy for me let’s everybody know that…this is ultimately entertainment. For me, it takes the creepiness out a little bit because it’s still over the top.”
The biggest difference in film and TV? For Campbell, it’s speed. “TV is a very efficient medium. You get in, you get out. You do it. And I love TV.” No stranger to television, Campbell’s small screen highlights include roles on “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Hercules the Legendary Journeys,” “Burn Notice,” and “Jack of All Trades.” “Ash vs. Evil Dead” isn’t only a reunion between Raimi and Campbell, but puts Lucy Lawless back on set with Campbell as well. “She’s a badass,” Campbell spoke of Lawless. “She’s a great actress with an incredible amount of versatility. She can do comedy which is great and she can kick ass.”
Bruce Campbell’s famous portrayal of Ash is well-versed in ass kicking himself, both on the giving and receiving ends. “[Ash] has no special skill. He is not trained. He was not part of any government agency.” It’s one of the more unique aspects of the “Evil Dead” universe. Ash is simply an ordinary hero, and that’s a large part of the fan appeal. However Ash’s humanity didn’t stop Campbell for wanting to take on horror supervillians Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. “It was mostly…a conversation with New Line about doing Ash versus Jason versus Freddy,” Campbell commented. “And I was interested because I wanted to kill them both,” he shared. However, Campbell and company weren’t afforded that much creative control over the proposed project: apparently nobody was getting killed.
Aside from starring in “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” the veteran actor is one of the three executive producers. No small task, it’s a challenge but also rewarding. “The challenge is it just takes up more of your life. But the benefits are you can control more of what your output is and try to make it something you’re happy about,” Campbell enlightened. Although it’s more of a time commitment, there’s added creative influence. A critical aspect of this role is working alongside Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi. “I have two great partners (Rob Tapert) and (Sam Raimi) and we never really hit an impasse because we have three people,” Campbell commented. “If anyone ever wants a partnership, go in with three people. You’ll never hit an impasse.” For both fans of the “Evil Dead” saga, and series newcomers, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” holds a ton of potential. While it’s a return to the series roots, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” also initiates a new era for the beloved franchise.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” debuts Oct. 31 2015 at 9 PM ET on STARZ. It’s already been renewed for a second season.