STARZ television series “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” is off to a critically-acclaimed start. The new for 2015 show, which continues the epic “Evil Dead” franchise, already has a season two in the works. Featuring original series headliner Bruce Campbell reprising his role as Ash, there’s a brilliant cast of new characters. Ray Santiago portrays Pablo, Ash’s co-worker and loyal companion. We had the great pleasure of chatting with Santiago about “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” his love of the horror genre, and playing Pablo.
Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” emerged in 1981, and rapidly blossomed into a cult classic. So what’s it like stepping into a beloved universe? “Pablo is the heart and Kelly is the brain, and Ash is the muscle,” Santiago explained of the starring trio. “And together we sort of become these three dysfunctional people, this ultimate monster fighting squad.” Much of the way his character gels so naturally with the rest of the cast is through remembering what defines Pablo: a big heart. “He’s a really good person,” Santiago stated of Pablo. “And towards the last stages of my auditioning process, Sam and I were alone in a room before I went in to and meet some of the network. And he said, ‘We just want to make sure that we see that…we just want to make sure that throughout the entire series we see Pablo’s heart because he is the eyes of the audience in a lot of ways.’”
Pablo’s genuine personality makes for a unique dynamic between him and the bumbling Ash. “On the surface…[“Ash vs. Evil Dead”] seems simple. It’s horror. It’s comedy. But it was the fine balancing of what tone you’re working with. And that coupled with Pablo being blind and aware of certain things.” Pablo idolizes Ash, and often overlooks Ash’s faults. Yet while Pablo is “…always giving Ash a…get out of jail free card,” Ash offers acceptance and support.
In keeping with the spirit of the original “Evil Dead” trilogy, there are loads of fake blood on set. Santiago recalled, “When I met with Sam in that last initial meeting, he said ‘Are you ready to be doing these stunts and long hours and going to New Zealand and being covered in blood?’ I said, ‘Sam I want to be covered in as much blood as possible.’” Raimi wholly delivered. Ironically, fellow cast member Bruce Campbell despises fake blood. According to Santiago, having faux-blood applied isn’t so terrible. “It feels like a bunch of Chihuahuas are licking you when they’re putting this blood on you,” he elucidated. “Because it’s basically like a bunch of different make-up artists put a bucket of cold [on you] with their paintbrushes,” Santiago continued.
It’s fitting that Santiago now headlines in “Ash vs. Evil Dead” considering his life-long love of horror. He was first introduced to “Evil Dead,” and “Evil Dead 2” as a teenager when he and a few friends watched them on Halloween. However, it wasn’t until filming in New Zealand that Santiago viewed the third entry in the trilogy, “Army of Darkness.” Santiago’s favorite flicks in the horror genre include “Halloween,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Planet Terror,” and “Buffy.” “‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is one of my favorite franchises, and one of my favorite movies. I love how the balance of comedy would buddy the balance of horror and comedy with Freddy.” Although “Halloween,” is another one of Santiago’s favorite series, antagonist Michael Myers creeped him out. “I was really scared of Michael Myers as a kid but I couldn’t stop watching. And I loved it.”
Despite a fondness of horror, Santiago never predicted his foray into the genre. “When I started acting, I didn’t think that that’s where I’d end up. But I mean as a kid, I was really into the genre.”
With each new experience comes more learning. The veteran Campbell’s best advice which Santiago took to heart was “to always hit your mark and to use the shorter ad lib. I didn’t even think about it.” Santiago further enlightened, “I haven’t had a large indie film background. And we went from shooting probably in 22 days. They’re shooting episodes in five days. So everything was moving really fast.” Overwhelmingly positive fan and critic feedback only confirms that Santiago is doing everything right. At just 31 years of age, Santiago has already collaborated with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, and now Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. He’s even been dubbed the next Al Pacino by Paper Magazine.
New episodes of “Ash vs. Evil Dead” air Saturdays at 9 P.M. on STARZ.