‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ finds more bloody fun each season

Bruce Campbell stars in the Starz series “Ash vs Evil Dead.” (Geoffrey Short)
Bruce Campbell stars in the Starz series “Ash vs Evil Dead.” (Geoffrey Short)

Bruce Campbell and other members of the cast of the Starz series “Ash vs Evil Dead” have gathered at the London Hotel to talk about the upcoming opener for the 10-part third season. Take a moment to think about that. This is a horror/humor story that started 40 years ago when director Sam Raimi made the short film “Within the Woods” for a whopping $1,600.

From that less-than-humble start, Raimi’s short film has spawned three feature films and the cable series. And it allowed Campbell the chance to play one of the best known characters in horror/fantasy in Ash Williams. Campbell argues the tales of Ash — the anti-hero with a chainsaw for a hand — was never a franchise, but is more a series of stories that blend horror and dark comedy that keeps entertaining the fans.

“The first one was so distant that we had original investors who are dead now,” Campbell says with that wicked Ash smile that lets his character get away with murderous acts while keeping a twinkle in his eye.

“That first film gave us everything. We learned the film business by making it and learned how to sell it around the world.

“It taught us how to make a movie, crudely. It taught me how to do something in front of the camera, crudely,” he says. “We did it all because there was no one else to do it.”

Campbell and Raimi (who is an executive producer on the Starz series) don’t have to do as much with “Ash vs Evil Dead.” They can concentrate on making the kind of program where the laughs flow as freely as the blood. In the third season opener, Ash is living a heroic moment in Elk Grove after destroying the Deadites. He faces an even bigger terror when he learns he has a long-lost daughter, Brandy Barr (Arielle Carver-O’Neill).

Carver-O’Neill calls being part of the series a form of craziness for which no actor can full prepare. She learned about the wild ride that is “Ash vs Evil Dead” through reading the first few scripts.

“One thing is certain. You never get bored,” Carver-O’Neill says. “I would have been disappointed if this character had been just a damsel in distress and nothing more. They have done a really good job of creating some depth to her where she on an incredible journey from being a pretty normal kid to being able to fight demons.

“She’s going through grief and trauma while trying to make sense of this whole new world. It’s a fight or flight thing with her, and she definitely fights.”

Also returning for season three are Lucy Lawless, Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo. Joining the group is Lindsay Farris, who plays the leader of an ancient order called the Knights of Sumeria, who seek Ash to lead their fight against the Dark Ones.

No one has gone through more physical abuse than Santiago as Pablo, the right-hand man to Ash. It’s hard to top being sliced in two along the belt line, but that was only a start for what happens to Pablo in season three.

Santiago is often amazed at what the script writers have them do.

“We have a great team of writers,” Santiago says. He pauses, smiles and then adds in a tone that is somewhere between dead serious and completely a joke that he had an abusive childhood so now he’s having an abusive adult life.

“I get a lot of abuse, but I think it is evenly spread around the other cast members. I made a promise to Sam Raimi that I would do whatever I had to make sure the show was as good as it can be,” he says. “So, I have taken the abuse. This season we have some newbies on the show who will be abused and that eliminated me from some of it.”

There might be a slight decrease, but if the early episodes are any indication, Santiago’s character is in for a world of hurt in the third season. Even when he’s not being abused, he will become an abuser, especially in a unique way this season with Dana DeLorenzo’s tough-as-hell character of Kelly Maxwell. Let’s just say she gets a skin condition from Pablo no dermatologist would touch.

DeLorenzo echoes Santiago’s feelings about how there seems to be no limits in the scripts when it comes to battling demons, whether the weapon be a chainsaw or a quick retort.

“I am stunned and at the same time I’m not because we have such passionate, talent people on all fronts of the show,” DeLorenzo says. “Every year, I think people believe I am just doing a tease of ‘expect the unexpected’ but every year I know that we will do something bigger.

“In what world do you ever think you could top a fight with a colon? But, that’s what makes this franchise so magnificent. You would think that something with such a long history would not age well. But this keeps aging well and continues to grow. We under-promise and over-deliver every time.”

The new and old cast members get to keep working on a production that is as sharp and entertaining as it was four decades ago. Campbell’s theory on why Ash keeps on going is a simple one.

“Ash is us. He’s you. He’s me. He’s nobody special,” Campbell says. “So when you watch this schlub of a guy eating a Subway tuna sandwich, you think ‘You stupid son of a (expletive), I could have done that.’ He’s the guy you are stuck with.

“Ash has no special skills. He is not a Navy SEAL. Ash has no appreciable skills. I think that’s why people like him so much.”

"Ash vs Evil Dead" airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on Starz.

 

 

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