Bruce Campbell claims himself as a “ acteur series B ”, but his prolific career, not only as an actor but also as a producer, has taken him through many Hollywood developments. Recently, he announced that the end of the series Ash vs. Evil Dead also marked the end of his involvement in the franchise, at least as an actor. We were able to ask him a few questions about the series, its cancellation, but also about the current television world.
Hello Bruce ! To begin, can you tell me what role you played in Ash’s return to télévision ? Have you been involved from the beginning of projet ?
Yes. As executive producer, I was there from the beginning. In fact, my friend Rob Tapert, one of our partners with Sam Raimi, also works in television, he worked on Spartacus, and I had just finished Burn Notice in the United States.
We convinced Sam to bring back Evil Dead not as a movie, but as a TV series. We tried to convince him to tell this story in a more layered way.
Starz – The full casting
You have known the Raimi brothers since your adolescence. You have worked a lot with them. What does this special relationship bring to such a projet ?
With Sam, since we’ve known each other for so long, it makes our working relationship very easy, very clear. He knows my approach and I know his. But we hadn’t worked on Ash’s character since Dark Army, and that was in 1991. We hadn’t done anything for at least 25 years with this character, so Sam was able to bring everything he had learned as a director since then, and I was able to bring everything I had learned as an actor.
And it was really nice to use our skills on a character from a time when I was much less talented as an actor. That’s the irony of my life: I’m best known for Ash. But in Evil Dead, it was my first role, so it’s not my best performance.
Now we can work on it again, and make it into this kind of middle-aged, broken, and it was fun to do.
Was it easy for you to play Ash at nouveau ?
No. It’s never easy playing Ash. But that’s not why I’m playing it. We play it to try to take it to the next level. Because in Evil Dead, it’s a terrified student, who survives a bit by chance. In the second film, he is, in a way, a war veteran, but he is not yet completely finished. In the Army of Darkness, he becomes the Ash we know today, in filthy language, the average American idiot. He’s responsible for the deaths of several people.
And now it’s 25 years later, he’s out of shape, he can’t do anything, he’s dumb, he’s poor, he’s hitting on girls at the bar at the end of the night… For me it was a great opportunity to resurrect a character who we felt hadn’t reached his full potential, using TV.
Because on TV, you can do 15 hours of new content. If we’d made a movie, we’d have just an hour and a half, and we’d have had to wait five years for another one.
For the fans, being on Starz was cool, because we didn’t have any restrictions on under-12s. And because we were on television, we had much more time to entertain them, compared to a movie.
And then if we had made a film, there would have been constraints related to the age of the audience. The beauty ofAsh vs. Evil Deadis that we could do whatever we wanted with it.
Personally, I discovered you in Xena, in the late 90’s. You’ve been on a lot of TV shows since then, like Burn Notice. How would you describe the evolution of TV series over the last few years décennies ?
My very first TV role was on West Coastin 1987, now thirty years old. Before, actors used to turn to TV to die, like in the Cruise is Fun. Careers ended there. And that’s also where young actors started their careers, but it wasn’t considered a very respectable medium: the lighting was bad, the production was bad, the acting was bad, the writing was terrible… I was so anxious to leave West Coast. I think I did two episodes, with three lines of dialogue in total, it was a really bad experience. And I didn’t come back on TV for five years after that.
And then, I don’t really know why, maybe AMC is partly responsible, creating original content, but also HBO, Showtime… They were offering content that you couldn’t see anywhere else, on the usual channels. Normal channels are so monitored: behaviour, language, content, everything is monitored.
So HBO and Showtime said: “ hey, so come and watch us, pay a little bit more, and we’ll show you some stuff that you’re going to adorer ”.
I don’t know what started this movement, but the TV is now “ the place to be ”. I love the fact that now all the great actors are doing television.
DR – Bruce Campbell as Autolycus in the Xena La Guerrière series
Ash vs. Evil Dead is an unusual series: it’s gory, with a lot of dark humour, like we rarely see on TV. How do you explain cela ?
I think that if people are looking for something scandalous, they will be satisfied with this series. She doesn’t take herself seriously at all. You know, in the world of gore, Ash is the only good guy. Every other horror series revolves around the bad guy: Freddy, Jason, or some creepy guy with a mask and a machete or something… Ash is the only nice one. So we have a rather different approach. Even though he’s a complete moron, he’s still trying to stop these vile creatures, and hopefully people can relate to him as a hero, rather than a guy from another planet, from another time. He’s just a guy from Michigan. He’s just an idiot who gets drunk every night and runs away from his calling.
But it was also fun to go beyond that, since there are pictures of Ash in an old book. So we explored that in the last season, since we didn’t know if the show would be cancelled or not: what is the fate of Ash ? And it was interesting to look into this, because he’s not just a loser, he has something special: why was he chosen to defeat Evil Ultime ? And it’s a beautiful quest, to fight evil.
Speaking of the cancellation, how did you react when Starz announced the end of série ?
We weren’t very surprised, because as producers, we had been aware of the hearings since the first season. And, you know, the network was just starting out, it had to establish its own brand. One TV show can’t really do that. If you’re talking about Netflix, people are there “ ah, oui ”. If you’re talking about Starz, people say “ heu, Starz ?».
So they’re growing, and we really appreciated their help, but like all networks, they need shows that make people say: “ Oh, my God, I have to subscribe to Starz to watch this show géniale ”.
When we showed the first teasers of the show, people thought it was going to be a Netflix show, actually. It was kind of a weird situation.
In addition, Netflix is present in more than half of American households. And in Hollywood, Netflix has a hand in every project.
And the money.
Oh, my God, yes!
Do you think that the hacking of the series is responsible, even if only partly, for this annulation ?
Oh, yeah. Fans ofEvil Dead are very loyal, but also very stingy. They want to pay for the movies as little as possible, and if they are allowed to find the same thing for free, even though the fans ofAsh vs. Evil Dead are great, they enjoy it.
I heard thatAsh vs. Evil Dead was one of the most illegally downloaded series. Can you imagine if we could count these downloads in the ratings? Our fans are very Internet savvy. It’s both good and bad.
Shortly after the announcement of the cancellation of the series, you said that you were done with Evil Dead and the character of Ash. Is this définitif ?.
Yes. It’s over (in French in the text). I’m going to stay involved in the franchise from a historical perspective. We can do more with the Jane Levy character from the 2013 remake. We can take the other characters fromAsh vs. Evil Dead and form a team of Ghost Beaters. There are many possibilities. We can create a young Ash and start from scratch. I don’t care, I’m fine with it, too. But physically, it’s time for me to stop. That’s the main problem: I’m not fed up, I don’t hate it, the fans are great, the critics are finally saying good things about the show, Rotten Tomatoes was positive… There are no regrets.
But from a purely physical point of view, I was glad the show was cancelled. Not emotionally, but physically.
Thank you beaucoup !
Season 3 of Ash vs. Evil Dead is available at 8:00 p.m. Century Fox since November 7.