This morning Starz announced the start of production on “Ash vs Evil Dead”, a new television series based on Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead franchise.
And while the full details can be found here, Bloody Disgusting joined a roundtable – with Raimi, Robert Tapert and Bruce Campbell – to discuss the inagural 10-episode season that brings Campbell back as the beloved Ashley J. Williams, the aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons – personal and literal.
“Ash is going to making friends and enemies on this show,” teased Raimi.
Tapert went into detail: “This incarnation has a team that forms around him, Pablo [Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago)], a young immigrant who wants to be part of the American fabric and forget his roots – and through his encounters with Ash discovers what’s important to him.
“Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) is Pablo’s love interest,” he adds. “At first [she] doesn’t believe in Ash and wants nothing to do with him, but eventually becomes part of the team. They go about realizing there is something greater at play than a series of Evil Dead-like attacks.”
He continues: “[They are] joined by Jill Marie Jones [who] plays Amanda Fisher, a police officer who sees something that she doesn’t believe. [This] causes her great problems in her profession. She is on the trail to hunt down Ash because she believes he is responsible for the series of bodies [she finds] as a Michigan State Police Detective. She teams with Ruby (Lucy Lawless), [who] knows something about the Evil Dead and is also on hunt for Ash.”
The episodes will be 30-minutes long, which came as a surprise. Raimi expressed his excitement about this as it allows them to push the pacing up a notch.
“I really appreciate that Starz let us keep the half-hour idea,” said Raimi. “It’s really cool to me [because] we could really fire on a cylinders, be outrageous and fast-paced and nonstop without a lot of secondary character expositions.” There’s literally no padding, he says.
ASH IS BACK, BUT WORSE THAN EVER
Speaking of Ash, he’s been through quite a bit since 1981. What’s his mental state going into “Ash vs Evil Dead”?
When asked why he isn’t a basket case by now, Campbell jokes: “What makes you think he’s not? He is a basket case!”
“Were gonna find out that Ash is potentially damaged goods, and God forbid this is our hero,” adds Campbell who explains a bit further. “You have a lead guy, in Army of Darkness was responsibly for the deaths of hundreds of people – because he couldn’t remember three words – this is a guy who has to save the world.”
Adds Raimi: “He’s no finer, nobler nor saner of a character than when we last saw him. In fact, I think he’s digressed. He’s clearly aged quite a bit. And his courage hasn’t been whipped up to a frenzy. [He’s at] his lowest instincts and that’s where we find him – and from that low point, that’s the start of our show.”
When asked what Ash has been up to all of these years, Raimi explains that the “Deadites have been barely dormant, and Ash has been living a low life hiding out. Our story really begins when [the Deadites] come back and someone is needed to stand up against them.”
The answer was followed up with the question, is it Ash’s fault the Deadites have return? Raimi exclaims: “Of course!”
The joking continued when asked about Ash’s love interests. “I think those girls he’s been in love with have been slightly more unlucky than him,” Raimi jokes as he looks back at the previous films.
“Ash, there’s a bit of arrested development there. There are bigger issues, we’re talking life and death,” Campbell adds with caution before cracking a joke of his own. “I would be very careful going out on a date with Ash, [as] they usually end up dead.”
The ladies may love Ash, but so do the guys. What makes Ash so popular? He’s an everyday man.
“Ash has no special skills – he’s not a former Navy Seal, not FBI, not CIA, he’s not trained by anybody,” explains Campbell, who says Ash is the average viewer. “Ash stood the test of time. The way the character’s been set up, the way Sam has written it, he’s a relatable hero.
“In entertainment there has to be an aspect of that,” he continued. “The audience will root for Ash, laugh at him and be frustrated with him. You want to be in the actual fox hole with him, but the next fox hole – he’s the guy you want at crunch time, hit or miss. A lot of heroes in movies are too flawless and it drives me insane.”
EXPANDED (AND DIFFERENT UNIVERSE)
One of the biggest questions is as to where “Ash vs Evil Dead” lives within the world of Evil Dead. Raimi’s answer to my question will shock you.
“[‘Ash vs Evil Dead’] doesn’t really exist in the exact same universe,” Raimi reveals. “It’s a slightly altered universe and takes place somewhere in an alternate universe after Evil Dead II.
“I don’t want too spoil too much for audience,” add Raimi, “but that’s the truest answer.”
Tapert responds to my socked inquisition that Army of Darkness isn’t part of the universe.
“Army of Darkness doesn’t exist,” says Tapert before clarifying a bit. “Well, certainly Ash went through a bad experience, but we’re not really referencing it [on the show], specifics from that, but he certainly has that in his memory.”
“We want to take a politicians stance on that,” Raimi jokes. “We don’t want to deny nor confirm that claim. We want the audience to be open with no previous expectations going into the show. We want them to have seen one or all of the Evil Dead. We designed it to live outside of having seen any of the movies. But if you’ve seen 1, 2, or 3 it will work very well for the viewer. That was the intention.”
The expanded universe will play into the creation of new Deadites, too.
“We’ll certainly play to what we once did with Deadites, even through the remake,” says Tapert. “We’re trying to expand the universe, so the storytelling over the ten episodes, we will encounter Deadites that are very different than other forces of evil out there. Then we will expose the audience to new entities that were not presented in the Evil Dead universe so that the audience is surprised.”
KEEPING TO THE TRADITIONS IN THE FILMS
Raimi confirms that the new series will mix both horror and humor, although he emphasized the return of horror.
“It’s a mix of both elements of the Evil Dead films – a very hard edge, intense horror designed to frighten [the] audience,” said Raimi stating that it’s no holds barred. “There is [also] a comedic element that is alive in this. It’s the thing the audience liked the most about the movies. More and more we brought Bruce to the forefront. First, he was a guy who happened to just star in the movie [The Evil Dead]. Then we started to realize the audience really likes this guy and the second, [Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn], became all about him. Delved into his natural strength as a performer, Army Of Darkness tried to capitalize on that and the character created through the first two.”
Tapert speaks to keeping the tradition of gross-out effects alive.
“[We] absolutely want to continue the Evil Dead tradition,” he explained. “We’re working with Roger Murray, and that’s one of the expectations of the franchise – makeup and gore effects. [We] absolutely plan to have those [makeup and gore effects] to continue on with what the audience expects from the franchise in a new and different way.
Campbell puts emphasis on this, clarifying they aren’t holding back: “This is not going to be a watered-down version of Evil Dead.
“Thankfully, by partnering with Starz, the gloves are off and we have no restrictions almost literally,” adds Campbell. “That will suit the Evil Dead fans because they don’t like it watered down. They want the hardcore stuff and they’re going to get it!”
Speaking of gore, what’s going to cause the bloodfest? Raimi explains that we won’t be seeing any new incarnations of the infamous chainsaw, but the classic is oiled up and ready to dismember Deadites.
“Bruce has stored his rig the last 30 years just in case,” Raimi says with glee. “He’s been living in fear of the resurgence of the Deadites. It’s the one thing he’s kept oiled up [and] in tip-top shape. We will see that sweet baby come back and come roaring to life on the Deadites!”
Campbell speaks to the importance of getting the chainsaw’s sound right. “[It’s] important that we don’t use digital sound, that we use analog recorded on reel-to-reel tape because it needs a bite and an edge that only analog can give you.
“I hope we can get a 1979 recording of that,” added Campbell before Raimi chimed in: “I got it on reel-to-reel!”
Problem solved during the interview, literally. Deadites beware.