Warning: many spoilers follow.
“We’ve got a shotgun, a chainsaw, a book, and a car – not much else we need to tell Ash’s story,” Bruce Campbell pauses and smiles, proud, as he should be, of what he’s helped create.
It’s just the two of us sitting in this quiet tucked away corner of a little incognito Auckland studio, and I’ve got thirty minutes on the clock. New Zealand has been good to me since I arrived in town to visit the set of season three of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, with its gorgeous gloomy beaches and surprisingly delicious dumplings, but nothing could compare to this moment. The man who single-handedly made me smitten with the horror genre the minute I watched that old Delta creep up to that spooky cabin years ago, is now posted confidently just a few feet from me, staring intently, chin raised as if to challenge me to a duel – or just to see if I can keep up with his quick wit.
As I sit across the table from the Deadite slayer himself, donning his famous blue button-down and boomstick-holstered get-up, I realize Campbell is right. The showrunners of “Ash vs Evil Dead” know exactly what they’re doing with the movie-franchise-turned-television-series because they keep it simple: it’s just about an everyday man named Ash Williams who saves the world from Kandarian demons with his trusty chainsaw hand and sawed-off shotgun. Nothing can touch the man who still sports Sam Raimi’s Delta. Not even thirty years later.
Technically, it’s Sam Raimi’s mother’s Delta, and she used to drive the boys to the local theater every Saturday in it. “Believe me, try sittin’ in that car after knowing that Sam’s mother took you to the Tel-Twelve Mall in that car, and she dropped you off to see movies in that car,” Campbell smiles and darts a quick glance at the ceiling, fondly recalling one of thousands of memories with his best friend and longtime business partner. “I know that car so well, I know that car better than Sam knows it now. And we have the original car [on the show] for God’s sake! The original, original car.”
A large reason why “Ash vs Evil Dead” has been embraced by fans of the original series is because it’s still being run by the same people – Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, the two men who set out into the woods over thirty years ago to make a low budget movie that Stephen King would call “The most ferociously original horror film of the year,” are still the ones calling the shots on the Starz original production in 2018. “I don’t say any words that I don’t want to say,” Campbell states firmly. “Short of Sam Raimi, I’m the next guy in line – creatively – and Rob Tapert. You know we’re the ones left who steer the ship. I mostly do on-set stuff, Rob deals with scripts [and] deals with post, my job is where the rubber meets the road.” It’s the formula that keeps on working, and one that has lent itself to the success of a story whose prowess has held a lasting power over audiences for more than three decades.
Ash and the gang have been through a lot these past two seasons, but they’ll face their greatest challenge yet in the year ahead.
In the first season of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, Ash stays shockingly on-brand by getting a little too blitzed and reading from the Necronomicon.
For those who are new to the party, the Necronomicon is roughly translated to “The Book of the Dead”, and it’s bound in human flesh and inked in human blood. Written in Sumerian, when read from by a foolish young person, the book summons Kandarian demons from their ancient slumber and sets them loose upon the nearest, freshest souls, which they possess, torment, and eventually kill. Ash found the book in a shady cabin in the woods thirty years ago, but now, he’s accidentally unleashed the one thing that stole his youth – and his hand – again, and he has no choice but to join the fight against the undead yet again. Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas. – or just out of shape and over the hill, whatever the case may be – Ash Williams is here to save the day, along with his new posse of S-Mart coworkers, who will help him defeat the Deadites, once and for all.
After losing their loved ones and going up against the Big Bad Ruby (Lucy Lawless) and her Dark Ones in season one, which ended in a truce between good and evil parties, season two finds Ash, Pablo (Ray Santiago), and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) in Jacksonville, where they are hunted down by Deadites and reminded that there’s still a war waging between darkness and light, and it’s time for them to get back to business. Although she was previously evil, Ruby seeks the aid of Ash and his companions to help her send her children back to Hell before they use the Book of the Dead to summon the demon Baal. Unfortunately, they play right into the mind melter’s hands and wind up bringing Baal into the world, where he toys with the characters all season long until Ash eventually bests him in a no-supernatural-powers-allowed fist fight, and becomes the hero of his hometown. Season two ends with ‘Ashy Slashy’ becoming a hero in his community, Pablo slowly becoming one with the Book of the Dead, Kelly still fighting alongside her gang but questing for her own adventure, and a time-traveling 1980s Ruby outliving the recently enlightened future Ruby. Yes, a lot happened last season, but don’t fret. Just when you thought there’s no way the upcoming season three could outdo the last time we saw the Ghost Beaters (Pablo’s phrase not mine) on air, the writers decide to throw us all for a loop – Ashley Williams has a daughter.
INTRODUCING BRANDY: ASH WILLIAMS HAS A DAUGHTER
At the start of season three, Ash has taken over his dad Brock’s old hardware store and is about to celebrate his grand opening. Little does he know, evil has other plans. An old flame named Candace “Candy” Barr (Katrina Hobbs) comes back into his life, and she’s come with a message: they have a daughter together, and she’s in trouble.
“When we first meet Brandy she kind of gets dragged into the fight by her lineage. She doesn’t really have much of a choice,” explains Arielle Carver-O’Neill, the newest addition to the show who plays Brandy, Ash’s daughter. “Evil starts coming after her at school when she’s in detention one day. As a result, she loses her mom and best friend, and finds out that her father’s not only alive, but he’s also ‘Ashy Slashy’, the psychotic chainsaw killer that she’s heard stories about. My mother Candance asks Ash for help to save their daughter because she can’t go alone, and that’s how they meet. He comes to help in the attack that’s going down at the school.”
As far as Brandy being the newest addition to the squad, it seems that Pablo and Kelly have different ways of handling the unexpected up-and-comer.
“At first, Ash told Kelly that she was like, ‘The daughter he never had,’ and Kelly would never admit it, but she liked that status and rapport with him,” says Dana DeLorenzo about her character Kelly. “But all of a sudden, boom – what do you mean you have a daughter? So at first, Kelly sees Brandy as something that needs to be babysat, another obstacle. Quickly Kelly realizes, ‘Oh wait, I see myself in her,’ and decides she wants to protect her and take Brandy under her wing, the way that Ash took Kelly under his wing.”
“We’re sort of shocked the whole season that he is trying to be this dad to this daughter that he didn’t know he had,” laughs Ray Santiago while talking about his character Pablo. “We’re trying to keep Brandy alive, Ruby’s trying to take her away from us, trying to get her to turn on her dad because she’s the only one that can really kill him. Arielle is a great actress, she’s super humble and a great addition to the team. She brings that young Neve Campbell innocent girl dragged into madness because of who her parents are, and she’s just trying to stay alive.”
Perhaps the most shocking reaction of all is the emotional response from Ash Williams himself upon learning that he has a daughter. We get to see a whole different side of The King this season.
Sadly, not everyone is overjoyed to see Ash reunited with his offspring. In particular, Ruby would love nothing more than to turn Ash’s daughter against him, and tries her best to gain Brandy’s trust by masquerading as the cool, relatable guidance counselor.
“She’s kind of like, the cool high school counselor who smokes weed with Brandy and treats her as an equal,” explains Carver-O’Neill about Brandy’s teacher. “She’s the only adult other than her mother who’s treated her with respect and equality, so she’s more of a friend as well as a guidance counselor. She’s a mother figure to Brandy, but she has her own agenda.”
UNVEILING THE ANCIENT PROPHECY
Although in the original Evil Dead that hit theaters in 1982, Ash and his friends stumble upon the Necronomicon unexpectedly at a random cabin, it is revealed later that Ash was prophesized to save the world from the Deadite Kandarian demons, which serves as the basis of the third film, Army of Darkness when Ash goes back in time. Although the film does a good job of solidifying Ash as a cool-headed shotgun-blasting badass, it does little to explain the exact reason why a random guy like Ash Williams would wind up in an ancient book. That’s what season three of “Ash vs Evil Dead” seeks to explore.
“We’re expanding the myth this year,” says Campbell about the iconic legacy of his character Ash.
“It’s not so much about Ash’s head being pulled up a cadaver’s butt, you know what I mean? Because you can play that game all day. I mean, we have horrible sequences coming, for sure, but that isn’t the whole point. Ash isn’t just a loser in a trailer park – his picture is in an ancient book. Why? Why is he foretold? He’s the average man, he’s nobody. So it’s a little more finding out about that. We introduce the Knights of Sumeria, a new group that’s fighting evil that also thinks he’s the prophesized one, which Ash bristles against because they’re talking eternal shit and he just wants to go bowling.”
Arielle Carver-O’Neill has some huge shoes to fill this season, as she reveals that she not only is going to be playing Ash’s daughter that he never knew he had, Brandy, but she is also an integral part of Ash’s prophecy.
“See, there’s this prophecy you’ll hear about in the show and Brandy’s a very important part of that prophecy,” Carver-O’Neill grins. “Ruby needs Brandy on her side, but she can’t just blatantly do that. She emotionally manipulates Brandy while she’s going through all of these vulnerable emotions and in this very confusing time in her life. Ruby’s taking advantage of that to mold Brandy to fulfill the plan that she has.
“Ruby needs Brandy to kill Ash.”
PABLO’S ASCENSION INTO EL BRUJO LORE
Pablo undergoes a few major changes during the third season of the show. First of all, he continues his journey to becoming a fully established Brujo, or male witch, which is an arc his character began back in season one when he was reunited with his uncle.
“Pablo’s becoming much more of a…Brujo…where he’s now becoming his uncle,” explains Campbell. “Pablo can read from the book, he can read what the words mean now, and he can open the rift. He can move among the Deadites undetected because it turns out he’s got one foot in evil and one foot in good, so he can be an interpreter for us. It all becomes very instrumental in becoming Mr. Wizard.”
Pablo is also becoming one with the “Book of the Dead”. Ever since Ruby removed the face of the book at the end of season one, and plastered it to Pablo’s face, using his essence to help her breed her children, a.k.a. ‘The Dark Ones”, Pablo has been slowly merging with the Necronomicon. “The Necronomicon is still within him,” explains Santiago.
Somehow while Pablo is practicing all of this magic, he still manages to conjure up a little romance, as well. Pablo and Kelly have been brewing something special for two full seasons now, and according to Santiago, in season three, our boy will finally make his move.
“We kiss a couple of times this season,” Santiago blushes. “We kiss once when she saves my life and once when I save her life. I think it was a thing that I fought for a lot, because I felt like every time I would interact with the fans, they would always ask about it. So, I always pushed for it because I always felt like Pablo’s heart belongs to Kelly.”
RUBY’S HOLD ON KELLY
There are lots of baddies in season three, but according to DeLorenzo, Ruby is still the greatest of them all – even if her children, or the Dark Ones, are putting up quite the fight.
“Ruby’s always been the Big Bad, but this season she is the ultimate Big Bad. At the end of season two, if you recall, when we went back in time to save Pablo, and we opened that sort of time travel portal, this immortal Ruby killed the mortal Ruby who grew a conscience. She was teaming up with Kelly in a good way. So now, this vicious, out for blood, gonna stop at nothing until she’s in control Ruby is back, and you know she’s one tricky temptress.”
DeLorenzo’s character, Kelly, was very hardened by the loss of her family in season one, and as a result, tends to shut off her emotional side. However, in season three, Kelly is finally beginning to realize that her journey isn’t actually about revenge at all – it’s about love.
“Kelly and Pablo definitely take their relationship to the next level in this next season. It gets to a point where, almost in spite of herself, Kelly gives in to this feeling of love. She goes through these major transformations this season. It’s not always fueled by anger and revenge, it’s almost as if this season takes Kelly to a new level of vulnerability. She finally realizes that what’s important are her family that she has adopted through bloodshed instead of just her blood.”
DEMONS, DEADITES, AND BLOOD CANNONS, OH MY!
It might seem difficult to outdo all of the shenanigans that the gang got into during the first two seasons of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, but Bruce Campbell says what we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what’s coming up next.
“We have horrible sequences coming,” assures Campbell about the monster status quo in season three.
“Fighting a headless corpse with an animated baby inside of it, a demon baby with a corpse that’s animating it. Fighting a sperm bank and it’s Ash’s sperm that he saved up over the years, and he’s been a good donor so imagine where that can go.”
Ray Santiago couldn’t be more excited about the monsters he gets to fight in season three.
“There’s a fight where I fight a possessed guitar,” says actor Santiago, so giddy he could bust. “There’s this really cool sequence in the season premiere where we go to save Brandy from Deadites at school, it’s how she’s introduced to the equation, and we go into this band room and all of the instruments become possessed and they attack us. I fight a possessed guitar with an axe!”
Arielle Carver-O’Neill learned that being a newcomer on a show like this doesn’t just mean learning the horror lingo of the crew, but also, being covered from head to toe by a gushing blood cannon aimed straight at the face.
“Blood cannons. It’s like, I’ve never jumped out of a plane, and it’s probably nothing like this for people who have actually jumped out of planes, but I find it a very close experience adrenaline-wise, because I get so nervous and I get such an adrenaline rush before it happens.
“You’ve only got one shot, you can only do the blood cannon stuff once and then you’re covered in blood and it’s done.
“It’s so loud, it sounds like a chainsaw. You have these guys with these huge tanks sitting in front of you, waiting to splatter you with gallons of blood in one big hit. It’s odd. It hits you and then you kind of can’t control your body or your face. Most of the time, reactions with blood cannons are very genuine because it’s getting in your mouth, your eyes – my eyes were wide open when we shot the chainsaw Brock scene so my vision went totally black.”
In the season finale, Elk Grove undergoes a major battle that takes place on the streets, with trees burned to the ground, cars flipped over, Deadites flooding the pavement and Ash riding high in a military tank, speeding across shaky, post-apocalyptic territory. Ash fights the biggest boss battle of them all – a sixty foot tall Kandarian demon.
“It’s the big one, the mother of all demons,” Campbell reports as if it’s just another day on the job.
“That’s what Ash is fighting with the tank, so it ends up that Ash is finally going to fulfill his destiny. He has to own up to who he is – if he’s the chosen one. Sam [Raimi]’s theory has always been that every millennia, the evil rises to test the mettle of the average man, not the special man, the average man. It’s a little biblical because there’s some story in the Bible, Evil’s like, ‘Let’s have Evil fight Good. You bring me your best man, I’ll give you our best man, let’s duke it out and see who wins.’ On the good side, they’re like, ‘I’m just gonna send you a schmoe, because we’re so confident in Good that even a schmoe can take you guys out.’ So that’s why Ash is essentially the Chosen One, he has no skills, zero skills, he’s not Navy Seal or former FBI.”
ELK GROVE IN THE DELTA’S REARVIEW
In the season finale, Ash leaves Elk Grove and travels to the future and leaves the gang behind to fend for themselves, passing on the torch to his fellow buddies, whom he hopefully successfully trained to take over in the wake of his absence.
“I always felt like Ash was grooming Pablo for something larger and I didn’t even know it and I’m getting better at becoming his little sidekick,” smiles Santiago. “The last thing he says to me this season is, ‘You’re the Jefe now,’ and we don’t know if we’ll see each other again. I don’t think he’s just passing the torch to me, I think he’s passing the torch to all three of us in the way that the season finale ends. He’s just groomed a group of Deadite killers and slayers and so I think we have each grown to become our own heroes.”
There’s a lot on this show and in the original trilogy that Bruce Campbell and his boys, Rob Tapert and the Raimis, have to be proud of, but perhaps the most exciting aspect about the Evil Dead universe for Campbell is the character of Ash, and how he’s just a regular guy sent to save the world.
“I don’t need a steely-eyed guy saying one-liners and taking out Deadites, that’s a bore. Do some writing. Write some characters,” Campbell states matter-of-factly. “I think it’s cool that the average slub has to save the world. We’ve all seen the Rambo’s and Die Hard, [where] he’s an ex-cop, and in Under Siege he’s an ex-Navy Seal. Fuck off! That’s a cheap out. We’re not taking the cheap way, we’re taking the hard way. We’re gonna try to make an average, over-the-hill, overweight guy save the fucking world. Now I’m interested.”
“Ash vs Evil Dead” season three premiers February 25th only on Starz.