The third and final season of Ash vs Evil Dead arrives on Blu-ray this Tuesday, August 21, and with it the final bow from Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. The actor has portrayed the reluctant hero for nearly 40 years, taking Ash from innocuous bystander to wisecracking deadite slayer to finally a man with a deadite fighting family of his own. For thirty episodes, Starz let Campbell and team loose on screen, unleashing torrents of blood, gore, humor, and heart, culminating in one epic finale that serves as Ash’s swan song. Or is it?
Ahead of the season three Blu-ray release, we chatted with Campbell about Ash vs Evil Dead, the future, and his retirement of one of horror’s most beloved characters, Ash Williams.
The final two episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead proved to be the biggest and the most divisive of the series. Written and directed by Rick Jacobson, Ash finally steps up to embrace and fulfill his prophesied role in one epic battle with the largest deadite the series had seen yet. It also brought the series full circle, with Jacobson tying up loose ends from the beginning of season one while also incorporating the entire franchise’s larger mythology. For major fans, the homages and level of detail are gratifying.
Of the ending and Jacobson’s work, Campbell explains, “Not all directors think like that. And he’s a very story thinking director, and he wrote the last two. He’s like, ‘You know what? Screw this, give me that script,’ and we let him do it because he was so possessed with how this should have ended. And we all agreed. We were in total agreement with what should happen, how we should wrap this up. Because you know, TV business is a fickle business. We didn’t know if we’re going to be canceled or not. So, we wanted to not leave fans in the lurch. If we got picked up, could we continue it? Yeah, of course. But we wanted to be ready, and we were.”
Despite closure for all the characters, the final moments have become a point of contention for some fans. To those bothered by it, Campbell responds, “Some people are pissed. They’re like, ‘Oh, you can’t leave us like that.’ It is an ending though. Ash’s destiny has been fulfilled. He’s not just a guy who lives in a trailer home with a lot of bad habits. There’s something else to the guy, and you know what? Let him go on his next great adventure.”
Though Army of Darkness was released in theaters in 1993, principal photography took place two years prior, which meant a much longer length of time passed before Campbell donned the chainsaw again. Coming back into the role, with the creative leeway granted by Starz, meant exploring Ash in new, unexpected ways that Campbell looks on fondly.
“That’s the beauty of coming back 25 years later. I hadn’t played Ash since 1991. That’s a long time. So, I’ve actually had two decades of experience of acting that I could finally go, ‘Okay, let’s take that cookie cutter character, and try and-‘ because we tried to evolve him. He was just sort of innocuous in the first one, tried to become a rogue in the second one, was the ugly American in the third one, sort of getting his Ash sea legs, and then now we can just let him loose.”
It wasn’t just the evolution of Ash from middle-aged loser to caring father and team player that Campbell enjoyed exploring, but the creativity of the series as well. When asked if he had any favorite episodes, he cites season 2 episode 7, “The loony bin is my favorite of that season for sure. I could pick one, probably. The pilot from the first one, from the first season, because Sam Raimi set the bar,” then adds, “and the finale, the two-parter from season three.”
But along with the heartfelt evolution of Ash’s character also came the gory splatstick moments that fans loved so much. As great as they are on screen to watch, they’re difficult for the actors to endure. This season’s newcomer, Arielle Carver-O’Neill as Ash’s daughter Brandy, discovered what fellow actors Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo had already learned about the Evil Dead universe; it’s physically tough work. Campbell shares of the first time Carver-O’Neill felt the force of the blood cannon, “When she got her first blast of blood, we’re all there to watch because it’s important to watch them being initiated. To see the look on her face, the reaction was not acting. Her reaction was, ‘Oh my God.’ And it was cold, because we’re in those warehouses in the middle of the New Zealand winter. “
That physical aspect, and the gory nature of the series, leads into why Campbell decided to retire the character. “These are long, tedious [shoots] … you’re lying on cellar floors, in the cold damp floor, covered in blood.” He explains, “It’s part of the reason too, for hanging up the chain saw. There’s physical stuff that you have to do that I don’t really either feel like doing anymore, or I can’t do anymore. Or I shouldn’t do, anymore because I’ve actually escaped from these movies relatively unscathed. Beside a hamstring this, and a stubbed toe here, not too bad. But that’s part of the reason.”
In terms of reprising the beloved antihero on screen, Campbell says of the season three Blu-ray release, “This is it. After this drops, you’ve got the full package. This is all. It’s on the table. This is it. This Ash’s life story right here.”
Though Campbell has retired the character, that retirement doesn’t extend to the entire universe of Evil Dead, or certain iterations of the character. As previously reported, Campbell will be voicing Ash in an upcoming VR game. Moreover, Campbell is very interested in continuing the stories of Pablo (Ray Santiago), Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), and especially that of Mia (Jane Levy),
“I would. Oh my God. In two seconds I would continue the Mia story, because she’s a badass now. I would continue the Ghost Beaters, because Kelly and Pablo are badasses now. Pablo is a shaman, so those were his super spy skills. She’s just a pissed off revenge filled hussy. So, I think it’d be great. I would love it, you know, and I don’t even care if bring in a new Ash character. Let’s go.“
As excited as he is to get Levy and director Fede Alvarez back on board for a follow up to 2013’s Evil Dead, nothing has clicked into place yet. Of Alvarez, in particular, Campbell shares, “Fede, his best is yet to come. This guy is going to be like Guillermo del Toro kind of big. I think he’s just immensely talented. So, hey, if we can get him back, great.” It’s clear that there’s still a lot of creative spark in the franchise, though maybe without Campbell on screen. When asked what’s next, Campbell simply says, “We’re just gonna wait and see what happens. This [series] is what we had focused all of our attention on, and now that this is over, now we’ll see what else comes down the pike.“
Whatever incarnation of Ash or the Evil Dead universe comes up next, at least Starz gave us three great seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead. Grab season 3 on Blu-ray on August 21.