You’re lost in the woods, pursued by vicious, unstoppable evil that wants to swallow your soul. No, not Shia LaBoeuf – actual, cannibal demons from beyond the grave. Who would you want at your side: Bruce Campbell or Lucy Lawless?
Luckily for us, there’s no need to choose. Ash vs Evil Dead, Starz’s 10-episode TV expansion of the influential cult horror franchise, features both. Campbell returns as unapologetic loser Ash Williams, the one-handed, chainsaw-wielding smart-ass both partly responsible for unleashing the demons known as Deadites upon the world, and tasked with stopping it.
Only this time, Ash is joined by a mysterious heroine named Ruby, played by Lawless. Ash vs Evil Dead returns Lawless to her roots as an action star; recent roles in Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus were far less physically demanding than Xena: Warrior Princess, the show that made her a household name.
Sitting with the duo at a recent industry event, it’s clear they’re delighted to be working together again. They first joined forces on Xena; Campbell had a recurring role as Autolycus, King of Thieves. But Lawless and Campbell are part of a larger family born out of this crazy world of evil trees and possessed girlfriends: Lawless’s husband Rob Tapert, who created Xena partnered with Sam Raimi in creating The Evil Dead. Raimi directed the premiere episode, and executive produces Ash vs Evil Dead along with Campbell and Tapert. The Xenaverse and the world of The Evil Dead could not be more different, but Campbell and Lawless are a geek’s dream team.
“Why not team people up who need to be teamed up?” Campbell said in a recent interview. “That’s just smart business, isn’t it?”
“It’s very smart business!” Lawless replied.
“Yes! Give the savages what they want!” the actor boomed.
That’s all groovy by Starz. The premium cable channel announced on Wednesday that it has picked up a second season of Ash vs Evil Dead, even though the series doesn’t premiere until 9pm Saturday.
Since Ash and Ruby aren’t going away anytime soon, here are ten things you’ll want to know before the Deadites take over your TV. (Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.)
1. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE SEEN THE EVIL DEAD MOVIES TO UNDERSTAND THE TV SERIES.
Some purists will balk at this suggestion, but it’s true. Even if you’re only familiar with Bruce Campbell as the guy who played Sam Axe on USA’s Burn Notice – or, if you’re a Fargo viewer, the actor portraying Ronald Reagan during the current season on FX – any living soul can jump right into this series as a virgin and still have a good time.
See, the Evil Dead franchise spins around a very simple story: A remote cabin in the woods serves as a nexus for evil, home to a demonic book bound in human flesh, blood and ink known as the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, that infects the woods. It also happens to be a getaway destination for a bunch of young adults (The Evil Dead) and, before them, a professor and his wife (Evil Dead II) whose daughter later comes looking for them with the help of a few townsfolk.
As the sole survivor of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, Ash was yanked back in time to the year 1300 to battle a of horde demons, known then as the Deadites, in comedic third installment, Army of Darkness. There. You’re all caught up.
On the other hand (which happens to be a chainsaw)…
2. YOU’LL GET SPECIAL ENJOYMENT OUT OF THE TV SERIES IF YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIES.
Hardcore dead-by-dawn Dead fans probably performed any number of dark rituals in the hopes of bringing this series into existence. Not only does the premiere satisfy your long, aching hunger for more adventures with Ash, it also includes a few tongue-in-cheek references that only the faithful will deeply appreciate. Like the fact that Ash’s favorite dive bar, where he is master of his domain, is called The Woodsman.
3. ASH HASN’T AGED WELL.
In the world of the downwardly mobile, Ash is a strong contender for middle-aged Loser of the Year. No longer an employee of the S-Mart, he’s now barely clocking in as a stock boy at the even cheaper-looking Value Stop. But he’s still as vain as ever.
“I’m just glad that Sam [Raimi] has allowed us to do this. Look, he’s the guy who directed the pilot…Not many directors would put the star of the show, the lead character, starting out in a man girdle and putting in dentures. That’s not the way I would start it,” Campbell said. “But it’s an awesome way to go. I’m glad he did that. It makes Ash way more interesting that the standard show would.”
4. ASH MAKES A TERRIBLE HERO.
Thirty years after the events of The Evil Dead, is Ash a mature warrior filled with wisdom? Hardly.
“You know, everybody loves to talk about character development,” Campbell snarked. “Not Ash! He’s right where we left him – in Loserville. Now he’s a middle-aged loser, which is even worse. Now go save the world! Aren’t you concerned for the world? I’d be afraid, if Ash had to save it.”
If that’s the case, why is Ash such a popular character? “He has no special skills whatsoever. The average viewer is as smart, or smarter, than him,” Campbell explained. “In most cases, the usual way [writers] approach a hero is, these guys are altruistic, they can’t do anything wrong. The old Western heroes, they never did anything wrong. You know, they got the money back. They got little Billy his medicine. Ash is not that guy. I just think in a cynical, modern world, he’s the perfect hero because he’s totally wrong for the job.
5. FORTUNATELY, SAVING THE WORLD ISN’T ENTIRELY UP TO HIM.
“I’m just glad we have a team of losers now,” Campbell added. “Shemps on parade!” Rounding out the cast is Ray Santiago as Pablo Simon Bolivar, Ash’s Value Stop co-worker who probably thinks a little too highly of him and happens to be the nephew of a Honduran shaman, and a newcomer to both of their lives named Kelly Maxwell, played by Dana DeLorenzo.
Ruby, meanwhile, joins forces with a Michigan State Police Detective named Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) whose career is derailed she crosses paths with the Deadites.
6. LAWLESS’S CHARACTER RUBY HAS A DIRECT CONNECTION TO EVIL DEAD II.
Remember the aforementioned professor, a man called Knowby? Lawless’s Ruby part of his family, a relative who didn’t come to a sticky end like the rest of her nearest and dearest.
7. RUBY ALSO HAPPENS TO BE ASH’S NEMESIS.
“Ruby knows that he’s a schlemiel and the world’s screwed over if its fate is left in his hands,” Lawless said. “Moreover, she has this powerful obsession about destroying him. She wants payback.”
“She lives in the past,” Campbell deadpanned, to which Lawless added, “He thinks she’s got daddy issues. But the fact is, he annihilated her family, or he failed to save them. Her father died. Her mother and sister died. So Ruby needs to repay the favor. And Ash is like, ‘Get over it!’”
“Yeah,” Campbell quipped again. “’Be here now!’”
8. LAWLESS HADN’T PLANNED TO RETURN TO THE ACTION HERO GIG.
It’s been a few decades since the New Zealand-born actress sliced and side-kicked her way through hordes of extras as Xena – and she was perfectly fine with that.
“I was a little shocked, to be honest,” Lawless said. “Because all through Spartacus, people would say, ‘Oh Lucy, I bet you wish you could be down there with the guys, kicking ass.’ And I was like, ‘No thanks, I’ll just sit up here eating Turkish Delight.’… I loved not doing action. So with this I thought, “You know what? If there’s a little bit of action, I can handle it. Just a little bit. I was way off. I’m off to the chiropractor every three minutes! Acupuncture, you name it.”
Campbell nodded. ”I purchased all the arnica, I think, in Auckland.”
9. ASH VS EVIL DEAD INTRODUCEs NEW RULES TO THE UNIVERSE.
Of course it does. “In TV, you have to expand the story and the universe, and you have to make it way bigger than it was. So if people are wondering what to expect, well you should expect a shitload, because it’s TV!” Campbell said. “’You’re going to get crazy stories for, theoretically, years!”
“It gets bigger at the end,” Lawless revealed. “By the time [the two of us] get to meet, there this explosive altercation between us. But they start to discover that there are rules, and you’ll get to know a few of them. But it’s around season two, I think, where you learn the difference between the Deadite world and our world.”
“Spoiler!” Campbell joked. “But yes, there are plenty of rules – why you get possessed, how you kill them. There’s plenty of rules.”
“He knows some of the ‘dumb-dumb’ rules,” Lawless added, “but I’m going to help him to find out some of the others.”
10. LASTLY, AND PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY, GORE-A-PHILES WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
Remember those bleeding walls? Demons heads exploding in goo and slime? Red gunk spurting out of neck stumps were corrupted heads used to be? Campbell boasted in that the series will give fans all that and more. He was even blinded by stage blood at one point during production.
“Those were splatter movies. Stuff has to go splat!” Campbell said enthusiastically. “So, they use an air mortar now, to do the real splattering. “
He turned to Lawless. “Have you had the air mortar yet?”
“Yes, I have,” she said calmly. “But just with air. I didn’t have guts being thrown at me.” “Well,” he explained, “they take that same thing, and they remove a few things, and they just dump the crap right in there. And, boom! It hits you with force.”
She nodded, adding, “It’s a pus cannon.”
Gross? Sure. But for Evil Dead fans…well, that’s just pillow talk, baby.