It’s pretty common for horror actors to come into contact with synthetic blood and get a little dirty from time to time. It’s part of the job. But it’s highly likely that no cast is exposed to as much obscene, over-the-top amounts of gore as the cast of Ash vs Evil Dead, the hit “splatstick” comedy-horror series on Starz. Being blood-soaked head to toe is business as usual for Dana DeLorenzo, who pretty often gets doused with truckloads of the red stuff and viscera just for a single shot, often to the point where it’s beyond gratuitous.
Three years ago, DeLorenzo landed the role of Kelly Maxwell, the headstrong, takes-no-bullshit type of gal who crosses paths with Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell), the beloved, flawed hero of the long-thriving Evil Dead franchise. Thanks to some unfortunate events involving the Necronomicon (a.k.a. Book of the Dead) and the death of her father at the hands of the evil Deadites (the demonic baddies of the series), she ultimately becomes one of Ash’s regular sidekicks—a series precedent, as Ash was mostly a lone wolf in the original movies.
Ash vs Evil Dead is back again with its third season, and this time, right out the gate, Kelly has evolved into a full-fledged, gun-toting badass. She’s definitely no damsel in distress, and never really was. She is a damsel who causes distress for the pesky Deadites standing in her way, and DeLorenzo plays her to perfection and has undeniable chemistry with Campbell and co-star Ray Santiago.
You can catch the season 3 premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead this Sunday, Feb. 25, on Starz. Here, DeLorenzo talks to Playboy about her fun yet agonizing blood-drenched experiences, Campbell’s mischievous on-set antics and how the loyal Evil Dead fan base makes all the gooey suffering worth it.
The first Evil Dead film came out a couple of years before you were born. How familiar were you with the franchise while growing up?
I was definitely a horror fan. I was very familiar with the franchise and saw Army of Darkness first in high school. I’ve come to learn, even before getting this job, that the Evil Dead movies are a rite of passage for boys. So in high school, there were always a bunch of guys quoting it constantly. [Deepens voice] “First, you wanna kill me, now you wanna kiss me. [Spits] Blow.” [Laughs] I asked my two best guy friends, “Why do you guys keep saying that? Where’s that from?” and they were like [deepens voice] “Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it.”
Finally, they sat me down, and I watched it, and I got it, but I feel like I really got an appreciation for that movie when I saw it again in college, after I had seen Bruce in Bubba Ho-Tep. I was like, “Hey, there’s that Bruce Campbell guy!” And then I went and saw Evil Dead 2, but I had not seen the first one.
So you saw the series in backwards order?
This is so embarrassing, but I’ve admitted it before. Growing up, I was a huge horror person, or horror kid, I should say. I read all the Goosebumps books, there was this show I watched on Nickelodeon—I’m aging myself [laughs]—but it was called Are You Afraid of the Dark? I have to admit that I am an embarrassment as an adult to my 10-year-old horror self. Like, I was a badass horror person when I was 10.
It was a few days before my screen test, where I was like, “I should watch the first one—I know what this is.” You know, Army of Darkness was pretty much a straight-up comedy, and Evil Dead 2 was somewhere in the middle, but I was not prepared for what the first Evil Dead actually was. I am embarrassed to admit I couldn’t watch it at night. I had to stop it and finish it during the day.
“When I go through border patrol—even though I inspect everything—somehow, I always wear the piece of clothing or have a bag that border patrol then looks at that’s covered in dry blood that I must’ve missed.”
The first one is pretty much void of any intentional comedy. What was it that creeped you out and caught you off guard?
I found it to be so truly terrifying because for me, in any horror film, the scariest stuff for me that gives me chills is when a demon or any horror villain is maniacal—when they giggle, and they enjoy torturing. Oh, God—I’m haunted by it. Here’s the spoiler alert. Any time I have to be scared as Kelly—that’s not acting. In fact, I often ruin shots because I am a jumpy person in general. I’m dead serious. Like, a toaster oven could go off, and I jump and fall to the ground and scream. [Laughs] So, I’ve absolutely ruined so many shots, even though I know a Deadite is going to blast through the window.
This is a true story—[director] Sam Raimi says “Action!” and I ruined a shot that took 45 minutes to set up with the candy glass. [Laughs] When the hand came through to grab me, I screamed and ducked out of the shot, and you just see this Deadite arm waving around, trying to find me. And Sam was like, and this is my favorite line from that day, “Dana, that was great. Um, we’re going to do it again, and this time, if you could keep your head in frame so that the camera can see your reaction, and the Deadite can grab your neck—that would be really swell.”
It must take forever to set up a shot all over again for a show like this. Not just with the fake glass, but it must be worse when there’s a transition with your character in clean clothes to being completely blood-drenched.
If you’re talking in terms of getting bloody—you get one chance. [Laughs] Especially when you’re a girl. If you get shot by a blood cannon, that is a solid 45 minutes-to-one hour shower and an entire can of shaving cream just to get the blood off. Then you have to dry your hair, redo the makeup, sit in the chair for another two hours—no way. What will usually happen is, if you’re going from clean to about to get bloody, that’s the one shot—everyone knows it. You better make that field goal. [Laughs]
The rig never seemingly gives enough blood, so once we get the initial shot, they’ll just keep doing it over and over and over, just to give you more blood. But that immediate reaction from the actor, or whoever is having crap thrown on them, that is a real reaction because you can’t act in that moment. You cannot prepare for the sting of blood in your eye. [Laughs] That visceral reaction you see us having on camera is real. But anything after that is just gratuitous, which is what the show is about.
It’s well known among Evil Dead fans that Sam Raimi used to have fun torturing the hell out of Bruce Campbell on the set of all three Evil Dead movies, and from what Bruce told us before, he continues to do it. Does Bruce like to prank you guys, so he’s not the only one suffering?
Oh, definitely, definitely! Although, it’s like a badge of honor. I think it was the first time Ray and I got our first blood prank. It was the second episode of the first season, where Kelly’s mother is getting her head shot off. After the shot, Bruce just came in and laughed. He’s like, [mimicking Bruce] “Eh-he-he-he, suckers!” What I love most about Bruce is, he gets such a joy watching us or any of the other cast members get it, but that’s part of the fun. You want Bruce to relish in the fact that someone else is getting it.
Bruce is a pro when it comes to taking on buckets of fake blood and guts, demonic breast milk, feces, dirt shoveled in his face—you name it. He’s been doing it for over 35 years, and I can totally picture him getting a joy out of it when it’s not him for a change.
To be honest, I thought I had gotten into some Evil Dead Hall of Fame, in terms of the amount of blood. I think the most I have record of is in the first episode of season 2, the bar scene where I am just drenched from ripping the barman’s arms off, then going to town with the axe. You know it’s going to be an extra-bloody day when every square inch of the set is covered in plastic, including the cameraman, who is literally inside a plastic tent.
So I walk in, and I see these massive white tubs filled with gallon after gallon of blood. I looked at one of the art department girls and said, “Well, that sure is a lot of blood for today,” and she sort of smirked and looked at me and said, “Oh, that’s not for today, this is for you.” And I said, “No way, all this blood’s for me?” and she said, “Yup.” Then I said, “Well, I wonder how much that actually is?” She’s like, “I can actually tell you exactly how much because I made it.” I got 26 gallons of blood on me! Just in one scene alone, but then she said it ended up being more than that.
So did that even come close to breaking a blood record in the franchise?
I went to [producer] Rob Tappert and said, “So, Rob, I got 26 gallons of blood on me today. Am I in the Evil Dead Hall of Fame?” And he goes, “No,” and I go, “What? What do you mean? Who’s the top three?” And he’s like, “Bruce has them all. And in first place, he had 400 gallons in Evil Dead 2.” When you put it in that perspective, I can tell you—as someone who knows what it feels like to have 26 gallons of blood blasted on you for five minutes—that 400 gallons is unimaginable. So, Bruce has paid his blood dues, time and time again.
When you’re done filming for the day, have you ever had to venture in public, like maybe getting back to the hotel, all covered in blood?
[Laughs] They don’t even let you go back into the trailer. You have to stand on a towel on set because it will look like a murder scene everywhere you go. This is a true story—the Oldsmobile Delta that Ash drives kept getting pulled over. This was during the filming of episode 4, season 2. It was covered in blood, and they were towing it down to the next set location. They were going down the freeways and streets of beautiful Auckland, New Zealand, and they kept getting pulled over by the cops because it looked like they had run someone over. [Laughs] That actually was hilarious to me because people would freak out.
In terms of awkward stuff that’s happened to me, yeah, all the time. When I go through security, especially border patrol—even though I inspect everything—somehow, I always wear the piece of clothing or have a bag that border patrol then looks at that’s covered in dry blood that I must’ve missed. And trying to explain that and the myriad of questions—by the end, I’m like, “Can I just go now? I just flew 15 hours.” [Laughs] But no matter how many showers you take, I can tell you, there’s always a spot you miss. It’s usually behind the ear or some place you can’t see, that somebody else, like a server at a restaurant, will happen to notice and point out as you’re ordering a steak medium rare, and it’s very awkward conversation.
The fan base for this franchise is very passionate and loyal, and you’ve probably already experienced the love at various horror conventions. What’s the response been like for Kelly, since she’s now a big part of the franchise as Ash’s female sidekick?
I love this question because, first of all, I have to thank every fan for giving me a job. Because the only reason the show exists is because of the lifelong Evil Dead fans who kept pestering Sam and Bruce at every other movie junket they had. “Hey, when are you going to make the next Evil Dead movie?” And so, this show was made. It was a bloody love letter to the fans. I, personally, was terrified at the start that a franchise about one man was suddenly going to have sidekicks, and what would these fans think of that? It could’ve gone a very different direction. I’m so grateful, and it is my greatest joy that not only has my character been embraced by the fans, but I have gotten to do these conventions and Comic-Cons. And I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m more excited to meet them than I think that they are to meet me. Like, they’re the ones who end up backing away slowly because I’m so intense and so, [screams loudly] “Ah, thank you so much!” You know, a little bit too intense.
Bruce has been a part of the franchise for over 35 years now. Do you see yourself doing it as long as him?
When we shoot this show, there are tough days, and there are fun days, but when you get the response from the fans, and you feel their enthusiasm, and they’re quoting it, and they’re asking you all these questions, it reminds you of why you’re doing what you’re doing. For me, that’s what it’s about. That’s why I wanted to be an actor and entertainer. I want to bring that joy to people. If by getting covered in blood and guts and viscera, and getting my head dunked in a bedpan by a perverted, demonic puppet—if that brings people joy, then I will continue to do it as long as they clamor for it.
And I love these fans so much, and I’m indebted to them. I will happily meet with them for as long as they’re interested, but I have a feeling I’m going to continue to scare them away, not in the horror way, but in the “Why is she so creepy?” and the “Why will she not let go of my hands?” sort of way. Watching them dress up—they’re doing the cosplay now as Kelly Maxwell—has blown my mind. I’m so humbled by it. I’m so lucky to be on the show, and I’ll keep doing it for as long as they’ll have me.
Ash vs Evil Dead returns Sunday, Feb. 25, on Starz.