‘Ash vs Evil Dead’ stars share experience returning to famous ‘Evil Dead’ franchise

Justin Jones

“Ash vs. Evil Dead” premiered its second season in Austin this week at Fantastic Fest. The show revives the classic “Evil Dead” franchise, where Ash (Bruce Campbell) fights through armies of the dead with new sidekicks Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago). The Daily Texan spoke with the show’s stars about returning to the franchise, adapting to TV and women’s roles in the horror genre. 

Bruce Campbell: Ash
DT: It’s been 23 years since “Army of Darkness.” What was it like returning to the role after so long?

BC: It was honestly very startling. It’s a very physical character, and after pulling a couple hamstrings you realize your own mortality. So that part is always difficult. Just doing the same crap 24/7, only 25 years later, is a whole different ballgame. In the movies, he’s not that well-defined. But [with] the dude in the TV show you start to see nuances. Maybe he is the leader, maybe he’s not a total idiot and he will try to cover your back, and maybe [he] is a badass. A TV show allows you to explore it all — the foibles, the weaknesses, the previously unknown strengths he would’ve had. 

DT: In our current trend of superheroes everywhere, do you think Ash fits in? 

BC: No, not at all. That’s what makes him unique. He’s the only guy that has no skills whatsoever. He’s not CIA, he’s not the FBI, none of that shit. He’s just a schmoe that works in the hardwares department. And now he’s over the hill. He’s middle-aged, he’s tired, he’s worn out, and now he has to save the freaking world. I like that scenario. I want to see that guy try and pull that shit off. But he doesn’t really want to do it, he can’t really do it. He makes mistakes, and he’s a really flawed hero. This guy has a lot going on with him. 

DT: So where is Ash going to go in Season 2?

BC: Well, he’s gonna go back home. He’s trying to save his town, but they don’t really want him back. He’s an urban legend, he’s “Ashy-Slashy.” He’s got to save the world but the town doesn’t really want his help.

Dana DeLorenzo: Kelly
DT: The show is a really fantastic way to continue the “Evil Dead” story, as well as start a new one.

DD: Yeah, I think that’s a very challenging thing to do — to maintain what the franchise was built on while also bringing it into a new era, a new generation with new characters and sidekicks. I think it’s a testament to Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapart for being able to balance that and merge both. It was something that I was a little terrified of. I knew what a loyal fan base this franchise has, and I knew that it was mostly because of one man and one character. To the fans’ credit, they have been so, so kind and attached to these characters. And I think it’s because they are so well written and such a good balance to Ash. I think Ray likes to say that Pablo is the heart, Kelly is the brain and Ash is the brawn. It’s a trifecta of misfits that somehow comes together.

DT: One thing that’s unfortunately consistent throughout the original three Evil Dead movies is that women don’t typically have the biggest roles, and when there is a woman she is treated absolutely poorly. Do you think Kelly’s character is a kind of an intentional reversal to that trend?

DD: The creators have evolved the female character to where we’re at right now. I think the fact that Ash now has these strong women to fight alongside was very smart on their part. In general, women in horror have not been done justice and they’re starting to, thank goodness. I think there is a changing face of horror, and female characters are not naked or being the damsel in distress, they’re the Kelly’s of the world. The incredible men that created the franchise then realized, “Oh, let’s reflect [on] where we are, and let’s evolve these female characters.” I met a fan at a Comic-Con and she said, “Oh, I’m writing my senior thesis on the evolution of female characters in horror and I’m using your character of Kelly as the lead example of how they’re now these kickass women.” And it’s something I’m very proud of that it’s true, that it’s not just another stereotype. Kelly is tough for sure, but she’s human, and I love that. 

Ray Santiago: Pablo
DT: Did you watch the “Evil Dead” movies growing up? What was it like working with Bruce Campbell, who starred in all of them?

RS: I’ve always been a fan of horror films, I watched these movies growing up as a kid. I always wanted to be the guy saving the girl from the monster, and now I’m one step closer to being the superhero. I get to be Ash’s loyal sidekick. And I’m the first Latino sidekick to a horror genre on television. Bruce is an amazing leader, and I sometimes still get nervous around him. I still have that feeling in my stomach whenever I show up to set. But we have this thing where we’ll walk on set, everyone will be sort of doing their thing, and I’ll look up and catch his eye and he catches my eye and we just start laughing. You know, Bruce has taught me so much, from learning to hit my mark to learning to speak up. I can only be so lucky to be working with such great company. 

DT: What is it like to play a character breaking ground in a popular franchise?

RS: Going into this, I just wanted to be confident. I’ve been dying for an opportunity like this for a really long time. There’s pressure, but the pressure lies more now with what kind of role model I can be both on and off camera. I think with Pablo, the world gets a positive portrayal of a Latin-American. And in the time of today when people are building walls, it’s important to show positive portrayals of Latinos on television, and especially one who wants to be a superhero and save the world from evil. 

DT: How similar are you to the character of Pablo?

RS: I think we both want to leave our marks on the world, we both want to be heroes in a certain respect, and they want to change people’s perceptions of what people think of us. I think we both see beyond people’s flaws, but I think Pablo has a hard time believing in himself, and personally I try to make the choice to believe in myself every day. I try to infuse myself into Pablo as much as possible. One of the things I struggle with is how he always just believes Ash is the hero, and he’s always let down by Ash. And I’m just like, “C’mon! Wake up!”