Fans of Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead got a special treat when they attended a panel discussion on the series at New York Comic-Con on Saturday, and were shown the first episode of the third season, which premieres Sunday, February 25, 2018. A key development finds Ash (Bruce Campbell), now returned to his hometown, being reunited with his long-lost daughter Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill). Later that day, Campbell sat down to discuss family affairs and the bloodier business involved in Ash vs. Evil Dead’s next round of episodes.
Dadhood, the actor says, will put even more a strain on the Deadite-battling reluctant hero. “Ash is gonna become a good father, because once he does accept Brandy as his daughter, then I think he realizes—whether you call it guilt or whatever—that he must protect her at all costs. And the way we’re doing the evil entities this year, they’re sort of like the Mafia; if they can’t get to Ash, they’ll get to his family. So they’re going after Brandy. She’s a target from the second she shows up on this show, which puts Ash into a tizzy, essentially. Ash is pushed to the limit this season—actually, over the limit. He loses it at one point. Arielle is just a beautiful girl, and she has an innocence to her where I really wanted to protect her. I have a daughter who looks like her, and we had some scenes that were difficult to do, emotionally.
“Ash is becoming a real person,” Campbell continues. “Not so selfish, not so self-centered. He’s still an idiot, but… The trick is to reveal a solid core. He’s an idiot on the surface, but way down deep, what is he really like? Thankfully for everyone, Ash is not bad way down deep. He’s a decent guy. We’re hopefully creating a richer life for him. We’re seeing the teacher after school; we’re seeing Ash’s house, we’re seeing his bedroom, we’re seeing his old girlfriend, his dad, now his daughter. It’s good for the character to evolve.”
Yes, Ash’s own father Brock (Lee Majors) is also returning despite becoming a casualty in the second season; this is the world of Ash vs. Evil Dead, after all. “We have some good scenes with him as a ghost,” Campbell says. “Lee has a good sense of humor, and this season, he’s way more relaxed, because he’s like, ‘I got this, I know what this is now.’ You know, you come onto a new show, you don’t know what the hell it is, you don’t know any of the people. He’s comfortable with me now, so he’s great.”
When it comes to the villains Ash and co. must face, season two diverged from the Evil Dead norm of simply presenting a legion of possessees and ghouls by also centering the badness in one character, the demon Baal. Campbell notes that they’re taking a different tack in season three. “Ruby [Lucy Lawless] is pretty bad this season; she’s the one consistently evil one, and she needs to be dealt with once and for all, so that dynamic will exist. But like the Baal character? Not this season. It’s actually the opposite, in that there’s a broadening team of demon-fighters, with Lindsay Farris’ character [Dalton, leader of the Knights of Sumeria, who arrives seeking Ash’s help]. That’s the constant, that there’s a new character fighting on our team. Because we need help.”
Ash vs. Evil Dead has pitted its heroes against a memorable gallery of demons, possessed people—and parts, including a vicious colon in one memorable season-two setpiece. Although the show has continued the films’ tradition of pushing the envelope where gore and gruesomeness is concerned, Campbell cautions that this was not the team’s key goal when creating the latest season. “The trick is to not get caught in that game, so we didn’t. We weren’t trying to top the colon fight, you know? I mean, we have plenty of stuff that’ll be water-cooler talk; there’s no shortage of individual scenes where you’ll go, ‘Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.’ I have a fight with a possessed baby; it’s completely ridiculous, and disgusting.
“So there’s definitely stuff like that, but we wanted to concentrate more on the Joseph Campbell aspect: What is Ash’s myth? Why is he the Chosen One? Ash wants to know too! ‘Why me? Leave me the fuck alone! I just want to drink beer and watch shitty television!’ So we got a little more into that, rather than play that game. If you play that game, you’re gonna lose, because then you have a show that’s just gross. Story comes first. It has to.”
For years now, fans have hoped to see Ash expand his screen exploits in the same directions he traveled in the comics, and take on a couple of cinema’s greatest slashers. That possibility was in fact once raised, but only briefly. “We had a five-minute conversation with New Line Cinema about Ash vs. Jason vs. Freddy,” he reveals. “They approached us, and we were thinking about it and were like, ‘Great, Ash can kill ’em both.’ There was a long pause… ‘Ahem, well, actually, that’s not something we can entertain.’ We couldn’t control any other character—what those guys said, what they did—and we couldn’t kill either one. So right from the start, it was creatively bankrupt. And economically, now we’d be splitting the pot with two other partners. ‘Nah, we’re good.’
“Fans may not realize sometimes why things don’t happen,” he continues. “People got all in a tizz about why there are no references [in Ash vs. Evil Dead] to Army of Darkness, since that was the most recent film. We don’t need ’em! We’ve got a book, a chainsaw and a shotgun. Use anything from Army of Darkness, we’ve got new partners [that film’s producers/distributors]. It wasn’t some scandalous thing; the reasons are so simple sometimes. We just didn’t want to go down that road.”
Speaking of partners and scandal, a small bit of controversy arose last year when showrunner Craig DiGregorio left Ash vs. Evil Dead (to be replaced by Mark Verheiden) after creatively butting heads regarding the show’s direction with executive producer Rob Tapert. Campbell, who’s also an exec producer on the show, notes, “I mostly deal with stuff on the set, on the day, as it happens. If I’m changing anything, I’m gonna do it right there at that time. But it happens every day: People have different views of a show, guys who are working on the same series will have different ideas. Rob Tapert has strong opinions, and so do the other showrunners. And sometimes that’s fine—it’s good to get varying opinions—and sometimes it’s not good. There’s not much to it [beyond that].”