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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead, “El Jefe.”]
After three decades of waiting and an entire summer of hype, Evil Dead fans were finally treated to the long-anticipated follow-up to Sam Raimi’s cult classics on Saturday when Ash vs. Evil Dead premiered on Starz.
The first episode picked up 30 years following the horrific events at that cottage, when Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his friends read from the cursed book and unleashed a comical world of undead beings and inanimate objects come to life. Not much has changed for Ash since those days, except maybe a little more girth around the middle and the assumption that every girl still wants to get with him, even though he’s a little older and none the wiser.
Of course it doesn’t take long for the dead to return in full force, thanks to a hazy night Ash spent getting high and reading the book with one of his conquests. Before long he and a ragtag team (including Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago) are forced to fight evil together while police officer Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) is left wondering what mysterious source really killed her partner.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Craig DiGregorio to get the lowdown on how the series came together, the iconic moment when Ash first put that chainsaw back on and to find out when viewers will see more of Lucy Lawless.
How important was it to create a world of straight men to counter Ash?
I don’t think they’re the straight men to his antics, but I don’t think anyone will get as dumb as Ash is. He is dumb and he is selfish and he should not be doing this. I guess no person should really have a chainsaw on their arm. But he’s very good at it. So even though he is ridiculous, there is sort of a reverence that they see him with. So they’re not all meant to be as wise-cracking as he is, but I also don’t think they’re pure straight men. We had to give him a team of people that he could work with as we go through the show. There are other people that can have scenes and things like that, you just need that in a TV show.
What went into making sure the moment when he put the chainsaw back on felt right?
That’s something that Sam really had in his mind from the get-go, was that ending. It’s a moment late in the first episode, when he finally puts the chainsaw back on. It was something that was probably in Sam’s head for much longer than anyone else’s. It’s a moment that has that big superhero-ness to it, but it’s also really funny and ridiculous. It’s a fun thing to pull off. Sam just has that amazing eye; he made that moment into five things when you can usually hope for a moment to land as one thing. He made it everything.
How difficult is it to know when you can execute things like that doll coming to life and when it won’t work?
It’s a back and forth with production. They’re involved pretty early on. If we have an idea for an inanimate object or something that requires a large amount of makeup effects, something that’s big and practical, we talk to them early on. And they let us know how we might pull this off, if we can pull it off, if there’s enough lead time. It doesn’t stop us from thinking about things, but it’s just helpful that we know we can do it as we’re going further down a road after just an idea.
We barely saw Lucy Lawless. When does her character come more into play?
She’s definitely the hardest character, because she enters the show as someone who is inextricably connected to this world. Her family was the people who owned the cabin that Ash went to 30 years ago and read the book that the professor found. So she thinks Ash destroyed her family, because of all the death around him at the cabin. You find out more about her as the first season progresses. It’s hard for the character to keep things away from the audience when you want her to be a big part of the show. So you learn some things about her early on in episodes three and four, and then in episodes seven and eight you learn even more. We did dole out her information pretty slowly, but there was a reason for it.
Starz isn’t telling you when to pull back, but do you self-moderate the content?
We did not self-moderate. At some points we were like, we can push this a little more. It was nice to do that, where you realize you can do anything you want and make the crazy moments a little crazier.
The show has already been renewed for a second season. How long do you see it potentially going?
Could that branch back into film?
Why not? I don’t think anything we’re doing is prohibitive to doing another movie. It’s introducing more people to the character and if more people start loving this character and really want a movie then sure. Maybe it’s the type of thing where you do a bunch of seasons and then end it with a movie.
Evil Dead is such a fan-driven franchise. How much attention will you pay to social media and reaction to the show?
The truth is it’s hard not to look at that stuff. But I’ll probably try to use it for where it’s valuable, and not just pay attention to all of it. If there are salient points made about things then you might pay more attention to that than someone just saying like, “Hated it!” or, “Loved it!” But yeah I’m very interested in how the fans receive it. When we screened at Comic-Con, it seemed to go over really well. It seemed to provide the fans with all the stuff that they wanted. And that’s a lot of stuff. There are a lot of different things happening in the movies and different reasons people like it. It seems like we checked off a lot of those boxes. During the Q&A I was very interested to see which film, Evil Dead 1, 2 or Army of Darkness people identified with, which people liked the most. So that’s more important to me, knowing why people really like them, and then trying to deliver on that stuff rather than trying to change course due to what people are thinking today.
Ash vs. Evil Dead airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
What did you think of the premiere? Did it live up to expectations? Sound off in the comments below.
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