At the recent New York Comic-Con, Cosmic Book News and a group of fellow journalists spoke to Sam Raimi and producer Craig DiGregorio about the new Starz Ash Vs. Evil Dead series, which premiers Halloween night.
Sam Raimi is the executive producer on the series and directed the first episode. Of course, Raimi directed all three of the Evil Dead films and is known for his work on the Spider-Man franchise as well as Hercules, Xena and Spartacus.
Craig DiGregorio is the executive producer and showrunner on Ash Vs. Evil Dead who has previously worked on Chuck and Workaholics.
Was there any concern in reapproaching the franchise after so many years?
Craig DiGregorio: Huge fear. I thought they really screwed up for the first few [laughs]. I mean from my stand point, no fear. Just really exciting. I'm just trying to honor what these guys did.
Sam Raimi: I was afraid. I was afraid of for so many years of not pleasing the fans, if we actually did come back. What am I supposed to do? Make an Evil Dead with and old Bruce? That wasn't something they were interested in. And then because the fans really never stopped, I thought, I guess that will be our story: old Bruce comes back.
I was afraid for many years of not making it good enough. The other problem is, we won't be able to do the cool camera shots on a TV budget. A quarter of what Evil Dead is, is supposed to be camera shots and stimulate the audience's imagination, make them want to suggest some terrible evil that's out there. TV wouldn't allow me the time for that so that was a little bit of a fear. And then fortunately I realized, "Well, I got back because of Bruce's ugly face." And that is really what the audience likes 80% anyways of: 20% scary, I guess; 10% the camera shots; 70% is really about Bruce Campbell. So TV provides that in spades. Everything you want of Bruce Campbell, you've got. In every episode, his face is in every scene. We can afford that in TV -- explorations of character, even a dumb character like Ash, but it's the right venue for this.
Craig DiGregorio: His face isn't even that ugly. He looks good right now. I know you don't want to agree to this, but he does look good [smiles].
Sam Raimi: No. I don't want to agree to this.
Craig DiGregorio: I remember he came in the writers room very early on, there with a bunch of jokes about how overweight and how he is looking, and he was like "I am going to make you eat those words." Then he really went and worked out. He looks like an action hero right now.
Sam Raimi: Yeah, he is looking good.
When you started the Evil Dead franchise, did the thought ever cross your mind there would be a TV show down the road or was it strictly movies, and that's it?
Sam Raimi: No. The second of the choices. We were just trying to make a movie good enough to play in the drive-in theaters.
Did you ever expect the cult following?
Sam Raimi: Never. We were just very short-sighted trying to make the movie to make its money back, pay our dentist and vouchers back. When we made part two, we couldn't get a job at that time. The only thing we could do is Evil Dead 2. So it was just about being able to survive and make your next thing. We never really had a good review for any of those movies, nor made money at the box office. We probably broke even, but they have never been met with much warmth, although the audience has been wonderful to us over the years.
How do you approach episodic storytelling in a binge-watching world?
Craig DiGregorio: I think, just not try and pay attention to how people are watching and just try to tell the best story naturally. A lot of the episodes end because our first season is sort of a road picture. They end "okay, we're off to this place for some reason." So that made it kind of easy -- push the storylines so people want to see what happens next. I don't think we need to fall prey to telling a story in a specific way.
Why is Starz a good choice for Ash Vs. Evil Dead?
Craig DiGregorio: They just let us do whatever we want -- to make the show as sort of over the top, bloody, crazy, scary and action-packed as we could.
Was the addition of the two new young side-kicks important into getting new viewers into the franchise?
Craig DiGregorio: I don't know if it was important for allowing the viewers into the franchise. I mean Bruce is always best when he can play off people. It was just getting people to interact with, really.
Sam, you have been involved with directing and creating so many movies and franchises, is Evil Dead something that's kept coming back?
Sam Raimi: Yeah. I never thought it would be my first one that people seem to like. That's the only movie they ever ask me for. I made three of them already, so I thought I had done it. Yeah, they never ask me for another Spider-Man or Dark Man... It's just Evil Dead. It's thrilling to have so many people care about.
How does the story fit in with the movies?
Sam Raimi: It kind of has to do the job of a TV pilot and get everybody up to speed on who Ash is and what happened to him. Then it has to begin the story in the present again. It tries to be authentic to the first two Evil Dead movies. We don't really talk about the third one because we honestly don't have the rights to the third picture, so we don't have the ability to reference it. So we just have to base it on the first two, and I think it's fine. You meet the character. There are flashbacks to the first two movies. There are references to them, and then the story moves forward. It picks up logically where the last one left off.
Is there way to side-step the third movie? There can't be an Evil Ash?
Sam Raimi: Nope. Because that character was created in the third movie.
How would you compare Ash Vs. Evil Dead to The Walking Dead:
Sam Raimi: Well, I think Walking Dead is really cool. I haven't seen all of it, but I've seen the first two-and-a-half seasons, and I really enjoyed it. I love the make-up effects. The acting is great. That's a really great, dramatic, serious, scary show. I guess ours is different in that ours is about more Bruce Campbell as a monster fighter. It has the little bit of the Evil Dead sense of humor about it, which is different than I think most of the other shows that are popular right now.
"Ash Vs. Evil Dead" airs Saturday, October 31st at 9pm ET on Starz starring Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Jill Marie Jones, Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago on Starz; a second season has been announced.
Watch the first four minutes: