Over the past decade I’ve gotten to do a lot of really cool things while working for Collider. I’ve stood on the set of superhero movies. I’ve watched amazing actors deliver some incredible performances. I’ve even watched Harry Potter stand his ground against Professor Severus Snape. But while all of the things I just mentioned were amazing, as a longtime fan of Bruce Campbell and the Evil Dead series, getting to visit the set of Ash Vs Evil Dead season 2 when the production was filming in New Zealand earlier this year was near the top of the list.
Like many of you, I was a bit nervous when Starz announced they’d be making an Ash vs Evil Dead series. The fact is a lot of TV shows start out with the best of intentions but for whatever reason they don’t work. As a fan of Evil Dead, I didn’t want the show to ruin the franchise, but I also realized if they could pull it off, Starz might be a great place to keep Ash fighting deadites because they’d have the freedom to get crazy and pull off some amazing blood and gore. And if you’ve seen any of Season 1, you know that’s exactly what they did. While I went in nervous, I’ll fully admit everyone involved in Ash vs Evil Dead hit a home run by taking everything that makes fans love the series and bringing it to the small screen. With Season 2, it looks like they’re raising the bar even higher and I’m extremely confident fans are going to love it. In fact, Chris watched the first few episodes and loved what he saw.
During a break in filming on set I got to talk with Lucy Lawless. She talked about what fans can look forward to in Season 2, the crazy amount of blood they use on the show, the importance of “watercooler moments”, the way she likes to work on set, the importance of having a good attitude, her die-hard fans, the nickname “Lucy Flawless”, and a lot more. Check out what she had to say below.
Collider: So, I’m going to start with something fun. Are aware of the nickname “Lucy Flawless?”
LAWLESS: I don’t think that’s being bandied around here, but it is in my credit card. My middle name is Frances, so I have heard this before.
I think it’s fantastic. Jumping into the show, Season 1 was great in terms of what the show got away with blood and guts. How much are you looking forward to fans seeing Season 2 and pushing the boundaries even further?
LAWLESS: I’m very excited for them to see it because it’s very, it’s a much huger show. The writers just went crazy, they gave no caution to the fact that production has a budget, and a difficult schedule. They’ve written such huge episodes. And the art department and everybody is so damn brilliant that they’re pulling it off. But it’s epic. Even when I read them I go, “how do you put this in a half hour TV show? This is flipping, this is Christine meets The Fast and the Furious in a half hour.” But, magically it’s not derivative as much as it’s just uniquely Evil Dead. It’s still, it’s absolutely branded Evil Dead. Even though they’ll draw parallels, we’re in an asylum, obvious parallels with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest though it reminded me more of Papillon but in a very Evil Dead way, so it’s quite brilliant.
Well one of the strengths of the show is that it’s unlike anything else that’s on TV. There’s so many derivative shows out there. Can you talk about that a little bit?
LAWLESS: Well, I was suppose a little bit frightened if they could pull it off at first. Every time you start a new show, you don’t really know how it’s all going to come together and are you going to let the fans down, because when you have something like Evil Dead, there’s a lot of people to disappoint. And they, a bit like I had the same experience on Spartacus, it was almost greater than the sum of its parts in a way, I think it really honored the Evil Dead movies, particularly the second one. So when you get the star and the original producer and the director together and you just hit the tone just right, I mean you’re halfway there, aren’t you? I wonder why they don’t do that more. It’s almost like, “those guys are too old to reprise their own baby,” you know what I mean? But evidently not.
Well, I think it’s interesting because we are on the threshold of what Evil Dead is doing, I believe is what can be done with a lot of things, it’s just a question of, basically Netflix and all these other channels are looking for content. And it’s interesting to see a sort of nostalgia play. The fact that Fuller House after Full House and Evil Dead…
LAWLESS: Oh, that’s interesting. Is Fuller House, that’s with the original people?
LAWLESS: Stop it. Really?
Yes, exactly. Or the fact that Gilmore Girls is being redone right now. So the nostalgia play, I’m really putting myself in this, but the original people have to be involved or else, it’s pointless.
LAWLESS: Right. Yeah, otherwise it’s not nostalgic, it’s a reimagining. Which works beautifully like Battlestar Galactica, too. Was so 180 degrees in the other direction from the original. But you’re right, in this case it was absolute magic. Those people have got to bring their good hearts and their good intentions to it. For instance, if you brought back Gilmore Girls and one of them said, “I’m too big of a star to… I’ll only work four hours a day, three days a week,” then the writers are screwed, they’re hamstrung, they can’t write in good faith, put their hearts into the story. Yeah, it takes, especially for Bruce to be number one on the call sheet, it’s a heavy load.
Yeah, and on top of that, I’m not going to reveal spoilers, but I was just watching Bruce work and covered in blood. That’s not easy.
LAWLESS: That’s why it took so long to convince him to do it! [laughs]
It’s not easy, but I want to talk a little bit about that with you. In Season 2, are you getting pummeled? Or do you sort of make it so you can bob and weave away from the blood?
LAWLESS: I enjoyed being pristine last season, like she just caused mayhem, she didn’t get involved. But the minute my own demon spawn vomits on me, like power chunder all over their mother, i.e. Ruby, my character loses her special qualities and now she’s like an easy mark for every snot cannon, blood and guts dispensing machine that they can find. Yeah, I’ve been covered with it all this season. That’s what happens when you’re in the gang. My character’s been brought into the fold, and this is what happens.
What I loved about the first season is that every single episode, it did something crazy or really pushed in one direction whether it be blood or just a gag, so can you sort of talk about with Season 2, is it pushing further? Are fans going to be just as happy?
LAWLESS: I believe they will, I think, I would hate fans to get used to this level of intensity and action because then we’re all screwed. Because it’s really hard to deliver these kinds of punches to your brain, to have watercooler moments. We used to have them on Spartacus, there has to be at least two things that somebody’s never ever seen on television before every episode. That’s just my reckoning, okay, that’s not anybody else’s, not written in the bible. But you’ve gotta have watercooler moments. In the 90s, you’d have a theme that was a watercooler moment, it might be a kiss between two women or whatever the hell. Those were watercooler moments. These days, it’s every other scene is a punch to your brain, like never seen that. And I would hate everybody to get desensitized. I just don’t know how we top this season.
Yeah, I like that term “punch to the brain.”
LAWLESS: Yeah, could result in damage. [laugh]
How much do you enjoy – you and Bruce both have really devoted fans. So I have to ask how much do you enjoy the conventions, meeting everyone and the tattoos.
LAWLESS: Oh, yeah, I discourage people from getting tattoos, [laughs] but they do what they want. Like, you know, if you sign their arm before a show, say it’s a music show I’m doing, and they come back and they’ve got my ill-considered, scribbled signature immortalized on their flesh for all time, that I don’t love. [laughs] I just feel like that was really rash. I think Bruce gets cooler tattoos. I think his character’s a little more graphic. It’s more the Evil Dead, the scary tree, the chainsaw, the whatever. It translates a little better than the hearts and souls and the pony. And I have seen a full tattoo of Xena, Gabrielle, and the pony on a woman’s back once. With like many colors. But I think Bruce kind of tops mine in terms of cool images. Where was I going with that? I don’t know.
I’m curious about the way you want to work. Obviously each project is a little different. But do you have a routine the way you prepare for the day or for a show?
LAWLESS: I take the path of least resistance, in terms of I don’t fight the schedule. A lot of people think they ought to be able to have a life outside of production and I know that’s just setting yourself up for pain. So production owns me. That’s the way I like – I feel it’s the only way I can work. Otherwise you’re locked up and regrets, and all the things you can’t do when you’re working.
That could explain also how you manage to work so often because you have a very good attitude.
LAWLESS: I like to think that, I was telling the others, when I was younger, I’ve been mystified by these people I knew were really wretched, their behavior was wretched. They were talented and they were beautiful but they were awful. And they might get the job over you who, you’re talented, you’re fairly good looking and well-behaved. Didn’t seem to give you an advantage in those days. But after 40, it really counts. [laughs] When you are no longer young and exquisite, that’s when a history of bad behavior really hurts you.
I think actually now, people talk a lot more often amongst sets. Because I’m not going to name names, but there are people that a lot of people won’t work with because of difficult natures. Where it’s just a struggle and there are so many people that are willing to not be a struggle.
LAWLESS: Oh, yeah interesting. You think that’s true then?
LAWLESS: Is that more about, are people more apt to punish bad behavior these days than they used to be? Because it seemed to me when I was starting out that very badly behaved talented people could get away with it.
I still think if you are a monetary force for the studio, they will put up with a lot. Because you’re a proven commodity that generates capital that they will cut a certain amount of slack. But ultimately, you can only go so far, and once you’ve crossed a certain line, that’s it. At least I think. But I want to go back to what I asked earlier, I want to know how you approach getting ready for a role, not just being well-behaved. The way you like to break down a script, but prepare for a character. Do you have a routine that you typically do or is it different every project?
LAWLESS: Well, when I read it, I experience it as a movie. Then I try to throw away my original concepts of the character and explore other options. And sometimes, okay, well this is very – I never talk this way to interviewers, because a) they would never ask, and b) I only talk to actors about actual technique because it’s such a personal thing –
And we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but I ask a lot of actors the way, their process. I’m very curious.
LAWLESS: Often it’s really about what makes me want to say this, even if it’s not true, why am I telling this person this, and how do I make that real to myself? So you have to draw on experiences in your own life that would inform that. Even though I’ve never met Satan, so Satan shows up, who am I going to turn him into? Or, actually I’ll give you a real example. So, in Spartacus, this fellow played by Stephen Lovatt who’s also playing Sheriff Emory this season on Ash vs Evil Dead, a Roman comes in and unbeknownst to me, he has just raped and murdered my best friend, but she can feel his terrifying energy. What I imagined is that he is a, for me the scariest thing is a sexual predator of children. Absolutely the scariest thing. So I, I just sort of channeled all that kind of baggage on this wonderful actor who I know and it was really terrifying. I was really proud of that work. Her inability to get away from him because he’s so powerful, being trapped by this spider. So, it can be situational rather than – especially with characters. Ruby, they’re writing new things all the time that completely ping you off in a new direction. You can’t settle on a history for your character. I would love to do that and in film you can, you have that time and television you really don’t. You’ve got to be endlessly flexible, I suppose.
Talk about memorable moments of Season 1 and Season 2, is there a day or two you’ll always remember from the first season? And same with Season 2.
LAWLESS: [laughs] I’ll always remember the day that Ruby comes naked out of the flames. That took days and days to get that right. Because we had to keep going out to this windblown cold freezing farm and shooting. And then they decided, “no, she has to be naked when she comes out!” So we then reshot it. That was a culmination of, honestly it was three or four weeks we had to keep going back and finetuning that scene. That’s not a good thing to remember. But this season, unquestionably, my favorite, maybe my career favorite moment happened out at the asylum. The scene where I’m feeding a catatonic woman is so disturbing and hilarious and graceful and terrifying. [laughs] I was moved by that scene! Because it was like, “oh my god, in one scene that’s my best work ever.”
Did you know prior to the script that that was coming, did anyone take you aside and say, “we’re going to do this,” or were you reading the pages like “oh, my effin’ god?”
LAWLESS: No, because, yes, I hear Rob will mention something at home. But it’s only when you’re on set you see the people that we have. The woman was only cast on the fly, it’s like “you go sit down there and hug the teddy bear, and you sit down there, you’re going to be fed.” So, I could never have predicted. It was just this beautiful confluence of events where magic happens. And a very talented director who’s always steering the ship so you’re always in good hands, you don’t have to be controlling anything, you’re only in his hands. So that was kind of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I don’t even want to say it’s an homage. Situationally, it’s very like that, but had shades of Papillon to me. But always true to the Evil Dead ethos, mythos, brand, whatever word you want to use. Uniquely Evil Dead.
Talk a little bit about your character, how things change this season. And, because obviously in more interaction with Bruce and everyone.
LAWLESS: Yeah. Ruby is brought into the fold, reluctantly, on their part. But she needs them. She still thinks Ash is a knucklehead, but she needs him. And he takes her to the bosom of his family. In fact, we spend time in Ash’s bedroom, teenage bedroom, which is such a hellhole. Oh, my god! There were these ghastly, some art director with an exquisite sense of humor went and trolled through hundreds of Playboys. And there were three centerfolds on the wall, which one of them was so distasteful that I didn’t even notice there were two others right next to it for a week! I was kind of mesmerized by this woman on the beach, supine woman on the beach. It was really an awful shot. Oh god, I shouldn’t say that because she signed off on it. [laughs] They all signed off! His walls are festooned with beaver shots. Among other things. And Iggy Pop, and all these people, Suzi Quatro, to have their posters in his room. It was really a great piece of art direction, you just believe it. Takes you back to the 70s in Detroit.
Yeah I don’t think a lot of people don’t realize to have that poster up you need to have permission, but it helps that it’s Evil Dead in terms of getting certain people.
LAWLESS: Yes, and I don’t – I would guess that Iggy Pop went and rang his friends, “hey, I gotta sign off on this man!” Because he’s a huge fan, he played at the opening on Hollywood Boulevard, at Grauman’s.