Bruce Campbell has got one of those faces.
With his heroic jaw and sharp eyes, he’s the kind of actor you recognize from all over the place, from fun cameos in films like the “Spider-Man” movies to supporting gigs in USA’s “Burn Notice” to leading roles in cult classics like “Bubba Ho-Tep.”
But he’s by far most recognizable for playing the dimwitted stock boy Ashley J. Williams, who showed off his skill for killing evil monsters first back in 1981 in “The Evil Dead.” Campbell would reprise the role in two sequels, a remake, video games and now a new television series, “Ash vs Evil Dead,” premiering Saturday on Starz.
amNewYork spoke with Campbell about the series.
What were your feelings about returning to the role of Ash?
Fear. Terror. Approaching Ash again as a middle-aged man is a daunting prospect. We don’t shy around it — the guy wears dentures and a man-girdle, so he needs all the help he can get now, which I think is awesome.
How is the physicality for you in the show?
I’ve got to stretch a lot more [laughs]. And my stunt guy’s pretty busy. He’s been busy. Nobody wants to shut a production down. I do plenty. I do more than the average actor. I do a lot. But my routine now is definitely a lot more time in the pool stretching.
Have you changed how you play Ash after all these years?
The only thing that’s changed is me as an actor. I’m best known for the role of Ash in the original “Evil Dead” when I had no experience. I’m enjoying the hell out of revisiting this character now that I know what I’m doing. And it’s way more fun. I can round the character out now. And TV’s great for that. TV will allow people to get to know Ash much more than any movie. We made a movie every 10 years. We haven’t been cranking these out, so TV’s the best format for anyone who really wants to get into it. We have five new hours.
What will we see?
You get to see him in new situations, you get to see him possibly in romantic situations, you get to see him as a leader, a failed leader for the most part. You get to see more angles of him.
Why is Ash such a timeless character?
Cause he’s Mr. Nobody. He’s the everyman. He has no skills. And, you know what, Ash is a good guy. There are not many good guys in the horror series. Very few. Ash is one of them. He’s like your neighbor. Only probably not as smart as your neighbor.
How is this show pushing the horror genre forward?
We don’t have intent to change anything within the industry, we just want to be left alone and do our thing, and give the audience, basically, an unrated TV show. Starz was the only place where that could happen. So that’s our goal and our intent. Our goal is to give them what they actually wanted — they wanted [director] Sam [Raimi] back, they wanted Ash back. So Sam came back to direct the pilot to set the tone and to set the bar. That was extremely helpful and I think the fans will accept it.
This is big reunion for you and Sam Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and even Lucy Lawless.
It feels normal. It feels like how it should feel. A lot of movie sets are foreign to actors. They show up, they don’t know anybody, you haven’t worked with the director before or producer. They can be very foreign places. There can be hundreds of people, you don’t know their names, so it can be really disconcerting. I know New Zealand crew members — that’s where we shoot — I’ve known some of these people for 20 years myself, let alone I’ve known Lucy for 20 years. And then Rob Tapert’s the producer, and we go all the way back with Rob. You don’t have to [expletive] around. There’s no trying to explain something to somebody. You know how to work, you get at it, you know what the goal is, you’ve got to get the material shot and you do it. It’s just been great! You just work. There’s no politics. There’s none of this baloney that comes with a lot of productions. In this case, we all know what we have to do. And Lucy is such a professional. She’s been doing this for 20 years, for God’s sake. So it feels like it should.
Did you ever think you’d still be playing a stock boy nearly 35 years later?
Well, there are a bunch of things that are hard to believe. One is that we’re all still in the business, myself and Sam and Rob. And that we’re all still talking to each other as partners. It’s been a long time. There’s been a lot of things that normally don’t happen. And just to know somebody for this long period. I mean, Sam, I first saw him in junior high school. He was being a weirdo, but I had never dealt with him. But I finally met him in high school. A lot of us have friends who go back to high school, maybe we appreciate it, maybe we don’t. But I appreciate it! We all survived.
A bunch of stuff. I’m pitching a couple new game shows. Different formats. One called “Last Fan Standing.” It’s basically a game show for geeks. And then another one that I can’t really mention yet. And then a feature I did last year called “Highly Functional.” I play sort of a broken-down country-western singer who’s kidnapped by a kid with Asperger’s. So it’s a very twisted road-trip movie. So these little indie movies, you never know what’s going to happen to them.
Did you get to sing a lot on that?
Yeah, I finally got to sing, play the guitar.
How was that experience for you?
Terrifying. Scarier than any horror movie. They say to get out of your comfort box, and that’s about as far out as I had been. … It was very challenging, but it was a great part. And so we’ll see. I don’t know. Keep your eyes peeled.
On TV: “Ash vs Evil Dead” premieres on Saturday at 9 p.m. on Starz.