Ash vs Evil Dead is over, but it's a marvel it existed at all. Think of the near-quarter century of conventions and book tours Bruce Campbell attended where he was asked if there would be an Evil Dead 4. Any fan knows that the answer to that question was always "NO!"
And yet, beginning in 2015, we got THIRTY EPISODES of more Ash Williams with his chainsaw and his shotgun and Sam Raimi's car. But now it's over: Starz canceled Ash vs Evil Dead after its third season, and all that's left is the Blu-ray collection (available now).
Shortly after the cancellation, Bruce Campbell tweeted that he was retiring Ash Williams. So I talked with Bruce to get some parting thoughts on his time as Ash. But first, after 37 years, what I really wanted to know is: How does it feel to really be done being Ash?
"Good," affirms Campbell. "I could still play the character standing up straight, I could still learn my lines, hit my marks, do a little bit of stunt work, crack some jokes, and get outta there. I don't have to be held up with glue and baling wire."
Not every 60-year-old can make that claim. But what made Campbell happiest after three seasons wasn't that he was still on his feet — it's that he was really in charge.
"The best thing I got to do is not having to get script approval." With something to the tune of 50 movies, multiple long-running TV series, and a host of video games under his belt, Campbell, whose fans have always seen him as a working-class actor, is aware of how rare it is to have control over what an actor says.
And there was a specific reason for that control, too. "I was an active participant in the character of Ash. I didn't mess with anybody else's stuff," Campbell clarified, "but, you know, I figured if Sam Raimi is not around, I'm the guy who is best qualified to determine what comes out of [Ash's] mouth."
Bruce has a lot of stories he tells when he's at cons. For instance, it was during the original Evil Dead that he smoked weed for the first time. I wanted to know what kind of firsts he had on Ash vs Evil Dead by comparison. "I put my head up a cadaver's butt. That was a first and probably last."
Some of the stories Bruce tells are not true. Fabrications. For example, Bruce sometimes tells a story about how he gave special effects master, Greg Nicotero, the idea for Negan's bat in The Walking Dead while they were stoned in '88. So I asked about that, and Bruce revealed why he makes up these stories from time to time.
"It's important to lie as often as possible when it comes to past history. Like the great comedian W.C. Fields: He wrote all of his own press releases and they were all bulls***, the entire thing. No one actually even knows where he was born, they don't know anything about his younger years, because he made up the whole fricking thing. So it's important to perpetuate those lies. So yes, I gave Greg Nicotero the idea for Negan's bat, but he was too drunk to remember it."
But one fact remains: Bruce Campbell is retired as Ash Williams. So, looking forward, I wanted to know what he's doing next and, looking back, what former characters he's played that might also return.
"I'm about to make the rounds with a game show called Last Fan Standing," Campbell affirms. "It's a game show for geeks. 'How much does Thor's hammer weigh?' Those are our questions. So we've been doing it in about 30 cities. I have about half a dozen more cities coming up this year. So it's time to pitch that one. It's ready. We're road-tested."
But what roles might he return to? I, being a fan from way back, wanted to know about Brisco County Jr. "That could come back," Campbell confirmed. "I'd do a limited series or a TV movie. Burn Notice, I would do the same thing for that."
And for those who might still ask Bruce for more Evil Dead? "People asking questions about something they wanted to see more of got repetitive, because I didn't have an answer for them," Bruce admitted. "Now I can finally say, dude, we got 15 fresh hours for you — unrated. So thank your lucky Starz, with a 'z'."