Bruce Campbell may still feel like a B-Movie actor, but he’s a triple A-List threat as actor on a hit show, author of bestselling books, and as the character Ash Williams.
Campbell is currently on a 35-city tour for his third book, Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, the sequel to his 2002 career memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor. Meanwhile, his Starz series Ash vs. Evil Dead is heading into its third season (likely premiering in 2018), with Season 2 currently available on home entertainment. Plus, the king of comic con showmanship is still hosting “Last Fan Standing,” a trivia game show that tests nerd knowledge at events.
Campbell joined me on the phone recently to talk about the DVD/Blu-ray release of Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 2, give teases on how the mythology will expand in Season 3, and discuss the current status of Season 4. However, because Bruce has been a working actor who has hustled his way through the business of show for more than four decades, it is always worth talking to him about the industry, and his place within it.
In the conversation below, we also discuss why Campbell will never not be a B-Movie actor, and what his big plans are for the future (which he says are actually pretty little plans).
A 35-city book tour is no joke. Are you up for that schedule?
Bruce Campbell: This old bird? I’ll be alright; don’t worry about me. Touring for your own book is not a burden. You’re not working for the man, you’re working for your man at that point. So it is mostly a delight. Physically it will be a little trying, but it’s all good. You can’t sell books unless you tour.
In the years since If Chins Could Kill became a bestseller, and AvED became a hit, has it gotten easier to sell these books? It is a little less hustle?
No, not much less. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from every actor book I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot, is the hustle never ends. Publishers, at the end of the day, are pretty tight-fisted. As an author, it is my job to put the money out first for the tour, submit receipts, and get reimbursed. The good news is, they’ll pay for your tour – after you pay for it first.
The book has the foreword by John Hodgman, with whom you worked on Chins. So this has come full circle for you.
John was the first guy to reach out, and contact me. I was like, whatever. It is hilarious to watch him go from a literary agent’s assistant, which is what he was, to become John Hodgman. So I was delighted he would do an intro for this book. Because now he’s John Hodgman.
There is a lesson to be learned here about how to treat people, because it’s a small world, and people stick around in this business.
It is entirely true. I try not to be nice because it’s good for my upward trajectory. I try to be genuinely civil to most people. It is funny; I worked with Traci Lords one time, and said she needed to write a book. She said she couldn’t because all the porn producers were now legitimate producers, and if she mentioned their name, she’d never work again. People stay around, and start as one thing in the business, then become something else.
Are we at the point of Ash vs. Evil Dead where this show is less about the Evil Dead movies that came before it, or servicing fans, and more about the standalone strength of this series?
You have to have your own series, and hook people on the merits of its own show. But you throw a little chum in the water along the way. You got to keep the references there, and some of the characters. Season 2, we obviously bring back Henrietta, and Ash’s sister Cheryl. There are some cool callbacks, but the story had to progress. Him now saving his small town, and overcoming the fact they think he’s a pariah. He had a lot to overcome in Season 2. Not only the people in his town, but the people who are not in his favor. And meet his father, the great Lee Majors.
By the end of Season 2, he returns, and is received as a hero. But who is this guy at the end of the season?
Absolutely, the confetti falls. He is a redeemed hero. He got his town back, lost a few people along the way, but defeated evil, and saved his town. What more can a hero ask for? You lose a few folks along the way, and it’s the bumps in the road to a Joseph Campbell hero’s journey. Season 3 picks up right where that left off. He begins as the hero of the town. It lasts about 10 minutes. And We’re going to find his fatherly instincts in Season 3.
I’ve enjoyed watching Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago), who were new to this world, become as important as Ash. And Kelly and Ray have grown a lot as actors as well.
And you need to service those characters. In Season 3, there is a lot that is going to happen with Kelly and Pablo. And this has been a harrowing experience for both of these actors. These three seasons of being put in harnesses, and bloodied. Dana pretty much cracks a rib every season, and Ray always mangles himself somehow. They’ll never do anything for the rest of their lives that is this physical, is my guess. They’ll look back on this, and say, “I’ll always have Ash vs. Evil Dead as my yardstick for pain.”
Do you think, as both the lead actor and as a producer, you stuck the landing for Season 2?
The trick is we want to put an entertaining show out there, with a healthy mix of horror, and humor, and mythology. Season 3 is probably a third, third, and third.
What is the third of mythology for three?
You’ve got to start finding out why this average guy who lives in a trailer park was foretold in an ancient book. That’s the fun of Season 3 for me. Pablo is going to get much more in touch with his shaman side. Kelly is going to be more of an efficient badass. Ruby is going to show her true colors, which are not good. There is hell to pay.
You told me before that you could do this show for something like 16 seasons. How about now? Are you looking at an endpoint to tell a complete story, and wrap it up?
Well, here’s the truth of the modern television world. They only do 10 episodes now. Television is fast, and fickle. There are some networks that, to them, four seasons is long enough because everyone is getting paid a lot, the show is not cheap anymore, and viewers tend to go, “OK, whatever.” There is always that nexus point of when a show tips. Every show on the air now goes through the valuation periods.
So, you haven’t heard on Season 4?
We haven’t heard because Starz is still pondering what they’re going to do. They merged with Lionsgate, so there are other issues at play there. It is above my paygrade.
Let me ask you about the fan component because you’ve gone to cons consistently throughout the years. Did that make you a savvier business person because you could witness firsthand what the audience was demanding?
Acknowledging the fans is something actors just need to do. I went to a convention with a very successful television actress – it was her first time, and it mortified her that so many people were interested in her every move. It was too personal for her, and I don’t think she ever went back. For me, my dad was in advertising, so I look at it like these are my clients. Like I’m a sales guy, and selling myself. Plus, it’s the last of an actor’s live performance opportunities.
Most actors in the old days could all do theater, and Broadway, vaudeville. The only thing left that modern actors have is these raucous Q&A sessions. We play lots of dumb games, give out money, prizes. For me, that’s kind of the fun: tormenting kids, bringing them up on stage, give them five bucks; finding the laziest son of a bitch in the audience, give him five bucks for being so lazy; talent contests.
Are you still a B-Movie actor? You’re still working, and hustling, but…
If you put it under the category of genre stuff, you could still make a case for it. A lot of what I do is still very genre-y. It will fall under sci-fi, fantasy, horror. The last three seasons have been full-on, unrated television. That’s about as genre B-Movie as you can get. Even though Starz is a classy network. It is not a term I think is bad. B-Movies aren’t bad. They are where it’s at now. Everyone is imitating B-Movies. Counter culture stuff is cool; it’s mainstream. All the A-Movies now are B-Movies. Batman is a B-Movie.
By classifying yourself as B-Movie, does it keep you honest? Since once you start classifying yourself as an A-Movie guy…
Oh, you’re doomed. I am reading a book about Douglas Fairbanks. There was no guy in the world who was a bigger movie star than him, and then when he was over, and done, and couldn’t do it anymore, he was out so fast it made your head spin. Talkie movies came in, and that was not his bag. When you fall from the top? He’d pull up in Rome, and everyone would say he’s coming, and he’d have 5,000 people in a plaza waiting for him. It was unprecedented fame back in those days. Then man, when they were out, they were out.
I’d rather be pulsing around. My theory is all actors start in B-Movies, and end in B-Movies. I figure I’ll just stay there. I got nowhere to go, and it’s all good.
So you’re going to pulse around B-Movies, but what’s the moment you still want as an actor?
Now it’s time for the homegrown work. My wife and I have developed 10 different scripts of all different genres, and size. Most are teeny, little movies. I want to get back to a little more of that. It is fun to go make these TV shows, and work for big companies with lots of promotion. It is all exciting. But the process is still as interesting when you get back down to the nitty gritty. I want to make movies in my state of Oregon. I want to make a Western in this state. I have a lot of plans, but not big plans. People like to have big plans; my plans are very little. But I have a lot of them. More books, too.