Sure, Ashley J. Williams is back, but when it comes to slaying Deadites in the 21st century, he’s going to need a hand. That’s where Dana DeLorenzo comes in. In Starz’ new series Ash vs. Evil Dead, premiering this Halloween, she stars as Kelly Maxwell, one-half of our hero's backup crew.
But don’t call her a sidekick. Whereas Pablo (played by Ray Santiago) looks up to the demon-dispatching one-handed one-liner machine that is Ash -- of course still played by Bruce Campbell -- DeLorenzo’s Kelly begins the series as less than impressed with “the king.”
Instead, she says she first meets Ash when he tries to pick her up on her first day working at Value Stop, where Pablo and Ash also work. It isn’t until later that she sees there might just slightly more to Ash than the sleaziness. But when I speak to her on set, it seems like she’s definitely part of Team Ash.
It’s morning in Auckland, New Zealand, and DeLorenzo is joining me to talk about the show. As the Down Under winter winds of June whip around us, the weather goes from sunny to cloudy to rainy and back again in minutes. We’re outside, under a very structurally questionable tent that keeps creaking, before she has to film a scene for Episode 6 outside a diner.
She’s rocking a pretty sweet purple leather jacket, which looks like a signature piece of wardrobe for Kelly, and she is notably not covered in blood. I expect that to change by the end of the day.
DeLorenzo is a comedian who we’ve seen in The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and Californication – and not so much from gory projects. But that will change when the horror comedy introduces Kelly, who is described as “a moody wild child trying to outrun her past.” But in the following conversation, DeLorenzo reveals much more about Kelly. She also shares a bit about herself, such as the fact that she is scared of everything and thinks the AvED set might be cursed.
Where is Kelly when we first meet her?
We first meet Kelly at Value Stop, which is where Ash and Pablo work. She’s Pablo’s best friend and has recently gone through a tragedy and run her life off the rails. Pablo is helping her out with that. He gets her this job. This is the first day on the job. She doesn’t want to be working there, but she’s trying to make an effort and is struggling with her own personal demons and guilt. She is really trying to find her purpose and trying to add value to the world. What will make her want to get out of bed every morning? That’s where we find her.
How does she come to get mixed up with Ash and this battle against evil?
Episode 1, Scene 1, she is working the counter, and Ash comes up and immediately hits on her in his Ash way. She is tough, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. She puts him in his place straightaway. Her first impression of him is that he’s an arrogant idiot. “Oh, here’s this guy who thinks he’s super cool, and the first words out of his mouth are some terrible pickup line.” First impressions are everything, and she tells him he just needs to walk away. It is not until, through a series of events later in the episode, she sees this other side of Ash, this unlikely hero, that he is able to have these skills. She sees him in all his glory, and almost in spite of herself, is in a little bit of awe. Because she’s best friends with Pablo, she gets dragged along with them in the fight against evil. But in the end, that’s what she needs. It is the calling she’s been looking for.
What kind of tragedy has she suffered?
She reveals it pretty quickly, but her mother has died.
We get the sense that Pablo looks up to Ash, and maybe has this unrequited love for Kelly, but what’s in it for you? Why do you really go along?
Kelly gets involved because she doesn’t know what else to do. She finds this new kind of family with them. She has Pablo’s back, and soon enough, she has Ash’s back. For her, that’s one of her strengths. It is being loyal. Pablo is the heart of the operation. Ash is the brawn, with his fighting skills. She’s the common sense, the voice of reason. Maybe we should think before we open that book over there. She is also a good counterpart to Ash, because he’s met his match in terms of mouthiness and wit. She has no qualms calling him out if he steps out of line. Spoiler alert: He steps out of line sometimes, because that’s Ash.
We know you have this vendetta against the Deadites. It is personal, right?
It is a vendetta that is close to home. Episode 1, it doesn’t really happen yet. She just meets Ash, so she’s just getting her feet wet. It is not until a couple episodes in that that vendetta and revenge happens that motivates her.
Deadites can appear as someone from your life, so does that make your character vulnerable, since she has lost her mother?
I think it makes everyone vulnerable. We’re all susceptible to falling prey to that manipulation. But in those first episodes, she is almost the voice of the new audience. She is asking the questions and trying to understand it, and that helps someone who has never seen this before.
Talk about any stunt training you’ve undergone.
It has been so awesome, because I got off the plane after a 15-hour flight, and it was, "Hey, going to stunt training." Literally, I don’t think I had unpacked yet. And I come from a comedy background, so that whole world is new to me. I have to say, I was honestly caught off guard by how much I’m doing and loving it. I do have an amazing stunt double who does the real serious stuff that I would definitely injure myself on. But I told them I injure myself on a daily basis. I walked into my own cupboard door in my trailer minutes ago. So I’m much better with choreography than in life.
What is your signature weapon?
She hasn’t found hers yet. What Kelly’s signature is, is being able to turn anything into a weapon. I will take that recorder and beat you upside the head with it. She is a real badass in the making that way. She just learns on the fly, so she doesn’t have any weapons or martial arts training. She knows she is scrappy, so she does a little street fighting. But at the end of the day, she might take a water bottle and jam you in the eye with it. Her skill is being able to adapt, and think quickly on her feet.
How much are you able to utilize your comedic skills in this role?
Definitely enough. The writers have created such a fantastic character. She has my favorite kind of sense of humor, so sarcastic, and loves to bust chops. I always find it funny when someone can really zero in – especially when done to a character like Ash, who thinks so highly of himself. To be his match and call him out has been so much fun. So yeah, definitely getting to use that comedy. There is a real rhythm to this show. Ash, we know his comedy. He has got the great one-liners, and rhythmic speak. Pablo is also funny in his own right, in such an unassuming innocent way. There is all different facets of the comedy world here. That’s my favorite, when it is not just one note. The audience will respond to that. We’ll make you laugh, then make you gag with horror.
There are three female leads on this show …
Which is so awesome, right? We’re kicking some ass.
How are these fresh, authentic characters?
It is not about being male or female. These are fully formed people. It is not that she can fight good for a girl. Like Jill’s character is fiercely intelligent, and is a badass. Kelly knows who she is, and can hold her own. She has no problem hanging with the boys, and no problem knocking out some evil. Same with Lucy Lawless’ character, which has been a mystery up to this point – other than we know she is sort of on the hunt for Ash. I, as an actor, didn’t even have an idea as to why. These three women each have their strengths, but are grounded in reality. You see their vulnerabilities and see them fight through that. Whether you’re a man or woman, who doesn’t want to see someone overcoming their weaknesses and fears? They want to come out on the other side of those and be the best versions of themselves.
This Evil Dead world has decades of fandom … [The increasingly noisy, creaking tent starts to shake]
This tent is going to fall! By the way, this crazy stuff has been happening everywhere. I’m telling you, the evil is out and well. They like to go out. Objects fly off the walls. I’m telling you, something has happened. I have been saying this. We have actually done something. I’m sorry, I believe in this stuff. I have seen it with my own eyes! Stick around long enough, you’ll see it. I’m sorry I interrupted, because we’re going to die in this tent. You hear that? That is scary. I’ll save you.
If we die, someone will have to carry on our work. How did you react the very first time you encountered a Deadite walking around on set?
I am the kind of person that jumps when the phone rings, or the toaster pops, or someone knocks on my door. I am jumpy, and I get really grossed out very easily with that kind of stuff. I was there when they were working on the prosthetics. Then, all of a sudden, I’m in the lunchroom when in walks this Deadite, and I nearly drop my peas and mashed potatoes. I could not look at them. I met them as normal people. I know they’re actors in this show, and I know they’re not really an evil person. I told my mom she’s going to have to close her eyes. I am seeing it live, and it still freaks me out. I could not look them in the eyes. It was really eerie and terrifying.
Scared of everything but into ghost stories and the paranormal?
Yeah, but that was my roots. I started loving to be scared, and horror, when I grew up reading R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and watching Are You Afraid of the Dark every Friday. I loved going to haunted houses. Then I peaked at 13. I saw IT, The Shining and The Exorcist all in the same year, and I was done. That was it. Since then, a balloon pops and I gasp. So I think the people on the show are happy, because I don’t even have to act when it comes time for all that stuff. Because I am scared, legitimately.
Will you share a scene when your stomach churned a little bit?
You have to wait and see, but I’ll tell you Sam Raimi loves blood. He loves, looooves throwing blood on people. He loves a geyser of blood. It doesn’t matter whether the blood is coming from the ground -- if the grass is bleeding! -- it makes my stomach churn. I can’t give specifics, but let us surprise you. They are calling action, and I can’t swallow because I’m grossed out. Those are the moments I don’t want to take away from the fans. Even when they make certain things that shouldn’t be edible, but make them edible … People who like gore and horror will be clapping.