Interview: The Women of Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Dana Delorenzo, Jill Marie Jones, and Lucy Lawless.
Tonight Starz will be premiering their new original series, Ash Vs. Evil Dead. The series has already earned rave reviews and high praise from fans who saw the first episode at New York Comic Con, and has already been renewed. With the first episode directed by Sam Raimi, the half hour horror-comedy is a fun return to the Evil Dead universe from almost 35 years ago. Bruce Campbell once again returns to the role of anti-hero Ash Williams, this time joined on his journey by Ray Santiago’s Pablo and friend Dana Delorenzo’s Kelly, followed by Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher, played by Jill Marie Jones, and a mystery woman named Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless. I spoke with Delorenzo, Jones, and Lawless about their characters, the continued appeal of Ash Williams and Evil Dead, and joy and pain of filming with all that blood.
Lesley Coffin (TMS): Dana may be giving something away, but I know that you eventually get to film some scenes together. What were those days like on set?
Dana Delorenzo: Because most of my scenes were with Bruce and Ray, I loved the three scenes I had with Jill this season, and the great scene I got to have with Ms. Lucy Lawless. I’ve just been singing her praises.
Jill Marie Jones: Why wouldn’t you.
Delorenzo: Of course. But they both play, and have played, such fierce women on a mission that if you mess with them, you could end up without a face. But in real-life they are fierce as well, in a different way, and have become true mentors to me. And you both took such great care of me, even during the press tour. So they’ve both become such great role models for me, watching how they carry themselves on set and then being able to just turn it on and own the screen. It was so wonderful to have them on the set
TMS: What was it like finally getting to work with Dana?
Delorenzo: They loved it!
Jones: There was something truly magical and special about that day. It was she and I, no boys, just us. And I think it was the first time I had been with that other part of the show.
Delorenzo: Yeah, because you are off having your own adventure with Lucy’s character, and this was the first time our worlds intersected.
Jones: And you could just feel something tangible between us that day.
Delorenzo: We were very connected. I feel lucky to have a small cast, but that we all had chemistry. But Jill and I had a special relationship, because Jill, Ray and I were all staying in the same hotel. So we would go dancing and have fun, but then to have a professional moment on screen was so great. And we rehearsed on our lines on the phone the night before, but when we got to the set, we were like, we just have to let the magic happen.
Jones: I could really feel it that day.
TMS: One of the fun things, is how you are all introduced as strong women coming into this crazy situation: Dana’s character can literally beat Ash up.
Jones: I love that Kelly is scrappy and you get the sense that she might not play fair. She will get someone to turn around just to catch them off guard.
Delorenzo: I’ll pop someone in the chin if I have to.
Jones: You won’t see it coming. But I love that working on this show, women get to be badass and aren’t going to wait for a man to save them. I love that about all the female characters.
TMS: Did the production team talk about gender dynamics of this show at any time?
Lucy Lawless: I don’t think they even thought about it. It’s just how it is on this show.
Delorenzo: And that’s why it works. It’s a testament to the writers that this is a story of five people, in this bizarre universe, but they just happen to represent what five people brought together would be. So I don’t think they were thinking about casting a specific type, the cast just came together. But it’s about time that we had three female characters in show like this, considering it has been more of a boys club.
Lawless: But I honestly don’t think it was strategic. The fact is, if you aren’t strong, you won’t survive the horror. And they just cast women who they felt could believably play women that will go far in this world.
Jones: I love that all the characters are misfits.
Lawless: You are right about that! They are all misfits.
Jones: You would never see these women with a cape in a superhero movie.
Delorenzo: They would be the most dysfunctional group of superheroes ever.
Jones: And yet, they all will fight for good. And I love that they all come from different backgrounds and places in their lives, and they all seem to need this experience.
Delorenzo: They are all overcoming something.
Jones: I knew that Amanda would be tough, because she’s written that way and that is how we’re introduced to her. But what I loved about the character is how much humanity exists right alongside her strength. It was a beautiful side to that character. I knew she would be strong, but I was so glad to see that part of her character too.
Lawless: She’s allowed to be vulnerable.
Delorenzo: I think all the characters are allowed to be vulnerable. Even Ruby.
Lawless: You just don’t see it at first.
Delorenzo: And that makes them more fun to play, because they have all these sides to their characters. And then you have Ash Williams, who is such a strong character, so you need strong women that can go toe-toe with him.
Lawless: I love that we are all completely unimpressed by him. He is vulnerable as well, he is just unaware of his vulnerability. We can all acknowledge ours, but he has many fatal flaws. And he’s inadvertently successful enough to have survived this long.
TMS: The character of Ash is a strange one, because he isn’t likable but he is lovable.
Lawless: That’s exactly right!
TMS: And we see that even at this age, having gone through everything since the first movie, he hasn’t grown or matured at all. He’s a bit misogynistic….
Lawless: He’s mildly racist.
TMS: Why do you think such an un-PC character is still appealing to audiences?
Lawless: I think he’s a bit of a relief because the convention is to not be like that. Maybe it’s that lack of polish and awareness that we’re kind of attracted.
Jones: And I think that if this were a serious show, his flaws would be topical. But the show is so ridiculous, and he’s ridiculous, that it’s funny. No one on the show or watching can take him seriously.
TMS: And, he’s pathetic.
Jones: And I was thinking about that, too. I think the reason people love the character, is his childlike way. He’s the child that never grew up, so you almost feel sorry for him. He’s the grown man in the family that would be sent to eat at the kids’ table.
TMS: He’s the man-child uncle?
Jones: Yeah! So you can never take him seriously.
TMS: Sam Raimi has said from the beginning that if he was going to do the show and put it on Starz, it would have to be as vulgar and gory as the films were. How much fun was it to get to run around on this set, covered in blood?
Jones: It was so much fun. And there was something so empowering about not having to be the pretty girl, with her make-up constantly being retouched. I just got to be dirty and raw on this show. Because we’ve all be in shows and movies, and been cast as the attractive girlfriends or wives. So it was a blast to get to play in the dirt. I loved it.
Delorenzo: I don’t mind being covered in blood, but Jill coined the perfect phrase on set. What the boys didn’t understand is, once the fake blood dries, you will be getting waxes in places you never thought possible. Because that blood gets everywhere, especially when I had on loose-fitting tops.
Lawless: The shirt would stick to you and you have to rip it off your skin.
Delorenzo: But the worst was getting it in your hair, because it gets hard. And a lot of times we would do a scene and wash off to do another take, but we didn’t have enough time to wash our hair, so the blood would still be in there. And Jill saw that they were trying to comb the knots out of my hair, and they finally decided to cut my hair. So Jill coined my hair cut “the evil dead haircut.” So it isn’t bad getting the blood on you, it’s getting the blood off.
TMS: [to Lucy Lawless] Your entrance is kind of hilarious and bizarre, the way you just appear, say a line, and then walk away. It is kind of hilarious.
Lawless: We filmed a lot more.
Jones: And it was great.
Lawless: But it told the wrong story or told too much about the character too early.
Jones: I hope they make those outtakes available.
Delorenzo: They have to, maybe when they release the first season.
Lawless: But there was a lot more to that character in the pilot, but Sam felt like he had to cut it out.
Delorenzo: I think there were a lot of things that got changed and cut, because they had more scenes they couldn’t fit into the half hour pilot. Its 35 minutes, and it’s still packed.
Lawless: And none of us knew, when we were filming the pilot, what this should be and who our character were going to be exactly. I came onto the project quite late, right at the tail end of Sam’s shoot. And I had just gotten back to New Zealand. What I filmed was very funny, very Sam Raimi, but transmitted too much about Ruby’s character. So that’s why my part in the pilot seems so small.
Jones: But it’s great, because it’s almost like, “who’s that masked woman?”
Delorenzo: It’s great that you aren’t sure of these characters, and you keep learning about them. But Ruby is the character that will keep viewers guessing. I know I’ll be like “oh, she’s the one behind that” and constantly be guessing. And they will never be right.
Lawless: I was learning about her while we filmed. She didn’t get a last name until episode 9. They were writing the show as we filmed.
Jones: Dana didn’t find out she was Jewish until when?
Delorenzo: I read the script for that episode. Two days before we shot it. But we all experienced that during filming. You read the script and think, “I might have changed the way I played something 5 episodes earlier had I known.” But that benefited us for the first season, because we had to act on instinct. Sam saw something in all of us, and it was sort of a bike peddle with the writers and the actors. They would write something, we would play something in a way they weren’t expecting, and inspire them to write something else. So the show felt like a joint effort and everyone got to collaborate.
TMS: Did the writers indicate that to you that they were adjusting the characters based on something you had done on screen?
Delorenzo: The show runner, Craig, and the writers, were on set all the time and were talking to all of us. So we got the sense that there was more going on than we realized.
Jones: I do remember something funny. There is a line in one of the episodes, when someone references my boobs. And I thought “was it written in the character description that Fisher has big boobs?” Or is this a reference added for Jill Marie Jones? I was like, I don’t remember that being part of her character description.
TMS: Did you ever find out?
Jones: I’m going to assume it was a Jill Marie Jones reference.
Lawless: Just to go back for a second. What is so funny is, what you said about my role in the first episode. People don’t recognize me. The scene in the diner bathroom, with all the make-up, people don’t know that’s me.
Delorenzo: Do you just want to be seen, Lucy?
Lawless: I just want people to notice.
TMS: Having done TV before, what’s been difference about working on a limited series on Starz?
Lawless: I worked with Starz before, and the great thing about them is, they’re really brave and will let you do a lot of things no other cable channel would allow. And that is the only way to get an Evil Dead series on the air.
Jones: The show wouldn’t have worked on network TV.
Delorenzo: They were so amazing about giving the show’s creatives complete control, and by having that freedom, we were all allowed to play and try things.
Jones: I think it’s amazing, because on this side of the camera, it’s rare to feel like you have freedom to create and experiment, and feel like there are no boundaries. It was pretty awesome.
Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.
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