As Ash's best friend Chet Kaminski, Ted Raimi turned in a scene-stealing performance with equal amounts of humor and heart on the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead, but the actor also had the epic opportunity to reprise his role as a possessed Henrietta from Evil Dead 2. With the second season coming to an end, we caught up with Ted to talk about playing both roles on the series, filming the cabin cellar rematch between Henrietta and Ash, and his upcoming feature film directorial debut. [Spoiler warning for those who haven't watched the first nine episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead Season 2.]
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today and congratulations on the second season of Ash vs Evil Dead. In addition to playing Ash's best friend Chet, you also got to play Henrietta again, which is amazing considering that it's been almost 30 years since Evil Dead 2 was released. What was your initial reaction to finding out that you'd get to play that character again, in addition to a wonderful new character like Chet?
Ted Raimi: It made me giddy. I am a character actor, that is what I do. It's like asking a stunt guy who specializes in sword work if he wants to do a medieval picture: of course. As many parts as you can throw at me, I will have. It was great to play the new character of Chet. That was written by Craig DiGregorio, the head writer of season 2. He's a great character, he's a great burnout. Everybody knows a Chet, that guy who, yeah he kind of, probably graduated from high school, never went to college, works at the bowling alley or liquor store. He's probably living at home with his parents or has a crappy apartment. So, he's no one you want to model your life after, but he is a guy you want to hang out with and smoke a lot of bong hits while watching late-night movies. He's that guy, and everyone can relate to him in that regard.
And with Henrietta, I got to do a reprisal of her, and I was glad to do one last ride with that character before I put it away, because she was so iconic, so it was wonderful.
Returning to that character after almost three decades, did you go back at all and watch your performance in Evil Dead 2 to get a feel for the character again?
Ted Raimi: No, I thought I would, but the effects team in New Zealand is so good. They put that makeup on me, and it all came back in about two seconds. So it wouldn't be too much of just a redo of the old one, I watched the wonderful actress who plays the alive Henrietta so that I could get a sense of her. So I wasn't just doing Henrietta from 1987, I was doing an updated version, because a lot of people that are watching the show now have never seen the original Evil Dead movies. Many have, but some have not and are brand new fans, so I wanted to make sure I updated her.
It pays homage to what came before, but it's also like you said, a fresh take on a familiar face. I was just giddy watching you bring that character to life, especially at the end of episode 209 when we see Henrietta expand, and she becomes much bigger and badder. Was it harder for you to move around in that suit when you literally had more weight on your shoulders and you still had to bring that personality to life when you were fighting Ash?
Ted Raimi: That's a great, poetic analogy you've got there. It's easier physically, just in the sense that we're in a modern studio now. We're not in that boiling hot, abandoned gymnasium in North Carolina. It's also easier because the shooting schedule's a little easier to do. It's television, so it's just a little faster, so all that's good. But the suit was still burning hot, the makeup was still hell to wear, and I'm now 30 years older, so all that combined makes it really tough to do. But it was wonderful, too, because Rob Tapert, our executive producer, really kept that vibe of Henrietta alive. Most other producers would say, "I don't really give a crap who's under that makeup. Just get whoever." But Rob is an actor's producer. He loves watching actors act. Not all producers are.
So it all worked out very well. And to film the attack scene with Bruce Campbell—Bruce is the master of those one-liners, and so doing all the physical gags with him was wonderful to do again after 30 years. While we were shooting in New Zealand using the same sets, the same props, some of the same people were there—Bruce was standing right in front of me wearing the same costume, I was in the same costume and we were getting acid flashbacks of 30 years ago, it was crazy. It was really, really strange.
It broke my heart when Chet literally had his heart ripped out by the woman he loved, Cheryl. What did you enjoy the most about getting to play Ash's best bud, to play a friend of a guy who you're a friend of in real life, too?
Ted Raimi: It's not hard to pretend you're a friend when your actual friend is playing your friend [laughs], so that makes it a lot easier. Bruce Campbell is not a hard guy to be on set with. You can be down in terms of energy, you can get there early in the morning, you're tired, drinking a cup of coffee and eating doughnuts while trying to wake up, and Bruce comes on and he's 110 miles an hour in energy. He's easy to act with in that regard, he will get your energy up whether you want it up or not. He's that kind of an actor. And for that matter, so are the other cast members, especially Dana DeLorenzo—she comes on and has a thousand miles an hour of energy, and she's a pleasure to work with, and Lucy Lawless is too, all those guys are, they're wonderful.
How much time were you spending in the makeup chair on an average day when you had to come in get the Henrietta makeup put on you?
Ted Raimi: It was almost exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. Very little has changed. I expected, "Oh, this is going to be much easier with technology. Man, 30 years ago we didn't have cell phones or computers. It was really primitive, we didn't have electric cars" [laughs]. You think that is going to progress too, but it did not. It was still three or four hours in the chair. They glue each piece on you and they do the airbrushing, and when you're done with that, you go and you rehearse, you come off set, and they adjust makeup and poking you with brushes and splattering blood all over your face. It was pretty much just the same as it was.
Very little had changed, but I think that's a good thing, because if there wasn't all the care that those effects guys put into it again after 30 years, I don't think the fans would dig it. Nobody wants digitized effects anymore, it's just boring. No one wants a CGI Henrietta. But Henrietta as this bulbous monster that Bruce has to fight is a little more exciting than watching some computer graphics interface.
Was it hard to bring the personality of Henrietta to life when you had so many prosthetics on you? Was there anything that you channeled in particular to amp up your performance, because you really nailed that witch-like character that cackles with glee but is really sadistic at the same time?
Ted Raimi: Thank you. The first thing I did to prep for Henrietta was to think, "Be an old woman." That's the first thing you have to think about. There are old acting techniques that you learn in movement classes and things like that when you study theater, so all of those things really helped out a great deal. How do old women move? How do old heavy women move? How do they speak? And why do they speak like that? So you ask those questions and you start implementing those things first, and that becomes the basis for the character you play. And then the makeup is just icing on the cake. She might have some super strength, but you don't have to play to vest—that's not necessary because the makeup effects do that for you. It's magic, you don't have to do that. But you do have to play an old woman. That was my point of view.
Before I let you go, are there any projects on deck that you can tease? Is there any more directing on your horizon?
Ted Raimi: Yeah, I'm directing my first feature in about four months. It's a thriller. I wrote it and I'm looking forward to shooting that. I'm shooting it in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan and also here in Hollywood, California.
In the meantime, if you want to see some more stuff that I directed, if you go to the Ash vs Evil Dead Facebook page, you'll find a bunch of shorts that I directed for the show. I created this campaign called the Shemp's Beer campaign, and I made a bunch of these shorts of actors doing Shemp's Beer commercials, but there's a very special one that I'm very happy that I got to write and direct it with someone very special. But in the meantime, you can watch another one I made with the hilarious Dana DeLorenzo doing her insane impressions. It's called "One for the Team," and I'm very proud of it.