The original announcement of an Evil Dead TV series was met with skepticism, but it only took the first episode to win over legions of Evil Dead fans. With the first season over, and season 2 filming soon, I caught up with Ash vs Evil Dead showrunner Craig DiGregorio to discuss bringing Evil Dead to the small screen, the first season's big moments, and what's coming up.
First of all, I wanted to say congratulations on putting together such a fantastic first season of Ash vs Evil Dead. It's amazing how seamlessly you were able to transition the world of Evil Dead to television.
Craig DiGregorio: Thank you, I really appreciate it. A lot of people worked very, very hard to get this one to where it is. I’m glad fans have had such a positive response because we really love it and it’s been a really fun, crazy ride.
Bruce Campbell has a creative role on the show, but how far did that extend into story planning and dialogue? When it came to these scripts and writing Ash, how much of it was he involved with episode to episode?
Craig DiGregorio: Bruce is very involved with his character. From a very early stage, he was pretty happy with what we were writing. He’ll throw something in here and there, but it's a collaboration where he will say, "Oh, I really like that", and "Can I toss this in?"
I know this sounds like a sports cliché, but he is a complete team player and is always ready to help. He’s just a great collaborator and a great person to have there. He likes the Ash stories and he likes the 2% character growth we’ve given Ash. He’s just been fantastic to work with.
It seems like you guys were creatively able to do whatever you wanted with being censored, which must have been pretty freeing. Can you talk about your relationship with Starz and their reaction to some of these episodes?
Craig DiGregorio: They don’t tell us to pull back at all. The show has such a strange, fun tone and Starz never told us to pull back from that. I even remember a couple of instances where they actually said that we could go further with it if we wanted to. One of the examples that sticks out in my head is during that diner scene in Episode 6. There were a couple of things we wanted to clear with them and they said, "You can do that and more if you want." They never tried to pull us back.
That’s a great example of one of those scenes where you played with the preconceived notions people have about what can and can't be done on a TV show, such as children being killed.
Craig DiGregorio: We don’t want it to feel like any TV show you've seen before. Even with the ending of the season, that’s not the conventional way that a show would end, but they were all for it because it is a sort of different, fun, crazy way to end something. We had a plan for why we wanted to do that and they just let us do it.
Let's talk about those last few episodes, because it really felt like you gave us what could have been the next Evil Dead movie.
Craig DiGregorio: From the very get-go when I was breaking the season with Sam and Ivan [Raimi], I had said that it would be great to go back to where it all began, and they agreed. We laid out the big signposts of the season and the last three episodes were always "we get back to the cabin." Things shifted along the way as far as certain locations or certain characters that pop in and out, but those three episodes were always slated to be cabin episodes. We wanted to go back to where it all started and it was the right way to tell the story, but also it felt like a great thing to give the fans again.
[Spoiler Warning] A big surprise in those final episodes was Amanda's death. After all of these years, it looks like Ash might find some happiness and it's taken away. Was that always the plan and can you talk about why you felt it was the right move?
Craig DiGregorio: Yes, that was always the plan. If there has been anything established in the movies, it’s that the people closest to Ash die, especially love interests. It allowed two things: to catapult that story into a more emotional place for Ash to remind him what happened there, and to show true value of Pablo and Kelly. So hopefully that death helped highlight what he thinks about those two people who have been at his side the whole season.
[Spoiler Warning] As much as people were excited for Bruce Campbell as Ash, a lot of people were also really excited to see Lucy Lawless. We didn't see her a lot in the start, but you set her up as a major force to be reckoned with in Season 2. Can you tease what's in store for her character in Season 2?
Craig DiGregorio: I also want to say how great Lucy is and how much we wanted her in the show and how hard it was to have that character hiding who she was for that long, because it doesn’t really allow you to show as much of her as you’d like. It didn’t really allow you to get to know her until Episodes 9 and 10. It worked as far as what we wanted out of the story arc, but as far as the character was concerned, I wish we got to see her a bunch more in the first season.
But as far as the story went, it was just impossible to show her too much more without giving away who she was, and then as far as who she becomes, Lucy has a gigantic part in Season 2 which we are writing right now.
I will say if you have any preconceived notions about what a big bad does in a show, you’re going to be surprised as far as what she becomes. Her motivations for what she does in Episode 10—what she says she’s trying to do—are genuine and that plays a big part into where she ends up in Season 2. So when she says she’s trying to rule over evil and control the chaos, that’s genuine and we will see what becomes of that.
You mentioned that you've started writing Season 2. Do you have a confirmed number of episodes and how far in are you on writing the season?
Craig DiGregorio: Ten episodes, we have probably written through about four now and have broken through about nine. There are a lot of the things that fans constantly ask me about. "Is this going to happen, is that going to happen?" There are some really fun moves that we make in Season 2 that I think fans are going to really like.
[Spoiler Warning] I just wanted to leave our readers with as much of a tease as I could get from you on the status of Ash. Where do we find him in Season 2 after he takes the deal?
Craig DiGregorio: He definitely starts in a place where the fishing’s good and where he progresses from there, we’ll see, but a thing I realize about this show is people just want to know more about Ash.
People want to learn about his past and when we went into his mind for the ayahuasca trip, people loved seeing which shows he watched when he was younger. They’re starved for info about this character that didn’t have a lot of information given about him in the movies and then was parceled out very carefully during the first season. We will find him in a place where the fishing’s good and then we will move him to a place that will shed a lot more light on his background.
That’s one of the big takeaways when I read reviews or see people post comments or talk to people that like the show. It’s really interesting to—with the help of Sam and Ivan and the writers—create and talk more about the person that Ash is and the person that he was and the person that he maybe would have been if he had never read the book.
What would he have done? What was he before he read the book? It’s such a fun process to think about that stuff and that definitely informs a bunch on this next season.