Exclusive Interview: Ash Vs. Evil Dead Show Runner Craig DiGregorio

Sam Raimi finally gave us more Evil Dead, and not just another movie but a whole TV series. He even directed the pilot of Ash Vs. Evil Dead, starring Bruce Campbell, but of course Sam Raimi is a movie director. He can't run a show full time, so he found an experienced show runner.Craig DiGregorio has worked on Chuck, Reaper, Workaholics and more. He was on a panel with Raimi and Campbell for the Television Critics Association this summer, where Campbell characteristically took over and Raimi modestly downplayed his greatest contributions. We got to speak with DiGregorio at length about Ash Vs. Evil Dead, which picks up Ash today living in a trailer and working at Value Stop when he reads from the Necronomicon he's kept all these years. Lucy Lawless also stars as Ruby, the daughter of Professor Nowby, whose incantation Ash played in the cabin. Hit the jump for the Ash Vs Evil Dead Interview with showrunner Craig DiGregorio.Bruce is so in charge of his persona. Does he ever turn that off when you're working?Craig DiGregorio: No. [Laughs] I guess sometimes when he's really tired maybe, but Bruce is a special animal. He's so fun to work with and he's always fun.Have you run into situations where Bruce says, "Ash wouldn't do this" since he's the expert on Ash?Craig: He is the expert on Ash but no, we haven't run into that very much. The thing we try to live by is: let's keep everything fun and keep the show crazy and funny and fun all the time. Bruce and Ash both have a very specific way they speak and way they do things. Thankfully, it's a really fun and interesting thing to write. I think once he realizes you're writing in his voice he gets more comfortable, so there wasn't a lot of, "Ash would never do this." Ash has been through a lot and been in hiding for a long time, so I'm not sure who knows what Ash would do right now.Have the last 30 years been completely uneventful for him?Craig: They've been pretty uneventful, yes. I don't think they've uneventful with respect to his life. He's definitely been out doing things Ash likes to do, going to bars and womanizing, smoking a lot of weed and drinking and hanging out in his trailer, sort of living a basic life. But, I don't think he's gone and made better of himself. I think he's remained at that base level of humanity that he existed in a long time ago.He works at Value Stop now. What happened to S Mart?Craig: It's a legal issue, what happened to S Mart, so I'm not sure. You should ask the Starz legal department but I think S Mart only came to be in the third movie, only there. I don't know how much I can say about that.Is it essentially the same store?Craig: No, no. It's not. It's different.It looks more like, not even Wal-Mart, a Costco type warehouse.Craig: Yeah, it is a Costco-y type of place. It's not like an S Mart and we made a concerted effort not to have it be like that.Did playing with Ash's age and Bruce's age now really coincide with this phenomenon of older gentlemen in action like Liam Neeson and The Expendables?Craig: Not on purpose, no. When you see the pilot and see the subsequent episodes, I think we take that much less seriously. Like, you're never going to see Liam Neeson put in his dentures. You're never going to see The Expendables do anything that isn't macho, but you always see Ash doing that stuff and you see Ash showing signs of his age and that's what I think is interesting about the series. We don't take that seriously. We're not like, "Oh, he's older but he's ageless." He's not. He's getting on in his years and he's f***ing tired.Was it fun to finally address those crosses he makes for all the bodies?Craig: Well, that's a very specific thing we address at the end of the trailer. Yes, it is harkening back to something but it's also something new.Now can you use CGI to remove his right hand, whereas before it was clearly a stump that was just as long as his other arm?Craig: Technology has come a long way in making it so that stumps aren't quite as long. Thankfully, most times we either have him with an extra hand on. Weirdly, when it's just a stump you notice how long the stump is, but when there's a hand on there you kind of don't. It can just be a little bit longer and you might not notice. We do address that as well, but when it's just a stump you notice. When it's a chainsaw you don't notice at all because it's so crazy to have a chainsaw on an arm that you are just noticing that.I noticed one shot in the trailer. How often do you even show Ash with just a stump?Craig: There are only a few times. There's an episode in there where he might have a stump for a little bit. I think we do a little CGI work to make sure that you're not like the guy in Happy Gilmore. I loved that, but I don't think we're going for that level of "oh, his arm is four feet longer than his other arm."Now you can give him a green glove, right?Craig: Right, although with the stump it's a little harder because you can give him a green glove if you want to just remove, but if you want the gauntlet, what he hooks into, you have to have it at the end. It's almost like you'd have to green a part of his arm out but there's stuff you can do.Has he kept the metal hand from Army of Darkness?Craig: He starts out the series with a wooden hand and it goes from there.How many opportunities do you have to have the "Woods cam?"Craig: Oh, the evil force? We have every opportunity to have it. It definitely plays a big part in the show. It's a big part of the movies. It wouldn't really be an evil dead show without it so we have a lot of opportunities. And also, that's become much easier to do as well.Cameras are much smaller now.Craig: Cameras are smaller, drones exist now. It's much easier to have a thing flying through the woods than it was 30 years ago.Does a drone shot look the same as the evil force in the woods?Craig: It can. There's all sorts of things you can do to make the shot look the same or however you want it to look. You can do anything with it. You throw the kitchen sink at this show. Every camera trick and thing you can possibly use, we want to do, because it's just such a frenetic visually inventive show that you want to have all sorts of different things going on.When Sam Raimi says there are fewer camera tricks, some of them have actually gotten easier?Craig: Some of them have gotten easier. He has a lot of camera tricks. I think he is saying he has less time for camera tricks compared to maybe the shooting schedule of Spider-Man but he had a lot of time for camera tricks and he used a lot of camera tricks. The pilot's amazing. I think he's downplaying how cool what he did is.What was it like having Sam in the writers room?Craig: It was great. This is his baby so he was there breaking episodes with us and when someone who created the franchise is there to give you his vision for what's going to happen during the season and you can take that and mold it as you will, it's always nice to have that person there commenting on how he thinks the season should go. The big tent poles, where you should go, what Ash should be doing at this episode versus this episode. It was great. It was very helpful having him there.Does this world acknowledge the Jane Levy Necronomicon?Craig: Our show does not. Whether or not that happened I can't say, but we don't mention it.So you haven't ruled it out?Craig: We haven't ruled it out but I don't think it's every going to be a part of our show. Whether or not it's a part of the bigger world, maybe, but it's not a part of our show. Maybe.Ruby (Lucy Lawless) is actually Professor Nowby's daughter, so does that mean she's also the sister of his other daughter from Evil Dead 2?Craig: Yes.Is she the last of the Nowby family?Craig: She's the last and blames Ash for what happened.Do we find out a lot about what happened to that family before and after the Ash incidents?Craig: Not too much more. Sam never wants to dwell on the past stuff. He always wanted this to be a new version of it. So any time we wanted to sit down and tell an origin or a past story, he pushed us in the other direction, just what is happening now with these characters. You do hear some, you have to, but we try not to flood you with background info.How hard did you rally for this job?Craig: I rallied pretty hard. I've worked on a bunch of comedies and a bunch of genre shows and I really love mixing genre. I love action-comedies and I love horror and I love comedy. I've worked on all different types of shows so I felt that I might have a skill set that would be beneficial to doing this show because I do love mixing genre. So pretty hard. It was interesting and initially daunting to talk to all the people that were involved in this. I'm a huge fan of the franchise and I'm talking to Sam Raimi, I'm talking to Bruce, I'm talking to Tapert. All these people had such a huge hand in making something that was special to me, and now I might be able to have a part in it.Who are the other new characters on the show?Craig: Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago). Pablo, as you start the series, is one of the very few friends that Ash has if you can call him a friend, but he's one of the few people that has had even anything more than a one week relationship with Ash. So he has a closeness to Ash and he kind of reveres Ash a little bit, and maybe sees something in him that other people don't see. Kelly is friends with Ray, not with Ash. So she sees this guy and is a little bit creeped out by him. He's kind of a weird, creepy old grandpa guy who is a little bit too forward with her. He's our sort of innocent way in a little bit and she's more the person on the outside that sees this guy. It's sort of like you or I would see if Ash ever walked up to us and be like, "Who the f***'s this dude? Why is he coming at me like this?" She is sort of that standpoint.Does a new, young generation have a very different reaction to the deadites than Ash did?Craig: We tried to play that without dwelling in how people would react. Look, if I saw a zombie walking down the street, I'd have a real problem and have to really reconsider a lot of things that I thought were true in life. We don't go to that extent but we definitely have them go through a bit more than Ash did initially. They go through a set of emotions that you might go through if you did see that demons and deadites are real. So they don't take it in quite the nonchalant way that Ash did, but they also don't live in that emotion. They get out of it pretty quickly. We're in horror movie emotions where okay, someone died. I'm sad and now I'm kicking ass again.Have new directors come in and really furthered or added to the Sam Raimi style?Craig: Yes, they have added to it but not in such a way that is detrimental to the aesthetic that Sam already set up for the show. We said this to every director that we hired: Come with your bag of tricks. Everything you wanted to do on another show but couldn't because there were limitations on what camera moves you could use, what you wanted to do that was inventive. Come with your most inventive shots and most inventive game because we want it. This show should be interesting in all places, with the tone and what you're seeing on screen and with the performances you're getting. That was what we tried directors to bring.Ash Vs. Evil Dead premieres Saturday, October 31 on Starz.