We’ve all waited eagerly for this week, and now it’s finally here: the Ash vs. Evil Dead premiere week! Naturally, we here at Nerdist are more enthused than a coupla Deadite hunters with a fresh stockpile of chainsaw arms. So when we got the chance to interview the series’ showrunner, Craig DiGregorio (he of Workaholics, Chuck, and Reaper fame), we jumped at the chance to pick his brain about Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Sam Raimi, and Shia LaBeouf (of all people). Oh and just how much money was spent on shipping blood to New Zealand (a lot, apparently).
The Nerdist: It’s funny, when I heard that you were joining Ash team, I thought the Workaholics‘ sense of humor felt like a perfect fit for the Evil Dead Universe.
Craig DiGregorio: Yeah, it’s really fun. They allow in so much humor in the show—Starz, and Sam, and Bruce, Rob Tapert, and everyone. They just allow in so many different fun tones to the show. I mean, the show is such a strange tone, as all the movies are. It’s just fun all the time, which is what Workaholics was to me too—so we sort of take a little bit of that out. Just keep it fun all the time and keep it crazy. That’s what these shows are and that’s how the movies were too. So it’s landed itself pretty well.
The Nerdist: I imagine it must be really fun to be able to keep up that assertive sense of humor in all of the work that you’re doing.
CD: Oh yeah [because] that’s what you don’t want in this show, for it to take itself too seriously.
The Nerdist: Yeah, that’d sort of be the kiss of death. It’s such an absurd premise, you’ve got to take that at face value and then go from there. That’s what people love about it. The self awareness of it all.
CD: Yeah, it’s just crazy. We’re doing a show about a giant, larger than life, amazing character that has a chainsaw for his hands. That was the most fun thing in the world to be around. And it’s nice because the rails are off and we can go do it, but we did try to check ourselves to be sure that things did stay close—they always weren’t a thousand yards off the rails. Sometimes they can be a little bit off, and sometimes a thousand yards off, but then you come back to the rails for a little while.
The Nerdist: It lets you go out, but pulls you back in.
CD: I feel like that’s important too because if you’re doing a show that’s crazy, you want to sometimes have moments that aren’t hundred percent crazier or you won’t appreciate the hundred percent crazy moments.
The Nerdist: Was there anything while you were writing and creating this show that you were like, “I really want to do this, but is this too much? Is this actually too much for this?” Did you ever have those moments?
CD: Yes. Some of that stuff is in the finale that we were just filming. I shouldn’t give away big details [but] one of things like that was that car scene,that we see in the trailer. I think in the script we made sure to write in “stabs him dozens and dozens of times.” It should just be more than you’d ever think someone should get stabbed in the neck. It should be absurd and over the top and crazy, but still scary. That was one of those too. One that I can say right off the bat.
The Nerdist: What’s it like coming into this world? I mean, Bruce and Sam have been doing this forever and they know the fan obsession with Ash and this whole universe.
CD: At first it was daunting because you’re like, ‘oh my goodness I am being inserted into a forty plus year friendship of people who have been working together for a long time. They have a short hand. They all do impressions of each other.’ All of sudden you’re the new guy. You’re the freshmen. You’re walking into high school and, uh oh. To all of their credit, they just want good ideas—they’re very welcoming. Very collaborative and very receptive to ideas. If it’s an idea they like, it doesn’t matter where it came from. They just want to accept you and collaborate. They made it very easy. They made what could have been very hard very easy.
The Nerdist: That’s not something a lot of people, I feel like, could step into and be like, ‘Oh, I’m comfortable with asserting myself as an executive doing this.’
CD: I mean you just have to do it. Like you just have to.
The Nerdist: It’s like that Shia LaBeouf inspirational video: just do it!
CD: Yeah, that’s right. That’s exactly right. We should get him on the show.
The Nerdist: Let’s figure out a way to make this happen. I feel like Shia and Ash would get along, weirdly. Would he be murdered in a very crazy way?
CD: Oh yeah. We’d turn him into a dead guy. He could murder a bunch of people if he wants to.
The Nerdist: Shia, if you’re reading The Nerdist…
CD: Please, be on the show.
The Nerdist: OK, so I have to ask you how hard you geeked out having Lucy Lawless in the show.
CD: Holy fucking shit. It’s crazy. She’s the nicest, most talented person on Earth. She’s so nice. Even if you were geeking out, you would stop because she’s so disarming and just fun to be around. She’s a totally wonderful, warm person. It would feel weird doing that to her because she’s so welcoming. So yes, I geeked out a lot, but she’s fantastic.
The Nerdist: You’ve got her, you’ve got Bruce—two kingpins of genre, and to top that off you have Sam, too.
CD: You have all these sort of giants. Personalities. People that you’ve watched in one way or another—whether it be Sam’s movies, or Bruce’s, or Lucy’s—whatever it is. It’s all a larger than life thing that you … If you were to think about it too much you’d just get too nervous so you just have to do it. … It’s a tight rope walk. You want to be sure to appeal to the fans first, but to everyone as well that can like this new, strange show. It’s a weird one.
The Nerdist: So: what are you most excited about for people to see? What’s gotten you most energized about this whole thing? Does the tone differ?
CD: I’m most excited for people to see the insanity: it’s really unlike anything else out there. Ash progresses over those movies into the loud mouth, yet charismatic asshole that everyone loves. The horror is difference in one and two, so pulling that away and trying to use the best horror parts or the best tone of the horror from there. Rob Tapert who’s producing—he just knows how to use action and horror really well, so utilizing that stuff, maybe doing a little more action than in the movies—it can make this really fun. I feel that’s the way it will sustain, if it’s not pure horror. If it’s horror, and comedy, and action, and all of these thing all at once, it doesn’t get monotonous.
The Nerdist: That must be a really kind of funny thing to you, saying you’re doing more action than even in the movies.
CD: We have some action that we’re doing that seriously stands up to movies. They just get it down there. They know how to do it. That’s why I loved writing that stuff for the show—I love action comedies. They do it so well that I feel like we would be doing the show a disservice not to utilize what they do great down there. New Zealand is what I’m talking about. Sorry.
The Nerdist: Well New Zealand is in and of itself like another world.
CD: You are actually on an island by yourself. It’s far, but it’s amazing. You’re there and it forces you to get in the world … It’s helpful because it gives you tunnel vision when you’re down there making the show. They did an amazing job of making it look like the US. We have these lights, and shots of rolling hills that look like they were in Michigan, and backwoods. It’s crazy. They just did a fantastic job.
The Nerdist: that must be a lot of work though.
CD: It’s a lot of shipping.
The Nerdist: ‘Ninety percent of our budget went to shipping cars. Shipping all of the stunt cars.’
CD: It was like buckets, and buckets, and buckets, and kegs of blood, and shipping cars. That’s where we spent the money.
Ash vs. Evil Dead premieres Halloween night—October 31—at 9PM on Starz.
Image Credit: Starz
Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of The Nerdist and one day hopes to kick some serious Deadite ass in the hills of Michigan. Find her on Twitter (@alicialutes).