Forget Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp or any of those other Stooges (leave any Fake Shemps out of it), there’s a presidential candidate who said he wants to make America groovy again with your vote for president this Election Day.
That, of course, would be one Ashley J. “Ash” Williams, the deadite slayer from Elk Grove, Michigan, who promises to cut — chainsaw on stump — through the crap (He really will. Check out the morgue scene in this season’s second episode).
Ash declared his presidential bidthis summer as he was ramping up to the premiere of the second season of his flat-out frickin’ hilarious and extremely gory STARZ horror comedy “Ash vs. Evil Dead.”
The declaration came on his Ash4President website and posters for the series, where you could find the hashtag #Ash4President, and slogans “Hail to the Chief, Baby” and “Make America Groovy Again.”
“I swear to God, I hope that there are some actual write-in votes, where people go to the polling stations and they don’t vote for either one (of the candidates) and they write in ‘Ash Williams,'” Ash spokesman Bruce Campbell told me in a recent interview. “It’s gonna happen. There’s going to be somebody out there who’s going to do it, and I want to meet that person.”
Mahershala Ali and Alfre Woodard in “Luke Cage” (photo: Netflix)
It’s been an eventful year for Oscar-nominated actress Alfre Woodard, who had the rare opportunity to act in not one, but two different projects in the Marvel Universe. After making a brief but pivotal appearance opposite her longtime friend Robert Downey Jr. in the summer blockbuster feature “Captain America: Civil War,” Woodard is now playing a major role in the new Netflix superhero drama “Luke Cage.”
Woodard said the common denominator in the superhero projects was the novel idea of story first, then visual effects. Having characters with superhuman abilities is all well and good, Woodard said, yet those abilities are less likely to enthrall a viewer unless there’s substance there.
“You can have all the special effects in the world and pour hundreds of millions of dollars into them, but so many times people walk out of these films and say, ‘Of all the execs involved, didn
8217;t anybody read the script?'” Woodard said in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. “No matter how much technology we have, it comes down to the stories and storytellers.”
Now streaming on Netflix, “Luke Cage” is based on the indestructible Marvel Comics character who debuted in print in 1972. Having first made an appearance in Marvel’s New York City-set Netflix series “Jessica Jones” last year, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) returns in this new series to his Harlem roots to hopefully blend into the background and keep his superhuman strength and impenetrable skin a secret.
But when a vicious club owner, Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali), and his cousin, Councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Woodard), start wreaking havoc in the neighborhood, Luke has no choice but to emerge from the shadows to protect the innocent people they are targeting.
Woodard chalks the success of “Luke Cage” up to the show’s creator and showrunner, Cheo Hodari Coker, who studied journalism at Stanford — background Woodard believes helps inform the look and feel of the series.
“Cheo’s an amazing man. He understands, appreciates and revels in the culture and the history of Harlem,” Woodard said. “He’s also a hip-hop aficionado. He’s the first journalist to realize that hip-hop was not just a passing phase and would be a successful world culture for generations. He brings all that creative intelligence to telling the stories to ‘Luke Cage.’ That’s why I signed on, and I have not been disappointed any step of the way.”
Playing Mariah over the course of several episodes instead of in a movie is a dream for Woodard, who thrives on developing a character over a longer period of time rather than trying to squeeze everything about her into a two-hour frame. On the whole, Woodard, 63, doesn’t think Mariah should be flat-out labeled as a corrupt politician, but just a person who happens to be a councilwoman with ambitions — albeit ambitions she’s been blinded by.
“It’s not just politicians who are like this. The role is not about how much we are willing to sink (to get things done), but how much we’re willing to wager to do what we think is right or helpful,” Woodard said.
Ultimately, Woodard said, Mariah is far from being a one-note villain.
“I love Mariah because I think she is very complex, as we all are, and I love being able to play somebody that we all run into in real life. She has all the cuts and bruises, yet she has a sunny side,” Woodard said. “As an actor, I love that. I feel like she’s a real human being. In this case, people may feel like, ‘I can identify with them’ until the character’s life takes a dramatic turn and then go, ‘Oh, my God. I couldn’t go all the way there.’
“But that’s why we tell stories,” Woodard added. “To entertain, yes, but also to have audiences reflect and imagine themselves in these situations.”
Back in the old days of the “Evil Dead” movies and “Army of Darkness,“ writer-director Sam Raimi used to take great pleasure in playfully torturing Bruce Campbell in any way possible, filming several exhaustive slapstick-infused scenes that would do the Three Stooges proud.
Of course, putting Campbell through the physical ringer wasn’t enough, so Raimi would proceed to drench his longtime friend with gallons of fake blood, always striving for the most repugnant result possible.
Fast-forward to 2015, where Campbell decided it was time for his character, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams, to share in the glory gory. For his outrageously entertaining STARZ series “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” the groovy actor recruited a couple of sidekick deadite hunters, Pablo and Kelly (Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo), and a ambiguous nemesis, Ruby (Lucy Lawless), effectively ending his days of being the only goop-drenched punching bag.
And as Santiago, DeLorenzo and Lawless found out, Season 1 was only the beginning.
“Wait until you see Season 2,” Campbell teased in a recent phone conversation. “Pablo is going to have a really rough time, Kelly is going to be getting buckets of blood on her, and even the great Lucy Lawless is going to get slimed multiple times this season … nobody got off
easy this year. I have a torn hamstring to prove it.”
Fresh off the Blu-ray premiere of Season 1 (Anchor Bay Entertainment), Season 2 of “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” which premieres Sunday on STARZ, finds Ash’s dream life in Jacksonville, Florida, interrupted by a deadite attack. It seems the Book of the Dead is too much for Ruby to handle, and they need to travel to Ash’s hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan, where Ash, Pablo and Kelly need to help get their enemy out of a hellish jam.
Also in Elk Grove is the newest “Ash vs. Evil Dead” cast member, Lee Majors, who plays Ash’s dad. Like Raimi and Campbell — who were born in the same hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan — the “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Fall Guy” icon is a native of the Wolverine State. Campbell said he takes pride in his Midwestern upbringing and work ethic, and Majors recognizes that.
“Believe it or not I think that’s why Lee Majors likes us,” Campbell enthused. “Lee has a great work ethic, too, that’s why he never leaves the set. He’s one of those guys who says, ‘I’m fine over here, just give me a chair.’ He doesn’t play any games. He was amazed that we (Campbell, Raimi and Rob Tapert) are still partners. It’s coming up on 37 years after we did the first ‘Evil Dead.’ I’ll walk into the office and there’s Rob Tapert, same guy. It makes working a lot easier. These shows are really difficult to do, and it helps to look across the table and see the guy you’ve known for years and years.”
Needless to say, Campbell is thrilled that Majors is playing Ash’s dad. It only takes a mere glimpse at the veteran actor in “Ash vs. Evil Dead” to see he’s got the same square-jawed looks and “I don’t give a damn” swagger of his chainsaw-wielding, boomstick-carrying son.
“He’s absolutely perfect as Ash’s dad,” Campbell said. “He’s an ass grabber. Bigot. Socially unacceptable. He’s just perfect. He’s the guy we wanted from the start.”
Raimi, unfortunately, will not be directing any episodes for Season 2, Campbell said. Raimi, who went on to direct the Tobey Maguire “Spider-Man” trilogy, as well as such other hits as “A Simple Plan,” “Drag Me to Hell” and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” is instead staying behind-the-scenes as one of the show’s creators and executive producers.
Campbell said he was just happy that Raimi was available to help the production kick the show off in style last year.
“We were lucky to get Sam for that. He came down off the mountain top to help us out, and now he has to go back on top of the mountain,” Campbell said. “He’s a big movie director and his schedule doesn’t allow it, but he’s a great voice from above and he’s keeping his eye on the show, and that’s what matters to us. Plus, he gave us the street cred. He directed the pilot and set the bar very high and the tone for the other directors. He was glad to be able to do that.”
Not just for laughs
While “Ash vs. Evil Dead” has its share of high comedy, Campbell said the idea of scaring audience members is not lost on the production. Episode 1 of Season 2 is proof of that, as Ruby’s evil spawn return — and they’re all grown up.
“The one thing that we do serious on ‘Evil Dead’ and the one rule that we enforce is, ‘Evil is scary. Evil is not funny,'” Campbell said. “Evil can be malicious, which is thereby secondary funny, but primarily, evil’s main goal is to mess with your head and kill you slowly if they can.”
While Season 2 has yet to officially get underway, Campbell said he wants to be back in “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” too, and not just for another season.
“I’m going for five. I’ll take five seasons,” Campbell said. “Five will give fans everything they need – pretty much the equivalent of multiple movies. That way, we can get all the character development out of it, and look, never say never — maybe we could turn around and go make another (‘Evil Dead’) movie. Success begets success. I have a bold theory that Season 2 is where this show is going to stick. I’m lobbying STARZ for Season 3 and 4 pickup to give the fans a vote of confidence so they can know that there will be a stream of shows coming. We’ve got your back. We’re going to give you what you demanded.”
One good sign that there’s a big enough fan base is the demand for merchandise tied into the show. New Jersey-based collectibles company NECA is getting ready to release “Ash vs. Evil Dead” 7-inch action figures — including Hero Ash, Value Stop Ash, and the evil entity Eligos – and Campbell couldn’t be more thrilled. In the past, the company has produced other “Evil Dead” merchandise, and also has a 7-inch “Ultimate Ash” on the way.
“People still like stuff to hold in their hands in this digital age,” Campbell said. “They like something they can shove on my tables at conventions and say, ‘Sign my Ash figure.’ I’ve signed a lot of myself.”
Tim Lammers recently talked with “Once Upon a Time” star Lana Parrilla for D23.com about the upcoming sixth season of the hit ABC series. Here’s a preview …
Move over, Regina Mills: The Evil Queen has separated from her Storybrooke, Maine, alter-ego and is returning with a vengeance in the sixth season of ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time. Needless to say, series star Lana Parrilla, who, with delectable deviousness, has brought her evil highness to life since the fantasy romance drama kicked off in 2011, couldn’t be more delighted.
Energized by her foreboding proclamation, the Dragon’s heart in hand, during the thrilling conclusion of Season 5 (“This is a war, and it’s just begun. The Queen … is back”), Parrilla is currently in production on the series in Vancouver, Canada. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with D23 and give the legions of Once Upon a Time fans an idea of what to expect when Season 6 premieres on September 25.
D23: Congratulations on Season 6. When you first started, was it the goal of the cast and crew to mainly concentrate on the work of the first season in hopes that the show would find an audience, or did you have your sights set on Season 2, 3 and so on?
Lana Parrilla (LP): I have to say, I had a really good feeling at the start that we were going to go six seasons. I don’t know how far we’re going to go beyond this, but I had a good feeling early on about six. I think it was when I was saying goodbyes to family and friends in L.A. (getting ready to return for Season 2). Ginny Goodwin and I had a going-away party before we left to go to the set in Vancouver, and I just remember my goodbyes being longer and more emotional than other goodbyes. I looked at Ginny and said, “I think we’re going to be up here in Vancouver for awhile,” and she said, “Let’s hope so,” because we loved the show and wanted it to be successful. I would say to [creators] Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis all the time, “We’re going to make it to six seasons,” and they were like, “Come on, don’t jinx it!” I said, “I’m not jinxing it. I’m just really confident!”
D23: Judging by the awesome trailer for Season 6 that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con in July, you can’t help but come away with the feeling that this is going to be a big season for the Evil Queen.
LP: Yes it is. There’s a lot happening with the Evil Queen and Regina—and their face-off—which is fun to do. I can say that the Evil Queen is the real opposition for the heroes this season, and she has her hands in everything right now. She’s really creating turmoil in everyone’s lives, which is fun for me to play.