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Lucy Lawless Says ‘Ash Vs. Evil Dead’ Is ‘Feminist-Approved’: BUST Interview

Lucy Lawless has been a feminist pop culture icon for 20 years - and she’s still making projects we’re excited about. BUST got the inside scoop on her latest project - plus old favorites - during a roundtable interview at San Diego Comic Con.

Though Lawless pointed out that there were other strong female characters before Xena: Warrior Princess, we have to say that Xena makes Jon Snow look like a pretty-haired boy with a sword in comparison. Xena didn’t need men to tell her what to do, and she kicked ass like none other. More recently, Lawless has found success with roles in series including Salem, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Parks and Recreation, but her role in Ash Vs. Evil Dead is one of her biggest in years.

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Ash Vs. Evil Dead is based on the cult classic horror films Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, known for their hilarity and horror elements featuring buckets of blood! Bruce Campbell stars as Ash Williams, a loveable idiot equipped mostly with a chainsaw and a shotgun who has to fight evil demons. Fans will be happy to know that Ash Vs. Evil Dead was already picked up for a second season ahead of its premiere on Starz on Halloween night.

In Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Lawless plays a mysterious woman called Ruby. The series hits home for the actress not only because it was shot in her home country of New Zealand, but also because her husband Rob Tapert is the executive producer of both the movies and the series.

In the SDCC interview, Lawless talked about why she initially was not a fan of the movies, the difficulty of doing her own stunts and her relationship with Xena.

Tell us about the mysterious Ruby, the character you are playing.

Ruby’s the thorn in Ash’s side.  She’s gunning for him, and I like to say that she’s like “Jaws.” It’s a bit of a slow build.  By the end of the season you know exactly what she’s about and how much trouble he’s in.  Her name is Ruby Knowby – spelled with a K. Back in the original films, Professor Knowby was the holder of the book.  So she’s got a family history and a huge chip on her shoulder and she’s hunting Ash down.

Why did you want to be part of this show?

Because I love these guys. My husband (executive producer Rob Tapert) dropped out of college with Bruce (Campbell) and Sam (Raimi) to make the Evil Dead movie, so it’s part of the family business.  When you marry one of those guys, you kind of marry them all in a way. They’ll do this shtick all the time - they quote one another. At a very formative time in their lives they were intensely intertwined, so it’s funny to become part of that gang.

How would you describe the show?

It’s more like the second Evil Dead movie.  It’s got that insane humor. It was a little bit more of a work in progress. And it’s technically an extremely difficult show because you’re doing half-hour episodes, only ten episodes.  So the season goes really fast, but all the post-production, all the special effects need a lot of lead up. New Zealanders are famously innovative because we have to do a lot with not very much money. We always have.  They’re developing some things for the first time, and they’re absolutely meticulous in their design.  It’s quite an extraordinary art department.

Do you get to punch a lot of guys?  Saw people in half?

Well, sawing people in half is his (Ash’s) gag. I don’t think I’ll be stealing his gag.  No, trust me, he’s not letting me have (his trademark) chainsaw because the first thing that’s coming off is his other hand or his head.  Yes, she gets to kick some ass! She’s quite the martial artist, this Ruby.

Does Ruby have a signature weapon too?

She sure does. She has a very particular weapon, and it’s a dagger of sorts but she has to be extremely careful with it because it has some powers, which are problematic.

What’s the training been like? Because it’s not like the first time you’ve done stunts.

It’s the first time in a long time. I always hated doing stunts but it was part of the job, so you just suck it up and do it and don’t complain. You can get it over with as quick as possible. Now at 47 years old it’s like, “Oh that hurts!” And it’s freezing! And you go straight into sell - and it might just be like your landing and you’re hitting something, and then you’re like, “Aww my neck!” And having to go to the chiropractor on a Sunday, so I can go and do it all over again on Monday.  I have to learn how to warm up better and make sure that I can stay injury free. I don’t know how I did it in the past.

Can you give me an example of a stunt that was particularly rough?

Oh no, seriously. I’m not doing anything fancy. I’m just like jumping off a box, or pretending that I barrel rolled through a fire. I don’t know I’m doing it, but it’s just the feeling of the beginning in the ads, it’s like, I’m crippled!

How do women react to the fact that you’ve been the original kick-ass woman as Xena?  Do they appreciate it?

They do. There was a small matter of Joan of Arc. There’s a lot of warrior women in history. There was also Ripley, you know Sigourney Weaver’s character before me. There was Wonder Woman before me! But Xena was more a flawed hero and made it new and she was as tough as any dude. I guess that was her thing in the ‘90s. Yes, I get a lot of credit for that but I was just sort of a link in the chain. Interestingly enough, African American women really took to that character. Also huge in Turkey, in Iran, in the Philippines - around the world it’s a massive. Because it’s not about the American jurisprudence or a hospital. It’s about universal themes of love, fidelity, fear and courage. People in Egypt can relate to these stories, and people in the Philippines, people in America, people in France. The French guy when we first – would say, “No, no, the French will never accept a female action hero.  Never.” It’s huge in France! It’s the country of Joan of Arc.  He was completely misinformed about his own country.

How do you enjoy being able to film in New Zealand?

Well, it’s very convenient because I can still take my kids to school on occasion or show up at parent/teacher meetings. I was living in Louisiana and I couldn’t do any of that while I was working on (the series) Salem. And my husband, this is how he keeps me at home!

You worked with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on Xena. What was it like having familiar faces around you again?

Beautiful. I love them so much and I mean, (husband) Rob is a huge part of that because Spartacus and Xena, and all of that stuff is sort of Rob’s babies, but I love working with Bruce. We trust each other. It’s a little bit of a brother and sister thing almost, kind of. Please just no romance with Bruce. Please, no! That would be horror. That would be horror for me.  But yeah, we have a relationship of total trust.

You’ve been involved with a few shows now with really intense fan bases, truly fanatic. What are you expecting from this?

It already is! There are a lot of guys dressed up as Ash at Comic Con and girls, too. That was like the hot new costume, female Ash; pin-up Ash. What am I expecting? We’ll be in an enormous room next year at Comic Con.

In your opinion, what makes the Evil Dead movies so special and different to other horror films?

The magic is those three boys. It’s Rob and Sam and Bruce.  Bruce’s voice is brilliant, and his loveable bombastic ass of a character with Sam’s kooky visual style and humor, and Rob pulling the team together to realize it.  

What’s your personal history with horror films?  Are you a fan in general?

We used to wag school to see Freddy (Krueger), Friday the 13th, all that stuff. We were all sixteen in New Zealand and all kids would sneak in. But when I was seventeen I went with my boyfriend, Adam Blake, to see the first Evil Dead at his friend’s place, and I stomped out after the first five minutes going, “This is sick, disgusting, misogynistic” (FYI: women get possessed by the evil first). I feel that the people who made this should be shot” and then ten years later I was married to one of them. A feminist’s bloody reaction to it!  

So is the new series feminist approved?

Yes, this is equal opportunity abuse.  It’s ghastly.  It’s hardcore, nasty, hilarious stuff!

 

Watch the trailer here:

 

 

This is a guest post by Julide Tanriverdi

 

 

Images and video via Starz

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