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Just in time for Halloween, the Starz premium cable channel debuts "Ash Vs. Evil Dead." It's a TV continuation of a classic trio of horror movies. NPR's Eric Deggans spoke to the lead actors, Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless, about the decades-long friendships behind the "Evil Dead" franchise.
(SOUNDBITE OF DEEP PURPLE SONG, "SPACE TRUCKIN'")
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "Ash Vs. Evil Dead" begins with a blast of classic rock and a scene showing star Bruce Campbell squeezing inside a massive leather corset.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ASH VS. EVIL DEAD")
BRUCE CAMPBELL: (As Ash Williams) This is going to hurt.
DEGGANS: That moment says everything about Campbell's character, Ash Williams, a vain, aging, low rent, ladies' man whose only talent is killing zombie-like demons known as deadites. But Campbell believes it also says something about his longtime friend, director and producer Sam Raimi who has a reputation for torturing his star.
CAMPBELL: This is Sam's way of tormenting me even when he's not physically tormenting me. He's tormenting me mentally because now he knows I'm going to read in every review - the aging lothario starts by hooking up a geezer girdle and looking for his teeth.
DEGGANS: This is a game Campbell and Raimi have been playing for at least 36 years, back when they filmed the first "Evil Dead" movie as college friends. The film became a cult hit in 1981, spawning a franchise with two sequels. It features Campbell's Ash trying to save a group of friends, including a pal named Scotty who are possessed by the deadites.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "EVIL DEAD")
CAMPBELL: (As Ash Williams) Scotty, listen to me please for god's sake!
RICHARD DEMANINCOR: (As Scotty) Ash, I don't want to die. You're not going to leave me are you, Ash? Are you?
CAMPBELL: If you have really hokey lines of dialogue spoken by actors who have no experience, it's going to be kind of funny. And so a lot of people are like, oh, you guys, that horror comedy. And I - these - even today I kind of go, no, we weren't trying to be funny, sorry.
DEGGANS: Those laughs in the background belong to Lucy Lawless, star of the beloved '90s action series "Xena: The Warrior Princess."
LUCY LAWLESS: I'm the quiet one in the relationship - can't get a pause in edgeways, that's what the problem is.
DEGGANS: Lawless married "Xena's" co-creator Rob Tapert, who also developed the "Evil Dead" movies with Raimi and Campbell. So when "Evil Dead" became a TV series, it made sense to craft a role for Lawless.
LAWLESS: Bruce likes that I understand his problems.
CAMPBELL: You know what I like is you don't have to talkie, talkie, talk. I start to explain something to Lucy, she turns and walks away and I'm like, well I guess - I guess she understands.
CAMPBELL: You don't have to really talk much.
LAWLESS: We just speak in - in sound effects.
DEGGANS: The TV show features a middle aged Ash after he's accidentally released the deadites again. Lawless is Ruby, a woman who hates Ash. She blames him for the deadite attack that killed her family years ago.
CAMPBELL: When we made the first "Evil Dead," it got banded in five countries. That's what you did to horror movies back then. You banned them because they were a very fringe form of entertainment. Now, thanks to shows like "The Walking Dead" - good gravy - how many viewers do they get every week?
DEGGANS: Still, not all "Evil Dead" fans want to see Ash on the small screen. Rob Mclaine is a self-described super fan. He was inspired by the movies to work in the special effects industry. When Mclaine was growing up in England, the first "Evil Dead" movie was criticized as an example of video nasties - explicit, unregulated films that broke all the rules for what could be shown on screen.
ROB MCLAINE: It just become the poster child for what video nasties were - everything that was despicable and terrible and corrupting about what these films were. So a lot of people saw the "Evil Dead" as a - as a seminal film to see.
DEGGANS: Mclaine doesn't expect "Ash Vs. Evil Dead" to break the same ground. But Campbell says the TV version, which Starz has already picked up for a second season, continues the film's legacy by flushing out Ash, who's inspired fans decades.
CAMPBELL: He's the average man and they can look and see that Ash has no skills. So they can believe in him because basically they're looking in the mirror when they look at Ash.
DEGGANS: Translating that appeal to the small screen might just be Ash's biggest challenge yet. Eric Deggans, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPACE TRUCKIN'")
DEEP PURPLE: (Singing) Come on. Come on. Come on. Let's go...
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