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The Evil Dead

Wingman Wednesday

Dana DeLorenzo

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We fell in love with Ash Williams as easily-impressionable preteens, marveling in his brazen foot-in-mouth false bravado, but had his recent sidekick Kelly Maxwell been with him 30 years ago, we’re sorry to say that the chainsaw-wielding anti-hero would have been an afterthought. Portrayed by Dana DeLorenzo in the Starz series “Ash vs Evil Dead,” currently in its third season, Kelly is, as she would say, a breath of mother f@#?ing fresh @ss air!

In reality, DeLorenzo is also one of those freshly inhaled breaths. Eager to discuss her place in the Evil Dead universe and genuinely grateful to have been invited on board, the Ohio native is ecstatic to see her character take more of a leadership role this season, which she says will culminate in a moment that has Kelly seizing upon an opportunity in a extremely unforgettable way.

We recently sat down with DeLorenzo during a bomb cyclone (yes, that’s a thing!) to discuss where the series has impacted her life the most, the star dust that follows Sam Raimi when he leaves a room, and her mother’s spot-on chainsaw impression.

TrunkSpace: How has “Ash vs Evil Dead” impacted your life the most?
DeLorenzo: Oh man, that’s such a hard question to answer because, first of all, brevity is not my strong suit. I’m trying to answer questions in a short amount of time. It’s tough, and something that big and magnified is… something that huge of a topic is still hard for me to articulate. Let me try.

Well for one thing, it gave me a steady job in the entertainment industry, which has been something I have been dreaming and making birthday wishes for my entire life, and just busting my ass, really. I’m from Youngstown, not really the hotbed of entertainment. I’ve just always loved to perform. It was very innate. I was telling jokes to myself on my Fisher-Price tape recorder when I was three, cracking myself up with my “Sesame Street” stuffed animals. It was one of those things that always drove me. And my parents have always kept me very grounded, and are two of the hardest working people I know. So in that sense, I never really thought that it would ever be something I could do for a living, I just always wanted to pursue it on the side. I was working five or six shifts a week, 12 hour shifts on my feet, when I got this audition, in fact. The bar that I was working at was incredible and kept me afloat all those years in LA, for like five years. It was called Beer Belly. The fact that I get to wake up every day and do what I love, I’d say that is the biggest thing. And then there are all the little branches. I mean, what a thrill as an actor to be on a show like this, that has all the things. I get to flex so many muscles. I get to learn so many incredible aspects of the craft, whether it’s doing stunts in action, or doing comedy, which is my number one love, opposite Bruce Campbell, the king of one-liners and comedic timing. Or, I’m there walking in the woods with Xena: Warrior Princess. And also, I get to do drama, and obviously, the horror. I have gotten to cross off so many things on my acting bucket list.

TrunkSpace: Well, and from an outside perspective, that seems like one of the amazing things about being involved in a show like this, is that, anything is possible. You could show up to work and be doing anything on any given day.
DeLorenzo: And that’s really how it is. We move very quickly. So many of the days, things get switched around, and all of a sudden, I’m hanging upside down by my ankles in a tree fight, and then the next day I’m getting covered in blood and viscera with a cannon being shot at me. It definitely keeps it exciting and keeps you on your toes. And that lends itself to the final aspect which is, having fans is obviously something new for me. I’m just so grateful because, this is so sincere, meeting fans gives me life. It’s such a symbiotic relationship to the point where I actually think I get more excited to meet fans than they are to meet me, where I’m the one creeping them out. I’m so intense all the time and I’m so passionate. I mean, I am Italian, that comes with the territory. Truly, when I get to do these conventions or comic cons and meet them, they’re the ones usually backing away from me slowly, asking for security. I just get so filled with love and passion, and as an actor that’s such a great feeling, ’cause the work is the reward, to be honest, for me. I go crazy when there’s nothing going on and I’m not shooting. Right now, usually we’re shooting in New Zealand at this time, and so, I’m having a little bit of a panic attack not being on set. But luckily, I can go to some of these conventions to meet fans and it’s like, how great to have people, first-hand, in your face, and be able to respond to your work and get as excited as you were to shoot it. That, to me, has been the crème de la crème. Like I said, considering my roots and considering the journey and the real tough road it took to get here, there’s not a day that goes by that I am not grateful and feel so lucky to be on the show about a guy with a chainsaw arm. Who knew?

TrunkSpace: As it relates to the fans, this franchise, more than a lot of the genre franchises, it feels like people have a sense of ownership in it. It’s almost like they found their indie band that they loved and they want to share it with their close friends. How long did it take for you, being a part of it, to feel that ownership as well?
DeLorenzo: You know, I don’t know that I feel ownership in this, I just feel like I’m a cog in the wheel. But in terms of when did I feel like people were receptive, to welcome us as part of the group… pretty early on.

It’s interesting you say that because I was actually terrified at the possibility that it could go in a very different direction. And that’s not a secret, if you look at the early responses, when it came out that finally, after, what was it, 20 or 30 years, they were gonna have a follow-up to “The Evil Dead” with Bruce Campbell, the response was a little bit, what’s the word I’m looking for?

TrunkSpace: Cautionary.
DeLorenzo: That’s exactly the word, cautionary, or even adversarial. And understandably so. I knew the franchise, I was a fan. It’s about one guy, and finally, finally, here we got ’em again, Bruce Campbell, doing this next leg, transitioning from film to television, and what, he’s gonna have two sidekicks? So I was a little worried that, “Oh boy, what if they hate us?” Luckily, I’d say, straight away, from the very first time I got to meet fans… I think it was New York Comic Con before the show had aired, so we did a huge thing there for like 2500 fans… and they just went nuts. Then, I think my first convention was in Chicago, my home away from home… I’ve lived there for 10 years… and it was Days of the Dead, and only three episodes had aired of the first season and already I was blown away by how receptive they were and how immediately they invested in Pablo and Kelly. And I have to give credit to Rob Tapert and Bruce and Sam (Raimi), and our showrunner at the time, Craig DiGregorio, because they knew what they were doing. They knew that in order to let this character, Ash Williams, this flawed human being that we know and love, they knew that in order to let him still be that character with some often offensive, sometimes ignorant comments and views, they knew that in order to let him still be him, they needed to surround him with someone who has a heart and who was his cheerleader, and also someone who is willing to go toe-to-toe with him and call him out and also sort of be the common sense.

TrunkSpace: It’s a new layer that didn’t exist before, this wonderful family element that binds them all together.
DeLorenzo: Absolutely. You hit the word, which is the buzzword for Season 3, because for two seasons we built up this family and even have introduced, or brought back members of Ash’s family. His father, played by the great Lee Majors, which I think is one of the best additions to the show. And then, of course, we have Cheryl, his sister, which, oh my goodness, what a thrill for the fans, the lifelong fans of the franchise, to have that. But now, for Season 3, we introduced a daughter, his actual daughter he never knew he had. So there is so much great richness and conflict that now directly affect Pablo and Kelly, who the audience has grown to love, and you see how that sets that in motion. Now it’s the family that is bound by blood, and the family that is bound by bloodshed, and I love that. I love watching Ash Williams, the last man on earth who should be, now have to be responsible for a teenage daughter, no less, who already has the rebellion that a lot of teenagers have, but then with the same stubbornness of Ash Williams. It gives a whole new meaning to sins of the father. It is heartwarming but also so funny, and often very real and emotional, and I’m very excited for fans to see how Ash grows just enough this season in such a real and fantastic way.

TrunkSpace: From what we could tell, this is the longest time you’ve ever spent with one character. What has that journey been like for you to discover somebody over an extended period of time?
DeLorenzo: It has been one of the greatest thrills of my life because I absolutely love my character. I love Kelly Maxwell, and that, again, is a testament to the writers and to the showrunners, but also, Sam Raimi set the bar from day one, about collaborating and letting me bring my own aspects or thoughts or different layers that I wanted to bring to the table. From day one, they have been so receptive and collaborative, and I think that always lends itself to being… when creatives all work together for the same goal, it takes a village to create a strong character. I’m talking down the line, not just collaborating in terms of dialogue and in terms of ideas and who Kelly Maxwell is, it’s been collaborative from behind the scenes.

So, it has been such a magnificent experience, and I feel like art imitates life imitates art, because Kelly’s journey has been very similar to my own journey playing Kelly. That sounds so meta, but it’s true. (Laughter) She was thrown into the fight against evil, I was thrown into this. Yes, I’d been working for a long time, but I think I had no more than eight seconds of screen time on any major movie or TV show. Also, just how she came into her own, how she became her own warrior by her own right, I feel like I can look back at where I started and I feel a lot more comfortable in these shoes now… and in this purple leather jacket.

I have nothing else to compare it to, so maybe we should add this to the other ways that this show has impacted me, because I’ve never gotten to create a character and never before have been able to have so much creative input in a character. That’s been a huge thing for me, and again, something that I’m just so happy and grateful for.

DeLorenzo with Ray Santiago in “Ash vs Evil Dead”

TrunkSpace: The bar has been set high with this job. Any future jobs will always be compared to your time on “Ash vs Evil Dead” now.
DeLorenzo: Oh yeah, I’m screwed. (Laughter) But also, it taught me a lot, and I feel like this was such its own beast, if you will. I feel like not all the characters I play will I be able to find so many ways to bring out these little aspects, so I feel like every character is different. So even if I don’t get to collaborate again, at least I have this. But I do feel like, in my experience, there are many people in this industry who do believe in the good of creating together. If you look at any of the shows that are successful, and beloved, you hear the same thing every time, that everyone gets along, everyone takes part, everyone stays in their own lane, that kind of thing. So I do feel like it is possible. I hope there’s more of that to come.

But yeah, nothing will ever top the moment that Sam Raimi sits you down day one and says, “Hey, I’d really like you to help me rewrite this scene.” And you’re like, “I’m sorry, Sam Raimi, what?” I thought he was kidding. I’ve said this before, he is both the least and most intimidating person in the room, in the sense of, when he talks to you, you’re the only one there, he’s looking at you, he makes you feel so good, he listens to what you have to say, and then he walks away, and you’re like, “Holy shit! That was Sam Raimi!” You’re talking to him, it’s like Sam the butcher from the grocery store and you go, “Hey man, how you doing?” And then he walks away and there’s like this trail of star dust that’s left in view.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Well, what’s amazing about Sam is that, where he doesn’t get enough credit is that he really kick-started this whole superhero craze with what he did with the Spider-Man franchise.
DeLorenzo: Absolutely. And also, things like the POV of the object, that was him. He created that whole thing of like, the ax flying from the ax’s point of view. I mean, how genius? So again, I would have been happy to be Screaming Extra #72 in a show like this. (Laughter) Which, by the way, I think that was my biggest credit before getting this show.

So I’m just so grateful to all of them, the producers that took a chance on me, because I’m not the typical horror stereotype. I’m not the beautiful blonde with blue eyes who can scream. I’m a very different-looking, different-sounding character or person that screams like a 75-year-old man. I really thought I was never gonna get this job ’cause I actually can’t scream. I have nodules. My mom, when she saw the first episode, she was like, “That was great but why didn’t they dub your screaming? You sound like you’re a 75 year-old man.” Mom, you’re not wrong. I cannot scream.

TrunkSpace: How great is it that your mom is in on the lingo with dubbing and stuff like that? That’s awesome!
DeLorenzo: (Laughter) Oh, I know. Whenever my parents will call me, immediately after the show airs, this is what I get every time… her impression of a chainsaw. So the show aired. “Hi, Mom and Dad. What’d you think?”

(DeLorenzo does an impression of her mom doing an impression of a chainsaw.)

And it’s actually pretty good. But it’s so funny, ’cause this is not my parent’s cup of tea or anything, but they have grown to absolutely love the show. They give me their full Roger Ebert critique.

New episodes of “Ash vs Evil Dead” air Sundays on Starz. Seasons 1 and 2 are available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Arielle Carver-O’Neill

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In a series filled with demons, murderous trees, and a hell-raising grimoire called the Necronomicon, it says something that the scariest storyline to come out of “Ash vs Evil Dead” may be that the man tasked with stopping all of the evil is actually a… gulp… father.

No one ever said that making the undead dead again would be easy, but for Ash Williams, chainsaw-wielding, boomstick-blasting anti-hero of “The Evil Dead” franchise, the most difficult thing he may have to face in Season 3 of the Starz gorefest is his own teenage daughter, played by the Australian-born Arielle Carver-O’Neill. Responsibility isn’t exactly Ash’s thing, unless there is a taproom called Responsibility in Jacksonville.

We recently sat down with Carver-O’Neill to discuss raising the bar higher than possessed cadaver colons, sprinkling “Ashisms” into her performance, and staring down the nozzles of eight blood canons.

TrunkSpace: You’re joining one of the wildest, no-holds-barred shows on television. How long did it take for you to say to yourself, “How the hell did I get here?” while on set? Were you thrust right into some crazy, Deadite-filled scene that felt just left of reality?
Carver-O’Neill: The first week of filming felt like shooting a drama. I was crying almost every day as Brandy loses her mother and her best friend all in one horrific and bloody evening so there were a lot of tears. When I finally saw the first episode I was surprised at how funny it was, I kind of forgot that it was a comedy.

But that really is what’s so special and unique about “Ash vs Evil Dead.” As Bruce put it to me one day on set, “It’s the place to come if you want to learn.” As an actor it’s so exciting and it keeps you on your toes. One day you’re shooting fight scenes and action sequences with stunt performers, the next you’re in a drama grieving the loss of the life you knew, another you’re in a comedy and witnessing Bruce Campbell deliver epic one-liners and trying really hard not to laugh.

TrunkSpace: Was the idea of working on a series with no storytelling filters an exciting one when you first signed on to inhabit Brandy? As you just mentioned, you’re getting to play with so many genres in a single show, which even in today’s vast television landscape seems like a rarity.
Carver-O’Neill: Definitely! It was fun to watch just how far they take things this season. I mean, last season Bruce was attacked by a cadaver’s possessed colon so of course you think, “Where on earth can they go from there!?” But they did, and they do! Our incredible team find such creative ways to up the stakes and the gross factor. Kelly has something on her leg for a little while and the prosthetics department did such an incredible job that looking at it made me feel nauseous. I can’t wait for people to see it. Poor Dana (DeLorenzo) had to walk around with that thing on though – she deserves an award. I couldn’t sit with her at lunch unless she covered it up.

TrunkSpace: The core evil-fighting trio of Bruce, Dana and Ray Santiago have built up an amazing on-screen chemistry. Were you fighting any butterflies coming into the cast and feeling a bit like the new kid in class? How long did it take for you to feel a part of the “Ash vs Evil Dead” family?
Carver-O’Neill: I was definitely nervous going in, but I was also so excited to have a job and be working with such icons like Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless and learn as much as I could. The first piece of advice Bruce gave me when I met him was, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong,” so I did my best to keep reminding myself of that. That being said, everyone was so welcoming, supportive and nice that I felt part of the family very quickly. They’re all such good people and great actors, I learnt so much from working with them… and we also had the world’s greatest crew.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it about Brandy that you were most excited to dive into? As more of the season came into focus for you, did new aspects of her personality reveal themselves?
Carver-O’Neill: They did – we only get the scripts as we’re filming so her arc kind of revealed itself to me. It made the journey a little more real. She didn’t know where she’d end up and neither did I! Brandy goes on this incredible journey. Her entire reality is shattered and those closest to her are taken violently and traumatically and she’s left feeling very alone, confused and grieving. Not only for her mother and best friend but for the world she had created around her. She’s also the kind of person who needs to figure things out for herself, she doesn’t trust easily and so she doesn’t just believe what anyone says. She needs to find answers for herself. Through that she not only grows physically stronger throughout the season but she also gets mentally and emotionally stronger as well.

TrunkSpace: Brandy is Ash’s long-lost daughter. Those are some big genes to fill. Are there any aspects of how Bruce presents Ash that you get to mirror given the fact that you’re his onscreen offspring?
Carver-O’Neill: Bruce and I talked about putting in mannerisms (we called them Ashisms) and some moments where you see Brandy do something that Ash would do. We don’t know if they’ll make the cut, but we had a lot of fun finding them to show just how alike they are.

And even though Brandy didn’t grow up with Ash, they do have a lot in common. They share that Williams’ stubborn streak, the habit of acting first and thinking later (or never in Ash’s case), their trust issues and sense of humor. But at the same time I still wanted Brandy to be very much her own person – she’s more ambitious and quite a bit smarter than her father.

Carver-O’Neill with Bruce Campbell in “Ash vs Evil Dead”

TrunkSpace: One of the things that seems like a rite of passage for all “Ash vs Evil Dead” regulars is a complete on-camera drenching in blood and/or demon-related fluids. How long did it take before you got covered in cinematic goo and what was that experience like?
Carver-O’Neill: I had eight blood canons while filming the 10 episodes of this season. Yup, eight! And a blood canon is only one of the ways they get you with the gore and viscera!

In case anyone doesn’t know… a blood canon is a way they can hit you with a hell of a lot of fake blood in a shorter amount of time. So there’s a keg of cold, sticky fake blood with a hose connecting to an air pressure tank thing with another hose being held by a very happy-looking special effects crew member who is pointing the end of that hose at you, and most likely at your face. There are also different nozzles on the end to change the look and shape of the blood as it hits you… I could write a book on this process just from one season! Anyway, it sounds like a chainsaw and it feels like a high pressure hose and there is no controlling your face or body when it hits you. Pretty much every time you have to pretend you don’t know it’s coming so the shock is real. It’s quite the adrenaline rush. I recommend it to everyone.

My first blood canon we had new directors to the series and it was also their first blood canon… they got a bit excited and just let it roll for about 30 seconds. That’s a steady stream of blood to my face for 30 seconds straight.

TrunkSpace: Those Deadites love to throw out one-liners while they’re raising demonic hell, but truth be told, that Deadite look – the milky white eyes, gnarly teeth and emaciated faces – is pretty terrifying. When you’re staring down a costar in Deadite makeup, is it easier to tap into the primal fight or flight response for the sake of the scene? Does it help you to express fear as Brandy?
Carver-O’Neill: It always does make it a little easier when it’s all there in front of you. The prosthetics and visual effects team on the show are such incredibly talented and skilled artists that it does take some getting used to when you’re standing behind a Deadite in the lunch line.

I had so much fun working with different methods on the show. Sometimes all the Deadites are right in front of you, grabbing at or chasing you and that’s always a little easier. But it was such a fun exercise when you get to use your imagination and there’s actually nothing there. Or you’re fighting an inanimate object, or yourself!

TrunkSpace: In a single sentence, how would you best describe your acting journey from where you began your career to where you are today on “Ash vs Evil Dead?”
Carver-O’Neill: Hard work pays off.

TrunkSpace: Within that journey, did you ever question if you were taking the right path? Was acting a choice or the ONLY choice for you?
Carver-O’Neill: I never really had that day or that moment where I was like, “That’s what I wanna do! I wanna be an actor!” I’ve just always known and always loved it. I can’t remember a time that was different. Though it’s definitely had it’s hard moments, there’s been a lot of struggle but I keep reminding myself in those times that persistence is key. I’m a hard worker and I love doing it and I plan on acting until I either can’t or I stop loving it.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Carver-O’Neill: Nope. I would hate knowing. It would make me so neurotic! And those movies never turn out well… either it’s good news and they get complacent so the future changes and goes bad, or it’s bad news and they try desperately to change it, only to make it worse. I’m good letting my story unfold as I go.

Ash vs Evil Dead” airs Sundays on Starz.

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Trunk Stubs

Ash vs Evil Dead

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Series: Ash vs Evil Dead

Where To Watch: Season 3 is currently airing on Starz. New episodes premiere every Sunday. Seasons 1 and 2 can also be streamed on Netflix.

Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Lucy Lawless, Lee Majors

Creators: Ivan Raimi, Sam Raimi, Tom Spezialy

Reason We’re Watching It: We are not only fans of the “Evil Dead” franchise as a whole, but we’re also fans of Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, and now, Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago. The cast of this show is reason enough to tune in, so it’s a boomstick bonus that every episode is packed with laugh-out-loud moments and gruesome gore that would make Greg Nicotero cringe. There is not a show out there right now that delivers on the consistent humor, action and horror in the way that this instant cable classic does.

What It’s About: The TV series jumps ahead 30 years from when we last saw Ash Williams (Campbell) in the film trilogy. Stuck living in the past, regaling his co-workers Pablo (Santiago) and Kelly (DeLorenzo) with tales of his Deadite-filled backstory, Ash’s serenity is soon dashed as evil once again rears its ugly head and forces him to oil up the ol’ chainsaw for some slashing and thrashing.

Whoah! Rewind that!: Much like how that chip jingle goes, Once you pop, you can’t stop; once you start watching “Ash vs Evil Dead,” you won’t be able to stop reliving the many horrific, eye-popping moments. To pick a memorable one in the first episode of Season 3, we had to go with Ash stomping harpsichord strings through a Deadite’s face, splitting it into several slices. This scene gave a whole new meaning to the phrase… slice of life.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless have acted together before on the fan-favorite fantasy shows “Hercules” and “Xena.” Campbell played a charming, wise-cracking thief known as Autolycus while Lawless, very obviously, portrayed Xena.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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