Lucy Lawless didn't appear in the original "Evil Dead" movies, but she brings her own cult following to the TV revival of that classic horror franchise. The New Zealand native stars as the mysterious and ruthless Ruby in the upcoming series "Ash vs. Evil Dead," which reunites her with a trio of VIPs from her breakout hit, "Xena: Warrior Princess."
That would be executive producers Bruce Campbell, who returns as the titular chain saw-wielding hero Ash, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. The series launches Oct. 31 on Starz.
Lawless, also a veteran of "Spartacus," "Battlestar Galactica" and "Salem," spoke to The Times about scary laughs, drama chops and girl power. And about that potential "Xena" remake? She just may be game.
Talk about your character, Ruby, in "Ash vs. Evil Dead"
Ruby is the sand in Ash's jock strap. She's there to irritate him as much as possible. She wants to destroy him because she holds him responsible for the new plague of Deadites (demonic zombies/villains in the series) and the destruction of her family. And she's right. He's solely responsible. He's ground zero.
What's it like working with Bruce Campbell again?
Bruce is such a darling. When I got "Xena," Rob [Tapert, co-creator/executive producer who later became her husband] put me with Bruce to learn how to be a good and responsible star of a show. So Bruce crafted me in his own image. We have a hand-in-glove fit as colleagues. We're all about getting the job done and making it as smooth and joyful an experience as possible.
You've described "Ash vs. Evil Dead" as "a jolly splatterfest." Can you elaborate please?
Buckets of blood and good humor! It's more gore than you can shake a stick at, so it's not for the squeamish. It's going to play in frat houses on endless loops. People have done spoof horror like "Scary Movie," and then pure horror. This is both together. The horror is for real, and the interpersonal relationships are hilarious. And some of the romantic situations we find our hero in are so wrong.
Do you prefer to be in fantasy and genre projects?
No, I like it all. There's nothing quite like a good dramatic role for going deep and being able to layer things up in terms of acting and figuring out a character. But whatever I'm doing is my new favorite thing. Whatever the job at hand is, I love it.
Talk about the physicality of these kinds of roles. What's that like to be a TV action star?
It's mind over matter for a person like me who hates all of that. I was never good at sports, and I had to learn on the job at the age of 25. The only way to get through it is to not resist the demands of the job. When they say, "Lucy, do you want to go learn your fight?" the answer is, "No, of course not." But I say, "Excellent!" instead. It takes the curse off the request.
What do you think about a potential "Xena" remake?
The show's raison d'être was the empowerment of the individual, friendship, redemption. I'd be surprised if there's a way to do it that we would consider edgy, appointment television today that doesn't break the essence of the show. You can't just pull out old scripts and redo it with new people. And there's a glut of period pieces now, so how do you make it fresh?
At the same time, Xena and Gabrielle's relationship has a tremendous amount of resonance, and the world still needs female empowerment. It was a show about people feeling marginalized, seeking recognition and honor and respect. I don't think that job is done.