As Lucy Lawless and Jill Marie Jones approach the table, Lawless smiles and says, “Hello, darlings,” in a half-disarming and half-joking way.
Jones looks at the assembled journalists then back at Lawless. “I feel like we’re speed dating.” They switch name tags on the table. “Is this me?” one of them asks. (It’s unlcear on the recording who it was.)
There’s a Three Stooges vibe to the Evil Dead films, but Lawless and Jones seem to have a Marx Brothers rapport.
In Ash vs Evil Dead, both actresses play new characters in the series’ mythos. Lawless has worked with Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and Bruce Campbell before on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Jones’ most notable roles have been on Girlfriends and Sleepy Hollow. Together, they talked about stronger and more interesting roles for women, channeling their inner 13-year-old, and getting bruised for the sake of the show.
Could you tell us a little bit about the characters you’re playing in Ash vs Evil Dead?
Lucy Lawless: [to Jones, with a twang] Well, Thelma?
Jill Marie Jones: [to Lawless, with a twang] Well, Louise?
Both: We’re Thelma and Louise.
Lucy Lawless: She’s my gal-pal and we’re gunning down that moron and his loser buddies.
Jill Marie Jones: What I love so much about [my character] Amanda Fisher— She is a Michigan State Trooper, she’s a badass, she knows her way around a gun, she doesn’t like the word “no.” She’s one of the good guys, and she really does fight for good. And she meets this mystery over here [gestures to Lawless]—
Lucy Lawless: I’m an enigma! My character [Ruby], her father was Professor Knowby, who was the original holder of the Necronomicon in the movies. Her whole family got destroyed by Ash and his deadite plague. So now that he’s released it again, she’s absolutely going to put him in the ground, because he’s responsible for all the ill in her life. She’s very fixated on Ash, and not in a sexy way.
Lucy Lawless: [looks at Jones] She’s a little bit fixated with her in a sexy way. Who could not be? [laughs]
Were you both fans of the series before coming onto the project?
Lucy Lawless: I saw the first Evil Dead when I was 16 or 17. My first boyfriend and I stomped out after the tree rape. We were going, “The people who made this movie are sick, misogynistic, ‘unprintable’!”
And 12 years later I was married to one of them. [editor’s note: Lawless is married to producer Rob Tapert.]
Lucy Lawless: From Mount Albert, New Zealand—bottom of the world. Who would’ve thunk it? And here we are. The series is more like the second two Evil Dead films, because tree rape ain’t funny. We’re not reprising that.
Jill Marie Jones: Also, what I love so much about Ash vs Evil Dead; I call it “Evil Dead for Dummies.”
Lucy Lawless: [laughs]
Jill Marie Jones: The first episode, if you’ve never seen the films, I feel like new fans will be able to—
Lucy Lawless: [snaps fingers] Jump in.
Jill Marie Jones: You get it real quick. They do it so well. And I know the die hard fans, they did ’em really well.
Lucy Lawless: Yeah, did ’em really proud.
Jill Marie Jones: Really proud. So I think people will really love it.
Lucy, you’ve plays so many strong, badass women. Is Ruby going to get in there and kick some ass?
Lucy Lawless: [sarcastic] She’s so weak in this show.
Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Vulnerable.
Lucy Lawless: She’s so—
Jill Marie Jones: [sarcastic] Ruby’s always asking Amanda, “Please, help me through life?”
Lucy Lawless: [meekly] “I just don’t know which way to go.”
No, Ruby’s a crazy bitch!
Jill Marie Jones: Yeah, she’s strong.
Lucy Lawless: She’s tough, and a little obsessive.
Jill Marie Jones: And thank god, by the way. Thank god.
Lucy Lawless: All the women are tough in this show.
Jill Marie Jones: The three female leads of this show all kick ass. They’re not waiting for the man to come and save them because they can all handle things themselves. It’s really refreshing, you know.
So your characters are teamed up together?
Jill Marie Jones: Well, something happens, and then something else happens, and then something else happens, and then I meet Ruby.
[laughs] Building on that, what physical demands were on both of you for this show? Obviously in the past with Evil Dead, you can tell it’s a really physically demanding story. So what are the things you’ve had to do or overcome?
Jill Marie Jones: I came home with bruises. We really went all the way in with all the characters. We committed. And also we have an amazing stunt department. There was a gym in New Zealand. It was right on set, and we’d go in there and punch heavy bags.
Lucy Lawless: I didn’t know there was a gym!
Jill Marie Jones: Are you kidding me? You could go in and shoot guns—
Lucy Lawless: Nobody tells me anything!
Jill Marie Jones: So there was a full-on gym. I didn’t know until I got to New Zealand, but someone said to me, “Oh yeah, you have MMA training tomorrow.” I was like, “Excuse me? MMA? Oh, that’s— I’ve seen one— Oh, that’s scary, but okay.” But it was awesome. We had a great stunt department, but it was still physical.
Lucy Lawless: We do have a world-class stunt department, who go back a ways to Hercules and Xena… [editor’s note: at this point Bruce Campbell at a neighboring table interview says something that catches Lawless’ attention or vice versa. Campbell turns to Lawless and Jones and there’s a pause.] [to Campbell, in an old Bronx mother voice] You’ll be all right, honey! You keep talking!
Bruce Campbell: Hey!
Lucy Lawless: [still in accent] You keep talking!
Lucy Lawless: Uhh… Yeah.
Jill Marie Jones: We’ve got a great stunt department. [laughs]
Lucy Lawless: I’ve got to say, it was painful to me. I don’t do as much action today as I used to, but it’s painful. [laughs] I’m like at the chiropractor for two weeks after doing some really lame stunt, like something that I used to do before breakfast, and now you do one and it’s just murder.
But the show is funny. Because it’s a half hour, you don’t waste a minute. It’s really punchy. I think it really does do the fans proud and their expectations are going to be met. That’s quite bold talk but we’re really proud of what we’ve done.
Jill Marie Jones: Absolutely.
Lucy Lawless: And nobody’s in more pain than Bruce, by the way. He’s really put through it.
Jill Marie Jones: He really is! Also, I felt like a 13-year-old boy, honestly. Because I’m shooting guns— I’m from Texas and you’d think I have like 10 guns in my purse, but I don’t. I’d never held a gun before, I’d never shot a real gun before.
Lucy Lawless: Oh my god! You were amazing with a gun!
Jill Marie Jones: I felt like a 13-year-old boy! I was living.
Lucy Lawless: The power of it, yeah.
Jill Marie Jones: I was getting the power of it. The bruises that I would get from banging up to something. I was like, “Yeah, baby! I worked hard today!” It was awesome.
Lucy Lawless: I was sick of being bruised.
[laughs] Lucy, you mentioned earlier in this conversation the possible misfortune of being married to a certain producer. One would think this would get you off easy in terms of what you’re asked to do on set.
Lucy Lawless: I know. [sighs]
But the past several shows you’ve done you’ve proven otherwise. Does that sort of continue into Ash vs Evil Dead as well?
Lucy Lawless: Rob [Tapert] will write the character and whatever’s best for the show. Sometimes it goes against me; what’s best for the show, sometimes you do things that are extremely distasteful to you, but you know that it’s right. And what I respect about Rob so much is that telling the stories comes first. He’s not going to make things softer or better for me. We’re of the same mind in that way, and I would not like him better if he made my life cushier.
Were there any scripts that you looked at at the time and just shook your head?
Lucy Lawless: Oh, all the time!
Lucy Lawless: Not on this, not on this! Because it’s comedy.
Jill Marie Jones: Well Ruby was brunette at first, and she was like, “Hell no” to that. “That’s where I put my foot down!” [laughs]
Lucy Lawless: “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wha?” We didn’t know what the character was in the beginning. Thing is—
Jill Marie Jones: She’s kind of a mystery. [laughs]
Lucy Lawless: [laughs] The “mystery” thing. That’s because we didn’t know what the hell the character was. I came late to it, they do a slow burn because you’ve got to establish the world of Ash and his family before you bring in the shark—you know, I’m Jaws, I’m a shadow, I’m a , I’m a bloody music cue—before you see her teeth come out.
So bit of a slow burn on Ruby, but it’s necessary because you have to establish something to lose before you can fear for Ash and the loss of his family.
Could you say what you brought to your characters that maybe wasn’t in the script?
Jill Marie Jones: Well, for me, one of the things I was attracted to in Amanda: my mother was a federal investigator for like 40 years. She just retired last February. So there’s a lot of my mom I see in Amanda. Just the strength and the fearlessness. I think in a lot of ways I was pulling from that to bring her forward.
Lucy Lawless: And she’s effortlessly cool on screen.
Jill Marie Jones: Oh, effortlessly cool.
Lucy Lawless: And in real life.