There are some new developments in Season 3 of ASH VS EVIL DEAD, Sundays on Starz. Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his friends are still fighting Deadites and demons. However, longtime Ash sidekick Pablo, played by Ray Santiago, finally comes into his own as a powerful warlock, or, as the dialogue puts it, a “Brujo Especiale.” Ash also discovers he has a teenaged daughter, Brandy Barr, played by Arielle Carver-O’Neill. Initially dismayed to learn her dad is the town weirdo, Brandy gradually begins to appreciate and even emulate Ash’s skill at fighting fiends.
Santiago is a native New Yorker who has appeared in arcs on DEXTER, MY NAME IS EARL, RAISING HOPE and TOUCH; he’s also been in a variety of feature films, including MEET THE FOCKERS and GIRLFIGHT. Carver-O’Neill is an Australian whose previous credits include CONSPIRACY 365, SUBURBS, and WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE, AGAIN!
The two sit down together in West Hollywood’s London Hotel to talk about ASH VS EVIL DEAD.
ASSIGNMENT X: Were you aware of the EVIL DEAD movies and/or the ASH VS EVIL DEAD series before you became involved?
ARIELLE CARVER-O’NEILL: I was aware of it. I hadn’t seen them yet, I had quite the education when I got an audition for the show, which I am really grateful for, because it’s made me love horror. I thought I couldn’t – I’ve always been a little bit of a chicken, and I never thought that I could sit through a horror movie or TV show and actually enjoy it. So watching this show – after the first episode, I couldn’t stop. And then I just had so much fun watching it that I love horror now. So I’m very grateful to the show, not only because I got a job on it, but also because it opened my eyes to a whole new genre that I can enjoy watching.
AX: You’ve talked with Assignment X in a previous interview about your own initial experiences with EVIL DEAD and being part of the original cast of ASH VS EVIL DEAD. Without getting too specific, let us say that midway through Season 3, Pablo acquires a little more self-confidence.
RAY SANTIAGO: Yes.
AX: Is it fun to play this new version of Pablo? Do you miss the more innocent and/or the Deadite versions of Pablo?
SANTIAGO: Well, first off, I’ll say that it’s so funny, because I think Pablo is part of me, right? I created him, I brought him to life, and I always thought it was pretty frickin’ cool to have Ash on my side. Looking out as Ray, I’m like, “Yeah, he’s a cool guy, he does this and that.” Of course, women are like, “That guy [Ash] is a loser,” and I’m all like, “He’s so cool! He’s got a chainsaw for a hand!” So I just wanted to say, as I was sitting here, I was like, “Yeah, I think he’s cool, I think I’d be really happy if he was my dad.” But of course, I would say that. Pablo sees beyond people’s flaws, and always sees the inner hero. But he’s definitely this season fulfilling the unknown destiny that he has, becoming the Brujo Especiale. And he’ll be able to use those powers that he’s acquired to help the team. Evil sees him very differently this season, with this Brujo Especiale title. And so we don’t know. Maybe the second half of the season, he will end up on a different side, or maybe he will save the day, but I think, yes, I’m so happy that I finally got to not just be that naïve guy who’s getting kicked around the room, and just have his own journey from being sidekick to hero. I don’t like to think “hero,” because I think the biggest hero is Ash, but the truth is, it’s junior year, and I needed to get my Deadite count up, because Kelly [Ash and Pablo’s fellow Deadite slayer, played by Dana DeLorenzo] – social media was just dragging me through the mud, being like, “C’mon, man, are you ever going to kiss her? Are you ever going to kill a Deadite?” I’m like, “I frickin’ fight every day when I go to work for it.” And this season, ninety percent of the things I proposed to the show runner, short of shaving my head on camera, I got to do everything that I asked for. So I’m very, very happy that this season is going the way that it’s going.
AX: How would you describe Brandy’s journey?
CARVER-O’NEILL: It’s a hard one, her journey. She literally goes from naïve “ignorance is bliss” – she thinks that random axe murderer Ash is a fruit loop who lives in her crazy town, but then she finds out that he’s her dad. She is getting put through the wringer a little bit by certain evil people. She’s getting manipulated pretty badly. She’s getting lied to quite a bit, so she doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not, and who to trust, and who not to. I think the greatest lesson that she learns is to not judge a book by its cover, and not everybody is who they appear to be on the outside, is the key change she goes through. And she definitely grows to be not only physically stronger, she learns how to fight a little bit – she does get very lucky, much like Ash in the beginning, when he was first fighting Deadites, he got very lucky with a lot of his kills – but she also learns to be mentally and emotionally stronger because of it. It was fun to play it. Poor Brandy, though. She definitely struggled coming to terms with her new reality, which not only comes with acknowledging that evil and demons exist, and magic, I guess, but also that her father is a chainsaw-wielding, one-handed borderline alcoholic, who says, “It wasn’t me, it was the demons that did it!” It takes a lot of getting used to [laughs].
AX: At one point, Pablo gets possessed and winds up with his face talking while it’s part of Kelly’s leg. How was that accomplished?
SANTIAGO: It was a prosthetic mouth that I had to go in and get measured for. A whole face cast [was taken], you sit there, and it’s weird. I’ve been watching [THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY], and they wrap tape around the victims’ faces, and I’m like, “Oh, it’s kind of like when I got my face cast.” Except without sticking a knife in my throat when that happens. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re on this show. You’ll be laying in bed, watching another show, and you’ll get weird, post-traumatic stress from things that have happened on ASH VS EVIL DEAD, and you won’t actually be scared. You’ll be like, “Oh, I remember when that happened to me” [laughs].
AX: Did you actually do all the dialogue for when the face was in the leg?
SANTIAGO: I did. There was a puppet of a leg, and they did something with it, and there was CGI, and then there was my mouth moving in green screen, saying the lines, and then there was me ADR-ing. So there was probably a handful of coverage for the mouth. It got more than we did [laughs].
AX: And you’re also in pretty heavy makeup for an episode or two. How was that?
SANTIAGO: Oh, you mean when I was what I like to call my homage to Thriller/the Grinch? [laughs] Four-and-a-half hours a day of makeup, I was used to having stuff on my face, they tucked my fingers away as well, which was really weird, not having your fingers for an entire day at work.
AX: Were your fingers taped back?
SANTIAGO: No, it was basically they added an extension of two to three inches for each finger, so I couldn’t really use my fingertips.
AX: Brandy doesn’t have any transformations, at least in the first half of the season, but how was it getting splattered with ASH VS EVIL DEAD blood?
CARVER-O’NEILL: It was fun. [laughs] I mean, it’s a weird experience. I don’t think anyone can really prepare themselves for it. I think everyone should experience it because it’s fun, and also shocking. When you get hit with a cannon of blood, there’s no preparing for it. You don’t know what your face is going to do, or your body, and you have to pretend it’s not coming, even though you know it is. And so it’s always a shock when it happens, which I think is a lot of fun. And it’s very much an adrenaline rush, knowing that you can only do it the one time, because we don’t have the time to clean up and then reset and start again, because that stuff gets everywhere. It’s all over the set, it’s all over you, it’s all over your clothing – you can’t escape the blood.
AX: And did either of you how to learn how to do anything to do this season, like how throw a punch, how to make a rune appear in your skin? I’m guessing that last one is a special effect …
SANTIAGO: [laughs] Yeah, they were like, “You need to learn how to …” I will just say this – if [Brandy] manages to survive this season, I think, from seeing how the character evolves this season, that she would follow in her dad’s footsteps very well. There are a couple of episodes where she’s good on her feet, she’s a quick thinker, but again, you never know, is she going to survive? I had to learn how to throw an axe and hit a specific thing with it. It was hilarious. The CGI’d the f*** out of me throwing that axe. Let’s just say I was not on the baseball team.
CARVER-O’NEILL: I learned a lot of things. That’s what I think is great about this show, is that it’s got everything. I mean, it’s action, horror, drama, comedy. There’s nothing you don’t learn working on the set. You work with green screen, you work with practical effects, you work with visual effects. There’s just so much that you learn being on this set, and I feel very lucky. I got to learn how to do reverse acting, which is something you never learn in acting classes.
AX: What’s reverse acting?
CARVER-O’NEILL: You act backwards, and then when they play it [in post-production], they play it backwards, so that it’s the right way around, if that makes sense. Say you want to throw a ball. You’d start with your hand out like this, and then you’d go and do the action backwards, so your face actually goes backwards and everything. Or if someone stabs you, you’ll start with it there, and you’ll be like, “Aggh,” and they’ll pull it out.
[Carver-O’Neill demonstrates – she and Santiago laugh.]
CARVER-O’NEILL: It looks hilarious when you do it, but when they play it back, it looks pretty good.
AX: Why do they do it that way?
CARVER-O’NEILL: It is easier to do things with weapons that are sharp and stuff like that. It’s easier for them to edit it that way. And it’s safer – you’re not actually stabbing anybody.
AX: How is doing Brandy’s American accent? It seems like all Australian actors can do an American accent …
CARVER-O’NEILL: I do think that we do, actually. We all grow up watching American television and film most of the time, so it’s kind of always there. I’ve found it relatively natural, and I love doing an American accent. I find it a lot of fun. But I do think, yeah, one of the things when you learn acting in Australia is to get that American accent down pat. Before you come over here of get management here, I think you have to have that prepared.
AX: How is working in New Zealand for both of you? I mean, obviously, I would think for an American, it’s a much bigger transition than it might be for an Australian, although it is still a separate land mass and a different country, so …
SANTIAGO: I like it. I settled into my thirties in the last three years, and being in New Zealand, it’s provided me with a whole other way of living. I feel like so much of Los Angeles is about trying to prove yourself, and there’s something nice about going to a place where you can just exist and not have to worry about that. And so the people have proven to be more than just friends, and it’s a beautiful country. I have not seen all of it yet, so I’m looking forward to going back.
CARVER-O’NEILL: And I loved being closer to home. But that being said, I didn’t get a chance to go back home, because I was so busy. And I didn’t get to see any of New Zealand as well, which is pretty upsetting. So now I have to go back there on a holiday, just so I can see the country I worked in for three or four months. But I loved it there. Like Ray said, it’s such a relaxed and calming place, so you are free to just be there. And it’s the perfect thing after work fighting demons all day, you can go home and just relax.
AX: And what would you guys both like people to know about Season 3 of ASH VS EVIL DEAD?
SANTIAGO: I would like people to know that it ain’t the end if they don’t want it to be the end, that it could go on. They just need to make sure that they put the word out there that they watch it, because the Scooby Gang is back, and they’re better than ever, and the way this season ends, leaves us with the possibility for 4.
CARVER-O’NEILL: [laughs] I kind of wish that I went first – I can’t top that. I hope that they go in with an open mind, don’t try to expect anything, because you’ll be wrong. It is an incredibly wild ride, and I think that people are going to be shocked and surprised, and hopefully speechless in a good way by the time we finish it.
SANTIAGO: It’s going to be an epic finale, that’s for sure.
CARVER-O’NEILL: Oh, yeah. Huge.
Related: ASH VS EVIL DEAD: Dana DeLorenzo & Lindsay Farris give the scoop on Season 3 – exclusive interview
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Article: ASH VS EVIL DEAD: Ray Santiago and Arielle Carter-O’Neill gives the scoop on Season 3 – Exclusive Interview