Their Own Private Michigan: Production Designer Nick Bassett And Prosthetics Artist Roger Murray on Ash vs Evil Dead
Set in an ostensible “post post-apocalypse,” STARZ‘ recent Ash vs Evil Dead series, co-created by original filmmaker Sam Raimi, with brother Ivan Raimi, has the titular Ash Williams, once again essayed by a grim-yet-humorous Bruce Campbell, as a thirty-years-older fighter of the “deadite” menace.
And he is still missing that hand, so infamously replaced by a chainsaw in the movie versions. All of which brings us to the work of Roger Murray, the prosthetics artist and props supervisor for the show.
“Working with Sam on the first season,” he told us, “there were always going to be ideas and memories of the original Evil Dead that the production was going to draw on. A lot of the palette and tone for the prosthetics have their bases in original makeups made for that film. We have tried to push the makeups in terms of style and application to suit a fast turnaround show and give them a more realistic retro feel.”
“Realistic,” at least, in terms of the retro feel of the movie franchise itself, something echoed by production designer Nick Bassett: “Towards the end of season one,” he says “we diligently replicated the Evil Dead 2 cabin set. This process was great training ground for season two where we were required to conceptualize Ash’s hometown and family house.”
Bassett talks about a research trip to Michigan — Sam Raimi’s home state, and where the original indie Evil Dead flicks were filmed — compiling “photo references and notes,” along with the “mythical quality,” of the original production design. “We tried to inject that spirit and detail into Ash’s home town. We are ever mindful of the fans and do not want to disappoint.”
And judging by the show’s success, they haven’t. Which is even more of a trick, when you consider they’ve been filming in Auckland, New Zealand.
But both Nick and Roger have pleased fans before, having worked together on such shows as STARZ’ Spartacus, and Netflix’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.
“I have been lucky enough to have worked with Roger on many projects in the past,” Bassett says. “The great thing about working in Auckland is that we have a very close knit film community… and I completely trust that Roger and his excellent team will come up with the goods. Prosthetics and makeup effects are a very specialized field and I leave this in Roger’s capable hands. Like many of the Ash vs Evil Dead crew, we have worked on both feature films and television, standards and expectations are set very high.”
Though sometimes, it wasn’t just aesthetics, but practicalities, that carried over. Murray worked the recent non-Raimi feature remake of the original Evil Dead and notes that many of the makeup and VFX ideas from that version were used “to aid the amount of rigs and effects needed for a fast turnaround TV show.”
A TV show already gearing up for a second season which Bassett calls “a great expansion of the series. This time we delve deep into the past life of Ashley J. Williams and notch up the action and madness to a new level.”
A fine and workable madness at that, as Murray says “the shorthand we have with each other only comes from years of experience and working together creatively to problem solve.”
Or as Bassett shorthands, “I feel extremely lucky to be part of it!”