I had a chance on Monday to dial in for a conference call with Bruce Campbell in preparation for the Burn Notice Season 3 opener happening tonight. For those of you who don’t know Bruce, he’s been a part of the fantasy, horror, and science fiction scene ever since playing Ash in the first Evil Dead movie with pal Sam Raimi directing in 1981. That was 28 years ago!! (Geez I feel old.)
Beyond the Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness as our hero Ash fighting back the hordes of the possessed loosed from the pages of the Necromicon, he’s also been involved in other movies and television. Remember Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess? How about Brisco County Jr.? And of course he’s been involved in some way with all of the Spiderman movies directed by his friend Sam. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Lately however, he’s been playing Sam Axe, retired FBI agent and pal of Burn Notice‘s Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan). Sam and Michael hang out with Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) in Miami following Michael’s “burn notice” in the spy game. Basically his employers decided that he wasn’t trustworthy and dumped him without any money or his stuff in Miami three years ago when the Burn Notice series began on the USA Network.
Sam Axe, though initially mistrusted by Michael and Fiona, has proven to be a stalwart ally over the last two seasons. Though a bit of a womanizer and a drinker, Sam always has Michael’s back when it comes down to it.
Bruce was kind enough to speak to a group of us on a conference call Monday afternoon to promote season 3 of Burn Notice and I even had a chance to talk to him to ask a couple of questions. He really seems like a down-to-earth person who enjoys his work.
So with that lead-up… Here are a few of the questions that were asked…
>Suzanne Lanoue from TV MegaSite asked if Bruce’s work in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and comic book-related media was a planned effort on his part, or if it just sort of happened?
>Bruce: It’s a little of both. You are guilt by association, so when my first movie was Evil Dead, which is now 30 years ago when we made the movie – so yes, you are all very old, all of you who are listening – that film was pretty successful and allowed a couple of others to be made and what it did is, it just sort of put me in the genre world, right from the go-get. I suppose if I had made a romantic comedy when I was 21 and that did crazy, then I’d be the romantic comedy guy. It’s kind of how Hollywood works. So, it’s material that I’m sort of interested in, though, too, at the same time, so part of me perpetuates it in that I gravitate toward oddball stories, some genre stuff, not all horror. I like fantasy and sci-fi and that sort of stuff, too, but for me, I guess it’s the combination of starting out in the genre and then being attracted to certain material that could also be considered genre.
>BethAnn Henderson with NiceGirlsTV.com asked Bruce where his character Sam was heading this season.
>Bruce: Well, Sam by now is, we’re now past the point where we don’t trust him. He’s a hopefully valuable member of the team now, and so, like Michael Westen, Sam is taking the twists and turns as they come now. I don’t know that Sam is going to get married or any personal revelation. Sam is pretty much living in Michael’s mother’s house, a room in her house, so he’s just kind of a permanent loser, at least in this season. And he’s always there to help.
>Anthony Nepal with BurnNotice.com asked how Burn Notice was different from past TV shows he’d done.
>Bruce: Well, the making of television is the same, it’s very fast. You’re doing between 6 and 11 pages per day, which is a lot. Features probably do three pages. Big features do one page a day. So that’s not different. What’s different, of course, is we’re in Miami, which is a completely out of the box thing for me because I live in Oregon, at the complete opposite end of the country. So it’s different in every way physically, and the dynamics are different. I’ve never really done a spy show before, so this is a first for me. I did a western show, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I did a – well actually, no, I did a spy show, Jack of All Trades, where I played the very first spy, but this is, I guess, you’d say sort of modern day, realistic approach where it’s not Hercules or Xena or something fantastic going on. What’s different is also the subject matter. It’s a fairly mature, adult sort of comedy/drama, with no fantastic special effects.
>I got to ask: “Obviously Burn Notice has a lot of action sequences, do you find the action sequences to be the hardest part of each episode to film, or are they one of the things that are the most fun during production?”
>Bruce: It all depends on what you’re doing. Fight scenes can be fun, but they can be very tedious and sweat-inducing, so those take a little more effort. I blew my hamstring last year during a fight scene, so they don’t have me fight as much these days, but action sequences are very broken up when we film them. They’re little tiny pieces that get all put together. So with an action sequence, you just have to hope that what you’re doing is fitting in, because you’re only getting a tiny sequence of view, like looking through a scope ready to fire, or something like that. So when it’s all put together is when it becomes an action sequence, but actually shooting an action sequence, unless you’re chasing somebody, they’re actually the least exciting to film.
>Anthony Nepal with BurnNotice.com asked between voice acting and live acting, which does he like better?
>Bruce: I like a little bit of everything. I like, the phrase we used in Detroit was “job rotation.” That meant that you could do different things at different times. So this fall there’s a movie, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs that’s coming out. It’s a pretty well-known kid’s book that they’re animating it to be 3D animation. That’s a lot of fun because you lay down a voice track and they create an entire world that you won’t see for months. I recorded this last year, and I won’t see it for a year and a half later. So that’s kind of an interesting thing. You forget about it and then it comes back and you see everything that they’ve done to it. And you realize you’re an integral part but it’s still, you’re a part of this big hole. Television acting is great. I like it because it’s so quick; you don’t have to wait around. And feature film acting is a lot of fun because you can do very in-depth stories, but it takes a long time to shoot them, and sometimes it’s more tedious to do a big budget movie.
>My second question (a very geeky one, but hey, I’m a geek!) was “Who do you think makes a better enemy, zombies from the Necronomicon, or the spies of Burn Notice?”
>Bruce: Apples and oranges, my friend. I would say zombies in general, I don’t think are that good of bad guys because you can’t understand them, like the true zombie, the shuffling zombie. You can’t communicate with them and they’re too slow. Evil Dead, they’re possessed people, not technically zombies, I guess. They’re okay. I think spies are a better bad guy, meaning they’re more challenging. You don’t always have to cut a bad guy up with a chain saw, you can just shoot him. So it might be harder to kill a zombie, but it’s easier to get away from a zombie, and it might be easier to kill a bad guy like a spy, but it’s harder to hide from a spy, because they have the tricks that you have. That’s my theory.
There were a ton of great questions. You can read a bit more of the interview at BlogCritics here and some of the various other blogs I linked to above.
It was great to have a chance to talk to Bruce and of course I wish him well on the new season of Burn Notice and in all future endeavors!
Be sure to check out the Burn Notice season 3 premiere tonight on the USA Network!
p.s. Pick up Seasons 1 and 2 of Burn Notice on DVD from Amazon: