We’re just a pair of episodes shy of two complete seasons of Starz Channel’s hit horror-comedy “Ash vs Evil Dead,” but the pining fans typically feel for Sunday nights changed two weeks ago when the fate of Pablo was left hanging in the balance.
Starz’s decision to “take a week off” between “Ashy Slashy” and tonight’s “Home Again” felt a bit like twisting the knife, because all anyone wants to know is what will become of Pablito? So we felt there would be no better place to seek an answer than from Pablo himself, Ray Santiago.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have not seen “Ashy Slashy,” please do not venture any further. If you choose to do so, you will be flooded with spoilers, and we wouldn’t want to be responsible for ruining anyone’s day of rest.
HorrorGeekLife caught up with Santiago on Friday morning while he was back home in New York to discuss the events of Season 2, the difficulty of filming “that scene,” the outpouring from Pablo-loving fans and why “Ash vs Evil Dead” means family.
Santiago implored fans to “stay tuned” for the final two episodes because they contain some “really cool shit that goes down.”
Our advice? Trust Pablito.
HorrorGeekLife: I spoke to your “Ash vs Evil Dead” co-star Dana DeLorenzo before the season began and she was pacing around the room, nearly bursting from all she wanted to say about the episodes to come, but of course she wasn’t able to. How difficult is that, knowing and being excited for what’s in store for the show and the characters but not have the freedom to talk about it – particularly when questions come your way where you could offer one hell of a reveal but you are left with no choice but to smile and say “We’ll have to wait and see?”
Ray Santiago: For me it’s not that difficult, I’ve enjoyed fans’ responses and how they are excited to see what is going to unfold and I enjoy their predictions (chuckles). I actually prefer to steer them in the wrong way, so I do whatever I can to actually make them think that something is not going to happen or something is going to happen that actually isn’t going to happen. So I guess you could say that I fuck with them a little bit, but for me it’s been kind of easy, because I feel that a lot of people try to ask questions and they also preface it with “I know you can’t tell me.”
HGL: So put us in your shoes for a moment. The day you got up to go to work knowing that was the day that Pablo passes, but more than that, the atmosphere on the set with fellow cast members whom you’ve grown so close to. That had to have been an emotional day?
RS: For me it was more emotional to sort of live through the life of the character. This guy who is so eager to be a hero and save the world from evil and how he puts his life on the line. It was a sad day, but it was also a happy day for me because I felt like it was one of the moments in my life where I got to play a role where you got to see somebody start off as a normal guy who gets pushed to the limit to become the hero that he ultimately never thought that he could be. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the season unfolds when the gang is dealing without him.
I have grown to love my colleagues and fellow thespians immensely. We created a family there. When you watch us on camera (together), that is exactly how we are in person. I spend a lot of time with Dana (DeLorenzo) and Bruce (Campbell) and Lucy (Lawless) individually, all together, so it was kind of hard. But also I was excited because it was a really gruesome scene and I had to keep that quiet for the whole season, but I think that a lot of people maybe saw it coming, there was plenty of foreshadowing. During the second season I basically died every episode except never really did die, so I think when we finally did give it to them they didn’t know what to do.
HGL: Going into the initial season, with Dana and yourself as newcomers to the Evil Dead universe, your hope was that the characters would be liked and accepted, but it’s been clear from the outset that Pablo and Kelly were welcomed with open arms. That said, give us your thoughts and sentiments with regard to the overwhelming fan response to Pablo checking out in “Ashy Slashy?”
RS: You know, I actually didn’t expect it and it was really cool. I talked to Dana about it and said “You have been on Twitter? Have you seen this?” and she was like “Yeah, it just goes to show that you’ve created a character that’s resonated with Evil Dead fans, old and new.” I think that everything we love about Pablo is that he is the heart of the unit and particularly in a world where Pablo is an immigrant who is a normal guy and he wants to be a hero and trying to save the world from evil with Ash. I think, particularly in this world, where people are trying to build walls and there’s so much that’s going on politically in the world, I think subconsciously people really enjoyed watching this guy try and save the world with all the heart that he has.
For me it’s been an amazing opportunity because I’ve made a living off of playing gang-bangers and drug dealers on television, so to be able to part of this monster-fighting squad and portray a positive Latino on television has been super dope and in a lot of ways Pablo is the first male Latino sidekick to a horror genre on television. It’s been an honor and I think that Pablo will live forever in the eyes of the Evil Dead fans and family.
I did not expect people to welcome the new characters as much as they have, but we did get the blessing from Sam Raimi because each of us individually have specific qualities. He said, “Ray, I can tell you’re a good person. I can see that you’re really vulnerable and really eager to please me right now,” and I think that’s the core of Pablo. I was eager to please, I wanted him to know that I would do whatever I had to do to make (the character) the best that I could and he saw that. With his blessing we were able to move forward. And the one thing that I never did was second guess myself, because Ash never second guesses himself, so I felt that was not a quality that anybody on his team needed to have.
HGL: With that in mind, come on man, this can’t be the end. Going back to the conversation I’d had with DeLorenzo, she said there would be an action that cannot be undone, but also said Pablo and Kelly would get closer – even offering a “hint, hint” – and said it would come down to whether the two could beat the odds or if the house of evil always wins. Even Bruce Campbell said on Twitter that Ash would do anything to save his buddy Pablo. I take those as a glimmers of hope, no?
RS: Fans have taken it that way. Unfortunately I don’t have much to say. I think they’ll have to tune in to the last two episodes to see what happens. I think some people will be disappointed and I think some people will be alright, but I think that anything can happen on our show, as you can tell, so many crazy things happen. It was like episode 4 and I was like, “Okay, I’ve got a pole through my body and I’m walking down the street and screaming bloody murder,” so anything can happen, especially with the Necronomicon.
It’s amazing how much fans have been talking about it. I didn’t realize that this many people watched our show or that this many people cared. I’m in New York right now and it’s really nice to be in my hometown walking down the street (chuckles) and tons of people have stopped me and they’re like “Pablo!” It’s interesting to me. I have a very recognizable face and I’ve been recognized before for other work, but I have to say Pablo has been the most recognized and people have really responded to him, and I think it’s because he’s a different kind of guy that we don’t normally see on TV. I’m Latino so I can’t help but think of it that way. He’s softer, he’s sweeter, he’s funny, he’s smart, so people are responding to that and I think that people are responding to these everyday people trying to become heroes. I’m excited to see what the fans think of the last two episodes and I hope that they’re not disappointed.
HGL: Let’s talk about your role this season. It’s been darker, with more action, but at the same time, appeared to have been far more physically demanding this time around. And it has to be asked, how much time did you spend in the gym prepping for the scenes with the Book of the Dead scribbled all over you because the word chiseled comes to mind?
RS: (Laughs) There was one day when we were shooting when somebody on set said “Pablo wouldn’t look like that with his shirt off,” it was like a continuity person and I said “Well, that’s the whole thing. I want people to look at Pablo and think we’ve underestimated him.” He’s gone from being this sidekick to maybe being able to hold his own and be a hero as he’s figuring it out.
I would go to the gym at 4 a.m. before I got picked up to go to work and I would go after work and I prepared this season, with Pablo seeing these visions by thinking about what I could do to keep that feeling for myself and to create a reality around these visions. So the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream is incredibly disturbing and so I would wake up at 4, while it was still dark out and listen to Requiem for a Dream and go running around the streets of Auckland (New Zealand) and run through their parks and pretend like there was evil lurking in the shadows that may or may not have been coming to get me. I was looking in the mirror and talk to myself and think about these visions and I really went full throttle with the darkness that was following him and torturing him this season, but I also wanted to be as strong as possible because, as you know, we don’t know what will happen with the character, so I wanted the writers and creators to see potential for Pablo to be a little bit more of a badass as the season progressed.
I didn’t write it, but personally, I think I can take a couple of good shots, but (chuckles) Pablo is pretty much a wimp when it comes to that. He has the lowest Deadite kill count out of everybody, but maybe he’s gotten one of the most important ones. So yes, I tried to prep as much as possible. It was difficult, I tried to stay as fit as possible. I had a trainer, we had a jiu jitsu master, who also happens to be my stunt double, who’s awesome, but also I didn’t want anyone to think that I wasn’t prepared to take on any of the physical stuff that might come my way.
As a kid, I used to pretend to be a super hero and now I’m one step closer to being that super hero on this show. I get to live my dream. I didn’t pretend to be hog-tied as a kid, but I certainly did want to save chicks from the monster and slaughter the monster and somehow I managed to get a job where I get to do that. Our show is high octane, bloody fun and you just want to watch it and eat popcorn, drink some beers and then it’s done. I’m excited that I get to be part of people’s lives in that way.
HGL: It goes without saying that Evil Dead fans were thrilled to get back to The King when “Ash vs Evil Dead” debuted, but since, as you talked about, Pablo is the indisputable heart of the show. What has your time on this program meant to not only your career, but to you personally?
RS: I definitely think that if you make the choice to believe in yourself, every day the world will respond. For a decade or so I was living in Los Angeles trying to find a home on a television show that meant something to me. I’d go from show to show, I’ve been in every interrogation room and been murdered on other shows, but on “Ash vs Evil Dead” I found a family of icons and people who care about me and trusted me and saw that I could be part of this franchise. To me it means family.
I have an amazing leader, Bruce is an amazing leader. I learned from each of them so much. Bruce has impeccable timing and he manages to take the worst lines and make them sound so good and usually hits it out of the park in one take. Lucy is incredibly sophisticated and patient. For somebody who’s been a pop icon as Xena for so many years, for her to still be so patient and be that humble and share that with me and see past her years of fame, she has a thirst for language and knowledge. And Dana has been the person that I can look to the left or the right, who’s always been there for me and we get to share this journey together. For me, being on this show is my dream come true. It’s the visibility of it, the fact that when I was a kid I used to pretend to be in horror movies and was a huge horror fan. I always thought that we never really got to see guys tortured that much in horror movies, it was always the chick, and somehow on this show it’s switched and I’ve been tortured quite a bit (chuckles). We’ll have to see what happens.
HGL: Now that you’ve been Ash’s right hand man for two years, I think enough time has passed where I can ask, be it at a convention, fan mail or just a chance encounter on the street, what is the strangest request you’ve received from an Evil Dead fan?
RS: The strangest request would probably be “Can I get a tattoo of your face with the Necronomicon book face on it?” That was probably the weirdest thing that I’ve gotten.
HGL: Somebody was asking for permission?
RS: Yeah, they were like is it okay if I get this tattoo of your face on my body, and it was the one with the book face. I’ve been in other things before, but because this is such a genre show and fans love it, I’ve really just been exposed to so much. Tons of fan art and people dressing up as me and coming to Comic Cons dressed up as Pablo and Kelly, it’s kind of surreal. Dana and I, I love her so much, when I’m not around her I miss her because we spend so much time together and we really understand each other so well. This journey, we started it together and it’s been amazing, but we’ve experience so much where we’re like “Oh shit, wait. Now we’re part of it.” We thought we were on the outside, but now we’re on the inside of it. So I hope fans aren’t disappointed with where this season ends.
HGL: That leads into my next question, and you know the teaser query is coming. To review, DeLorenzo said there would be a mistake that cannot be undone, but Ted Raimi also noted that there would be a “great revelation” with regard to his character Chet, which turned out to be that he had been with Ash’s sister Cheryl without Jefe knowing about it. So, two episodes to go in Season 2, give us a torturous tidbit that won’t get you in trouble but will leave fans racking their brains to figure out its meaning.
RS: (Long pause) Let’s see. I will say (long pause). Let me just think this through (long pause). I think we pay homage to (long pause). You know what, I can’t say anything. I don’t want to give anything away (laughs).
HGL: Honestly, as strange as this might sound, I think that’s the best teaser answer I’ve gotten all year. You were thinking about it, wanted to say something but were like, nope, can’t do it (laughs).
RS: I have so many things I want to say! I will say that these last two episodes definitely have some really cool shit that goes down, I just cannot confess if I’m a part of it or not. But I do know what happens. I want to give you clues, but I think I’ve been pretty generous throughout the entire season with every interviewer in giving them clues, and I think that now I’m at a point where I just have to keep it quiet. And I think that’s because you started it off by asking me has it been difficult to (laughs) not tell people what’s going to happen. Mum’s the word.
HGL: Well, not to be that guy, but I’m not entirely convinced we’ve seen the last of Pablito. However, if this is the end, I think I speak for “Ash vs Evil Dead” fans everywhere when I say thank you for a job well done and a character who, for my money, is the best the franchise has offered not named Ash.
RS: Dude, you literally just made me, that makes my day. Thank you so much for saying that. I think we got a chance to see Ash really show who he cares about this season and I’m glad that we were able to expand the world of Evil Dead and Ash and add some more depth and heart to it.
This definitely has been a life-changing opportunity and role and I’m just so glad that people have been open to it. Stay tuned! I think the fans will definitely like, as soon as you watch episodes 9 and 10 you’ll start to understand whether the world has seen the last of (Pablo) or not. Some people are going to be disappointed and some are not.
HGL: Fair enough. You leave it just open-ended enough to be torturous.
RS: You never know, dude! I will say this, okay, no. I’m not gonna say shit. I’m not gonna say it! So many things could happen, right? Pablo could just be dead or he could come back as a Deadite or what could he be? That’s why I love this show because you never really know what you’re going to get. If (Pablo’s) dead, rest in peace and people will remember him as a fuckin’ survivor. If he’s alive, I hope he kicks some fuckin’ ass in the future, ’cause he’s fuckin’ built for it.