“It’s Paul Giamatti’s fault,” Bruce Campbell tells me, explaining how he ended up with a three-episode guest run on the acclaimed AMC series Lodge 49. “He sent me an email with the script attached. I was just finishing a 35-city book tour, so that was not any part of my agenda. He said, ‘Shut up and read this.'”
The part was for Gary Green, also known as Captain, a shady real-estate developer who, after meeting with Dud (Wyatt Russell) and Ernie (Brent Jennings), expresses an interest in saving their ill-fated Lodge.
Campbell explains that he and Giamatti had been looking for a project together since the Bubba Ho-Tep sequel kept fizzling out. “We were trying to figure something out, but we couldn’t. So, this came up and I’m like, you know, if Paul Giamatti’s recommending a part, it’s probably a good part. So I read it and, of course, he was right. After my last gig in Tampa, Florida I turned the car around and drove back up to Atlanta, where they shot it.”
Still, Campbell says he was happy to get involved nonetheless.
“Actors will kill for good material, and the show is very well written. I like the approach, I love all the leads, how kind of different they are, just the whole approach. It just was great to be a part of. I’d never worked with AMC before, and they’ve been doing some really classy stuff. I thought between that Mr. Giamatti, ‘Let’s do this.'”
The other appealing factor, Campbell reveals, is that a guest-starring role fits into what he calls his “selective retirement.”
“Gone are the days of the seven-year television contract. I think I can check that box and move on.”
It was this selective retirement that prompted him to walk away from the character of Ash Williams, who he first played in the first Evil Dead back in 1981, and only recently retired after the series was canceled last year. Taking on the role of Captain was something of a palate cleanser for Campbell.
“Any actor tries to round out the ol’ resume and it’s so good to play characters in different situations. No blood. No special effects. It’s just people talking. And that was very appealing to me.”
Beyond the stripped-down production and more grounded premise, Campbell was able to identify with Gary, particularly when drawn from the parallels between real-estate development and acting.
“A lot of these developers are good salesmen. Some of these guys don’t have a pot to piss in and are tap-dancing as fast as they can to try and put deals together. I’m from suburban Detroit and there were some pretty well-to-do developers. This buddy of mine, their parents were in development and, you know, these are very successful people, but they weren’t the happiest. And they weren’t around much. They were always working. They were a slave to the next project. It’s sort of parallel to the movie business. What’s your next project? That’s what everybody is always asking. It’s the same as developers.”
It was this perpetual hustle that endeared Campbell to the character of Gary. A disarming, smooth-talking fraud who may (or may not) have a heart of gold. “These guys, they’re right on the edge. And this is a character who is successful, but he’s not happy. His personal life is going down the shitter. [With] Gary, the thing is: he is a doer. He does get things done and there are some people who talk a good game and some who don’t. This guy can get things done probably because he’s a little shady. He can go around things.”
Now that Campbell’s able to enjoy his selective retirement, he’s eager to work with projects in a more behind-the-scenes capacity. “I’ve always been proactive,” he begins, “[but] the difference now is that I’m sort of home-grown proactive. My wife and I have been partners for years, in business as well, and we’ve developed a bunch of scripts and ideas and concepts and literally the other day she was like, ‘You know, dude, if not now, when? When is this going to happen? You’re done with your dumb show, let’s get going here.”
Aside from developing scripts with his wife and business partner, he plans on returning to the literary world in the next two years. “I have another book deal to write my fourth book. So, I’m going to probably tour 20 / 20. Trying to do 20 cities in 2020 with a new book — nonfiction,” he clarifies.
Some of this home-grown proactivity involves his literal home. “I’ve also had to retool building an office,” he says. “I never had like a really great designated office to just do stuff here at my little place in Oregon. That actually took time to get it right. So starting first of next year, I’m up and running. Get out of my way.”
As for the Bubba Ho-Tep sequel? It still might happen, just without Campbell’s geriatric Elvis. “I told Don Coscarelli ‘I’m retired from that guy, too.’ We tried. We gave it a shot a few years back to try and do a sequel and nothing ever pleased all of us.”
Without a creative consensus, Campbell decided to let the Elvis vs. Egyptian soul-sucking monster movie stand on its own. “How many times have sequels ruined movies,” he asks when explaining his decision. Still, Campbell clarifies that “It’s Don’s project, so if he finds an Elvis, go go, baby.”
You can catch Campbell’s run as Gary “Captain” Green starting tonight on Lodge 49.