Legions of fans know and love the Evil Dead trilogy of horror films. This fall, STARZ is not only bringing the story back with a brand new series, it’s also bringing back the men behind the films both in front of (Bruce Campbell as Ash) and behind the camera (creator Sam Raimi). The story that has such a cult following is infused with new life and new characters, including Ray Santiago as Ash’s sidekick. We caught up with Ray to talk about the horror franchise mega-series.
Born and raised in the Bronx, what made you want to go to LaGuardia High School (the “Fame” school) and pursue acting?
Before I went to LaGuardia, I started acting when I was really young. In sixth grade, I was working with New York Youth Theater and I knew as a young kid, I wanted more. I was uncomfortable with myself and though playing other people and using other people’s words to express myself, I learned more about myself. I knew I wanted to do film and television. I was at a school that trained people to go to LaGuardia. Once I was there, I got an amazing conservatory education for free. I’m a big supporter of arts in schools because if it wasn’t for the education I got at LaGuardia, I wouldn’t be here. I know a lot about acting from my education there and New York City had a heavy hand in raising me to be the strong hustler I am. By the time I was 12, I had booked a part in “Girlfight” and that movie went to Sundance and won Best Picture. That opened doors in the indie scene and I kept going.
What excited you about being a part of Ash v. Evil Dead?
As a kid, I was a huge horror fan. I would pretend to set up traps and kill the monsters. I also love comedy. Put those two things together and you get the Evil Dead. I also liked the concept of revamping and recreating a genre for TV. Working with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell is amazing because they built the genre.
What’s it like playing sidekick to someone who is playing a character with such a cult following?
Pablo is an idealistic immigrant who is friends with Ash and becomes his sidekick. He’s Ash’s biggest cheerleader. The character needed something to believe in and once he believed in Ash, he began to believe in himself. He also wants to leave his mark on the world. He’s trying to figure out what that mark is and thinks he has to run away from his cultural background to get it. Ultimately, he needs to embrace it.
Can you relate to that at all?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to leave my mark on the world too so both Ray and Pablo have that in common. Rather than using my bag of tricks with an accent as I have had to in most projects playing a gang member or drug dealer, I wanted it to be more vulnerable and real and without an accent. I’m not interested in being a caricature.
The under-representation of Latinos in the media is something no one can deny. Why is it important to you to be a part of the movement to include a diverse range of people in entertainment?
It’s about telling stories about people that, most of the time, aren’t available to us. I’ve played the Latino characters who are tough men, have a tough exterior and we don’t get to see their inner struggle. Pablo sees past people’s flaws and believes in everybody. I try to bring a piece of who I am to the surface.
This is a fun, popcorn, half hour show, but you don’t often get to see a Latino playing someone who is a part of a superhero trio. It’s my opportunity to be that hero I’ve always wanted to be. If I had to save the world from zombies, this is how I would do it. I’m not perfect, I’m not a bad ass but I’ve got fight in me. Pablo is the eyes and ears and heart of the audience.
You’ve worked with guys like Ben Stiller, Justin Long, Nick Cannon and Michelle Rodriguez. How has being around people like that inspired you?
You just have to make the choice to believe in yourself every day. I’ve been working on different shows since I got to LA, but it took 10 years for this job to come through. I was at 19 when I walked onto the set to work with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, but I wasn’t nervous because I knew I belonged there. It’s just a matter of time. What I always say is that everyone gets their moments, but no one gets it at the same time. You have to be patient. Your time will come and keep doing what you have to do to get there.
In a show that’s based on a horror movie aesthetic – how do you stay grounded as an actor and make it relatable in an un-relatable situation?
As a kid, I pretended to be that person running from and fighting the monster. Growing up in the South Bronx, I would even run from the subway to my house if I was scared someone was going to jump me. I knew I couldn’t let down the fans, so I threw myself into it. The fact that I was in New Zealand, shooting the show away from friends and family, I just committed 100 percent. I told myself: This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You know the past of this genre and now, you’re going to be a part of its future.
Follow on Ray on Twitter for more updates on Ash vs. Evil Dead and his other upcoming projects.
Photographer: Diana Ragland
Groomer: Christina Guerra
Wardrobe Stylist: Jordan Grossman
Wardrobe Stylist Assistant: Bria Stone