Interview: Ray Santiago

We had a chance to chat with Ash vs Evil Dead star Ray Santiago about his role of Pablo on the hit Starz TV series:

What qualities do you think Pablo has that makes him a really good addition to team?

Well…Pablo is as you sort of see in Episode 4, he’s pretty tech savvy and we haven’t really explored that side of him or showed that side of him other than this episode. But…he’s there to give Ash a hand in fighting evil and he’s pretty much doing that as you can see.

So along with Pablo being the heart of this team and always being the good conscience and making sure that everybody’s mind is in the right place and doing the right thing, Pablo’s smarter than most people would expect him to be. He’s got a really good tech savvy background and throughout the season, you’ll see that…come into play and him help out with that.

And he’s really dedicated to doing good. And…I think he wants to leave his mark in the world and he’s been struggling to do it. So he sort of finds an opportunity with Ash and Kelly to sort of do better for all of mankind. So he’s just really excited to do that. So he’s tech savvy. He’s got a lot of heart and his mind is in the right place. And he always makes sure – he is always making sure that people are doing the right thing.

What went into the preparation of stepping into a very beloved series with a dedicated fan base?

So, I think – thank you so much for taking the time to ask your questions and being here as well, to all of you. I think that we – I think the team that shows us was… making sure that we all had a quality that could sort of stand along and stand strong the way that Bruce sort of stands strong as Ash. And one of the qualities that [sic] Sam said that was important was that [sic] Pablo has a really big heart. He’s a really good person. And [sic] towards the last stages of my auditioning process, Sam and I were alone in a room before I went into and meet some of the network. And he said we just want to make sure that we see that. And he said that I can tell that you’re a good person. And you both, sort of, at the same time like a good person. And he was like, maybe you have some instances where you’ve been screwed over. And we just want to make sure that throughout the entire series we see Pablo’s heart because he is the [sic] eyes of the audience in a lot of ways.

So that being said, he just like…just make sure you always [sic] have your heart on the table for everybody to see and operate from there. So I tried to do that and I think that [sic] Pablo is the heart and Kelly is the brain, and Ash is the muscle.

And together [sic] these three dysfunctional people become this ultimate monster fighting squad. And I think…everybody on the show, all of the characters are, sort of, running from who they’re supposed to be, and so when they decide to embrace who they’re supposed to be, I think, Pablo is sort of trying to escape his cultural background but he realizes in the process that once he embraces that, it sorts of leads him to the past to being the man he was always supposed to be.

So I just try to stay true to that and I think that we all just try to bring what we could to the table and just try to stay as dedicated and work really hard to be covered…in as much blood as possible. Because I knew that the fans were clamoring for this. And as a kid I was a huge horror fan and now I get to do that every day when I go to work. So I knew if I enjoyed myself at work and wasn’t shy about throwing myself into this, sort of bloody blenders of situations, that I’ll be okay. So it’s working. And I think the fact that we all sort of connected in this isolated place of New Zealand and went on our journey together, sort of, parallels what you see on the show of these three people going on this journey together.

It seems like Pablo is being both aware of and blind to a lot of Ash’s fault at the same time. Is this a difficult dichotomy to keep up while playing the character?

Yes. It’s funny that you mentioned that because…when you look at the show…on the surface it’s like, you know, it seems simple. It’s horror. It’s comedy. But, yes it was the fine balance of knowing… what tone you’re working with. And that coupled with…Pablo, sort of, being blind and aware of certain things.

I think it was really difficult for him. But I just…decided that what he needs is and what he wants is someone to sort of, idolize. And it’s not like he necessarily wants to be Ash but in idolizing him, he sort of finds the road to becoming the man that he wants to be. And so I think he chooses when he wants to see Ash’s faults or, you know, the pros and who he is and sees the inner hero in him when he wants to.

Because that way he can sort of get through the day a little bit easier. He just accepts the fact that he’s dealing with this, you know, just what Ash is. He is not going to ever – he’s not going to go so far. So he really just sees beyond people’s faults because he believes that they can be the best person that they’re supposed to be even if they’re not at the moment.

But, yes. It is difficult. And I think that I enjoy it because I can, sort of, pick and choose when I want to go into those different things. But I think ultimately, I did find myself thinking…wow. This guy’s really just always giving Ash a way to get out of jail free card. And, you know, he gets away a lot. But as you see throughout the season, Ash’s sort of spur-of-the-moment gives him the love and acceptance that he’s sort of been seeking from the world. And Ash never really [sic] Ash sees past him being from Honduras and [sic] just being this immigrant.

And as you saw in Episode 4, he said, you know, you’re working at the Value Stop and Electronic Department and that’s the big guns. So…he kind of gives him the support that he’s always been sort of searching for. Whereas with his uncle, you see that his uncle, sort of like, brings him down and is not really being supportive. So we support each other and we just choose to see – I just see the hero in Ash every day, even if he lets you down.

Bruce mentioned to us that he was happy to spread the love as far as the blood is concerned. You being a lifelong horror friend. How prepared were you for that? And can you tell us a little bit about what that experience on site was like for you, personally?

Well, so when I met with Sam in that last initial meeting, he said are you ready to be [sic] doing these stunts and long hours and [sic] going to New Zealand and being covered in blood? I said, Sam I want to be covered in as much blood as possible. I want to run through the wilderness of New Zealand completely naked, being chased from death. And like…being chased by death, I’m ready. And he saw the look in my eye and I was like, I’m (out). Because like, I mean, Bruce did show the love.

Like I would say everybody on the show, you might show throughout the season or even thus far, I’m sort of covered in the most blood. And I am, sort of, you know, a lot of things, sort of, happen to me. But once they’ve [sic] prepare(d) me for it….I knew that if I shied away from it, that the fans weren’t going to be happy. So I was just going full throttle into it and, you know [sic] it feels like a bunch of Chihuahuas are licking you when they’re putting this blood on you, because it’s basically like a bunch of different make-up artists put like a bucket of cold blood [sic] with their paintbrushes.

And it feels like dogs are licking you. And you get sticky. And… I’ll be in my trailer and I’d be covered in blood and my face would get like, maybe I sit like a (unintelligible) and nap. And my face will get stuck in the pillow case. And there’s just [sic] blood all over the trailer. But, you know, I just had to be like, wow, this is my life and this is great. And, you know, there’s an initial, sort of, initiation that happens with Sam which is, he basically gets a bucket of paint and in the pilot, he picks up a bucket of paint and a paintbrush and he splatters you with it.

And, you know, it’s him doing it for the first time. So to have like, you know, the creator of this cult classic media core genre sort of initiate you, you kind of feel like, you’ve got to go with the punches and (give) due diligence to the franchise. And so I just try to do that every day. We just had a meeting for Season 2. And I was like, I want more. I want more situations. You guys know I like the situations where, you know, Pablo is going through some stuff. You know, I have a hashtag that’s #PabloHasSeenSomeShit. So as you can see, I’m embracing it because I think that’s what the fans want and love about this show and the franchise and I’m just happy to be a part of it. I hope that answers your question.

So not only is the show t it also has a really incredible diverse cast from you to Jill and Dana. Was that the main goal you guys kind of set out to accomplish with the show?

Yes. You know I was so happy that STARZ and, you know, that Dana comes from STARZ. And, you know, the team of executive producers, Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. But really STARZ, I thank them so much for opening and welcoming a diverse cast. I think as we’ve seen (Myla Davis) say in her acceptance speech, you can’t stop castaways that aren’t there. And, you know, STARZ is giving an opportunity within this franchise to, sort of, tell the stories of such a diverse group of characters in a way that you’ve never seen before. It’s sort of comical horror (lens) but sort of building really great characters within the franchise.

And, you know, I think – I’m super excited to be part of the cast and to sort of, be playing the first Latino sidekick to a horror genre. As a kid I wanted to be a superhero and I wanted to save people from the mobsters and I wanted to run from the mobsters. And now I’m one step closer to being the superhero that I dreamt of being as a kid. And so like I said, I’m just so excited that STARZ and the people behind the show have decided to have such a diverse cast. And we’re great. And we have beautiful strong bad-ass women, Lucy Lawless — we like to call her Lucy Flawless. Dana is, you know, she’s done all of that. And they all bring what they bring to the table. But, yes. We are a very colorful cast and I’m so happy that, you know, I’m on a show that I can call my home for a bit. And I’m not playing a drug dealer or a gangbanger, so.

Can you tell us, now that the show has been on the air, how is the response then with your family, friends, and your fans now? And have you had any interesting fan encounters?

I have. Well first of all, I’m so glad that the fans have been so welcoming. Because, you know, horror fans are – they’re the best. They’re so loyal and they’re also taken down if it sucks. So I’m so happy that they’ve embraced us with open arms and that they’re enjoying Pablo.

And I think, you know, I struggled with Pablo. Because it sounds like, oh he’s like a sissy. He’s always like, you know, just that he’s always afraid. But I think the people actually kind of liked that.

My family is extremely proud. I’m a Puerto Rican guy from the South Bronx. And I brought my mom to the premiere. And when we got of the SUV and, you know, did the carpet and saw all of those fans, I mean, my mom was so – she was in shock that I had to like grab her out of the SUV. And then on the way home, she was like – it was like you were JLo, Ray-Ray. My mom calls me Ray-Ray. So my family is super proud. The fans have been great. I’ve had some run-ins with fans. I was at a flea market in Pasadena and I ran into some fans that wanted to take a picture with me.

They actually make wooden Necronomicon’s and they contacted me and they wanted to send some wooden Necronomicon’s. Fans have made some art work of Pablo as a (deadite) which I thought was pretty cool. So the fans are digging it. And I’m really glad that they are because, you know, the whole point of doing all these is to make sure the fans are happy.

What do you think Pablo was like when he was like in high school?

Well you see, when Pablo was in high school, he was super smart. And he was not very liked. He wanted – he couldn’t get a girlfriend. He wasn’t very like, athletic. But he knew that there was life beyond high school. And he knew that he just had to get out where he started. And that once he got out of this place that was, sort of, limited in opportunities, that he would be able to flourish.

So, you know, he tried to escape where he came from and what he saw that working at the Value Stop. It was sort of like he was on the path to becoming the person that he’d always dreamt of being, in small increments. And that’s why you see him wearing the varsity jacket. Because he wants just like America — he wants to live the American dream where he’s got like the beautiful girl, and a great job and just, you know.

He was sort of a nerd. He was not very popular. He was a good kid. He was a smart kid. And he just sort of, drew his – he was just trying to figure his way out to get into a better place where he could live the dreams that he had always dreamt of. But it sort of got, it went away from that when he was sort of, separated from his uncle. And he had this, sort of, to be on his own for a while. And he left, had been, sort of, on bad terms with his uncle. And that’s why he sort of, didn’t want to go back. But he also wants to go back because he feels he may have found something bigger than he ever thought he would with Ash.

But he is just sort of, scared and sort of embarrassed to bring back his, you know, just Ash. Bring back Ash and, you know, all his greatness to his uncle because he doesn’t know if people will see that he is the Jefe, but he does. So he believes he’s found the person that’s going to save everybody from the evil force. And that’s why he ultimately comes back and brings back his uncle. But, yes. He’s had a pretty intense journey but throughout the entire journey, the people would know that like, he’s destined for something bigger but he’s just trying to find it. I think that’s why he lapses onto this opportunity so intently.

How was working with the established relationships, the lifelong friends of Bruce, Sam and Rob – how has working with them differed from other productions you’ve been involved with?

The thing I love about those guys is that they started out, you know, they went to high school together. They made this film. They made the first one with no money and they were just trying to make a piece of art – trying to make a film. And, you know, I grew up in New York City and I have friends that I feel like are the same. You know, you always all want to come up but it’s great when you get to come up together. And it’s great when you get to make a piece of art with your friends and have that sort of look back at many, many years from now.

And so, when I watch all of them work, I sort of see where it began and the life that it’s had. And I’m so honored that I get to be a part of that and I get to be a part of the future with people that I like and I get to joint that team. So, you know, they – we could have shot the show in, you know, Vancouver, Toronto, different places. But they made a decision to do it in New Zealand because, you know, they trusted Rob because he’s had other shows on the air that he’s made – Spartacus. And they turned out really great. So they understood that they would just let each of them do what they do best. And together, so they’ve collaborated to create this amazing thing that they they’ve always done. And it worked. And so, they love each other. They trust each other and they don’t get in each other’s way. And so I just try to absorb as much as I can from all of them because it’s working. So I’m here to learn and I’m here to also, you know, show them that I belong there as well. So, it’s an awesome opportunity.

 Is there anything about working  with them that you would like to see in future productions that you’ll be involved with, as far as how they work?

I like that they let you, sort of, do what you do best. Like so they – they don’t get in your way. They just – they let each person, like if you want to improvise, you can improvise. If you really feel like a line is (unintelligible), they just allow you to be and to speak your mind and to create a comfortable environment. And I love that they have made the choice to have a show with such strong women and diverse casting. I just want more of that. So like I’m glad that they’ve stuck through to their roots and that they believe in something. I want to see more people work together to create a piece of – a body of amazing work and just not do it because it’s, you know, they wanted to make money, I guess.

What is the working relationship between yourself and Bruce and Sam?

  Bruce is definitely very focused. And you know, he does love to tell stories. So he didn’t play like, you know, Sam loves to torture Bruce and, you know, give him shit all the time and he teases him. Bruce really just loves to take that (line) and tell us stories.

So we’ll be sitting in that delta and he was just telling us all his stories. And Dana and I were just like, soak it all up, listen to him, laugh at him. And then before we knew it, we were like, oh wow, this is hilarious. We’re actually becoming the characters that we’re looking at like we’re looking at Bruce like Ash. Like, all right, all right. But, yes. Now, he’s really cool and he was really acting as if like that’s actually the relationship off cameras. So when we weren’t shooting, you’d think that he wouldn’t want to be around us because we’re spending all this time together. But he was really cool and, you know, would take us out for dinners.And we’d go, you know, and explore Auckland together because he’d been there before and so he knew a little bit of where to take us. And so we sort of established a relationship off camera which that helped with the relationship on camera.

Have you prepared for starting to  dress up as Pablo?

You know, we were talking about that. Dana and Jill were like, are you ready to see like people wear Pablo’s hair, like on Halloween, and, you know, blah. And I was like, I mean, yes, I got three mustaches on my face. So if people want to recreate that for Halloween then go for it.

No. I think I am very excited about it. Normally, you know, I’m not – so like my agent and manager and a lot of people always said like, shave your mustache, cut your hair. It’s too characterly. You’ll never be more than, you know, a secondary lead on a show. You’ll never be more than number six on a call sheet, is what somebody told me. And I just was like, screw that. It took me while to come to look like this and to understand that this is what I want the world to see me as right now. And I’m going to do what I can to tell a character (story) looking like this. And it just so happens that it works for Pablo. And it is a unique look. And I’ve embraced it.

And so, yes. Definitely, still to see people embrace it for the character. And if I get to see people dressed up at, you know, Comic Cons, or conventions or on Halloween, that’s just be a very victorious moment for me. Because then I could just be like, hah to all you people out there who said I should shave. Look at me now.But there definitely will be some – later on in the season there’ll be some things that fans would definitely want to do if they do decide to dress up as Pablo. Some more things happen to the way he maybe looks, sort of, you’ll have some other things that you might want to play with your costume without saying too much.

Will we be seeing any more of Pablo’s tech genius in the future?

I think that Pablo definitely is smarter than everybody thinks. And like I said before, he’s here to give Ash a hand with defeating evil. And throughout the entire series you’ll see him be – get more and more tech savvy and create other gizmos and gadgets and things that might help the situation. I can’t really say because I’m not allowed. But, you know, maybe Pablo gets his own broomstick.

 What have you learned from working with Bruce?

To always hit your mark and to use the shorter ad lib. I mean, like I didn’t even think about it. I just knew that that would be for me that worked the most. Like, you know, I’ve been doing this for a really long time and I didn’t quite understand the importance of hitting your mark. But, you know, you just throw so many things off. And I haven’t had a large indie film background. And, you know, we had – we went from shooting probably in 22 days. They’re shooting episodes in five days. So everything was moving really fast.

And I thank my indie film because that’s what helped them made. But Bruce taught me like, you just have to be, you know, on point with the tech stuff. You need to know where you need to be and where the camera is at all times so that, you know, you’re not affecting anybody else’s job. And then he was just being like, use the shorter ad lib. Like it’s going to be, it’s going plain quick word and how to use it. So you just give me little like when you’re here and there. And, you know, I just strike the relationship between Pablo and Ash sort of parallels the relationship between, you know, myself and Bruce where I just try to absorb and learn so much from such a great leader.

Do you feel that you’re prepared to go down the aisle of Toys R’ Us and see the action figure of you from Ash vs Evil Dead?

Yes. I’m very – I mean, I don’t want to sound cocky. But yes. No, I’m a very (excited). Like that’s like – that’s what, I mean you dream of these things. You’re like, oh yes, I want to have an action figure. And so, you know, I’m totally prepared.

And at Comic Con, when people were asking me about the character, it’s when I sort of started to really dive into this whole like superhero thing and being the first Latino sidekick slash, you know, part of the superhero team. And Sam looked at me after the question-and-answer, he goes superhero, huh? And I was like, uh-hmm, uh-hmm. Who cares about Spiderman, right? And, you know, yes, I would love to have that moment. I’d like to take my nieces to Toys R’ Us and go find the Pablo doll or action figure. All I’m saying is that it better I have it here that is soft as mine and I better have it here that it’s entirely as mine.

Hey, I mean isn’t that the goal, yes. No, it would be – it’s you think you’d be really – you think it would hit you and affect you more. But honestly, like when I drove down Sunset Boulevard and saw this huge billboard, it sort of affected me, and I had a moment where it was like, this is so cool.

For more coverage on Ash vs Evil Dead, including interviews with Bruce Campbell, and red carpet coverage of the premiere, click here.

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