Jill Marie Jones, one of the stunning leading ladies of this Halloween’s biggest television premiere ever, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” describes the series as a “witty drama” with “lots and lots of blood”. This is a very unique perspective considering many, fans and otherwise, know the popular horror trilogy from which this series was birthed as a firm horror classic. But Jill’s description promises the heart of the familiar with limbs that expand the story.
While genre television isn’t new to this actress with her appearances on “American Horror Story” as well as “Sleepy Hollow,” many remember Jones as the sharp-layered character in style and emotional brevity, Toni Childs on UPN’s successful sitcom “Girlfriends” for six seasons.
Even with her eclectic resume, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” demonstrates Jones’ passion for the craft in all facets. She plays Amanda Fisher, a law enforcement employee on a mission to put the pieces of her personal life and career back together with roads that all lead to Ash (Bruce Campbell) and his pair of combat comrades battling the forces of evil in the form of deadites.
In our discussion, she brings up her inspiration for the role, her love of the horror genre and genuine insight into why “the world is gonna fall in love with this show”.
AB: I’ve seen you play so many different characters throughout your career that Ash vs. Evil Dead seems to be a nice deviation from the roles you’re known for. Did you find this role or did the role find you?
JMJ: I would say we found each other. Because it was really what I wanted and what I needed. I was up for something else at the same time and Ash vs. Evil Dead spoke first and loudest. The other one I would’ve been playing an attorney on a procedural. But this is the one that I really wanted and said, ‘come home’. So I was really happy about that.
AB: What appealed to you the most about this role?
JMJ: One of the reasons I signed on for Ash vs. Evil Dead is because no one’s ever seen a TV show where all the main female leads are badasses. No man is coming in to try to save the day or help. They might try, but it’s like you know what, I got this. I just really love that.
AB: Were you familiar with the Evil Dead trilogy before you got the part?
JMJ: I knew about Evil Dead because it’s so iconic. But I had never seen Evil Dead before. I think my mom had. I have to say, my mother would watch the show whether I was on it or not because this is just up our dark, dirty road. We love this. When I was going through the [audition] process, I watched all of them in a binge type of situation.
AB: The creator of The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi directed the pilot and is heavily involved in the series. What was his directing approach like for you?
JMJ: I don’t even know how many ways to say how amazing Sam Raimi is. He has such a nice touch when it comes to his directing. He knows how to get exactly what he wants but he does it with such a respect, not just for the cast but for the crew – It was a dream to work with him.
AB: How would you describe the style of the series?
JMJ: Ash vs. Evil Dead was shot like a film. Fans of the trilogy are going to be so happy because they really stayed true to the story and feel of those films. Additionally, new people who’ve never seen Evil Dead are gonna be able to enjoy it and understand everything that’s going on as well.
AB: How would you describe your character Amanda Fisher? What elements went into bringing the character to life?
JMJ: She’s a Michigan state trooper that believes in good and the good in people. Amanda has a sense of humility about her as well as kicks ass. I was shooting guns and knocking people out and I just loved it.
I had two meetings with the amazing Sam Raimi before I left New Zealand which is where we shot. We just had these beautiful sessions about who did I see Amanda being and then he would tell me what he saw. I love that he gave me permission to be able to kind of create a little bit of her story. It was just a joy to be able to play.
My mom was a federal investigator and she taught me that you can be strong, you can be tough, you can be definitive in what you have to say, but you can still be kind and nice and have a heart and be sweet. So in a way, I felt like I was playing my mom.
AB: It seems as if Amanda is somewhat of an adversary to Ash and his team but becomes an ally of sorts soon after she crosses their paths. How much influence do you feel Amanda has to the overall season’s story arc? If Ash vs. Evil Dead sees a second season, what can we expect from Amanda and ultimately, what would you like for the character?
JMJ: There’s definitely an arc. You will see a lot of growth in Amanda in the first season and there’s always room for more. I’m trying not to give too much away but you’ll see her heading in different directions that all make sense for her character.
AB: I imagine for actors that it’s fun sometimes getting to play roles in genres they appreciate. Are you a horror fan yourself?
JMJ: Oh my gosh, yes! Me and my mom love the genre. It was five years ago that I realized sometimes like, ‘Oh, that’s why I woke up in the middle of the night and I heard the ice maker downstairs and thought, who’s that?!’ and it was because I watched those movies. [Laughs]
AB: Are there any other projects you’re working on that you can talk about?
JMJ: I’m back in L.A. and I have a script that I’m shopping around. Hopefully, somebody will pick up my script and say, ‘Hey, I wanna make that’. But right now, it’s just all about working.
“Ash vs. Evil Dead” premieres on Starz October 31 at 9PM ET/PT.
Starz Official Site: http://www.starz.com/originals/ashvsevildead/featured.
Ashlee Blackwell is a lifelong lover of film and writing. She’s the founder of Graveyard Shift Sisters, a blog that highlights and celebrates Black women and women of color in the horror genre. Find her on Twitter: @GraveyardSister; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/graveyardshiftsisters; Tumblr: http://graveyardshiftsisters.tumblr.com/.