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Get an Axe: Bruce Campbell Talks <i>Burn Notice</i> Season 3

We watch Burn Notice for three reasons: the cast, the cast, the cast. Specifically, the steely Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), the hypnotic Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and the lovable Sam Axe, played by our personal hero, Bruce Campbell. Sitting around a table at an outdoor cafe with Sam makes us feel like we're having a drink with Campbell himself, only Campbell is even nicer in person, if that's at all possible. We sat in on a conference call with one of the most friendly, down-to-earth interviewees we've ever had the pleasure of speaking to, and learned about a guest appearance by Xena: Warrior Princess, who he'll play in the Evil Dead remake and why we'll never get Sam Axe body spray.

Bruce, a lot of your work has been in genre shows and movies -- science fiction, fantasy, horror, comic books...

Bruce Campbell: I don't know what you're talking about.

...and I was wondering if joining Burn Notice was a planned effort on your part, or if it just sort of happened?

Bruce Campbell: It's a little of both. You're guilty by association, so when my first movie was Evil Dead, which is now 30 years ago -- so yes, you are all very old, all of you who are listening -- that film was pretty successful, and it sort of put me in the genre world, right from the go-get. I suppose if I had made a romantic comedy when I was 21 and that did crazy, then I'd be the romantic comedy guy. It's kind of how Hollywood works. It's material that I'm sort of interested in, though, too, at the same time, so part of me perpetuates it, in that I gravitate toward oddball stories. I like fantasy and sci-fi and that sort of stuff.

The first episode that airs on Thursday night ends with Madeline talking to all three of you, saying that you all need to work together to watch each other's backs, and it seems like Michael has the biggest target. Is that pretty much the theme as the season evolves?

Bruce Campbell: I think so. It's going to get worse for Michael Westen this year, because of a couple of things that have happened as a result of the last two-parter. So his world is a little more unstable this year. He's not necessarily under the thumb of Carla any more. She was the evil temptress of the last season. She's out of the way, but that's not necessarily a good thing. His sort of veil of protection has been lifted by these shadowy figures, so now anybody who wants to put a bullet into Michael Westen, which is actually a lot of people... so yes, the interpersonal dynamics will get theoretically tighter, because if things get worse, you've got to know who you can count on.

Can you tell us a bit about what direction we can see Sam going in this third season?

Bruce Campbell: Well, by now, we're now past the point where we don't trust him. He's hopefully a valuable member of the team now, and so, like Michael, Sam is taking the twists and turns as they come. I don't know that Sam is going to get married or any personal revelation. Sam is pretty much living in a room in Michael's mother's house, so he's just kind of a permanent loser, at least in this season. And he's always there to help.

Sam certainly gets his share of the ladies, but he also seems to spend a lot of time with Michael's mom. Now that he's moved in, are we gonna see something there?

Bruce Campbell: With [Michael's] mother? No, no. Sam and Madeline will never hook up, because it's Mike's mother; it's too creepy. I think Sam would feel uncomfortable with that, and as it is, Sam already behaves a little differently when Maddy's around because it is Mike's mother. Like, Sam will never really yell at Maddy, or whatever. They'll bicker sometimes, but he respects her.

What's your favorite part of playing Sam?

Bruce Campbell: Boy, I like Sam because he's my age. When I got the original script for the pilot, it said, "Sam Axe, who's 50." I thought, "Okay. I'm finally playing a mature adult." He's an ex-Navy Seal, he's tacking around now, he's trying to get laid and drink beer. And I love the fact that all three characters on this show are sort of damaged goods. Sam has his issues, Michael has his issues, Fiona has her issues, mostly anger issues. And he's a character that, to me, feels like an old slipper. He's not stiff. He doesn't use all the same terminology. He uses slang. He's a little bit laid-back. He's wearing Tommy Bahama all the time. And to me, I love the fact that there's a character who's that lackadaisical. But at the same time, he can look up anybody; he's got friends for days, he always knows a guy who knows a guy. I wish he could get a job and an apartment, and a car that he can hang onto. About every fourth episode, Sam gets another one of his cars wrecked, so he doesn't even have a car, and he doesn't even have an address, so I wouldn't mind some of that happening. But, whatever, I'm not telling the writers what to do. They're doing a fine job.

Speaking of living situations, you recently faced possible eviction from your show HQ by the city of Miami, but were granted a one-year reprieve at the last minute. If the show had actually got up and moved, where would you have liked to have seen it gone?

Bruce Campbell: Hypotheticals are tough, and I don't ever want to give any impressions that I don't like shooting in Miami. It's good for the show. Miami is a character in this show, and if we moved, it would probably be to California, because it makes casting easier; all the writers live there, half of the actors live there. I live in Oregon, but it would be closer to the West Coast. I have kids there, too, so a lot of personal reasons. But for the sake of the show, Miami is a good spot. It's an unexploited city. Even CSI: Miami doesn't even shoot in Miami, they shoot in California, so we're it. We're the only show that is currently shooting in Miami, and the governor even came, Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida. It was great palling around with the governor for a day, trying to bend his arm a little bit, saying, "Hey, Gov, why don't you help us out here?" Because producers tend to go where it's the least expensive -- that's nothing against producers, every producer does that. So as long as we can get incentives to stay in Florida, we'll stay. But there's also the reality of, if we don't, then we'll leave and fake it. Television is fake, so if we had to fake Florida we could.

Any cool guest stars this season?

Bruce Campbell: Oh, boy, guest stars. We got Nick Turturro, who was on NYPD Blue, he's playing a weasely criminal character. We had Lucy Lawless, I think on our second episode we got Lucy in. That was real fun to do. I got a bunch of friends we're always trying to get in there. I'm not so good with rattling all the things off. We're starting to get a good stable of directors, like Tim Matheson is becoming a stable director element. So it would be nice to see him come back. I hope he's in another episode as this guy Larry. He plays this crazy guy, Larry, who, I hope he comes back, because Tim is a really good actor, too. So it's sort of a stay-tuned thing, to see who's coming. But the nice thing is that when you have a hit show, you can get better actors. No one wants to be on a show with lousy ratings.

Any upcoming, non-Burn Notice projects coming up? I heard that there was another Evil Dead in the works, maybe even another Bubba Ho-tep with sexy vampires?

Bruce Campbell: Well, I'll clarify a couple things. There's really no sequel for Evil Dead planned right now, but we are going to forge ahead and do the remake. There's nothing for me in the remake, though, you know what I mean? That's a cast of young people. So I'll be on as the producer, but I won't be in it, other than playing the old guy at the bait store at the beginning. So there's nothing for me in that. Another thing to clarify, they're probably going to do a Bubba Ho-tep sequel, but it won't have me in it. I couldn't come to an agreement with the director, Don Coscarelli, on a story, so I think it's going to be Ron Perlman in that. And as far as the things to look forward to, I have another book coming out eventually called Vagabond: The Gypsy Life of an Actor, which should be out in a couple of years. And I'll probably be in Spider-Man 4, but I never hear from Sam [Raimi] usually until the last minute, when they've got everything worked out. So we'll just see what he's got up his sleeve.

We've seen you in the Old Spice commercials -- can we expect to see a Sam Axe body spray?

Bruce Campbell: It's weird, they're putting commercials inside the TV shows now. I've already done ads -- unpaid, I might add -- for DirecTV. I even have a line of dialogue: "Mike, we can't go back into that bar now. It's my favorite, it's got DirecTV in HD." Cadillac we've promoted, Panerai watches we promoted, and now Miller Genuine Draft, so, unfortunately the way advertising is going, I may not be doing a Sam Axe body spray because they'll just put it in the show. Things are changing rapidly. It's a very strange world out there as far as advertising goes.

The season premiere of Burn Notice airs this Thursday at 9/8C on USA Network.

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