When last we saw Pablo at the end of season two of the Starz series Ash vs Evil Dead, he had been sliced in half, his corpse had been possessed by the demon Baal, and he had been mystically fused with an evil book of spells, all before being resurrected from the dead.
It may be long way from the workaday life at the ValueStop where Pablo first met his “El Jefe” Ash (Bruce Campbell), but it’s exactly what out actor Ray Santiago had in mind when he told show creator Sam Raimi (who based the series on his 1981 film Evil Dead) that he just wanted “to be naked and covered in blood and running through the woods.”
Now the wait is over. The perennially good-natured (and perennially blood-soaked) Pablo returns with Ash, Ruby (Lucy Lawless), Kelly (Dana LeLorenzo) and some sexy new team members to running from and/or slaying legions of Deadites.
We spoke to Santiago in Brooklyn, New York.
New York is your home turf?
Yes, my family still lives in the South Bronx. So I get see them every time I come home for New York Comic Con. My mom’s so Puerto Rican. She’s says, “Why don’t you want to stay here, and I cook for you?” And I’m think No, no I need to escape.
Your mom is Puerto Rican?
My mom’s Puerto Rican my dad is Puerto Rican.
Why do I keep reading that you’re Mexican-American?
Because people write things on the Internet that are not true! My mom actually was really mad at me because her colleagues at work googled me and found that [somebody wrote that] I was Mexican-American. I don’t know how to erase things from Wikipedia. On IMDb.com it says that I sang at a vegetarian convention, that I ran the New York marathon, that I lived in Paris when I was thirteen. None of these things is true.
This is the least accurate IMDB I’ve seen. There’s also two of you.
What do you mean?
When two people have the same name you get a Roman numeral after your name to differentiate. But there’s another one with the same face too.
What? Does he have more credits than me? [Looks online] OK, so we’ve got multiple Rays, but you got the real one, I’m right here.
How many Comic Cons have you done?
There’s the official New York and San Diego ones which are the big ones, then there are cons all over the world. I’ve done my fair share all over the place. I’ve gone to Australia, I’ve been small places Pittsburgh and Philly, and just tons of horror conventions. I get to go and meet all the fans and it’s great, but it can be pretty intense. And the people you meet [in green rooms]! I met Marcy [Amanda Bearse] from Married with Children. She’s remarkable. I saw Carrie Fisher eating breakfast potatoes with her bare hands from catering, then sleep on the floor while her dog was licking her face.
What was it like meeting Lucy Lawless? Were you a Xena fan?
Oh yeah! But I was really young when Xena came out. The female badasses for me were Buffy and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Lucy is super sophisticated, and has taught me how not to be a diva. With Bruce I really came to understand the show business part. He taught me how to hit my mark, and she showed me how to not be a diva, to just be graceful, and you don’t have to be a dick or a bitch to people to get what you want.
Where do you shoot?
Auckland, New Zealand. We’re there for five months, from February to July. And every year you go and find a new place to live, and then probably a good three weeks of prep, and then just go into episodes. We take 13 days to shoot two episodes. We go very fast, which is difficult, but I like it because I can sort of get away with doing what I want.
Because there’s not a ton of time for reshoots?
Yes. And a lot happens in second units so you have a lot of liberty with each director. In season two I said, “I want to fly across the room like The Craft. Can I do that?” The next thing I know I’m sort of hanging there like a limp Peter Pan, and I thought this should feel cooler than it does—but it made the cut!
I understand series co-creator and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi really responded to you as an actor.
Yeah he did say you have to fight for what’s right for Pablo. You have to remember that he is the heart of the group and the eyes of the audience.
Is that why Pablo’s voice is important to you?
Growing up in New York City and being Latino, I feel I didn’t have a ton of positive role models in the industry. Pablo was an opportunity to be one step closer to becoming a superhero that I always dreamt of being as a kid. For me and Pablo, we want to leave a mark on the world. We both want to be known as good people.
You went to the Fame School [Fiorello La Guardia School of Music & Art & Performing Arts]. Were you out at school?
I came out freshman year of high school. I used to spray my hair gold—when Ryan Phillippe was really big and I wanted his hair—and wear platform shoes and pinstriped pants. My family was so cool with it. Professionally I’ve always been openly gay, but I remember sitting in the makeup chair and being uncomfortable talking about it. People would ask if I had a girlfriend, and I would just be vague. But with Ash vs Evil Dead, the opportunity came to talk about it publicly in Out 100. I felt compelled. I never want to be pigeonholed because I’m gay but if you don’t want to work with me because I’m gay, then maybe I don’t want to work with you.
It was about liberating myself. We don’t have a young Latino gay superstar. I’d like to be that, and I realize the only way to be that is to be open about it. In going to these Cons I’ve met people who say, “I talked to my dad about being lesbian because I saw your Twitter feed and read the article.” You can be who you are and inspire people to be who they are, and that’s why I did it. I feel much better about it, and I’m pretty happy that I had that opportunity, and I’m waiting for some to cast me as a proper gay role.
I don’t know if Pablo is straight or gay.
Ha! Let’s talk about it.
Well, he’s ogled a few female characters.
But he never really goes for it! I was always fighting for it. I said in the [writers] room, “I don’t care if it’s a girl or a guy, but can I get laid? Can I have chemistry with somebody?” Some would say there’s this relationship with him and Kelly, and I felt like I was always hungry for more in the relationship zone, but the show is only 28 minutes. I definitely think this season you get to see him get some action with some new characters you didn’t expect.
That sounds fun.
Yeah it was fun! Linsday Farris plays Dalton and Arielle Carver-O’Neill plays Ash’s daughter Brandy and they’re both great additions to the show. They gave us some new hot people to play with, and we definitely played with them, that’s for sure.
What scares you?
I’m terrified of death, which is ironic to be on a show where you die every day. I have a very serious case of FOMO. I want to experience everything. Living forever on camera in these role, it’s brought me some sort of calm. That just came from me watching a Bruce Lee movie in New Zealand at a Chinese restaurant, hungover. I thought, Oh that will be me one day, so that’s kind of cool.
I also read your grandmother made you afraid of the dark.
My grandmother is a Santera. She’s a very traditional Puerto Rican woman, she came to New York in the 1950s and had my dad and his siblings. My uncle as in the military, so [to protect him] she made a pact to worship this saint. She had a saint statue with a wig and she used to wash the wig and comb it. I used to put the wig on when she wasn’t looking. If you left me in a dark room with Santa Barbara, I was a little bit scared. I thought I was going to hell for playing with her wig because I was disrespecting my grandma.
All of a sudden on the show I’m being tormented by Santa Muerte, and that there’s this whole tie to the brujo thing. The way that Pablo talks to Ash, like “Oh I know about this,” it is really close to me as a person. And you know what? My uncle survived the military, and my grandma is alive and kicking.
At the end of season two Pablo dies. He gets cut in half.
Yeah, but he comes back! Just between you and me and everybody who reads this, I am the one who breaks into people’s offices and steals the scripts. I’m like, “Fuck this [secrecy] shit. I want to know what you people have planned for me this year.” Rob Tappert [Ash vs Evil Dead’s executive producer and Lucy’s husband] goes to everybody, to all the makeup artists and the wardrobe people, and says, “Don’t give Ray the scripts.” But I’m not getting them from the obvious sources. And then I tell Dana, “Here’s what’s going to happen.” She’s asks, “How do you know?” I’m like, “I got you. Boo.”
What can you divulge?
I’d told Sam that I just want to be naked and covered in blood and running through the woods. I did get a fair share of that. I just felt like our show shows nudity for girls all the time, so why can’t I be naked?
In season two, I did get butt naked, but they didn’t use it. Rob did this show called Spartacus, and they always had naked people—and dicks everywhere. I’ll do full-frontal. I just put it out there. I told them it’s not like I’ve got anything to worry about, but if they wanted to get one of those dicks from Spartacus, a really big, huge dick, and just strap it on to me, it’d be kind of epic. My reps said, “Absolutely not.” I wrote this in an email to the director, the producers, no response. And then I come to my trailer the next day and there’s ten dicks in my trailer—all different shades of caramel penises, cut and uncut. And here’s where I decided against it. They said you’re going to have to shave your pubes and we’ll put some prosthetic glue on it. I don’t want to shave. That was the deal-breaker.
So then we shot the scene-they put a box in the ground in the forest [for me to climb out of], and it was freezing, and they give me a modesty sock to wear. It was a nice ass shot. They cut it, but what can you do?
Are you dating somebody?
I feel in love with a Kiwi pilot in New Zealand, but there’s a huge ocean between my pilot and me. So the answer is no. I’m single.
Season three of Ash vs Evil Dead is airing and streaming now on Starz.