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Not every man can carry off teal pants, a pink shirt and a white dinner jacket, but not every man is Bruce Campbell. Directly after his Burn Notice panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the fabulously attired Campbell and series creator Matt Nix greeted the press for a lightning round of questions on topics from their hit USA Network series to the burden of celebrity.
One of the unique facets of Burn Notice is the complicated dynamic between super-spy Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and the gun-slinging Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), which flies in the face of conventional television relationships that tend to lose steam once the lead couple finally gets together. Asked how he manages to avoid that pitfall, Nix replied, “To give a really sincere and overly wonky answer, the relationships on shows where that’s a big problem live in a kind of teenaged fantasy of what love is or what relationships are.”
He explained that shows that feed on that sense of longing and anticipation have a difficult time transitioning beyond that first get-together because the show has actually become about the longing. “And the longing is great,” he said, “but, like, you can’t ask the question: ‘Will they kiss?’ and then answer it and expect to have anything to do after that, and so I just say that Michael and Fiona are — very consciously — in a different phase in their relationship.”
As a writer, Nix takes inspiration for writing Michael and Fiona’s relationship from his personal life. “So, I know that for me I draw on my own marriage, my own, you know, unresolved — because a marriage is work,” he said. “There’s an ebb and flow to it, and sometimes you feel closer and sometimes you feel further away and sometimes you’re fighting and sometimes you’re really happy with each other, and so really I guess with Michael and Fiona it’s asking different questions.”
Campbell was asked about the upcoming Evil Dead remake.
“Just know that it’s a remake and not a sequel, and there’s not necessarily a part for me in it,” he said. “We’re just re-doing it from the beginning. It’s a remake of the original movie. Hopefully, not as cheesy, you know? And we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to film it next spring. Hopefully, [it will be] out fall of 2012.”
Asked to compare the character he plays on Burn Notice, Sam Axe, and Ash, the role that made him a genre superstar, Campbell leapt into a rapid-fire explanation. “Sam is a more functional character. You could have a conversation with Sam. I don’t know what you would talk to Ash about. Ash is sort of a singular guy,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be near Ash. You’d get killed. You don’t want to be in any kind of battle situation — don’t be anywhere near him! Sam Axe you want him next to you, he’ll help you. Ash isn’t going to help you — he’ll run!”
At last year’s Comic-Con panel, it was revealed the writers act out dialogue to make sure it works and sounds authentic. Nix was asked who among the writers was the best Bruce Campbell. “Me,” he replied. “No, actually, Bruce is kind of the easiest for people.” To illustrate his point he launched into an uncanny Campbell impression before switching gears and doing a spot-on Donovan. “It’s usually me doing Michael, Craig O’Neill doing Sam, Lisa Joy doing Fiona and Ben Watkins does Madeline. That’s usually how it goes.”
When a reporter asked Campbell about his video-game work, and whether he would like to do more in the future, the actor became animated. “Check out Cars 2! I’m Rod Redline! Check out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs!”
When the same reporter had the misfortune of correcting Campbell and stating that neither of those projects were video games, the actor vehemently disagreed. “Same damn thing! I’ve done video games out the ass!” he said, causing everyone at the table to laugh. Campbell, whose voice-over work includes not only video games but also audio books, continued, “Yeah, I’ve done a lot of audio stuff. I like it. It’s a very clean process.”
Asked what it was like to be a genre celebrity as opposed to a more mainstream star, the dapper Campbell smiled. “People aren’t going through my trash. If I was Tom Cruise I’d be worried about my trash,” he said. “I would not put my trash out on the street corner if I was Tom Cruise.” Pressed to clarify his response, Campbell responded, “Here’s the difference: I go to conventions. I meet people. I shake their hands. I sign their forehead. I do the whole thing. So the mystery is — because I want to demystify — Tom Cruise, there’s still so much mystery. You see him fleetingly at premieres, but you don’t know anything about the guy’s life.”
Campbell has clearly taken a different approach with his fans. “My fans come up to me and say: ‘Hey, Bruce! How’re you doing? See you in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, next month!’ It’s all very casual. They see me enough. They hear my same boring stories over and again. It just deflates the whole thing and that’s what I like. I don’t want some mystery about who I am, that just causes trouble.”
Before leaving, Campbell related a story about a woman who moved to New Zealand in an effort to meet and stalk Kevin Sorbo from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. “She joined the same gym and was going around telling people she was going to become Mrs. Sorbo,” Campbell said, shaking his head, “Who wants that shit?”
Burn Notice airs Thursdays on USA Network.