Ash vs. Evil Dead’s Dana DeLorenzo has had a long day of interviews and is eager to catch a flight back to her home state, Ohio, to visit her mother. The subject came up when I told her my awkward first words of our interview were due to my own long day, and she immediately sympathized. “We are going to change our day from here on out, deal?” she said.
The cheerful DeLorenzo, 35, recently wrapped her role as AvED’s earthy heroine, Kelly Maxwell, ending a three-season saga of blood, guts, humor, romance—and an F-word-heavy vocabulary. Fans of Kelly will recall she has a way with guns and a way with words.
“What the fuck are you talking about? What kind of fucking language? What kind of fucking language are you talking about?” DeLorenzo deadpanned when I mentioned her character’s colorful speech. Laughing after, she continued, “My mother hates the quality of Kelly’s character that’s everyone’s favorite.” She also noted that she told her mother, “It’s okay mom; everyone else likes it. I don’t need to have my mouth washed out with soap because it was dialogue.”
Before DeLorenzo was cast as Kelly, she worked hard, taking commercials where she had no lines and roles where her character remained unnamed (e.g., she’s credited as “Hot Court Reporter” in an episode of Comedy Central’s Workaholics). The actress also played a “personality” on the “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” radio show, as well as Beth the CBS Executive and the voice of Sandra the Rhino on CBS’ The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
“I’ve been hustling for a long time,” DeLorenzo stated. “It has been a very long, difficult road with some real high highs, but some real low lows. I’ve gotten war wounds from this business.” She has remained philosophical about her experiences, however. “[W]e can all learn from these kinds of the ‘hard knocks’ in life,” she said. “When you work hard for something, you do appreciate anything you get, no matter how long or short it lasts.”
Bigger roles followed, including Emily/Andrea in 2015’s web series-to-TV-show Impress Me, where she stars with her long-time friend, Ross Marquand of The Walking Dead, and Claire, one of the two leads in the 2017 film The Mad Ones, which DeLorenzo characterizes as a “rom-dramedy.” Both are currently available on Amazon Prime and several other streaming platforms.
The ebullient DeLorenzo is an animated raconteur who shared with The Nerd Element via phone how she got the role of Kelly, what she thought of Kelly’s journey throughout the series, her process of performing as different characters in the show, her excitement about a new role she recently booked, and what it was like working on Ash vs. Evil Dead with Lucy Lawless and Bruce Campbell. The conversation was punctuated often by her throaty, infectious laughter.
When asked about how she was cast as Kelly, DeLorenzo deadpanned, “Craigslist. No, that was a terrible joke.
“It was one of those things that was oddly serendipitous, she said, noting that her casting “happened furiously fast, which is kind of the same of how we do everything on the show.” DeLorenzo spoke of how she was working the closing shift at a bar in Los Angeles the night she received an email to report the next morning bright and early to audition.
“I have to be up at 6 a.m. the next day in order, because of L.A. traffic, to get to this audition,” she said, crediting her co-worker at the time, Dominic, with taking over her shift so she could leave and practice her lines.
“I recorded my lines on my iPhone and listened to them in the car, three scenes, on the hour-and-a-half drive, 22 miles—this is L.A. for you—to the other side of town,” she said. “I do the audition and I decided to pratfall because there was a scene in this audition where Pablo [played by Ray Santiago] hits Kelly over the head with a frying pan. [T]he casting director laughed.”
About a week-and-a-half later, she says, she was back in Ohio with her family when the casting director asked her to report the next day in L.A. for a callback. DeLorenzo laughs as she recalls saying, “Do you know I can’t scream? I scream like a 75-year-old man.” DeLorenzo said that the casting director liked her so much for Kelly, she made a “special appointment” so DeLorenzo could return in time. About a week later, she was asked to head to New Zealand to screen test with Sam Raimi, creator of The Evil Dead, and Campbell, who played the title role of Ash.
Her first thought? “Holy sh—What, what?”
DeLorenzo said she approached the test fearlessly because she didn’t think she’d get the role, believing the showrunners would cast someone with a “big name.” “That served me in the end,” she said.
“I did that screen test with Bruce with Sam Raimi behind the camera and within a day, I found out I got the part. I collapsed on the floor! True to Ash Williams’ ‘Shoot first, think never!’—that was the perfect example of that actually happening. Go with your gut, take the risks and then just go for it,” she said.
DeLorenzo’s Kelly went on a journey from a woman who wasn’t really interested in Ash’s fight against evil to a full-on Deadite-killing machine. “She was lost at the beginning,” DeLorenzo said. “Her mom had already died [but] her mother came back. Her mother had to die twice. Her father got [killed]. That’s traumatizing and that’ll make you want some revenge.”
Kelly’s journey mirrored DeLorenzo’s experience on the show, she said.
“I sort of got thrown into this in that way you get thrown into the deep end. I had never done stunts; I had never done action. I’ve certainly never been covered in 30 gallons of blood!”
DeLorenzo added that Kelly “was a very quick learner; she had the fight in her because she is driven by the need to avenge what happened to her parents. Because she became orphaned, she immediately latched on to these two little knuckleheads that she loves so much, which was Pablo and Ash. She became the scrappy fighter who was trying to keep everyone grounded and stay on track.”
One particular episode stands out in Kelly’s oeuvre for DeLorenzo: her one-on-one “epic battle” with Ruby in Season 3.
“Some fans said that Kelly was stupid for going into that alone and I disagree,” she said. “She had been painted in this catch-22 situation that she couldn’t think or fight her way out of. You don’t do that to Kelly Maxwell; you do not put her on the bench so she’s stuck with her hands tied.
“Kelly was able to follow her gut and get her revenge, and I stand by the fact that she did because she went into battle taking an opportunity to get one over on evil. She knew that Ruby would never see it coming,” DeLorenzo added, noting that Kelly would do anything to protect her new “family” of Ash, Pablo, and Arielle Carver-O’Neill’s Brandy.
“I felt so much that was her swan song. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way than for Kelly to go down swinging, which is what she said she would do in the diner at the table [in Season One] right before her very first kill. I think it’s an epic journey for her, and even if in the end, she looked like Keith Richards, she got one more good kill, she got one more ‘fuck up some Deadites.’ The fact that Kelly got to have that last Sarah Connor moment was awesome.”
Throughout the series, DeLorenzo wound up playing variations on her character: Kelly possessed by the demon, Eligos (Ben Fransham); Kelly displaced by the betrayer, Kaya (Chelsie Preston Crayford); and Kaya pretending to be Kelly to fool Ash, Pablo, and Brandy. Her approach to the different characters “happened organically,” she said, noting that Kaya was harder to play because “it was not established who the character was. They had kept going back and forth” on who Kaya would be. “It was very challenging because I had three different directors on all three episodes and I was technically playing three versions: I was playing Kaya, who was straight up Kaya in Kelly’s body in the scenes with Ruby, but then I was also playing actual Kelly in the Rift, [and] Kelly/Kaya, who was trying to fool Ash and Pablo.”
DeLorenzo said that in order to play Kelly/Kaya, she decided to go back to “bad habits” she had spent years obliterating. “I just played Kelly badly. That was my big secret.”
Now that Ash vs. Evil Dead has aired its series finale, DeLorenzo is moving on to her next project.
“I can’t say too much because they haven’t announced, but I can tell you I just got cast in a small role in an independent feature written and directed by Nicol Paone,” she enthused. “It’s a female-driven comedy that I am so excited about.” Paone recently posted on her Facebook page that the name of the film is “Friendsgiving”.
The film will star Malin Akerman, Jane Seymour, Christine Taylor, and Deon Cole. The film will also star Kat Dennings, whom DeLorenzo has worked with in the past when she had a bit part on Denning’s TV show, 2 Broke Girls. DeLorenzo has been cast as Dennings’ sister in the project, which is being executive produced by Taylor’s husband, Ben Stiller.
“I can’t give anything away, but […] I promise that any fan of Kelly Maxwell will be a fan of this character I play. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Despite having been asked “so many times” about working with Lawless and Campbell, DeLorenzo graciously obliged the fannish question, noting that her answer “gets longer and longer every time.”
“Let me try and say this as concisely as possible,” she began. “Working with them is exactly as you would hope and dream and want it to be, only even better.”
Lawless in particular became a friend. “She is the epitome of grace and talent, and is brilliant. I cannot say enough about her as a woman, as an actor, and as a co-star. Whenever I did a scene with her, I never felt more electric…. I just I never felt more present onscreen with anyone. And that is all credit to Lucy Lawless.”
Regarding Campbell, DeLorenzo was equally effusive. “From minute one from the screen test, we immediately slipped into the roles of Ash and Kelly. I was just reminded of this when Arielle was staying with me recently. We were both very sentimental and she suggested we watch each other’s screens tests,” she stated.
“I forgot the little details of it,” DeLorenzo said. “The first time that Bruce and I were ever on camera together, immediately I was Kelly. Sam Raimi’s behind the camera and has us stand next to each other to make sure that Bruce is taller. I came up to his hips,” she laughed. “I’m 5’3’’; he’s a mountain man!”
Raimi had the two facing each other and filmed close up on DeLorenzo’s face. “You don’t see Bruce’s, you just see my reaction,” she said. “I had been in the same room with Bruce for all of 30 seconds,” she added, and “he immediately makes a face when I look at him. He makes a face like he’s appalled, and I say, ‘Thanks a lot, dude.’ He says, ‘What? It’s a horror show!’ We had chemistry from the start.”
DeLorenzo summed up Campbell in a way that surprised even her. “He is a one-take wonder. He is the king of one-liners and the king of one take. Actually, that’s a great line and I can’t believe I fucking never thought of that in three seasons!” she laughed. After I expressed delight at getting an “exclusive” quote, DeLorenzo laughed again.
“See, I told you we’d turn our days around!”