BY SHARNITA MIDGETT Evil Dead fans rejoice because more of the beloved horror-comedy franchise’s patented zany gorefests is coming to a small screen near you on October 31st when a new sitcom created (along with Bruce Campbell) directed by Sam Raimi called Ash Vs Evil Dead premiers on Starz. The show features Bruce Campbell reprising his role as Ash Williams, the goofy anti-hero/chief zombie-slayer of the Evil Dead series as a war vet suffering PTSD and survivor’s guilt who gets sucked back into the war against Evil. Thank god he still has his chainsaw arm, and a new sidekick named Pablo Simon Bolivar, who is described as playing Sancho Panza to Ash’s Don Quixote. Ash’s co-sar and, presumably, eventual love interest is Detective Amanda Fischer, A Michigan state trooper, played by the beautiful and badass Jill Marie Jones. A couple weeks ago, we got to chat with Jones, who is best known for her work as Toni Childs in Girlfriends and movies such as 35 and Ticking and The Perfect Holiday. DISCUSSED: the Girlfriends movie, being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Viola’s speech about the casting difficulties women of color face in Hollywood,
JILL MARIE JONES: I wouldn’t say it’s a continuation but in a way, that it is, because the amazing Bruce Campbell is reprising his role as Ash and you kind of see where he is today all these years later. And of course there are cast members who weren’t in the movie so it’s like his life today. When you survive something- I have a friend who survived a plane crash- they have survivor’s guilt. And for him, because he lost all his friends in the original Evil Dead, he had survivor’s guilt. It shapes who he is in our show today. You see what has happened to Ash. Amanda Fischer is a Michigan State Trooper, all and all badass. That’s a word I think belongs in her vocabulary. Knows her way around a gun really nicely. She believes in good and she fights for good. And she was on a routine stop, a normal stop, something happened in Evil Dead fashion, and it changed her trajectory and her journey. Ash’s name kept getting popped up in all these scenarios and so therefore she was on the trail to get Ash. So that’s my role.
PHAWKER: That sounds really interesting. Were you an Evil Dead fan before you were cast?
JILL MARIE JONES: I definitely knew of Evil Dead before, I mean, come on, it’s iconic. I mean, Sam Raimi, come on. He is the most amazing director and producer. Just so awesome. What I love so much about Sam Raimi is that he has such an amazing touch when he’s directing. He gets the shot. He gets what he wants. But he does it with such respect, not only for the actor, but for the crew. I mean he’s a genius and it’s great when you meet someone you look up to in that way. He has just a heart of gold. He’s amazing.
PHAWKER: So, you’ve done a lot of acting roles before this, I’d like to talk a little bit about Girlfriends. Before Girlfriends, there hadn’t really been many TV shows about four beautiful, empowered African-American women gal pals. Tell me about what that show meant to you and what you think it accomplished?
JILL MARIE JONES: Oh my gosh. I mean Mara Brock Akil, Kelsey Grammer, I mean it’s life. They gave me life. They gave me life in this business to be able to express that stuff that was in there and I got to get it out and show the world that there was something else in there outside of, you know, I was always creative growing up. I didn’t know it was called art, as in writing. I remember my mom, she told me when I was 7 or 8, she said if you had something bad to say, write it down, because you get it out and you’re not being mean to people. So I started writing and that was my first artistic lesson from my mom. I did all these things. I was a dancer and I was always singing before and not knowing like, oh, that’s art. So now being able to do Girlfriends at that time, there was so much inside that I had to explore and I thank Mara Brock Akil and Kelsey Grammer for being able to help me be the conduit to get that out. We’re all still great friends and I mean, everybody wants to do a film and hopefully that happens.
PHAWKER: I heard about that.
JILL MARIE JONES: Yeah! They’re working on it right now. We’ll see what happens. But everybody’s down for it. And we love each other. They were like my family.
PHAWKER: You started out as a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, what was it like as a black female first breaking into the acting scene in 2000 and what do you think it’s like now for younger black females today?
JILL MARIE JONES: Oh my God, that’s loaded. I don’t compare Cowboys to where this is. Cowboys is its own star in my life and this is its own star in my life and it wasn’t a stepping stone for me. It’s its own life. Cowboys forever. In terms of being an actress, I’ve been very fortunate in the time that I have been acting. I’ve seen movement. Now is it as fast as I would like it to be? Eh, maybe not. But I am hopeful and over the last two years I’ve seen more diversity, not just African Americans, but everyone in general. I’ve seen more and I’m excited about that because if you really look at what this country is, I mean, it’s very diverse. I would love to see more of the people that are actually here on
PHAWKER: I follow you on Instagram so I’m aware that you were moved by Viola Davis’s speech at the Emmys, as were many other female actors. What did that speech mean to you?
JILL MARIE JONES: Oh, I mean it’s the truth. The only thing that separates anybody, just anybody in life, the only thing that separates you is opportunity. Like we’re talking about acting, we’re talking about any other job that you have, that’s the only thing that separates us. I mean if you don’t have the opportunity, even what she said about not being able to win an Emmy if those roles aren’t there for you. So we have to create those. I loved her speech. Tears were rolling down my eyes. I just, I loved it. So it’s the truth, I just think that we live in a world that should embrace us as people and it shouldn’t be race or gender. It shouldn’t be that. It should be all about love, and I loved that she said ‘The only thing that separates us is opportunity’ when it comes to this business which is the truth.