Posted: 06/04/2009


Interview: Bruce Campbell of Burn Notice

by Laura Tucker

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Bruce Campbell has a long list of character roles behind him, the latest of which has been playing an FBI double agent, Same Axe, in Burn Notice. With the upcoming premiere of the third season, Bruce took time out of his shooting schedule to discuss the upcoming season, as well as some of his more popular roles.

When a caller said she was one of his biggest fans, ever since his starring role in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., the easy-going Bruce joked, “You’re the one who watched the show.” He was then asked if it was a planned effort on his part to appear in genre shows, or whether this just happened. He replied it was a little of both, like “guilt by association.” When he made his first movie thirty years ago, Evil Dead, it was successful enough to put him in that genre world right from the start. If he’d started in romantic comedies, he figures that’s how he would have then be typecast. Yet, he’s also interested in that type of material, so it all plays a part.

Asked whether the director of the Evil Dead films, Sam Raimi, would ever direct an episode of Burn Notice, Bruce replies no, because it’s done too quickly. Sam is used to shooting these “big, big, big, big, big movies,” that take 100 days or more to film, whereas they shoot Burn Notice in about seven days. It takes a quick turnaround to pull it off, and he wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Not that Bruce would give it up, though, as he enjoys doing a variety of different roles, including voicing a character in the upcoming movie, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. He thinks doing that type of work is interesting, as you record it, but don’t see it on film until a year and a half later. He likes shooting films, as the stories are more in-depth, yet he does enjoy at times how quickly TV turns it around.

As far as other projects Bruce will be involved in, contrary to popular belief, there is no sequel for Evil Dead in the works. There is a remake, but since they’ll be using young people, he’ll only be with that as a producer and playing the old guy at the bait store. Also, there will be a Bubba Ho-tep sequel, but it won’t have him in it, as he couldn’t come to an agreement with the director on the storyline. He’s been in all three Spider-Man movies, and as far as a fourth, he’ll probably be in that as well, but hasn’t heard yet. He hopes to have another book out in a few years, “Vagabond, The Gypsy Life of an Actor.” He doesn’t foresee any dream roles for himself, as he lives in a world of reality, knowing that someone like Martin Scorcese isn’t going to be calling a B movie actor like himself.

Bruce sees Burn Notice to be different form his other TV work in that they’re in Miami, which is “a completely out of the box thing for me, because I live in Oregon.” That makes it different physically, as the dynamics are different as well. He has done a spy show before with Jack of All Trades, but this is more of a modern day, realistic approach. The subject matter is also different, in that it’s a “fairly mature, adult sort of comedy/drama with no fantastic special effects.”

Burn Notice got a one year reprieve to stay in their current location after the Expo Center was almost demolished recently. If they were forced to relocate, he doesn’t want to give the impression he doesn’t like shooting in Miami, as it’s good for the show, and Miami is like one of the characters. California would be the obvious move, as it would make casting easier, and mostly everyone lives there. For a lot of other personal reasons, such as where his kids live, it would make it easier on him as well. Miami is a good spot, though, as it’s an unexploited city, as even CSI: Maimi doesn’t shoot on location..

As far as the character of Sam Axe on this upcoming season, Bruce notes we’re now past the point where we don’t trust Sam. He’s hoping he’s now a more valuable member of the team, and like Michael Westen, he’s taking the twists and turns as they come. He doesn’t see him getting married or any other personal revelation. He’s living in Michael’s mother’s house, “so he’s just kind of a permanent loser.” It’ll get worse for Michael this year, making his world a little more unstable.

There will even be a change as far as what beer they drink on the show. Personally, Bruce gave up drinking beer last March, saying he was only using it to wash his tequila down, and now he’s just a tequila guy. I’m not sure if that’s a joke or not. While they always drank a fake brand on the show, they’ll now be introducing Miller Genuine Draft 64 as a product placement. When it’s suggested that they come out with a Sam Axe body spray, he sees all advertising within shows going the same way as MGD, and figures they’d just find a way to work it into the show.

Bruce’s favorite part of playing the character of Sam is that he’s his age. He believes Golden Girls helped prove that older people can still be entertaining. He likes that none of the main characters on Burn Notice are the young, pretty face. Bruce appreciates finally playing a mature adult who’s a former Navy Seal, yet he’s just “tacking around now, he’s trying to get laid, and drink beer.” He loves that all three characters in this show are “sort of damaged goods.” He enjoys being the one with the funnier lines, as he doesn’t carry the show. Sam seems to be the voice of reason, second-guessing things.

Sam feels like “an old slipper”. He’s laid back, wearing Tommy Bahama all the time. He’s also very loyal. Bruce does wish Sam could get a job and his own place and hang onto a car. Yet at the same time, he can look up anybody, has friends for days, and always knows a guy that knows a guy. He hopes he’s just a guy you’d want to pal around with. He believes Sam reads fiction, as it takes away from the reality, and that his favorite book is Wuthering Heights. He’s a secret romantic. That’s all he can say, as “I’ll have to kill you if I tell you more”

In fact, Bruce has talked to a lot of ex-police offers who watch the show. They like the fact that Burn Notice captures the human side of spies. Everyone knows James Bond is the greedy tough guy, but no one really knows what he’s like, and no one ever really knows what his relationship is with his mother. In this show, you do get to know that. Bruce’s ex-wife is remarried to a cop, so he’d been talking to his and his buddies, and it’s their favorite show now, because they do things in an unorthodox way. They do things that are illegal, but not immoral.

Fight scenes can be fun for Bruce, but they can also be very tedious and sweat-inducing, so they take a little more effort. He blew his hamstring last year during a fight scene, so he doesn’t fight as much on the show now. They film the action sequences in little tiny pieces that get put together later on, and just hope that it will fit.

Looking at the greater fascination in movies and films about spies, such as Burn Notice, 24, and the Bourne movies, Bruce thinks Burn Notice can be separated from the rest of the pack in that they have a sense of humor. The other two mentioned here are completely humorless. He thinks people are interested in the genre as a whole, as it represents a heightened aspect of their own lives. It’s the same people who want to ride on a roller coaster; they want to get that second-hand thrill. You know spies will have the sexy ladies and be cool. We like to see explosions and gunshots and car chases, and spy shows just lead naturally into that.

Bruce also addressed how his character handles the ladies in his life. He thinks finding the women the way he does is just his special skill. It doesn’t even matter that he has no job or car or place to live. He’s obviously “doing something with or to the ladies that is very successful, which we can’t discuss here.” Asked who his sexy women are on the big and small screen, Bruce suggests Kelly Rutherford who he worked with on The Adventures of Briso County, Jr., Elizabeth Hurley, and Alyssa Milano.

While it’s tempting to ask the writers why Sam can’t do this or that, Bruce strays away from that, as it’s not about him, but Michael Western and his burn notice. He thinks what really goes on is all these kooky characters are solving problems for the little people, and their characters get revealed through that. He feels the writing has been very good. In an upcoming episode, Sam will get audited, and he likes those fun, real-life things that come into play. He prefers not knowing what’s going to happen as he reads the script.

Bruce has directed in the past, a few films, as well as episodes of V.I.P., Hercules, and Xena, but he doesn’t see himself ever directing any episodes of Burn Notice. He thinks that changes the dynamics between all the actors, as directors and actors have much different motives and goals, and he wouldn’t want his direction to impact his relationship with the other actors, which is currently very good.

Laura Tucker  is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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