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Bruce Campbell 'Burn Notice' Q&A: 'Seven seasons would be perfect'

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Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe in 'Burn Notice'

© Channel 5 / Glenn Watson/USA Network

Bruce Campbell is without doubt a legend. Movies such as Maniac Cop and Bubba Ho-tep - plus TV shows like Hercules and Xena - have won the cult icon with the epic chin a legion of fans. And, of course, there's his role as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead film series...

But since 2007, Campbell has been pulling in a whole new crowd with his performance as quick-witted womaniser, covert operative and ex-Navy SEAL Sam Axe in the TV series Burn Notice - which returns to 5* on Wednesday, August 22.

Digital Spy had the privilege of speaking with Bruce about his role as Sam, the appeal of Burn Notice and how long he thinks the show should last...

How much of your own personality do you put into the character of Sam?
"A fair amount, a fair amount. It's probably the closest to me I've ever played."

Your co-star Gabrielle Anwar (Fiona) called you "the king of improv" - do you like to improvise a lot when you're shooting?
"You know what, it all depends on what's happening. It depends on the environment, it depends on whether it's encouraged, it depends on whether it's needed. Sometimes a writer will set up a scenario but they haven't written all the words. It's just the way it lays out.

"In Burn Notice we have to stall a lot, we have to create diversions and sometimes when you finally get to shooting the actual episode, you find out you need more than what's there [in the script]. So I'm happy to jump in on that and do that.

"But you know... I don't wake up in the morning shaking my fist to the sky thinking 'I will ad-lib today!' I've had plenty of days where I've stuck to every single word because I don't think it's necessary. But I've worked on other TV shows where I didn't use a single word of the original script for the entire day!

"Some writers are very precious with their words and they don't want you to change anything but others just want to see it work, they don't care what it takes. To me, that makes more sense - we're all involved in this and we all do our part. And the goal is to make a given scene work. But if the writing's good, the actors don't have to do anything."

Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe in 'Burn Notice'

© Channel 5 / Glenn Watson/USA Network



Burn Notice can sometimes get quite dark. Do you think it's important to have Sam there providing the humour?
"Well, I think there is gallows humour in the situations. It's kind of like when I went to Iraq in '09 to see the troops - there's a lot of humour. When they're not getting shot at, these guys want to have a good time. So I think that's the truth of it - if you're stuck on a stakeout for hours and hours you're going to talk about something other than the mission.

"So that's what appealed to me about Burn Notice. It's wasn't about the mission; it's about the people behind the mission. Who are they? What's their deal? They're all damaged goods, which I really like. Sam would rather be chasing rich women and drinking beer... that appeals to me.

"It's not just a steely-eyed guy saying one-liners and then blowing up a car - they doubt each other, they argue. It makes more sense how they've written this show. We do preposterous stuff - make no mistake - but the reason I think the show works is... it's not a jaded show. The bad guys are always gonna get it - if you're a bad guy we will get you! Some guys can take two episodes, some guys can take a year but we're gonna get you!

"So I think that's a little bit of it... putting on the comfortable shoe. It's a glass-half-full kind of show in that we're all in it for the greater good. We're very loyal to each other, we have a lot of good traits, but I love the fact that on top of that we're real people, we make mistakes. I'm not interested in a straight action show - that really doesn't appeal to me. That's why I really don't see that many action movies - they don't look entertaining, I'm not really interested."

Last year on top of the regular season we had the TV movie The Fall of Sam Axe - do you think we'll ever see another Sam spin-off movie?
"Never say never - it was really fun to be able to do that, that there was enough interest in doing it and that we just figured out a time and a place and a way to do it. I hope [we do another] because I enjoy exploring the character more and this was a chance to see what he was like five years earlier... when he was thinner with darker hair!"

Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe in 'Burn Notice'

© Channel 5 / Glenn Watson/USA Network



Do you think there are more elements to Sam's past that can be explored?
"Oh absolutely! But you could do the same origin story with Fiona. I'd like to see what her last mission was - when she was in her ass kicking prime, what was she up to? How nasty did she get?

"Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) - the same thing, what went down to burn him? What mission was he on? And then at the end of that TV movie, he'd be burned and it would end. I want to get back into that. You can conceivably do that about each character."

You have fans for so many different things, but do people approach you now to talk about Burn Notice?
"Yeah, well what happens sometimes is they won't realise that that old guy made movies like 30 years ago! People will discover me retroactively sometimes. It's so easy to look up an actor now and see what they've done in the past. I'll drag people back who didn't know I was in Evil Dead movies.

"Also, Burn Notice has more women fans. Evil Dead is mostly guys, but women seem to like Burn Notice because of the strong female character - for whatever reason, they're a little more into it. Plus Sam is a little more of a sexy character than Ash. Ash is just kind of an idiot. Sam actually speaks in full sentences! I think that's more appealing to women."

You've done TV shows in the past, but this is the longest you've been on one series...
"It is. It's also the longest I've been a regular - Hercules and Xena both lasted six seasons but I came and went as a director and as an actor. But in this, I'm showing up almost every day."

How long can you see yourself playing Sam at that level?
"I'm good, I'll take season seven. We're halfway through six now. I'll go seven seasons... that's all you need to tell. That's plenty of stories. That's plenty."

Do you feel like seven seasons would be a good length for the show then?
"Oh yeah, seven would be perfect. Once you get to eight, people want too much money, people get tired and get crabby. You're going to lose an actor... some guy is going to hold out for too much money. It always gets complicated.

"But we're still kind of happy to be there. If we knew the seventh season was the last one, then you could really gear yourself towards that - for that seventh and last season, you're really going for it."

Burn Notice season four begins on Wednesday 22nd August at 9pm on 5*.

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