Things are looking good for USA’s Burn Notice: Its season-five ratings are healthy, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) has been unburned, and earlier this year, viewers got to meet a pre-Miami Sam Axe in the network’s TV movie, The Fall of Sam Axe. Cult B-movie icon Bruce Campbell (he of Evil Dead fame) plays Axe, a mojito-sipping, Hawaiian-shirt-sporting ex-Navy Seal, on the hit drama. We spoke with him ahead of tonight's episode about what’s in store for Sam this season, how he shed twenty pounds for the prequel, and why he still geeks out over Comic Con.
There have been some big changes for Michael Westen this season. What effect does his new unburned status have on Sam?
It will be a little bit negative, actually. Matt Nix planted a seed in the Sam Axe TV movie earlier this year, when Sam got in trouble with a couple of CIA guys. According to the CIA, Sam screwed them over. That’s completely not true, but that’s how they remember it, and now these two guys who were field operatives wear suits and make administrative decisions. So Michael Westen is back in with the CIA, but soon you’ll see it’s not going to bode well as far as their cooperation with Sam.
We know that Sam has a fancy new girlfriend. What can you tell me about her?
You’ll never see her! The writers are very cleverly using her for money and cars and houses and stuff. It’s always handy to have a girlfriend, though. I think it’s kind of funny that he always refers to this controlling girlfriend, but you never see her. They just cut to her and you see a cat in her lap, or you see her nails, or you see her from behind. But she’s some incredibly rich, powerful woman.
Ratings for the season-five premiere were up 20 percent from last year’s fall premiere. What do you think was responsible for the jump?
Oh, the Sam Axe TV movie. That put us over the top. [Laughs.]
It was all you.
No, I’m kidding. You know what it is? I think they were smart doing the Sam Axe movie, because you could do a spinoff movie about Fiona and how she got to Miami. You could do a movie about how Michael got burned. Let’s see his last full adventure. I give the producers credit for expanding the show, and I give USA credit for staying interested in it, because even a network can get distracted. It’s easy for them to focus on somebody else, but they’ve been really good to us, treating us like we’re one of their tentpoles.
You’ve starred in plenty of movies, but how did it feel to headline in the Burn Notice world for The Fall of Sam Axe?
Oh, it was good. And it was a good idea to get Jeffrey Donovan to direct it. The one thing about actors is that we get bored. We’re human, and we like doing different stuff. The Sam Axe movie was a way to keep me pretty interested in the show. And Jeffrey Donovan’s a good director. He did an episode of Burn Notice last season that I liked. I was in it a lot, so he directed me and I enjoyed that relationship. When the Sam Axe movie came up, I was like, "Hey, what about this Donovan guy?" So he got to work another side of his brain and really invest himself in the show.
You had to lose some weight for the role. Did you do anything crazy to get there?It’s no big mystery. I did everything that everyone tells you to do, and I came up with a routine that didn’t piss me off. I’ve worked out for movies for 30 years. I get it. I’ve had trainers and all that. But in the last ten years I moved up to Oregon and was living the country life, not the actor’s life. So now it’s like, Okay, I’ve got all these mountains around me, I guess I better start climbing them. I hit the hills with a buddy of mine every day for about two months. Climbing a 4,000-foot peak, that’ll take care of you. By the time you get up and get back, you’ve walked for six hours. And, you know, you eat mostly brightly colored vegetables that don’t come in packages. It’s 101. You take your Fred Flintstone meat portions and you cut them way down to a special treat. A special treat this week! Meat!
The USA programming chief has called you the Bruce Springsteen of Comic Con. Are you going headed there later this month?
What are you most looking forward to?
I love the fact that five or six years ago, you couldn’t have gotten Charlize Theron to go to that thing to save her life. Jamie Foxx at Comic Con? Are you crazy? That’s for geeks, isn’t it? Well, good old Comic Con, they’ve grown and grown, and in these four-day periods, something like 120,000 people are going to shuffle through that convention center. It’s gone from nerds trading comic books in a hotel basement to pop culture.
My link to my past doesn’t hurt, either. I don’t deny it — I still go to conventions. I go to horror conventions and sci-fi conventions. I have no intentions of denying my genre past, because I’m sure there will be plenty of genre in my future.
Speaking of which, a year ago you confirmed there would be a sequel to My Name Is Bruce. What’s the status of that?
Well, the script sucked. We’ve got to start all over again. Your script is your blueprint. If your blueprint is off, your building is going to be, too. In the old days, I wouldn’t have even known what a bad script was. But now I have a better idea and I know that you actually can’t fix a bad script. With a great script, you can get a lousy actor and he’ll still be good in it. But a lousy script, you can get Laurence Olivier and it’ll still suck. So we’re working on it. We don’t want to piss people off. You make a sequel, people have expectations.