To survive the zombie apocalypse, the main players on AMC‘s “The Walking Dead” have developed certain skills, or done things they aren’t particularly proud of. Daryl mastered the crossbow, Michonne wields her swords with deadly accuracy, and Rick’s actions have caused the deaths of both friends and strangers. In Eugene Porter’s case, he lies — and not harmless, little lies, either.
Introduced in Season Four, Eugene was believed to be a scientist who knew how to reverse the effects of the zombie plague, if Abraham and Rosita could simply get him to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Along the way, the trio encountered Glenn and Tara, and eventually joined Rick’s group. Of course, when Eugene recently came clean about his ruse, it was a revelation that caught everyone off guard, and for Abraham in particular, it was a betrayal that didn’t sit very well.
Ahead of Sunday night’s episode, “Spend,” actor Josh McDermitt spoke with CBR News about Eugene’s deceptions, intentions and true level of intelligence, his character’s skill at taking out walkers and why he thinks everyone’s favorite post-apocalyptic mullethead’s time might be up sooner than later.
CBR News: Let’s start with the important stuff — when it comes to killing Walkers, how skilled a warrior is Eugene?
Josh McDemitt: I wouldn’t even put him on the warrior scale to begin with. I’m non-existent. In episode 5 of Season Five, they crash the bus and he’s out there. Everyone is dispatching and braining the Walkers all over the place, and he’s just sitting there, scared shitless. He’s sitting there with his knife, and he’s so scared. He looks over and sees a Walker about to go after Tara, and he still even hesitates. He finally mans up and goes over to help her out, and he doesn’t even stab the Walker in the brain. He gets it in the shoulder. I’m very happy he actually acted and did something instead of sitting back and letting someone die. I don’t think he wanted that on his conscience. But he’s certainly more comfortable letting the other people do the dirty work.
Did dispatching a zombie horde with a water hose boost Eugene’s confidence or just enforce he’s more of a thinker than a fighter?
That’s still his biggest asset, his biggest strength in the world. It’s funny to see comments that fans make online. They say, “Eugene is not that smart. He was lying.” I’m like, “No, he’s actually very smart. Just because he was lying doesn’t make him stupid. That’s how he was able to survive for so long. He was able to lie with such brilliance.” He’s still just a thinker. The fire hose thing came after he stabbed that Walker in the shoulder.
He’s gaining more and more confidence throughout that episode. We think, “Okay, he’s gaining the confidence. He’s going to be able to kill Walkers.” But really, he was gaining the confidence to spill the beans and admit he wasn’t actually a scientist.
A major part of Eugene’s value was that he supposedly knew about this cure in Washington. Were you surprised they didn’t milk that storyline further?
When I took the job, I knew he was lying, so, I kind of thought it would go a little bit longer. I wasn’t disappointed or anything, but I thought, “Oh, that’s ending quickly.” Then, it’s like, “What’s next?” because the show likes to do so many things differently from the comics. There’s never any guarantees when you are on the show of, “Oh, I’m going to get to do this,” or, “I’m going to live this long.” The moment he admits he’s not a scientist, I thought, “The clock is ticking right now. He could go at any moment. We don’t need the mullet. Get rid of it.”
Obviously, I would love to stay on the show until it ends. Every actor on the show wants to do that. It’s not that we’re afraid about getting a job after the fact. It’s such a fun place to go to work. Everybody is awesome. I’ve become friends with Jon Bernthal and Scott Wilson and these are people who died before I even came on. It’s still that family atmosphere. We do these conventions around the country and all hang out with each other. I’ve been on other shows. There’s not a family atmosphere like there is on “The Walking Dead.” That’s really why people want to stick around so much — they know how special it is.
Abraham wasn’t exactly thrilled by Eugene’s confession that he’s been lying about Washington. How intense was it to film that sequence, where Abraham loses it on Eugene?
It was really intense. It was fun to shoot, because that’s a place Eugene doesn’t really go to or gets to experience very often. For me, as an actor, it’s great to play around with that. Being able to shoot with not just Michael Cudlitz, but Steven [Yeun], Lauren [Cohan], Christian [Serratos] and Alanna [Masterson] was amazing. Everyone was on the same page. We all clicked together and it locked into place. I want to say we shot that scene over a couple of days — maybe it was just over one long day. I remember we broke it up. We shot the scene where Abraham grabs Eugene and walks him down the street, everyone is fighting. Abraham pushes Glenn and Rosita falls over. Eugene says, “I’m not a scientist,” and then they called, “Cut.”
Then we went to lunch and all come back with full bellies. Now, all of a sudden, I’m supposed to do my speech. There was never a, “Hey, guys. We should do this. Let’s get back on the page.” Right before they started rolling the cameras, as actors, we instinctively went back and redid that first part of the scene where Glenn comes up, Abraham pushes him and Rosita falls. It just got that energy level back up. It was exciting because we were on the same page without even having to talk about it. That’s the ultimate thing you want with an actor. You can trust them and know they have your back.
Lately, the survivors seem divided on their new home in Alexandria. Where does Eugene stand on it?
We’re going to find out. What I was thinking, before we even got to Alexandria, is, Eugene is excited about this. In previous episodes, he was saying it feels like Washington holds the best chance for survival because they have the infrastructure in place. Alexandria is outside of Washington, so this is as good as it’s probably going to get. Even though there was no cure, he still got everyone to Washington. If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be there. But I also think we’re going to explore more about how he feels about the community, as well as other people. It’s a weird place right now. It’s this odd, utopian society, but there’s this seediness where he’s like, “What the eff is going on?” As a fan, I love watching the psychological games that are being played with each character.
It appears that Eugene packs some heat in the next episode. What gets him so riled up?
I can’t tease about anything without giving things away. The Internet is abuzz again: “Eugene has a gun!” We’re going to find out why he has a gun and what it’s all about.
How does it feel to have Eugene be more active and rely on a weapon as we come to the close of the season?
This is a guy who isn’t Daryl, or Michonne, or Rick, where they feel comfortable with a gun or some sort of weapon. To be able to play with that gun and have that weird awkwardness is a lot of fun. It’s a great thing to explore with the character. Inserting him into any situation where he’s forced to step up, that’s always exciting to play with.
The episodes surrounding the finale tend to be dark. We still have the same writing staff and executive producers. This is still the same show — I don’t think it’s going to disappoint. People are going to have more questions answered with what’s going on with Alexandria. It will be fun to see where this ends up.
Eugene has a very unique appearance, to be sure, but who has it worse: Michael Cudlitz with Abraham’s moustache or you with Eugene’s mullet?
Michael definitely has it worse. I’ve embraced the mullet. He’ll tell you he’s embraced the moustache, but that dude looks so ridiculous walking around with it in everyday life. It works on the show, but when he’s at Whole Foods trying to buy produce, he looks like an idiot. I’ll even go a step further to say he has it worse because of the color of his hair. I can always pull my mullet out at the end of the day. They’re extensions, I can just throw on a hat. Michael still has bright orange hair. To his credit, he tries to ignore it, but c’mon, look at that thing. It’s disgusting.
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