As a major character on one of the most universally enjoyed television shows out there, Josh McDermitt has struck gold with his role as the odd, mullet-loving, fake-scientist Eugene Porter. ‘The Walking Dead’ is one of those shows that seems to strike a chord with everyone. Whether you love a good drama, or are in it for the blood and guts, ‘The Walking Dead’ has been delivering strong storylines and gory action scenes consistently all season. I sat down with Josh McDermitt earlier today to talk about Eugene Porter, his recent confession about “the cure,” and of course, the mullet.
TVRage: I am such a massive ‘Walking Dead’ fan, so speaking with you is really exciting for me.
Josh McDermitt: I think you’re the only one. You realize that? (laughs)
TVRage: I know, it is such a shame more people don’t enjoy the show. It is so rare to find a fan.
McDermitt: (laughs) I know, we just need all the help we can get.
TVRage: I watched the series first before deciding to pick up reading the comics because I didn’t want to spoil anything. I have not read very far into the comics because I want to be surprised every week by the new episodes.
McDermitt: I was kind of the same way, I started reading them and was like, “I’ve gotta put this down.” There’s just too much stuff that is in there that is different or has not come up yet. I like to keep it fresh and new with the show. I love the comics, they’re so great, but I did have to put them down.
TVRage: For me Eugene’s confession came as a big surprise. What has been the overall reaction you are getting from fans to Eugene’s big reveal?
McDermitt: It has been interesting. There has been several different reactions, and I feel like they are all kind of equal in their response. There are the people that are like, “Screw you, we hate Eugene!” Which is kind of funny. Then there are the people that are like, “We didn’t read the comics, but we could see it coming. We don’t like Eugene.” Then there is the people that say, “Holy crap, that came out of nowhere. We still love him though, we hope he’s okay.” It’s really funny because there was so many people beforehand saying, “This is my favourite show, please don’t cure the apocalypse because that means you are going to end the show.” Now people are like, “Screw you, man!” (laughs) I can’t win. People are starting to hate me! There seems to be some people that don’t know how to separate the actor from the character. So they are just like, “I hate you.” You probably hate Eugene, you don’t hate me. Sometimes they ask me why I chose to lie, and I’m like, “I didn’t choose to lie, that was the writers.” In the end though it just shows that people care, and that’s what I take away from it and that’s what I love. People are invested, and they care deeply about this character. I hurt them, or Eugene did in a way, and that is actually a good thing. Just don’t put flaming bags of poop on my doorstep or assault me on the subway, please.
TVRage: I felt bad for Eugene, I was not mad at him. I don’t think Eugene is a bad person, I just think that he used what skills he had to find a way to survive in that world. I think that is a very relatable position. If the zombie apocalypse actually happened, more of us would be the “Eugene’s” of the world than we’d expect.
McDermitt: Right! I love Daryl, I mean who doesn’t, and we would all hope to be Daryl. However, in all honesty, a lot of us would be like Eugene. We’d have absolutely nothing to offer and we’d just be trying to find a way to keep living. The fact is most of us don’t have the leadership skills that Rick has, or the wisdom that Hershel had, and that sort of thing. Obviously those people are going to be around, but I think the majority of people that survive would be people like Eugene; people that are not necessarily lying, but are thinking, “I am dead weight, but please keep me around!” It is kind of fun to represent that section of survivors. I think Eugene looks at people like Abraham, or Daryl, and is envious. He wants to have their survival skills and wants to know how to fight and do all the things that they do because he is kind of on his own now. Thankfully he had that conversation with Tara back in “Self Help” where he said, “If I don’t cure this thing there is no way you guys are keeping me around,” and she said, “Yeah we would, you’re our friend.” I think he gained a little confidence from that, but at the same time he doesn’t know where to go from here. How does he rebuild? A lot of people aren’t his biggest fan at this point and he needs to figure out how to do things on his own.
TVRage: Now that everyone knows, or is soon to find out, that Eugene does not actually have the key to the cure I get the impression Eugene feels he is completely useless to the group. However, he is still very smart. Do you think that is going to be his redeeming quality?
McDermitt: That is definitely the thing I hope most people take away from this character. He is an extremely brilliant individual, he’s not dumb, and it’s how he was able to lie for this long. He does toe the line of stupidity sometimes, but he is really not dumb. Lying may not have been the best thing to do, but he didn’t see any other way.
TVRage: Eugene’s confession affects the survivors that were helping him very deeply, but perhaps none more than Abraham. Do you think their relationship will ever be repaired?
McDermitt: I hope so. They have been travelling for a while. It wasn’t just that Abraham was lied to, he was betrayed. He was already going down his own path and Eugene pulled him off it and onto a new one. If they are going to reconcile it is going to take a lot. I would hope at some point they do come back together, because they don’t have a lot of friends in this world. They were certainly friends, although unlikely friends, Abraham being a muscle and Eugene being a brain. I think it all remains to be seen at this point. Right now we still need to deal with the aftermath of Abraham, in my opinion, kind of overreacting. Other people may not agree with me, but I think even Rosita thought that Abraham overreacted. It looked like he was going in for the kill and she stood there with her hand on her gun. The hope was kind of sucked out of the air for all of them, but Abraham felt it more than anyone. He had the hopes that he could save the world. Coming out of seeing his family brutally killed I think he saw Eugene as an opportunity to make sure his family didn’t die in vain. There was so much more on the line for Abraham than anyone else.
TVRage: I don’t think Eugene is going to be allowed to watch any more “peep shows” from behind book shelves after this.
McDermitt: (laughs) Yeah, I don’t think Abraham is going to say he is harmless any more.
TVRage: Eugene is obviously a bit of a strange character. Although I get the feeling he is harmless, he has some weird habits and poor social skills. Has it been a challenge to play such a puzzling character?
McDermitt: He is not very socially aware. It has been challenging because I want it to be as real as possible. I have tried to model him after people who are very socially awkward, and it has been fun to observe and do a little people watching. It is fun to play a guy who is not very self-aware. Even in his confession about his lie he was saying, “Yeah, I’m not a scientist, I lied about what was going on,” and then he goes on to say, “I also lied about my hair.” (laughs) As if that lie was just as bad as the lie about the cure. He just doesn’t get it. It has been a lot of fun to do that, but it has certainly had its challenges. Our writing staff does an amazing job at bringing this character to life so that I don’t have to do as much work as I would if maybe it was on another show. They have done all the heavy lifting for me.
TVRage: I loved the moments in “Self Help” that focused on Eugene’s mullet. I am not sure what it is about it that fascinates everyone. Are you a fan of the mullet yourself?
McDermitt: I am! It has always been something that I laughed at, but since taking on this character I have grown to appreciate the subtleties of the mullet. It is an art form for some people. I have grown to love it so much. They are doing another ‘Joe Dirt’ movie with David Spade, and I like to think that even though ‘Joe Dirt’ was a big hit for Spade and that whole crew, that Eugene’s mullet had something to do with them pulling that movie out of the vault and moving forward with it. Actually, when I was auditioning for the show we had fake scripts to work from. In that script Eugene had a mohawk. I would have loved to have a mohawk too!
TVRage: What would the first item you grab in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
McDermitt: Daryl. (laughs) I would just grab Daryl. Just grab Norman Reedus. I would hope it went down when I was next to him. You know what, I would probably try and grab a baseball bat. I don’t really have any swords or guns. They run out of ammunition anyway. If I could just find something that I could swing and use to keep walkers at a distance, that is blunt, that would be the wisest choice.
You can catch more of Eugene’s mullet on the next episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ this coming Sunday on AMC. You can follow Josh McDermitt on Twitter at @JoshMcDermitt.