Can you believe Eugene?
The self-confessed coward on The Walking Dead found the courage to not run away like many of the people from Alexandria would (cough, Nicholas, cough) and save not only Tara, but ultimately, Glenn and Nicholas on The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 14.
I recently spoke with actor Josh McDermitt on the phone about Eugene’s major decision on the most recent episode, the influence of being in Rick’s group, and his take on a Halloween-themed episode.
Read on for excerpts from the interview…
So what’s been the best part about playing Eugene?
I feel like the best part, honestly, is that this guy has so much room to grow as a person. I mean look at how he started when we first met him in The Walking Dead Season 4. [Now] he’s building courage and stepping up. Yeah, he’s a coward, but at least he’s manning up like some of the other people in the group would do.
I just feel like there’s so much more room for him to grow, and it’s exciting to be able to talk about that growth as opposed to just going, “Oh, yeah, he’s just kind of a weird member of the group.” It’s exciting we’ve turned this corner [for Eugene].
Were you surprised when you read the script that Eugene didn’t just cut and run and instead helped out at the warehouse in The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 14?
Yeah, I was surprised. I mean he’s still a coward, and he says that in the first part of the episode, and it’s funny because now he’s living behind these walls and he has to go outside, and he’s like, “I told you I’m not good out here. I’m doing great back there, and you guys are suited for this.” So for him to be the unlikely hero, and it’s great for people to say that he saved Tara, but he saved everyone. He wasn’t able to save Noah, but he saved Glenn, Nicholas. So, it’s real exciting to be able to turn the corner for this character the way he did.
Do you think he would have made the same decision if he was a part of the Alexandria group instead of Rick’s group?
I think you end up being a product of your environment in this world. I mean look at the cannibals [from Terminus]. They didn’t start out as cannibals. it was more of necessity, and that’s kind of what they became. The Alexandrians, you know, it’s hard not to knock them, but that’s what they do. So definitely if Eugene started out in Alexandria, No. 1, he wouldn’t be on a run, but if he was, most definitely he would be leaving people behind.
And if Eugene was still a part of this group and just with the Alexandrians on this run, he may not have had the courage [to stay and help]. He’s certainly finding the courage with Tara and getting some confidence being with Glenn, and those sorts of people. If he had just turned out like Aiden and Nicholas, he probably would have been just like them.
Do you think his stepping up will be a one time thing, or if he does step up again, will it be just as tough for him as the first time?
I think that remains to be seen, but I would hope he would do it again. I hope it’s not a one time thing, because you do need to end up contributing whether you’re in the large group or you’re in Rick’s group. A major component is his change in confidence.
I mean, even when he was sitting outside in the van and Nicholas came back around, and [Eugene] got out real quick and shut the van off, him saying we’re not leaving till the others come. That’s a completely different Eugene than we’ve ever seen. I think Eugene saw it was beneficial to step up, and I would hope most definitely that he does that again.
Are you ever worried when you get the scripts that you’re character is next on the list to die?
Obviously that’s in the back of your mind, but you know, if you continue to focus on that, you take your mind of this great thing, this great experience that we’re having in Georgia. I would rather just focus on the good time, and if it comes time for me to die, it comes time for me to die. I don’t want to live this life focusing on that.
Have a fun behind the scenes story about working on the most recent episode?
It was a pretty rough day when we were shooting, and the whole warehouse scene spanned two separate days. That’s rare that we take that long to shoot one thing. It’s such a big sequence, and in the middle of it, we had the Today show come down and had Natalie Morales interview us. And of course, we’re all covered in blood and we have to clean up just to go talk to her.
And it was funny because she hadn’t even seen any of these episodes, and I don’t even think it had aired yet that Eugene wasn’t a scientist, so I did this whole interview, with a little bit of blood on me, trying to put on this face of “Oh, Eugene, he’s got the cure. He’s a scientist.” I don’t think they used any of that on the Today show, but it was funny that we had to hide ourselves from them and still be excited [about something viewers hadn't seen, but we knew about].
Is it tough keeping The Walking Dead secrets from friends?
Yeah, it is tough because No. 1, I’m a fan of the show. I know everything before other people do, and I get excited and I think, “Oh man, I wish I could just tell them.” I know they would be geeked up, but I know I’d get sued and killed off quickly [on the show]. I don’t want to jeopardize that. I’m always having to think in conversations about, “how can I say this without spoiling.” Even the mere fact of “are we shooting last week” is a spoiler because it means, oh, he is still alive. You’ve got to be careful, so yeah, it is tough.
Did you read the graphic novels?
When I was in the middle of the audition process, I picked up the graphic novels and started reading them. It was such a quick read and a nice jumping off point, not just for this character, but for the show. I was able to use that as a foundation and fill in a lot of the gaps on my own. I’m such a huge fan of this world and what Robert Kirkman’s created, and I look forward to his other projects, especially this new The Walking Dead companion series. That’s just awesome, and I can’t wait to see.
Do you think at some point, way down the road, those two shows might intersect?
I honestly don’t know. I haven’t read the script, and I don’t know the storyline or the timeline of when its taking place. I wouldn’t put it past Kirkman and company and AMC to mix the two, but then again, they could go on and not do that. I think it would be fun to see Eugene pop up on their show and be able to play a different side of the character than we’ve seen on The Walking Dead.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, do you think we’ll ever see the characters on The Walking Dead celebrate something like St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween?
Yeah, I could see like a Halloween special, you know, where they take Carl dressed as a zombie, but in fact, it’s a real zombie, and he ends up taking out Carol and Abraham or something like that. That would be kind of funny.
What can we expect to see with these final two episodes of the season?
I think we’re going to see Eugene kill everybody. No, I mean, I think a lot of fans are asking about what’s going to happen in the finale, and I can’t really say anything, but AMC did make an announcement that the finale is 90 minutes long. We bumped it up an hour, so read into that however you want. I think that’s only a good thing.
Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.