EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Walking Dead’s Josh McDermitt on Eugene’s betrayal
Last week’s excellent episode of The Walking Dead was full of surprises, including Eugene’s apparent change in allegiance from Rick’s group to Negan’s Saviours.
Could Eugene be playing the long game? TVGuide.co.uk caught up with actor Josh McDermitt at London’s Walker Stalker Convention to chat about Eugene’s betrayal, filming with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and what to expect for the season seven finale.
Congratulations on the last episode! Eugene is my favourite character and it was fantastic to see him step up in ‘Hostiles and Calamities’.
Thank you! I’ve been a part of the A story many times but never by myself. Usually, Abraham or Rosita is with me and we’re all sharing a load, but to do this episode where basically it was just me was challenging. It felt a little foreign, at least as it pertains to this show for me – but I thought the episode turned out great. It was fun.
Was it daunting?
A little bit. I think it would have been harder if I had done that episode early on in my time in the show, but the fact that this was my fourth season on the show – it was challenging, but I wouldn’t say daunting.
What were your expectations going into 7B, knowing that Eugene had been taken by Negan?
Well, I was nervous – we saw what happened to Daryl! That wasn’t a good situation. Eugene was in for a lot of trouble and I think you could make the argument that he’s still in trouble – especially if he is pledging his allegiance to Negan. It’s not all puppies and roses right now.
I try not to have too many expectations for any storyline just because things change. So, I try to shed all that expectation and stick to whatever’s in front of me and try to bring some authenticity to that.
Do you think – if Eugene has changed sides – there is still room for redemption in the audience’s eyes?
What’s interesting is that I was waiting for some backlash against myself and Eugene, because some fans think the show is a documentary at times and I take the brunt of it. I was waiting for more backlash and I don’t think it really came. I’m sure some people are like ‘how could you do that to Rick’, but Rick doesn’t know yet.
I think the reason there’s not been much backlash is that fans can relate. That’s why I like Eugene, because he is one of the more human characters on the show.
They can identify, for sure. I think Eugene represents what so many of us would be in the apocalypse, just this scared, helpless person with no survival skills hoping someone protects them. I think people identify with that and the thing this show does is it raises questions about our society.
I feel like every time we turn on the news there’s another terror attack or this country’s going to war with this country – it feels like we’re on the doorstep of an apocalypse. I think people start to put themselves in the character’s shoes and think well, if this apocalypse actually happened – what character would I be?
I think people definitely did that with Eugene. I don’t think I would be able to stand up to Negan the way Daryl did. Daryl’s such a strong character, but Eugene is a strong character in other ways in that he’s able to survive by using his intelligence, not his brute strength. There’s a humanity to him that people identify with and so I think that’s why there was no backlash. I’m happy with that.
I feel like Eugene was given the carrot, while Daryl got the stick. I also feel like being in the Sanctuary suits him very well.
The great thing about Eugene is he’s able to read a room very quickly and use his intelligence to let things benefit him. I think he understood how to play the game. One question I get is he really Team Negan now or is he just playing? I don’t know. I’m not going to speculate. I told Scott Gimple, our show runner, ‘I don’t want to know’. It could be that he’s fully Team Negan and is the one that ends up killing Rick and Daryl and Carol. How crazy of a turn would that be? I would love to do that. I’m not saying I would love to kill Rick and Daryl but I would love to be this guy that you just don’t expect but all he’s doing at the heart of it is trying to survive. He’s doing exactly what Rick and the rest of the group are doing, trying to survive, you cannot blame someone for doing that.
In the last episode there was a scene with just you and Negan. What is it like filming with Jeffrey Dean Morgan? Negan is so terrifying on screen.
He is! Working with Jeff is great because he’s so giving as an actor and he does things so small when the camera’s very close. He changes everything every time. He’s definitely a leader, as an actor. He’s an amazing, tremendous guy. We’re lucky to have him on the show. I don’t know that anyone else could do Negan as well as Jeff.
Is it difficult to switch off after those scenes?
It takes a minute to come down. I think if anyone could turn it off right away, then they probably weren’t fully in it. That’s what we try and do. It’s a theme in talking about the show, we talk about having that authenticity and that truth to the performance.
So you want it to be honest really.
We want it to be honest. We talk about why this show is successful but that’s a huge reason right there. It feels real. This is a comic book, this show, but we’ve grounded it in reality. There are some moments that are fantastical and they’re from the comics and that makes sense, yes, but we’re able to ground that in some sort of humanity and honesty. We have a tiger on our show, but you go ‘OK, I buy it’.
I think that’s why you get the first-time viewers who are like ‘it’s not about the zombies, it’s about the people’ and are surprised by that.
It’s not about the zombies, it’s about the people. I’m not a horror fan. I get scared really easily, but I watch this show because it’s not about the zombies, it’s about the people.
Can you tell us anything about the season seven finale? Can you tease anything?
I think we see where this season is building to and things are starting to come together. This half of the season has been so much more hopeful, especially compared to the first half of the season. We’re moving in a direction – the train has left the station. Everybody knows where the destination is and whether or not we get there remains to be seen but there’s a lot of bumps and obstacles along the way to get to there. It’s fun to watch the journey and I think the people are really going to enjoy the rest of this half of the season. The finale is just epic. It’s gonna be great.
It’s so great to see the look in your eyes – you really believe that.
There are so many moments. This is one of these finales where you could take a step back and look at it as a whole and think ‘wow, that’s great,’ or you can look at each individual character in the finale and say ‘OK, that’s epic, that’s epic, that’s epic’. Each character has some incredible moments that I just can’t wait for people to see.
Better than last year’s finale?
Each finale is different. Last year’s finale was a good episode. I know some fans didn’t like the cliffhanger but the show always ends on a cliffhanger. If you watch the last episode from last year and the first episode of this year together, it’s a great sequence of episodes. I urge any fan, if they can emotionally, to go back and watch those two episodes together. It’s pretty incredible. [The fans] just didn’t like having to wait. I get it. We all don’t like having to wait.
The Walking Dead airs Mondays on FOX at 9pm.