[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Twice as Far” episode of The Walking Dead.]
The survivors of The Walking Dead have to be constantly concerned with being on the receiving end of a bite from zombies. Rarely are they the ones doing the actual biting. However, Eugene took matters into his own hands — well, mouth really — during Sunday’s episode when he chomped into Dwight’s man region to help Daryl, Rosita, and Abraham escape from the Saviors after Denise was shot dead.
However, that was only one of Eugene’s big moments in the episode. Josh McDermitt already hilariously clued us into what Eugene was up to in Alexandria while everyone else was off battling the Saviors. Now, he made up for lost time by discovering a factory for making ammunition that could prove pivotal for any looming war, while also displaying newfound confidence with some strong words for the protective Abraham. We spoke with McDermitt to get all the intel on Eugene’s entry into stage two, and the actor reveals a clever cast prank meant to honor his big bite.
(Click through both pages to read the entire interview. Also make sure to check out our episode Q&A’s with Merritt Wever (Denise) and Austin Amelio (Dwight). And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, normally I would try and go through things somewhat chronologically. That usually seems to be the way do it. But when you have a scene of one man attempting to bite off another man’s penis, that sort of demands immediate attention, so maybe we should start right there.
JOSH McDERMITT: Yeah, you can’t save that for the end. That’s the elephant in the room. You need to talk about it. We certainly took a bite out of this episode. [Laughs.] That was obviously ripped from the comic book pages, and it’s something I had been looking forward to for a long time. [Showrunner] Scott Gimple likes to remix things and do new storylines, give characters different bits and pieces of other people’s storylines just to keep fresh and come up with new stuff, as well. The crotch — the “junk bite,” I think as it was called in the writer’s room — that was something that I had been lobbying for since season 4.
So you’re like, “Dude, I need to be totally crotch biting on this show?”
Yeah, it’s such an iconic moment from the comics, and I said, “That’s just going to be good TV.” Fortunately, we got a great actor named Austin Amelio to play Dwight, and I don’t know if he knew when he took the job that I was going to biting his crotch, but hey, he rolled with it, and we had some fun. It was certainly a tense, high-stakes moment in the story, but we had a lot of fun with it on set. Norman Reedus got a hotdog truck the day we were going to do that, and I know Christian Serratos was a part of that, as well, and we were just kind of cracking jokes, and making light of a pretty intense situation as much as we could.
What do you mean they got a hotdog truck?
They actually got a hotdog truck! We need snacks on set sometimes, so Norman thought it would be funny to get some wieners out there for when we’re biting wieners. Everybody was biting wieners.
What sort of direction were you given in terms of how to approach this act of Eugene digging his face into Dwight’s crotch?
Well, Austin Amelio and I certainly practiced a lot in his trailer with the door closed, and it was pretty much like, “Don’t hurt yourself.” I think that is what they were more worried about because he wore a harness on his hips, and then he had a cup over his prized possession there, and so they were worried that I was going to ram my face into the cup or something like that. He had a little piece coming out of his jeans that was like a rope that I would bite onto. And so the very first take… it’s a delicate thing, you don’t just chomp down, you got to kind of nuzzle up there and…[starts laughing]. This sounds so…Dalton, I can’t…this is like the last conversation I expected to be having with you today. It just sounds so sexual! I don’t mean for it to be, but you get up there, and it’s delicate, and you want to treat the man right.
You want to treat the man right?
[Laughing] I am 12 years old. I am sorry. You got to get up there. You can’t just bite down immediately. You have to get up there, and make sure your teeth get on the rope that you’re supposed to bite, and everything is going to be perfect. And in the very first take that we did it, I went to bite, and I think he thought I got a hold of the rope already so he thrust his hips forward, and arched his back, and was screaming “Ow! Ow!” But I wasn’t on yet, and the cup knocked me in the teeth, and I thought a few of my teeth had fallen out. So it was pretty… that’s a dangerous show to shoot. Things come up that you’re not expecting. Everyone was worried about Austin, obviously, and then once he had the protective cup on, they’re like, “Well, Josh. You don’t hurt yourself,” but I ended up doing it anyway because I’m an idiot.
Once you did all your close-ups, your wide shots, your reverse angles…ballpark this for me, how many takes do you think you did this?
We probably did five or six takes of me actually biting down on the rope, biting his crotch. There were a bunch of takes that we did where I wasn’t biting, but my face was still buried in his crotch just in case the camera swings around, they need to see something, but this is a little bit more of a wide shot. My head and Austin’s crotch are good friends.
Now, do you feel at this point, Josh, that we have focused too much on the crotch biting, or not enough?
In the interview or in the show?
In the interview.
On the show, I don’t think you could do enough of it, but I think we might have covered it.
Okay, just checking. So let’s get into some other stuff now. Eugene and Abraham go on this field trip, and Eugene tells him “The key to survival is allowing oneself to be shaped by the environment. I’ve changed. Adapted. I’m a survivor.” Is he overestimating his abilities a bit here?
I don’t think he is. I think he certainly understands that he is still not an Abraham, or a Daryl, or Michonne in terms of physical strength and agility and things like that, but he certainly has the confidence at this point, which started way back in the midseason premiere when they were clearing the walkers out of Alexandria. Rosita said to him, “Look. You don’t have to do this.” He said, “No, I do. No one gets to clock out today.”
That’s when he finally got the confidence to step up and to do this thing, something that we’d been waiting for, for a couple of seasons, and it’s exciting to see him continue that, and to have that confidence be tested. I don’t think that he’s overestimating himself. Now, he certainly needs to show someone like Abraham that he can do this. He doesn’t want Abraham’s help. Look at that walker that he was trying to kill in the machine shop. That’s a difficult walker for anybody. I’m not going to count Eugene out just because he couldn’t kill that one walker, and I do believe he had that situation under full control, as he said.
You do believe? You think that if Abraham doesn’t come in there to finish the job, Eugene’s going to take care of it?
Eugene eventually uses his brain to take care of it, I think. Eugene’s a lot smarter than me. I would maybe trip the walker, and get him on the ground, and then grab the stake or the piece of rebar, and jam it up through the head to kill him. There’s other ways. He tried with the machete. He tried bashing the metal off of the head up against the cauldron. That didn’t work. He’s trying things, and that’s what you need to do. You need to fall off the bike in order to learn how to ride it sometimes. Unfortunately, though, in this world when you fall off the bike, you die. I think that’s why Abraham felt like he needed to step in at that point.
He also could’ve tried the old “your shoelace is untied” trick.
“You’ve got something on your shirt.” WOOP! And then run his finger up the guy’s face.
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A little distraction never hurts anyone. But we see Abraham does get in there to finish the job, and it’s one thing for Eugene then to say something like, “Hey, I’m a more capable guy. You have to let me do this on my own.” But instead he says, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me.” Those are some seriously harsh words. What’s going on there?
It’s very harsh. It’s an incredible breakup scene. We just saw Abraham and Rosita breakup, and now Eugene is breaking up with Abraham. It was nice to watch those parallels because both of those scenes were harsh to the other person, but yeah, he says, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me,” in that I don’t need you to protect me anymore. I don’t need to be the guy standing in the background awkwardly while you run out and kill all the walkers for me.
I think Eugene wants to be counted as a companion, like someone who is fighting side by side with Abraham. That’s why it took him by surprise when Abraham left and he said, “Where are you going?” because it wasn’t like, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me. Why don’t you go home?” It’s like, “Your usefulness to me in the past was you would kill all these walkers for me and protect me. I don’t need you do that anymore. We can fight side by side together now,” and it was certainly very harsh, but I don’t think Eugene was aware that it was going to be taken as it was.
NEXT: Eugene on his relationship with Rosita and what’s coming next[pagebreak]
We even then see it again at the very end. Abraham tells him, “Welcome to stage two,” then you say back, “Don’t need to welcome me. I’ve been here a while.” He’s become a cocky son of bitch, this guy.
He is very confident at this point, and he’s always had confidence in his intelligence, and in the things he thinks through, and he’s certainly been thinking through the different stages of survival. And he knows he’s been in stage two for a while, because we had that time jump between when they cleared out the walkers in Alexandria and where we are now. It is a couple months later, and so yeah, Eugene’s been there for a while. He’s helping out. He’s doing gate duty, and guard duty, and he’s sending Daryl and Rick on a run to find sorghum. He’s certainly asserting himself and trying to figure out how he can move this community forward, not just survive, but move it forward, and make it vibrant, and working again. And he just certainly has the confidence and he’s been there a while.
I do love the confidence and the arrogance that he has. That’s something that when we were putting the character together way back when I was auditioning for it that Scott Gimple was looking at way back when, and this is season 4. That was something he said: “This guy is very cocky. There’s an arrogance about him.” And not in that douchey way, but just in the “I’m very capable when it comes to my intelligence, and you better not question me.” And I love it when we get play those moments, because he may be a wimp, but he’s still kind of cocky, and that’s just a fun character to play.
When I saw Eugene and Abraham take off together at the beginning of the episode, I got very, very worried. In the television show we see that arrow go through Denise’s head. In the comic, however, it’s Abraham that gets that arrow. Was there any talk about that? Was Cudlitz pretty psyched that he wasn’t on the receiving end of that arrow?
Yeah, I think Cudlitz was a little worried about it just because he knew that that could be coming at that point, but that’s the great thing that Scott Gimple does, as you know, he remixes storylines and he tells new storylines. Daryl’s not even in the comics, so the whole fact that Dwight and Daryl are interacting with each other, all bets are off. We don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s how we keep the audience guessing and how we keep things fresh.
It was certainly sad to lose someone like Merritt Wever, who we were all excited when she joined the cast, because I’ve been a big fan of hers for a while back when she was on Nurse Jackie, and to lose her, it’s like, “Oh my gosh. This is very sad.” But then also I feel kind of selfish saying, “Well, I’m happy she took Abraham’s death, because that means we get to hang out with Cudlitz even longer.” It’s a harsh show to shoot. We become friends with people, and then they’re taken from us. Fortunately, we stay friends afterwards. We have to deal with that, though, and move on.
It’s sort of rough for Eugene, because he got shot and yet the doctor just got taken out. At least he’s got the drugs, but still, bad timing.
Well, thankfully, we had those antibiotics. I was talking to someone about this, and they had said, “Oh, well Eugene… he just got grazed by a bullet. It’s no big deal” and it’s like, “You go get grazed by a bullet and tell me your body doesn’t go into shock because you just bit a man’s crotch, and you’ve been taken hostage, and all these horrible things are happening you. You tell me you’re going walk away from that like everything’s fine.” This is something that Eugene is having to become accustomed to, that things could go wrong. It easily could’ve been Eugene who died and not Denise in this episode, and that’s just the danger of this world, so I’m just very excited that we get live to fight in another episode, and we’ll see what happens from there.
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What about the relationship between Eugene and Rosita, because in the comic they get very close after the Abraham break-up, yet here on the show we see her with Spencer, so that was a little bit of a surprise.
I so badly wanted Eugene to be in the doorway watching.
Yeah, I so wanted that in the worst way. I think Eugene is the type of guy who’s girl-crazy and would love to settle down with anyone, including Rosita, but I think their relationship at this point is more of a brother/sister sort of thing. Sure, she’s the sister that he’d like to have sex with, but that’s about it. That’s probably where it’s going to end, especially if she’s hooking up with Spencer at this point. The guy cooks a mean beef stroganoff.
Can’t compete with that.
Eugene would like to be with him, too.
Okay, let’s look ahead now a little bit. Andrew Lincoln said it’s the only time ever in his six seasons he was late to work because he was so disturbed when he read that season finale script. Lauren Cohan said she didn’t even want to go to work that day. That’s how rough it was. Clearly, we know Negan’s showing up, and we know things are going to get pretty dark. What can you say about that in the next two weeks?
I thought it was a chipper episode, a very happy episode to read. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Maybe we read a different script. No, I echo those sentiments. I threw the script across the room. These last eight episodes are very dark, and they’re some of the best episodes the show has done, and I’m very thankful and excited to be a part of it. But at the same time, when I look at it from a fan’s perspective, my mouth is open wide and I’m just like… I don’t have words. These episodes certainly sit with you for a while, and I don’t know that I will love that.