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The Walking Dead: Josh McDermitt on if Eugene has gone to the dark side

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SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the Feb. 26 episode of The Walking Dead, “Hostiles and Calamities.”

Eugene! What are you doing?!? Seriously, what are you doing?

That’s because it seems impossible to know for sure after Sunday’s “Hostiles and Calamities” episode of The Walking Dead. On one hand, it appears that after being given a nice room, an Atari 2600 console, the company of women, a seemingly unlimited supply of pickles, and the ability to steal a bedpan, that Eugene switched sides and professed his loyalty to Negan in no uncertain terms.

But is Eugene on a power trip and responding to the luxuries and confidence showered upon him, or is he merely playing the part to gain the enemy’s trust and really working as a double agent within the Sanctuary walls? (Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?) We got a hold of the man who plays him, Josh McDermitt, to ask him exactly that. McDermitt also talked about brushing up on his Atari skills, that super awkward reunion with Dwight, and having the crew burst out laughing while he attempted not to burst into flames. Click through both pages to read the entire interview.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last time I saw you a few months back, you freaked out because I was wearing a Yars’ Revenge T-shirt to honor my favorite Atari 2600 game. Now I know why, because Yars’ Revenge is all over this episode. How much playing of the game did you actually get to do?
JOSH McDERMITT: Well, while we were shooting, it was only on like a 90-second loop, something like that. We had a whole team of — this is how bad the industry’s gotten — we had a team of special effects people to run the Yars’ Revenge loop on a TV for Eugene. But the thing that I was able to finagle was, they were like, “Okay, so we’re going to have this game on a loop so you’re not going to have to know how to play it or anything,” and I’m like, “What? I think you should get an Atari and I should play it. I mean, I need to be truthful in my performance!” So I went down to set for like two days in a row and didn’t just play Yars’ Revenge. I was playing Pitfall and Moon Patrol, and Pac-Man. I played all the classic Atari games. I was going nuts, man. It was so great.

Pitfall was my other favorite.
I’ll tell you this: Not to knock Pitfall, but it does not hold up. It wasn’t as good as I remembered. I was like, “This is too easy!” I remember as a kid I was like, “This is the hardest thing in the world I will ever do!”

So here’s the big question that everyone’s going to be asking at the end of the episode: Has Eugene gone over to the dark side?
Well, I’m getting dodgy on that, Dalton. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

You mean you don’t know, or you know but aren’t going to tell us?
I have ideas, but I’m not going to share those. These are secrets that I need to keep as an actor. Because everyone was asking me, even on set, they’re like, “WHOA!” Andrew Lincoln said it was one of his favorite episodes of the series. He would call me or text me just about every day. He’s like “Really, seriously, what’s up? Has Eugene crossed over?” I told him I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I even told [showrunner] Scott Gimple, “Don’t tell me, because if I know then I’m going to start playing that kind of direction and I don’t want to.”

I would rather it be a surprise because this was a huge surprise at the end of the episode. When he says “I’m Negan,” I pushed my script back and I threw my arms in the air and went, “YES!” It was such a surprise for me. I loved that, and I want that to be a surprise for everyone else. If I know, then I will start leaning into that a little bit. This is all boring actor talk. The people don’t care. They just want to know if Eugene is playing Negan or not. I get it. I’m not revealing it.

What’s also interesting, though, is that he doesn’t just say, “I am Negan.” He doesn’t even let Negan finish his whole what’s-your-name question. He just goes in and he goes all in with no hesitation.
Well, that’s the thing. He’s struggled with confidence in certain areas of his life as long as we’ve known him. This is probably the most confident thing he’s ever done, is to cut Negan off in the middle of his sentence to say this. It’s interesting. Negan’s got a bat to his face again and he’s very intimidating, and here Eugene just steps up and says it. I love it, man. I’m worried about the backlash from the fans, but we’ll see what happens. I feel like I just got over the fact that he didn’t have the cure to the apocalypse. We’re going to go through this. I’m like, oh jeez!

Is there a moment where it crystallizes for him? What about that scene where he’s patiently waiting in line for cold medicine, decides to skip the line, gets yelled at and told to go back, starts to go back, pauses and then plays the whole “Don’t you know who I am?” card? And then he just starts taking everything.
He had been told several times since he got to the Sanctuary that, “You’re one of us now. These people, they eat s—, you eat good.” The savior who was taking him around — I don’t know if her name was established, but the savior’s name is Laura — Laura is telling him, “Hey, you are not these people.” It’s taken a while for him to realize that, so he’s standing in line trying to get the ingredients he needs to make this little death pill and realizes, this is taking forever. These people are just chatting about poker night and all this stuff.

He’s going to step up and get what he needs in a Eugene fashion, but then there was something written in the script that I don’t know if it got edited out or not, but this was kind of the moment for him. He walks away from that table and he looks over to the right and he sees some saviors kind of laughing at him, and he has this moment of like, they don’t believe I’m one of them, and if this is true, if I am actually part of their group now, I need to step up. Not just show them, but prove to myself and prove to everyone else that I am going to be Negan. I am someone who needs to be respected. And so he just walks up and does it and it’s a turning point for the character because I think there’s still that hesitation for him everywhere he goes.

But in that moment — boom, he steps up. Everything is great, and then I love that he’s grabbed the bedpan and the fly swatter and he’s grabbed all the blister packs and he’s got the little stuffed animal. He just grabbed a bunch of stuff and this is a very empowering moment for him and very important for the rest of his arc there.

What I love about the character of Eugene is he’s got both those sides, where he’s so timid and cowardly at some points, you could say, and other times he’s just super cocky. We’ve seen that before from him.
He’s always been very cocky and arrogant in certain areas of his life. His intelligence, his game, you know, he spits game with women. I mean, this guy thinks he’s Matthew McConaughey. He’s not — but he thinks he is. That’s why I always like watching him interact with women on a romantic level, or at least from his point of view, because he always crashes and burns, but in his mind, he’s like yep, that went well. He has no idea. He always just lacks those social cues.

So he has that arrogance and the cockiness, as you say, in certain areas, and now we’re starting to see it bleed over into other areas of his life or his personality, and I think it’s only a good thing for him. He’s a man who’s had to change and adapt to survive throughout every turn of this apocalypse, and this is what he’s continuing to do.

NEXT: The awkward reunion with Dwight, and getting laughed at by the crew