'It's definitely hard on him,' the actor tells EW. 'He's trying to survive.'
Talk about breaking bad. Eugene had a hard time redeeming himself with the group on The Walking Dead after his Human Genome Project lie was revealed. But he did. Which is what made his recent turn to the dark side so painful to watch.
Of course, it also led to some great work from the man who plays him, Josh McDermitt. McDermitt’s sudden switch of allegiance to Negan gave the actor some meaty material in season 7, and he more than delivered the goods. We spoke to McDermitt to get his take on Eugene’s traitorous decision as well as what to expect when season 8 premieres Oct. 22.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So first off, how many times are we going to see Eugene cry this season?
JOSH McDERMITT: Not enough. But I think I’m good with never crying again in my life. Norman had a season when he was in tears all the time and he was like, “Man, this sucks.” Because you kind of have to live in that headspace. You see everyone else on set able to go from laughing and joking and having a good time to switch on the badassery that their character embodies, but then I can’t joke around then because I have to stay in this melancholy mood.
It’s like I’m listening to like Smashing Pumpkins and the Cranberries and just all these songs from the ’90s and my angsty youth. And that’s kind of where I am now in my head, and I’m like, “This sucks! Man, Norman you’re right!” Meanwhile, he’s over there dancing a jig going, “I don’t have to cry, I feel great!”
But you at least got to do some meaty stuff last year.
I think we have like 112 cast members now that appear as regulars. I think we’re trying to beat Game of Thrones in that sense. And a lot of times when you have that much cast, people can get lost in the shuffle. But with this show, they still allow you to do what you need to do and they still tell your story very well, and that’s a testament to Scott Gimple and Angela Kang and all our writers, who have constructed some amazing story arcs.
You’ve been on The Walking Dead for a while now, but you’ve got this entirely new group you’re filming with in terms of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Austin Amelio and Steven Ogg and new folks like that.
Yeah, it’s really hard because they’re great guys and everybody in the Sanctuary is awesome, but I also don’t know them as well as I know Andy Lincoln and Christian Serratos and people like that who I’ve been on the show with for several seasons. Andy and I go golfing all the time. I beat him at golf a lot. I win a lot of money off of him, and then all of a sudden, I’m not able to pay my rent anymore because I can’t golf with Andy because we’re on different shooting schedules.
Furthermore, that’s essentially what’s happening to Eugene in the story too, you know, and sometimes I think, while maybe not on purpose, the writers have written things for the actors to use — because we’re so tight-knit, and then all of a sudden we’re not working together. Eugene got ripped from his friends and his family from that community into a place he doesn’t recognize, and being around people he doesn’t know, and that’s exactly what has happened to me. So instead of fighting that, I can use that for the character.
We saw what Eugene did last season, and it’s one thing to get seduced by power as he did, but now that he’s watched war break out against his friends and he sees the casualties starting with Sasha in the season finale, how is he going to handle that?
It’s definitely hard on him. He’s trying to survive. He’s trying to do the right thing, and it is hard to see people like Sasha dying. It’s hard to see Abraham die and Glenn die and that sort of thing, but I think he also knows that if he steps up to Negan, he’s going to die too, and that’s what he doesn’t want to happen. So it remains to be seen what his game plan is, if he even has one, but he’s definitely trying to stay alive so that he can implement said game plan if there is one.
He’s not Daryl, you know? There’s a reason Eugene didn’t end up naked in the prison cell, and it has nothing to do with my beautiful body not wanting to be seen on television. It has everything to do with the fact that that’s who Daryl is, and Eugene’s going to take a different approach. So it’s very hard on him to see his friends die. I think he just wants to ensure that he continues living and survival of the fittest, I guess.
Is he still firmly Negan?
He’s firmly Negan. He either chooses Alexandria or he chooses Negan, and he’s decided to go with Negan. I don’t think that there is a [sense of] “Well I’m going to be Negan and then I’m going to be subversive and work against him” or any of that because, again, Eugene’s all about his own survival. So as long as he’s living in the Sanctuary, he’s Team Negan.
How does Eugene fit in socially over there, because I have a hard time picturing him and a character like Simon throwing down beers together?
Yeah, it’s a very aggressive culture over the in the Sanctuary. He’s starting to change his appearance. Maybe he’s going to start wearing Tapout shirts and Oakleys and get sleeve tattoos. Yeah, it’s definitely funny to see someone like Eugene in a culture like that because he doesn’t fit and so there’s always this kind of sore thumb sticking out, and any interactions with anybody in this world is ripe for comedy. Even though they’re not written that way, I think you can still find some humor in them.
For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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