'The Walking Dead': Josh McDermitt On Eugene Porter
“The Walking Dead” isn’t just scary to watch, it can be scary to film.
Shooting out in a remote area of Georgia means the cast and crew have run-ins with all kinds of wildlife.
“I haven’t had to deal with any snakes yet. … I know that there was one big scene maybe last season, or at the start of Season 4, where they were trying to clear the field in the prison and literally, it took so long because they kept having to stop because snakes were crawling on people’s legs or someone would step into frame and next thing you know, they’re stepping on a snake,” Josh McDermitt, who plays newcomer Dr. Eugene Porter, told AccessHollywood.com. “They literally had snake handlers – just guys out there, just grabbing — like these guys are not afraid to grab a snake and I just know that I would never want to do that line of work because I am terrified of them.”
On the show, Dr. Eugene Porter’s line of work involves trying to cure the world of the zombie apocalypse, according to what Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) told Tara (Alanna Masterson). That is, if he can survive long enough. He certainly put his life in danger in a recent episode when picking up an automatic rifle to take out walkers, and instead, took out their truck’s gas tank.
We discussed that particular move, the mullet and more with (a very funny) Josh.
AccessHollywood.com: So your character — is it fair to call him a redneck? When you say scientist or doctor, you don’t always associate redneck with that, but then, you have the mullet…
Josh McDermitt: I wouldn’t consider him a redneck. … When I think of a redneck, I think of someone who likes to party, they’re gonna rip their sleeves off, they’re gonna grab a beer, they’re gonna probably scream at their friends, ‘Hey watch this!’
Josh: Yeah, Merle Dixon would definitely be a redneck, but I don’t know that I consider Eugene that, even though he has a mullet. I mean, look, the mullet that they’ve kind of fashioned for me — I was so embarrassed after I had it. I asked [someone] to take me to the store so I [could] get a hat and they took me to Walmart and I walked in and there were five dudes, instantly, with the same haircut. And, I was like, that’s just what it is down here and I looked at them and they were just normal. That’s just the haircut they had, so I don’t know that they were necessarily rednecks or even to go further and say they’re hillbillies or anything. It’s just what they do.
Access: Where does Eugene get his haircut after the apocalypse, because mullets are actually hard to keep up?
Josh: (Laughs) That’s honestly something I’m hoping to explore, along with you. That’s a question that I’ve had for Scott Gimple, our Showrunner, and he said, ‘Oh, well, we don’t know if we’ll ever talk about that.’ I think there’s some creative liberties that end up getting taken. Everyone always — they still kind of look sexy even though there’s no showers around, that sort of thing. It’s one of those things – believe me — I’m wondering too.
Access: I don’t know if you’ve seen the show ‘Banshee,’ but they do a whole web series called ‘Banshee: Origins,’ where they do flashbacks that answer questions so maybe we can get something going for ‘The Walking Dead,’ and we can find out how the haircut is happening. I’m just gonna put that idea out there.
Josh: It’s interesting, when they were doing my hair the first time, I was just having a conversation with someone sitting next to me. I have extremely large feet – a size 15 – and I can’t find cool shoes and the guy I’m talking to on set also had large feet and he said, ‘Oh, there’s this place in Atlanta that has – it’s this huge warehouse of big shoes,’ and literally, they’re like cutting a flattop in my hair as he says this and I got so excited, I like, readjusted myself in the seat and the flattop ended up being like – there was like a divot that was taken out of it and Taylor [from] our hair department was so mad at me and I said, ‘Hey, you can’t expect this to be perfect. We’re living in the apocalypse.’
Access: Hilarious. … So… I’ve got to ask you what Eugene’s doctorate is in, if you happen to know — if you’re allowed to say.
Josh: I don’t, specifically. They’re actually pretty secretive with the information that they give you, just because, I think, partly, they want to release it at a certain time, but in kind of the research and backstory that I did, I think he’s a bio-chemical scientist. He claims to know what caused the apocalypse and how to stop it. I mean… to me, right there, [that] says he knows a lot of stuff about bio chemical engineering and that sort of thing.
Access: Is it an online degree?
Access: The reason I ask that question is when walkers came, he didn’t call the brawn over, he picked up a gun and started shooting — and shot the gas tank. So that’s what made me think that his doctorate is maybe not from Harvard.
Josh: But if you also think about it, how many scientists do you know [who] can handle a machine gun properly? They’re used to dealing with beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks and that sort of thing. I mean, they don’t really know how to work an AR-15.
Access: Although Walter White probably could…
Josh: But you know what? He didn’t know before he started making the blue meth, so let’s just agree about that.
Access: True! Last time we saw you guys, you were all walking down a road after Glenn and Tara. What can you hint at about what’s next with this new quintet?
Josh: You know, it’s gonna be interesting to see how the desires and needs and wants of this new group start to conflict with each other. I mean, obviously Abraham and Rosita want to get Eugene to D.C.; Glenn wants to find Maggie; Tara wants to help Glenn and everybody’s very strong-willed; everyone has their own mission and everyone has a thing that they want to voice and so it’s gonna be fun to watch this play out and see how everything kind of conflicts and whether or not they meet up with the rest of the group. I mean, that still remains to be seen, because if you think about it, there’s a lot of people from that prison who are still alive and they’re all trying to find each other as well.
Access: So, [Michael] Cudlitz’s very, very red hair on the show — does that come off in the rain? Does it come off in the sweat? That is some crazy orange-y red on screen and you are up close with it.
Josh: Yeah, it’s real. I mean, they’ve dyed it and it’s a permanent dye and I feel bad for the guy, just knowing that, you know, look, I’m a natural blond now, but when I was a kid I had that red hair. … Michael would say something and [Alanna Masterson would] say, ‘Shut up! you have red hair,’ just like as a joke and we’d have a good laugh at it. But I know that he’s really embracing it and especially the handlebar mustache too. We all look ridiculous. We look like we’ve been ripped right from the comic book and Robert Kirkman and all those guys have just done a great job at creating these awesome characters and I’m happy to play it, even if I have a crazy mullet.
“The Walking Dead” continues Sunday night at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.
-- Jolie Lash
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