It’s hard to miss the man with the mullet! But despite his iconic locks, Josh McDermitt is so much more than his meme-able face. McDermitt, who plays Eugene Porter on AMC’s The Walking Dead, (aka one of the most popular shows on TV right now) had a lot to say about his character and his growing popularity within the cult community.
The Walking Dead recently aired its midseason finale (do you still have a pulse after that nail-biter?) where we see Rick’s group and the remaining Alexandrians come a little too up close and personal with their new neighbors. And by neighbors I mean all of those walkers who wandered their way in with a little help from a falling tower. This is why we can’t have nice things, or ya know, walls that actually stay up. The fate of the group is unknown (stay quiet Sam!) but one thing’s for sure, Eugene may never get around to using that machete.
McDermitt spoke at length about the evolution of his character, what weapon he’d choose if he were caught in the zombie apocalypse (spoiler alert it’s Norman Reedus)… and yes, we talked about the mullet. You guys just can’t get enough of the mullet. The conversation with this TWD star was refreshing, funny, and insightful into the wonderful world of crappy haircuts and monotone personalities.
Die zombies! Die!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: To kick things off, can you tell us about your character Eugene on The Walking Dead?
JOSH MCDERMITT: When we first meet Eugene, he says he’s got a cure to the apocalypse, he knows what caused it and he knows what can stop it. Not to give a spoiler for anyone who’s been living under a rock. We learn to see why he did that to gain protection in order to survive because he feels like he doesn’t have the survival skills to make it in this world. He’s an extremely smart individual, brilliant I would say, and he kind of lacks some social skills and some physical survival skills and that sort of thing. Now they’re behind the “safe” walls of– I say safe in quotes because they’re never really safe– but behind the walls of Alexandria Eugene is kind of trying to find his place within the group and within this world. He feels like he doesn’t have much of a purpose or much value and so that’s kind of where we see him now, this guy who is just kind of there taking up space in a sense still needing people to protect him. We recently saw him learning how to use a machete and kind of flat out rejecting learning because he was just too scared because he was afraid to die. Which is ironic.
MM: Do you think that would be the biggest difference between when we first met him to now… that he had this lie in the beginning which was his purpose and now that he doesn’t have it anymore he’s trying to figure out where he fits and how he can contribute to the group?
JM: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a struggle for a while just trying to figure out how he gets into the group. Look if this were a non-apocalyptic world he would probably just be a hermit playing games online or interacting with people socially online and that sort of thing. But the reality is with this world, that if you don’t figure out what your thing is, if you don’t figure out how to survive then you’re screwed. And I think that’s kind of more and more on his mind and why he’s rejecting it because he sees this new place, there’s all these Alexandrians who aren’t great at survival either and they’re kind of a lot like Eugene. The advantage Eugene has is he was out on the road and they weren’t. But I think he kind of rejects that but he also doesn’t know where to go. Just because he knows he’s never going to be a Daryl or a Michonne, sort of person, but again it’s just trying to figure out where he fits in that group and then he’ll be able to grow even more as a person.
MM: Were you channeling anyone when portraying this role? Any inspiration or special prep that went into this character?
JM: As an actor I think a lot of us ‘people watch,’ there’s a lot of things I was able to draw from just in my observing of people. There are also a lot of things about this character that I know that aren’t necessarily public at this point, not that it’s a huge secret or reveal it’s just like if you were playing a character and your parents were divorced– that’s going to affect you in one way opposed to someone who has two parents who are still married, and even though you may never talk about it, knowing things about this character helped me to prepare for it that we may never find out. A lot of that stuff I was able to draw from the observance of people and I do on a daily basis and the way he speaks I sort of took that from my little brother Zach who speaks in a flat monotone way. Actually a lot of people in my family talk like that but he takes it to the extreme and he’d be really excited about something and we’d say ‘hey Zach are you excited?’ and he’s just say ‘yeah’ with very little effect. I kind of took that for Eugene’s tone of voice and used that as a jumping off point. All the other little ticks and mannerisms and things like that are just things that gleamed off of people as I watched them in my everyday life.
MM: I’m sure he loves it when he’s watching the show and he seems himself in your character [laughs]
JM: Oh, he gets pissed actually [laughs]. He gets mad and says he doesn’t sound like that.
MM: Looks like you have to stop telling people about it, especially in interviews!
JM: What are brothers for, aren’t we supposed to do that? Pick on our little brothers and that sort of thing [laughs]
MM: That is true.
JM: I just get to do it on a worldwide scale.
MM: Right, you have a lot more power than other siblings. And now, you mentioned that your character rejects the use of the machete… do you think he’ll ever be able to get his hands dirty?
JM: I mean even in last season he saved Tara [Alanna Masterson] and Glenn [Steven Yeun] and Nicholas [Michael Traynor] when Noah [Tyler James Williams] died, that was the moment where he got his hands dirty, to use your words, because he was kind of forced to. If he didn’t do that he was going to die. And I don’t think he was necessarily volunteering and so the rejection of the machete training was a lot of ‘why do I need to learn this?’ You know, I’m scared but ‘why do I need to learn this, I’m safe behind these walls.’ Even though he knows it’s not completely safe, there are other people here who are going to try and protect him. At this point it is boiling within him, it’s something that he wants to be able to do, he just doesn’t really have the confidence to do it. And so if he’s going to get his hands dirty, I think that hands going to be forced on him. I don’t know if he’s in a place right now to voluntarily step up. He doesn’t have the confidence, the guy doesn’t even know how to use a machete. That’s kind of where he is right now.
MM: If you found yourself trying to survive during a zombie apocalypse, what would your weapon of choice be?
JM: My weapon of choice would be Norman Reedus. I feel like that guy has weapons on him all the time that you don’t see. Even if it’s a little pocket knife or one of those blow guns that you blow darts out of, he could slide one of those down his pant leg and no one would ever know [laughs]. In all honesty if I had to choose I would just get something with a good grip that could provide some blunt force trauma, because obviously you have to get the zombies in the brain. A knife or a machete I feel like you could hurt yourself. But if you’re just swinging like a battle axe or something. Sometimes at these malls they have medieval stores, have you seen these?
MM: Oh yeah, yeah.
JM: There would be like a knight in the window and knights armour and chainmail, I would literally [laughs] go to a mall first and grab an axe and chainmail from there and that would be my weapon of choice. We’re all going to die in the apocalypse, let’s be honest, but I’m going to out in the most craziest way possible.
MM: [laughs] Out of everyone on the show, who do you think your character relates to the most? And who would you relate to if we were talking real life?
JM: It’s kind of funny because prior to being in Alexandria he was kind of on an island all by himself, all this power. I don’t think he relates to anyone in that sense and he’s also smarter than everybody and he let’s people know that he’s smarter than them. I don’t think he sees anyone as a peer. But really since getting into Alexandria, I feel like he relates to the Alexandrians even though he thinks he’s smarter than everybody [laughs]. He just knows things, and I don’t think he necessarily relates to anyone. I think in terms of me, who I relate to, gosh man, I would say Eugene except I’m not smart [laughs]. In a coward sense, I’d like to think I’d be a badass if the apocalypse came down to it but I’m not. I would die. I would get really upset if I had a sore arm from swinging a machete around like ‘oh, I can’t go on any further. Put me out of my misery, my arm hurts.’
MM: [Laughs] Right? you’d just have to go track down Norman and have him protect you.
JM: Yeah, I don’t even know if I can make it that far to get to Norman. Just like Normannnn, come get me!
MM: Obviously Eugene’s mullet has become so popular within The Walking Dead community, how did you react knowing that you had to make a drastic change to your appearance for the role? Are you attached to it at all?
JM: At first I think it was pretty shocking, just because I obviously didn’t have a mullet and at first they kind of just clipped in extensions, and then they would take them out because my hair wasn’t long enough. So they would take them out and I just had the most ridiculous haircut, it was like a baby mullet. It was like flat top in the front and weird sprouts in the back and that was pretty traumatizing because nobody should ever have a haircut like that. I wore a lot of hats. But over time I’ve grown, I mean, I want to look ridiculous on TV, don’t get me wrong I want to look as stupid as I can just not in my personal life. [Laughs] I would wear hats and everything and now I’ve just embraced it and it’s kind of funny because I never really thought that it would draw as much attention as it does. That was my mistake for thinking that because it’s certainly, people just scream ‘mullet’ at me, in fact I don’t even think Norman Reedus knows my name– I think he just calls me Mullet.
JM: And that’s not a joke, I seriously don’t think he knows my name. I’ve grown to love it, I’ve embraced it. I’m going down in history as one of many iconic characters to sport a mullet on television, it’s great.
MM: Sadly, you weren’t able to attend Walker Stalker Con in NY/NJ this weekend, but do you look forward to meeting fans? Have you had any funny encounters on social media or in person?
JM: I’ll just say this about conventions, I have a lot of crazy fan encounters but it’s in a way that is awesome. I never get scared or think that people are weird. People are so passionate about this universe and it’s just fun to experience that. I was a fan myself before I started working here so it’s really cool to be a part of that world and to see the fans dressed up as different characters and that sort of thing, to see the nuances and the differences that they have in their costumes and the little details that they pay attention to is really cool.
MM: Well said. To kind of wrap up, is there anything coming down the pike that you can let us know about?
JM: A music video was just released for a band called Grizfolk, and it’s their new single ‘Troublemaker’ and so these are guys that I’ve long been a fan of theirs and their music and their album is being released in January and they decided to release their first single and do a video for it and they asked me to be a part of it. That’s online now! It came out really well and we’re really excited for them and it was my first music video and I was so stoked about it.