Warning! Spoilers beyond this point!
Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, "Hostiles and Calamities," got us caught up with what's happened to self-taught scientist/bullet maker Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) ever since he was taken captive by the Saviors.
It turns out he's had a much different experience than their last prisoner, Daryl (Norman Reedus)... Because Eugene isn't a prisoner at all. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) rolled out the welcome mat for Eugene, giving him fresh food, a comfortable room and a chance to hang out with some beautiful women. He even offered Eugene a prestigious position in his inner circle. And Eugene accepted without hesitation, pledging his allegiance to Negan.
But doesn't Eugene have allegiance to his friends back in Alexandria? Has the former coward regressed so quickly and thoroughly that he's willing to betray the memory of his friend Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), who he watched Negan beat to death with a baseball bat, in exchange for a jar of pickles and a pat on the back?
TVGuide.com got Josh McDermitt on the phone to see if he could enlighten us on what's going on in Eugene's head right now, as well as answer some other burning questions — like if there's a haircut in Eugene's future, and what's a gremblygunk?
TVGuide.com: I was kind of at a loss at the end. I don't even know if we're supposed to think Eugene's allegiance to Negan is sincere, or if we're supposed to take him at face value!
Josh McDermitt: I can't really say. This is a question I'm getting a lot right now, like "is he really on board or is he playing?" I specifically asked Scott Gimple, our showrunner, to not tell me. Because I don't want to know. I've made some decisions and choices for myself to play the character, but I don't want to know. I liked having that surprise reading the script, not knowing that he's going to say that he's Negan.
Eugene is afraid, in general. This is a scary world for him. Pre-apocalypse he maybe was a guy that wasn't interacting with people socially, and just kind of had his own world and had his comfort zone, and time and time again he's been forced outside of that within this world. And before Negan killed Glenn and Abraham, we saw Eugene make a turn and kind of say, "you know what, I can be a survivor in this world and I can contribute and I can do these things, and maybe I'm not as much of a coward as I thought I was. Maybe I'm brave."
Then all that changed once Negan showed up on the scene. So Eugene's been trying to figure out — as has most of the rest of the group — how do we get back to that place where we can have some sort of a life? There's a moment when Negan says "listen, you don't have to be scared anymore." That's like a hit of crack to Eugene, because all he wants is to not be scared. He wants his life or at least his emotions to go back to what they used to be before all this mayhem started, and I think that's all he's desperately searching for, to just not feel that fear.
It's interesting that you didn't ask, but you have your own idea? How are you playing Eugene now?
No, man, I'm not gonna tell you any of that! These are secrets that I need to keep to myself! I'm not an open book, man. Otherwise people are gonna know all my tricks and crutches as an actor.
Fair enough! Okay, it's a mystery. But is it safe to say that if he cuts his hair he's truly a Savior?
[Long pause] I don't know how you could even confront me with the notion of Eugene cutting his hair. The mullet is the man, and the man is the mullet. If he were to cut that thing, much like Samson, he would lose his power. I'm never going to rule anything out, but just know that if that showed up in the script I would fight hard to keep the mullet.
Why did Eugene make the suicide pills, if he knew they were for Negan?
I don't think he knew until he saw Negan kill Dr. Carson by throwing him in the furnace, and he saw one of his wives storm out, disgusted with this man. Eugene is able to read a room very well and put things together quickly, and in that moment he saw that. I think there was a little bit of apprehension from the start of him making those pills, because it's a dangerous thing. He's going to kill one of Negan's wives. He doesn't want to do it, but he feels pressured in that moment.
And a thing that we know about Eugene is women tend to dominate him. I think they got to him in that moment, and he was trying to help out and be a good man even though later he says he's not a good man. But in that moment, he put it all together and realized he was being played. And he doesn't want to help them, because he doesn't trust them to do it properly. He found these girls out, so who's to say Negan's not going to find them out. He doesn't know them, and ultimately it's going to come back to him. And then he's going to feel that fear again. He might even die. And he's tired of all of that. There's a lot of that going on just in that moment of seeing her walk away.
I imagine that Eugene and Dwight are eventually going to have to talk about what happened in Season 6.
Are you talking about the crotch?
I'm talking about the crotch.
I think they tried to in this episode. At the end, Eugene was sort of like, "hey, I don't know if you remember me, but I'm the one who bit your crotch, I don't know if you caught my name in that moment." Dwight cuts him off right away, and I think that's the extent of what Dwight wants to talk about. Honestly, though, I'd like to see that as like a deleted scene, just to see what that conversation would actually be like. "Hey, you understand, right? I had to use my teeth. It was my only weapon." I think Dwight and Eugene having any sort of conversation is awkward enough that it would be awesome comedy.
Where did "cremblygunk" come from?
Oh, "gremblygunk," with a G. Gremblygunk. I think Eugene is the type of guy who even pre-apocalypse had a lot of random stuff in his home that just looking at it you're like "what the hell is all this junk?" but it has extreme value and importance to him. And even him explaining it to you, you could understand why it's important to him, but it still wouldn't make sense.
It was something I had already thought about, so when I saw that in the script, I thought it was perfect. He just grabs this thing because it's important to him, for whatever reason. Is that because it had something to do with his childhood? Probably. Maybe it reminded him of a stuffed animal he had when he was a kid.
I think this man is very complicated. There's a lot of mysterious things about him because he's not very outward in his emotions. He may talk a lot, but a lot of it is a misdirect. He's trying to berate you with his intelligence more than he's trying to open up and share something about himself. We may never find out what that gremblygunk means to him, but I think it's weird and random and I kinda love it.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.