The post was made Thursday, November 17, 2016 by Rodney Ho on the AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Eugene Porter is a stand-out character on “The Walking Dead” because he shouldn’t be alive and kicking. He doesn’t exactly have Michonne-level fighting skills. He appears to have Asperger’s, making any conversation with him awkward. He talks in a stiff, halting Spock-like manner. He lied his way to survival under Abraham about knowing a cure for zombie-dom and lived to tell about it.
But as we enter season 7, he has matured as the apocalypse grinds on. He is clearly book smart. He is handy with electronics and possibly ballistics, boning up on making bullets. He has entrenched himself with the Alexandria crew, which has accepted him as part of the family. He has even killed a few walkers. And during the season six finale, he was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team as Negan’s posse closed in on them.
The actor who plays him – Josh McDermitt – is absolutely nothing like Eugene from a personality standpoint. He’s an extrovert who does stand-up and improv, who can’t help but joke around, even about the gross season 7 opener which featured the (spoiler alert here for the five of you who haven’t seen it yet) deaths of Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz).
At the Walker Stalker convention at the Georgia World Congress Center last month, he joked: “At the end, Steven and Michael were both so scatterbrained.” The crowd groaned.
“That’s the funny thing,” McDermitt said in an interview earlier this week by phone from the set of “The Walking Dead,” which is nearing completion of season seven. “We’ve been living with it for awhile. I feel like I probably make jokes about it more now because I’ve adjusted for the past year. I forget that it just happened for the fans. When people ask me about my favorite scene, I say Michael’s death scene. He cracks up. The fans, though, are a little hurt by what I say. So I apologize.”
“I could probably get mugged and I’d be cracking jokes and roasting the mugger,” he added.
McDermitt also claims no particular book-ish intelligence. “I have to look up half of what he says,” he said. “I’m very stupid. That’s just how it is. It’s called acting.”
He also has to deal with the mullet, his visual signature on the show. “Half of the fans think it’s fake,” he said. “Even when I pull at it to show it’s real, they don’t believe me. It’s kind of funny.”
At first, McDermitt wasn’t a fan of this 1990s-era Billy Ray Cyrus hair style. “I hated it,” he said. “I have blond hair normally and no mullet. It was so jarring. Now I kind of dig it. I like looking as ridiculous as I can on TV.”
And he said he is easily recognizable. “I put on hat and glasses and people still know who I am, he said. “It was the same with Michael Cudlitz with his facial hair. The girls have an easier time. They can put on makeup and really dress themselves up more or go around in sweats.”
McDermitt writes recaps himself of “The Walking Dead” on EW. (I am sure he gets more traffic than I do when I write mine.)
“I try to relay behind-the-scenes stuff for the fans,” he said. “They’re just thirsting for anything.” For instance, in his latest recap, he noted how Jeffrey Dean Morgan had to sweat through a heavy leather jacket in 90-plus degree Georgia heat. “He wasn’t used to it,” McDermitt said. “The heat helps eliminate any diva attitudes. Nobody else is complaining.”
I noted how Andrew Lincoln sets the tone. McDermitt, who was clearly in earshot of Lincoln, proceeded to jokingly call Lincoln a “whiny little bitch.” [A term that Bill Maher liked to use for a certain somebody.]
“He doesn’t break character,” McDermitt added, still clearly in “not serious at all” mode. “He sounds like Rick Grimes. The only time he sounds British is when he’s complaining how hot it is.”
Getting back to the deaths of his buddies Abraham and Glenn, McDermitt said Eugene is “absolutely devastated. Abraham was his best friend. And he had spent a lot of time with Glenn. He now has to figure out what life is. He was stepping up and contributing in ways he hadn’t before, then had to see Abraham and Glenn go. A lot of what this season is about is figuring out how to pick up the pieces, how do I return to who I was, which is a survivor.”
As for Negan, he said it’s obvious he has dealt with defiant leaders like Rick before and knows how to ensure they bend to his will.”Rick is still getting used to how things work,” he said. “We start to see him break down more.”
Interestingly, the women – Michonne and Rosita – are ready to fight. The guys? Not really.
“Those two are warriors,” he said. “I like the new Rosita. I like seeing her set up. She’s pissed. She’s ready to rock. It’s almost like she’s channeling Abraham a little bit. He has taught her a lot over the years they were together. I like it. I want to see more of that.” (Besides, Eugene has a long-standing crush on her anyway, not that a romance would ever happen.)
And unlike Spencer, he said Eugene is a true Rick loyalist and doesn’t blame him for some of his missteps that led to what has happened now. “He knows Rick is a great leader,” he said. He believes they would have been screwed by Negan no matter what they did.
“The Walking Dead,” 9 p.m. Sundays, AMC