On the Line with Josh McDermitt

Josh McDermitt is a charismatic and talented actor who established himself in the comedy world before getting the role of a lifetime as Eugene Porter on The Walking Dead. The AMC smash hit series is one of the biggest and most popular television shows of all time, what better outlet could there be for Josh to showcase his acting chops? Josh and I had an engaging discussion about the conventions he’s attended, wrestling, preparing for the role of Eugene, season six of The Walking Dead and more.

Alex Obert: So you’ve been a guest at various conventions all over. In the unique environment, what has the people watching been like?

Josh McDermitt: It’s really exciting to see the different conventions we do. It’s one thing to have someone walk up to you when they dress as your character, it’s another thing when they’ve got their friends involved. It’s a group of them from the show. Some of these people, I’ve seen them without their cosplay outfits on and they look nothing like me. Then they throw all the wardrobe on and the makeup and everything else, that’s when they look just like Eugene. The lengths in which they go through is hilarious. There’s a lot of kids that are really into the special-effects makeup. I like to take pictures of the kids that come up with giant zombie bites. I’ll text the picture to Greg Nicotero and he goes nuts when he sees young people finding the passion that he did when he was younger. It’s such a fun environment for people watching and to experience the excitement that these people have for the show. It’s just been awesome.

Alex Obert: Which celebrity guests have you encountered at these conventions?

Josh McDermitt: I got to meet William Shatner once. That was really cool because I feel like he’s the king of the convention world. That was really neat to experience. I snuck a picture with him while I was eating in the green room and he was reading a book. I had my friend take a picture of us while I was eating, but Shatner wasn’t aware of it. I put it online, he tracked it down and he said I shouldn’t have taken that photo. He said no photos in the green room. I thought it was hilarious that Shatner called me out. (laughs) He’s a legend, man! He’s amazing. I still think it’s awesome I got that photo.

Alex Obert: We were actually at the same convention earlier this year, Super Megafest in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Chris Jericho was also there and I listened to the episode of Talk Is Jericho when he had you on.

Josh McDermitt: They all have a similar name to me, so I know them by city and not necessarily the convention name. Jericho’s a huge Walking Dead fan. It was a cool moment for me to be on his podcast because I’m such a big wrestling fan and a fan of his as well. It turned out that just a few weeks later, he and I were at the same convention. We only had a few minutes to chat, but it was cool. It was like seeing an old friend the moment I saw him, he’s such a great dude.

Alex Obert: Being a fan of wrestling, have you attended a live event?

Josh McDermitt: I have. I’ve never sat ringside, but that is something I would love to do. I would love to get in the ring, as a matter of fact. Anytime they would come through town, I’d go to Monday Night RAW and a bunch of different events. My cousin, Tony, and I were huge wrestling fans growing up. We had a trampoline in the backyard and perform wrestling moves on each other, it was probably pretty dangerous. (laughs) It was always fun to wrestle and body slam each other in the pool or the trampoline. It’s such an excitement to be at a live event and to see the showmanship that a lot of these wrestlers have. They can command a crowd of twenty thousand people. You’re just one man or woman standing in the middle of the ring and you have everyone’s attention. It’s pretty awesome. I learn a lot by watching them. I honestly don’t get to enough shows.

Alex Obert: How do you think it would be if Eugene was a wrestler?

Josh McDermitt: If Eugene was a wrestler, he would definitely have to use a lot of smoke and mirrors to win. Maybe throw some smoke bombs down on the mat and have the smoke rise. That’s when his opponent would start choking and Eugene can get around the back and give him a headlock, do a suplex on him or something like that. I think that Eugene would have to cut the mullet though because I feel that too many opponents would grab that and use it to their advantage. I would root for Eugene to cut the mullet. That’s the only time I would want Eugene to cut the mullet.

Alex Obert: Did you study anyone to really try and get into the mind of Eugene or did you just get the feeling as you went along?

Josh McDermitt: I always study people, so there wasn’t anyone in particular where I said “Oh, I want to look at this person when I do Eugene.” There’s not a lot of time in TV to really get into the role, you have to be ready to go. It’s pretty much an actor’s job to observe and people watch when they’re not working. I like to do that a lot. It gets harder now because I get recognized for whatever. But I’ll go to the mall and just watch people. I’ll observe them and watch their behaviors, that sort of thing. Eugene was just really a mixture of several years worth of people that I’ve observed over time. And with the voice, I’m doing an impression of my brother in terms of how little affect he uses when he speaks. I know my brother gets mad when I say that, but I don’t really care. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Is there someone that helped to coach you with the transition from comedy into a dramatic series?

Josh McDermitt: I had several acting coaches that I’d been studying with for a while in L.A. I was just focusing on comedy and it was a moment where I wanted to focus on drama, so I got with some of them again. One was Alice Carter at the Carter Thor Studio in Studio City. John Rosenfeld helped me out a lot, he’s in Hollywood. And then my friend, who is also a casting director, a dear friend of mine and a fellow wrestling fan, a guy named Mark Sikes. Mark’s great because he calls it like it is, he’s able to call bullshit on you when you’re trying to cheat your way through doing a scene or something like that. So I really credit those three people with helping me to transition into that part of my career. It’s been pretty fun.

Alex Obert: The Walking Dead has a very dedicated fanbase. Once you got onto the show and people became invested in your character, did they seek out obscure work of yours from the past?

Josh McDermitt: I had a couple web series things that my buddies and I would do. We were in a sketch and improv group in L.A. We would just film stupid videos and throw them on YouTube. I don’t even know if I added my name in there. But yeah, a lot of the fans have gone back and found a lot of the dumb videos that we shot in 2007 when we all just moved to L.A. and were trying to figure out what it is we’re supposed to be doing. So that’s funny because I’ve long forgotten about those. It’s hilarious to revisit them and see what kind of fools we were making of ourselves back then! (laughs)

Alex Obert: You have mentioned that you filmed something for Food Network that never took off. Can you fill in readers on that?

Josh McDermitt: I don’t know if it ever had a name. I don’t want to say it was like a competitive eating show, but it was about two buddies that would dare each other to eat things. So you’d get together and it might be something like the world’s largest pizza. You’d compete to see who could eat it faster or who could eat the most slices. It was these two guys just trying to get each other to do something like eat a ghost pepper, one of the hottest peppers in the world. There’s a chili joint in L.A. and they serve a ghost pepper burger, so we’d role in there and see who could eat the most before taking a drink of water. It was just a pilot and it never ended up airing. Thank God because I don’t think my body could’ve handled that. (laughs)

Alex Obert: I read that you previously worked in a setting involving country music. What’s that about?

Josh McDermitt: I produced a syndicated radio show for a number of years. I initially started listening to the show because I thought they were funny, not necessarily because I was into country music. When I started working with them, I became a huge fan of country music. It was really fun to be in that world and see that side of things. My grandfather played steel guitar for a lot of musicians while growing up. It was cool to carry on that legacy in a different arena. It was really cool.

Alex Obert: What your go-to song for karaoke?

Josh McDermitt: My go-to song for karaoke would have to be Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells.

Alex Obert: So filming in Georgia for The Walking Dead, where do you enjoy eating and what do you do for fun?

Josh McDermitt: There’s good barbecue here. There’s not a lot of great Mexican food here. Growing up in Arizona, I have a high standard for Mexican food. I’m always on the lookout for a good Mexican joint in Georgia. But they do great Southern cooking here. In terms of things I like to do for fun, I’m always going bowling with some of the cast members. Christian Serratos, Austin Nichols and I do archery. It’s always fun to get out and test our skills on the bullseye and see how far we can push each other before we shoot each other. (laughs)

Alex Obert: With season six on the way, what do you have to say to fans who are looking to observe the evolution of Eugene’s character?

Josh McDermitt: I’ll say this first, season six is gonna be amazing. It’s the biggest season we’ve done. We have more walkers and it’s so intense and enormous. I can’t wait for people to see it. Along those lines, Eugene’s big threat is not living in Alexandria. I think he is constantly looking to see how he can insert himself into the group and be a contributing member to that society. He wants to stay in Alexandria and again, that threat is always there that he could be on the other side of the walls and not living in a place like that. I think that this place represents safety and stability for him, but it’s always gonna be on the table to be snatched from him.

Alex Obert: And what’s the date of the premiere?

Josh McDermitt: Sunday night, October 11th on AMC. Can’t wait, man. It’s gonna be awesome.

Alex Obert: I wish you the best with the next season. I’d love to thank you so much for your time.

Josh McDermitt: Thanks a lot! I appreciate it.

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Photo Credit: Isaac Sterling

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