- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 11, episode 11 of “The Walking Dead,” “Rogue Element.”
- Josh McDermitt spoke with Insider about the big twist that left his character, Eugene, heartbroken.
- McDermitt joked about Daryl dying and said it would be bad if he learns Max and Mercer are related.
Josh McDermitt is tired.
“This show is exhausting. Whether you work one day out of 14 months or if you work every day out of the 14 months, I think you’re just always exhausted,” McDermitt, who plays Eugene Porter on AMC’s apocalyptic series, told Insider by phone earlier this week when asked about their work schedule during the pandemic.
“When the show is done airing, I think I’m just gonna sleep for a couple months and try and recharge that way,” he continued, adding, “I don’t really know the last time I got a full night’s rest in basically the last eight or nine years. That’s something I’m looking forward to.”
McDermitt should finally get to sleep later this month as “The Walking Dead” wraps up filming its series finale.
“We’re always tired, but it’s also fun,” McDermitt quickly added. “I’m definitely not complaining about it. It’s so much fun to be able to come to this job.”
The actor definitely has fun on Sunday’s episode, “Rogue Element.”
What starts off as a rom-com for Eugene between him and, who he believes to be the woman of his affections, Stephanie (Chelle Ramos), quickly turns into a “Scooby-Doo”-like adventure as she goes missing in the Commonwealth.
By the episode’s end, Eugene is horrified to learn “Stephanie” didn’t go missing. Instead, the person he thought he was communicating with via radio months ago isn’t who she said she was at all. She’s a mystery woman named Shira who appears to be part of a shady group inside the Commonwealth led by Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton).
At his lowest, Eugene is then approached by Max (Margot Bingham), a woman claiming to be the real person he spoke with on the radio. But Eugene, heartbroken and vulnerable, isn’t sure if this is just another trick.
Insider spoke with McDermitt about the show coming to its end, getting ghosted in the zombie apocalypse by decoy Stephanie, that fun conspiracy board, and what may happen if Eugene ever discovers that the real woman he was pining over, Max, is Mercer’s sister.
McDermitt jokes that Daryl dies in ‘The Walking Dead’ and is going through a time loop.
Insider: What’s going on right now? Are you guys filming the final episode of the show? I know that you guys are coming to the end of filming.
McDermitt: It’s crazy that the show is ending. I’ll tell you that. It’s something that’s been a part of my life for a long time.
Not that I think everyone will stop talking to each other or anything like that, but … to think about life without “The Walking Dead,” that’s kind of strange because it’s also been in the lives of so many people — not just people who work on the show, but just people who watch it.
Obviously, there’s spinoffs. There’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” “World Beyond,” and stuff like that. That universe is still out there, but the mothership being gone, it’s weird. It’s really weird. I’m just very thankful for the time spent here, but, yeah, it’s kind of crazy to have it be wrapped up.
Are you guys wrapped up or are you almost wrapped up?
Well, you know I can’t say what and where we’re shooting. You want me to just spoil everything for you? Where’s the fun in that?
I’m just trying to get some context.
Look. OK. Daryl dies in every episode.
Oh, stop it. [laughter]
He’s on the time loop like that Tom Cruise movie [“Edge of Tomorrow“]. [Laughter]
That’s a good movie.
He’s coming back and he dies.
Eugene was fooled by Shira because he had some love blinders on.
Eugene tells Shira, who he believes to be “Stephanie,” he loves her at the episode’s start. Then, she goes missing.
OK. Let’s talk about Sunday’s episode. You got catfished and ghosted in the zombie apocalypse. I don’t even know how that happens when there aren’t even phones anymore.
How does decoy Stephanie, as I’m going to call her, get one over on and fool Eugene, who is one of the smartest in the group? Was he just so lost in this fantasy of finding his own happiness and the apocalypse that he overlooked some red flags and some clues that maybe she wasn’t who she said she was?
I think that’s not to take anything away from — if we want to call her the Decoy Stephanie, for lack of a better term — but I think that works. Not to take anything away from her skillset or from [Lance] Hornsby, but they pulled one over on Eugene.
He might have had some blinders on. Love can do that to someone. I think he was excited to be in this new community, excited for his people from Alexandria and the Hilltoppers and everybody who got to show up and have a new life in this new community. I think that was exciting.
If there were any red flags there, he wasn’t necessarily on the lookout for them because he let his guard down. I think we’ve seen, that’s not a good place to be in this world. You can never really let your guard down and he did.
McDermitt asked showrunner Angela Kang how Eugene wouldn’t have recognized that Shira’s voice differed from Margot Bingham’s.
What was your reaction to learning about the decoy Stephanie storyline because you and I knew back in the fall of 2019 that Margot Bingham was the voice on the radio. We chatted about this. Her name was in the credits.
I wasn’t sure if the story got changed up at all after the combination of the pandemic, the bonus episodes, and then the announcement of the final season.
Yeah. It’s just hard to keep secrets, I think. We got excited to announce Margot Bingham and then I think some things changed, as they do. I’m speaking, not as an authority or someone with any knowledge, but that kind of stuff happens, you know?
It was exciting to work with Chelle Ramos, who is an incredible actor. I think she did a great job as decoy Stephanie. Now, I’m excited as we see the interactions between Margot’s character and mine and what’s going to come of that.
Absolutely. The thing I was questioning, and that I saw fans questioning, was how Eugene didn’t notice that the voice on the radio didn’t exactly match up with this other woman. Are we supposed to believe that it’s maybe hard to discern a radio voice?
That’s actually something that I was curious about. That’s one thing I said to Angela right away.
[I] was just like, “OK, so we’re doing this type of storyline, but wouldn’t he know that it’s not the same voice?” And they say, we’re trying to cast someone whose voice is in the same neighborhood or the same kind of vocal range.
You know, it’s been several weeks since he talked to her. It was definitely a risk that Hornsby and company were taking with that. But, again, [Eugene] kind of had the blinders on and here’s someone that he has this deep emotional connection with that he’s never met.
If that person is saying who they are, he’s not like, “Wait. No, you’re not.” It’s like “Great.” They used all the information that he gave up about everything against him. That’s kind of the pickle he found himself in. He loves pickles, but not this kind.
If Eugene discovers that Mercer is Max’s brother, it could be ‘bad’ for him.
While Eugene is on his quest to find “Stephanie” in this episode, Connie figures out that Max — the real Stephanie — is Mercer’s sister. That’s not great news for Eugene who openly told Mercer he was a virgin and essentially wanted to be with his sister.
How is Eugene going to react when he realizes Max, who he meets at the episode’s end, is Mercer’s sister?
He may never find that out. That’s information that Connie has. He may not find out that Mercer is the brother. It’s a tangled web. That may come back to bite him if he ever finds out that Mercer is related. [laughter]
At this point, [Eugene] doesn’t know if he can trust Max, either. He’s just been duped, hardcore. He’s in the aftermath of the bomb exploding. He’s trying to figure out who knows what, who’s still out to get him, and who he can trust.
All of a sudden, this woman walks out and says, “Oh, hey, I’m the person you were talking to on the radio.” It’s like, “Yeah. I don’t believe it.” I think he’s just skeptical at this point. I don’t know that he’s thinking beyond that. So if he does find out that Mercer is her brother that could be bad.
I feel like it could be bad, but it could also lead to some potentially hilarious moments. Looking back now, I think Mercer was harder on Eugene during the interrogations to get into the Commonwealth because he knew he had a thing for his sister.
McDermitt discussed the conspiracy theory board with former ‘TWD’ costar Michael Cudlitz, who directed Sunday’s episode.
Talk to me about this elaborate conspiracy theory board that Eugene makes. There’s an ice cream waffle pinned to the board. I think I noticed chopsticks. It made me think of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” conspiracy meme.
I don’t know if you know who made this in the props department and if it was inspired by “It’s Always Sunny” at all.
Yeah, I don’t know. But [Michael] Cudlitz, who directed the episode, and I had conversations about it and we wanted it to really look like a rats nest that if you just look at it, you’re like, “What is this?”
You may never make sense of it, but it all makes perfect sense in Eugene’s mind. I thought our art department did an incredible job with it. There’s some fun things on there. I forgot about the chopsticks. It’s one of those things that I’m sure people are gonna screenshot and examine and decipher, and they’ll find new things every time they look at it.
There’s definitely some Easter eggs in the episode. I’m not going to say they’re on that board, but I’m also gonna say they’re not, not on that board.
I definitely transcribed one of the notes that was on that board.
Eugene has met his match in Lance Hornsby.
I want to make sure I talk to you about that very intense stair scene between Eugene and Lance (Josh Hamilton). In that over two-minute monologue, everything that’s been building up all episode bubbles to the surface and you just burst.
Eugene has never raised his voice like that. You were scary. I think the only thing scarier is that Lance stands there unflinching before cutting him down. What was it like delivering that scene?
We had to do it a bunch. We were shooting that overnight. We wanted the darkness to fill that scene. Working with Josh Hamilton has been an incredible experience because he’s a tremendous actor and very giving. I wasn’t acting against a piece of tape. He was there the whole time and it was such a fun little dance that we got to do.
We’ve never really seen Eugene in this sort of mental state where he’s rageful, but at the same time he’s having new epiphanies over and over … He’s realizing all these things in that moment.
For Lance to come back so calm, so cool, and collected, and really still in control, is scary because Eugene’s always been able to get the best of someone by using his intelligence. This is the first time that he’s actually met his match. The problem is, he didn’t know he was being played the whole time. It’s a scary place for him to be.
Eugene thinks that he’s playing chess. But Eugene doesn’t realize that he’s actually playing checkers while Lance is playing chess.
It’s kind of what I was saying earlier with him having those love blinders on. He got to that point where he let his guard down and look at what happened. The red flags could have been there. He could have been a little more skeptical, but he wasn’t because he was in love.
Eugene is starting to wonder if the Commonwealth is a place for him.
Can you tease a little bit about what’s to come for Eugene? Is there still hope for him to find some love in the zombie apocalypse? Is Eugene about to maybe trade some notes with Connie and join the resistance? I think that’s something he needs to do.
He’s just kind of trying to pick up the pieces. He doesn’t really know what’s next for his life. I think he was probably dreaming a little bit and wanting this sort of idea of what his life should be to play out. It’s not even that that’s in question now. It’s just not happening. That’s not a great place to be.
I think we see people in everyday lives just have curve balls thrown at them. You can let that spin you out of control or you can kind of pick up the pieces and figure out what’s next. I think that’s kind of the crossroads he’s at right now. I’m not sure that he necessarily regrets coming to the Commonwealth, but I definitely think he’s at the doorstep of regret.
He’s probably looking around and seeing people that he loves and cares for who are benefiting from being in the Commonwealth, but he himself he’s like, “I don’t know if this is for me.” He hasn’t walked through that door of regret yet. He’s just at the doorstep.
You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.