The actor teases potential comic book connection to Sunday night's big development -- and says next week's hour "is one of my favorite episodes of the season, if not the series."
The world of "The Walking Dead" got a little bigger Sunday night, as Eugene made first contact with a woman from another community over the radio.
Unfortunately, she didn't reveal her name, wouldn't say anything about where she was located or how many people were part of her group. The only thing we know about her: She's from Strasburg, Pennsylvania and, despite his loquacious nature, seemed to enjoy speaking with Eugene.
The actress providing the voice belongs to "Boardwalk Empire" alum and "New Amsterdam" star Margot Bingham, though her character's name remained a mystery. This introduction was very similar to the start of a huge arc in the comics.
COMIC SPOILERS -- SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH TO AVOID
In the comics, it's Eugene who makes first contact with a woman named Stephanie, who is a radio operator for the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a community of survivors that almost runs like a modern-day city, far more advanced than Alexandria. Many have speculated that's also where Maggie is now on the show, until she returns next season.
END OF SPOILERS
TooFab caught up with the man behind the ponytail, Josh McDermitt, who opened up a little about Eugene's new friend. He said that he has not been in the same room as this newcomer yet IRL -- before giving a message to comic fans (like us) who are reading into what this could mean going forward. He also teased some epic episodes to come and answered one very important question.
Tonight's episode opens up the world of the Walking Dead a bit more. As an actor on the show, how does it feel knowing a new community might be on the horizon?
It's exciting because new storylines, fresh storylines are always exciting. Eugene can keep tinkering around Hilltop and finding things to do and our writers are amazing and they would write some great stuff there but this is unknown. And this is exciting. It's fun to play the apprehension, it's fun to play the excitement, the newness of it all. I think Eugene's trying to connect with people. And so, to be able to have that larger world opening up, even though this is something he wanted, for that to come is still a surprise to him and that's always exciting. It's pretty great.
Does Rosita's rejection have anything to do with him really trying to find someone else to connect with and do you think it might make him trust too easily?
I think he's still smart enough to not give away too much -- even though he for sure gives his name to this random voice. I do think there's some caution there, but I do also think maybe some of his excitement -- 'cause he knows he's not a bad person -- I think some of his excitement got the better of him, I think he just assumed that whoever he talks to is going to assume he's not a bad person and tell him exactly where they're located and how many people they have and how long they've been there. I think he just forgets that initially, because even though he doesn't trust people, he's still thinking that he might.
He's looking to connect with these people and have a fresh start. Not connect with these people, but just connect with people in general after being rejected by Rosita for the final time. He's had that crushing moment of clarity of, 'I've been a really crappy friend to you, that I continue to pursue your love and I've put you through that and I'm so sorry.' He's just been in a really lonely and depressed place. He's definitely looking to connect with someone. I don't want to call it a mistake, but he didn't have the clearest judgment in that moment. But maybe he did, I don't know.
This storyline feels like it came straight out of the comics. Since we know the show definitely takes its deviations, what would you say to the fans of the source material who might be reading into this more than the average viewer?
I read the comics too, and this is a very exciting start to the storyline that could line up with the comic version, or it might not. The thing we're able to do on the television show is kind of dive deeper into some of the details that they may not have had time to do on the comics. Sometimes they have to move on and leave some stuff on the table and we're able to unpack that a little more. There's obviously things in the comics that we can't get to either. I'll tell you, I'm really excited about this storyline and I think if you're a fan of the comics I would hope that not just with this particular storyline but in general, I would hope that you like what we've done with the show this year. We're excited about the scripts we're getting as well. I would think that any fans of the comics, I'd hope they are excited about what they're seeing.
Have you personally met the person who's on the other end? Have you interacted in person?
I have not met the person. I have not been in the same room with the person, we'll put it that way. I had Avi Nash reading the lines for me. And then we had one of our costumers, Kara Kimmer, help out as well. Avi's a really good actor, but he had a hard time making his voice into a woman's voice. I was like, 'We needed to change this up because it's distracting me, sir. You're a good actor, but I want to believe that I'm talking to a woman.'
The shift in Rosita and Eugene's friendship came across well tonight. How are we going to see that play out as the season continues?
When he turned on the radio, the first person to reach out to him is Rosita. And he's thinking, 'Here I am living in this new community, and it's weird to be around you right now and now you're reaching out,' and find out that she was looking for Eugene, he's trying to figure out what the boundaries are with this friendship. She was specifically looking for him to talk, you know, she needed her friend. And I think we're going to start to see that relationship -- I don't want to say get repaired because I don't know it was torn down in any way -- but there's been a bit of a paradigm shift.
We're just trying to see what the new boundaries are and I think we're going to explore a little bit more of that. But she was just kind of longing for her friend and that was kind of nice and beautiful. She wants to know what he's been up to and he tells her, but I also think that he ends it with, 'Oh, I've been doing all this stuff and everyone wants a slice of Eugene,' almost in a way of, not 'Hey, see what you're missing,' but more of like, 'I'm trying to convince myself that everything's gonna be okay.' I think he is going to be confronted with that later. He's going to have an interaction with her to really find out if everything is okay between them or not.
How long is Eugene going to wait before he lets people in on who he's been talking to?
I mean, that's the million dollar question. He doesn't want to just run out like, 'Hey, I just talked to ... found a random voice over the airwaves!' She's saying, 'Look, we have to keep this on the down low for now,' and she makes him promise, 'If I hear anyone else's voice, I'll know I can't trust you.' And so I think he wants to keep that promise, and he's going to keep it until he has to or he's forced to give that information up. He's got a nice thing going, he had this nice conversation with some random person where they weren't talking about, 'Oh, how many Walkers have you killed?' They're talking about things that happened in their lives before all of this. And if we know anything about Eugene before all of this, we don't know much about him.
I like the fact that we don't know many specifics from his past. And I don't really think Eugene's talked about, let alone even thought about what his life was like before the apocalypse. I would venture to say that it wasn't great. He was probably bullied and people didn't understand him because he was weird. So for someone to show interest in who he was before all of this, and to find that connection through Strasburg, Pennsylvania is huge. He gets to talk about something positive, a fun, tender moment from his childhood and had a connection with this stranger. I think he'd want to keep that alive as long as he can before he goes and shares with others and potentially spoils this connection he has with someone.
We only have two episodes left for the first half of the season. What can you tease about the mid-season finales, since they're known to be crazy?
I don't know that I'm allowed to tease much. I'm able to say that Michael Cudlitz came back for Episode 7 [to direct], I was very excited to be able to work with him this season. He's a fantastic director and I think he does amazing work in front of the camera and behind the camera. He's able to pull some amazing performances out of people. I would say that Episode 7 is one of my favorite episodes of the season, if not the series. I'd put it in the top ten. I'll tease that for you!
We all know Danai's exiting this season, what effect do you think that might have on Eugene?
There's not many people left in the world that were here before Eugene showed up. You have Carol, Daryl and Michonne. And Rosita. Because everyone after that came after he was already in the world. He has a long history with her even though we don't see it on screen, on camera. Everybody talks about their offscreen relationships with each other, we talk about that amongst the cast. It helps with our performances. Not seeing her would have an impact on him for sure.
Everyone seems to be really enjoying the direction the show is heading in, with EW saying the show is in a "creative renaissance" right now, that has to be nice to hear.
I think we feel that on set, too. We're getting scripts and we're seeing the amazing things that Angela Kang and Corey Reed and our writers [are doing]. They've really bolstered our writer's room this year and we've got some amazing scripts this year and it's nice to hear that. We've definitely been feeling it on our end.
Last, but certainly not least, after a year with the new 'do, which do you prefer: the braid or the mullet?
It's really hard. Six of one, half dozen of the other. I like having the braid, because I can actually cut my hair shorter in real life and have somewhat of a normal haircut. I prefer that. But at the same time, we have to put so much hairspray in it, that when we take it out, it's so crunchy and it hurts. So I'll put a hat on and it hurts. There's pros and cons to each. I do think I prefer the ponytail, because I'm able to have a real haircut. I got family saying, 'Do you think that person recognized you, because they were staring at you.' I was like, they might be because I have a ridiculous haircut, not because they watch the show. They're probably looking at me like, 'Who's this idiot?'