Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead was arguably the biggest for Josh McDermitt's Eugene Porter character since he came clean about his big lie. The character is one who has relied on Abraham and others for protection for most of his time on the show but he's at least trying to become more independent.
Twice As Far was a big step towards Eugene no longer needing that protection. Yeah, he did get caught by the Saviors, but no survivor would've been able to get out of a 7 on 1 scenario in a better way than Eugene did. At least he convinced them to take him alive. Little did they know he would take a bite out of his captor, Dwight, a moment which was taken straight from the pages of The Walking Dead comics.
"I was definitely pushing for that to happen," says McDermitt. "It's such an iconic moment from the comics. Since season four, I'd text [showrunner] Scott Gimple pictures of that comic panel and ask him if we could please do this. He always wanted to do it but was concerned I didn't have the patience. I really wanted to do it; it's such a great moment. Here's this guy [Eugene] who is slowly gaining confidence in himself and his abilities. We started to see that in the midseason premiere. And in this moment, he just goes feral — he puts the situation into his mouth and he bites down to try and create a diversion to save people (laughing). This is a guy who is becoming a man of action — not just someone who is hoping someone else will protect him. It was certainly a fun scene to shoot. This was a tense and high-stakes situation. We laughed a lot about it when the cameras weren't rolling but the gravity of the situation was a nice balance to that. Norman Reedus and Christian Serratos and a few others pitched in and got a hot dog truck to come on set that day and we were laughing about that. Norman joked, 'I wanted to make sure everyone was biting a wiener today!' We were having a great time shooting this. Austin Amelio was a great sport."
McDermitt's big episode meant lots of exploring the mind of Eugene. The audience would not have had such a pleasure doing so if not for McDermitt's portrayal which he has down to a science.
"It was really interesting to see the parallels between Denise and Eugene," McDermitt says. "They both had this need and desire to get outside the walls of Alexandria and prove something to themselves. It easily could have been Eugene who got killed this episode. For it to be Denise, that was just as shocking. It's a nice reminder that nobody is safe in this world. She was saying that she needed to do this for herself and it was interesting because Eugene wasn't saying that sort of thing. He said, 'I did this because this is who I am now,' but it was really a commentary on the both of them."
Now that Eugene is stepping up, he might even get out there on his own, though McDermitt admits he still isn't exactly a Daryl or Michonne. "I think he has room to grow in this new role for him. He was tested in this episode with his new bravery and confidence and he'll continue to test that," McDermitt says, adding, "He's in Stage Two but let's see what Stage Three has — we haven't even touched on that yet."
A lot of fans were wondering if the episode would mean real trouble for the bro-mance between Eugene and Abraham. According to Michael Cudlitz, it won't, but Eugene does have a very unique way of looking at things.
"Cudlitz and I talk a lot that Abraham is a sergeant and they carry out orders," McDermitt explains. "Eugene, in a way, was like the general when he was carrying his lie around. He'd give Abraham the orders and Abraham would go off and do his thing. Now Eugene doesn't want to just be the general giving orders; he wants to fight side-by-side with Abraham. In that break-up scene they have where he says, "You've outlived your usefulness," I didn't take that as you can go home now. It's more like Abraham's usefulness in the past was protecting me but now I'm going to be fighting with you. That's why it came as a shock when Abraham left and Eugene asked where he was going. You have to see where this guy is coming from and I don't think Abraham did in this moment."
While we've all been so busy looking forward to the finale and anxiously awaiting Negan's arrival, McDermitt warns that the penultimate episode of the season will be just as high velocity of the 90-minute capper. "When I read these next two episodes — I typically go through a script in about an hour but I read them both in about 20 minutes because I couldn't turn the page fast enough," he says. "It just left a feeling in my stomach after reading these. We're in new territory with the show now and we're telling things in a different way that the show hasn't done before. It stays with you."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 PM ET on AMC.