Photograph by Isaac Sterling
Among the celebrity guests at Cincinnati’s HorrorHound Weekend (March 20–22) is Josh McDermitt, the man behind—or more accurately, immediately underneath—the mullet on The Walking Dead. McDermitt plays Eugene Porter, whose post-apocalyptic experience as a fearful nerd who lies his way to survival has endeared him to viewers. And it just might lead to a revival of that most iconic hairstyle. We caught up with McDermitt over the phone to discuss Netflix binging, character heroics, and realistic zombies.
You’re joining quite a number of other actors and actresses from The Walking Dead for HorrorHound this year. Is there anyone you love being on a panel with?
It sounds so cliché, like we’re coached to say it, but we are literally this huge happy family. It doesn’t matter who I’m with.
The great thing about these conventions is I can still be a fan. I came onto the show well after Jon Bernthal, who played Shane, had left, and I’d really wanted to meet Hershel and the Governor, and now I get to meet these guys and be friends with them. I was a fan of the show before I started working on it, and now I get to share in that excitement with fans.
I tend to binge-watch the show on Netflix, and I think my blood pressure rises with every episode.
I had that problem with Breaking Bad. Watch it on Monday morning. I have friends that do that.
Is it as scary on set as it is on television?
Everything on set looks so real. I’ve been on film sets and television sets where it looks fake, but with The Walking Dead, even when it’s not on camera, it looks real. It’s a testament to how great [Greg] Nicotero and his crew are. But I was originally really drawn to the show because it wasn’t just about zombies. The biggest threat in the world is your fellow human.
I was delighted to hear you have a background in improv. Do you get the chance to improv on the show? The writers are really good. There’s nothing I’m going to say that’s going to make it better.
Do you get recognized in public without the mullet?
Absolutely. They’ll ask if I watch the show and they’ll say, “You know who you look like?” But after I tell them that’s me they’re still looking at me, like, is this the real guy? Without the mullet, Eugene would just be in the background, so, it’s pretty great.
If Eugene were to get killed off, how would you want him to go?
I get this question a lot and every time my answer changes. I would hope that he would die being a hero, saving someone, because he’s certainly a scaredy-cat. He doesn’t have the balls to step up and fight.
The answer I love that I have to laugh at would be if he choked on a sandwich or something. Here’s this guy who is so afraid of all these zombies and other people and the thing that gets him is a ham sandwich.
So, if there were an outbreak at HorrorHound, what’s your plan for survival?
I do have a plan, but I don’t have a plan for every city I go to. If I were in LA, I’d get to Catalina Island as quickly as I could. Really, we might not even know if there was an outbreak at the convention, we’d just think people were cosplaying. I’d end up getting bitten before I realized it was an actual zombie.
But, I think I’m just going to get right behind Norman [Reedus] and let him protect me. He is very much like Daryl and I am very much like Eugene.