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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 505, “Self Help,” of AMC’s The Walking Dead and the comic series it is based on.]
Oh Eugene, you were too good (and perhaps too weird) to be true.
As nearly everyone save for Abraham could have imagined, the geeky science guy made a major reveal when his life was put on the line during Sunday’s The Walking Dead.
As fans of the long-running comics knew, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) was lying about knowing the cure for the zombie apocalypse.
That truth bomb comes out after Eugene revealed he sabotaged the bus to delay the inevitable in a bid to prolong his cowardly life. The truth brought fierce soldier Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) to his knees and — perhaps worse — forced Eugene’s biggest advocate to confront his heartbreaking past, which included a wife and children who feared him so much that they left his side and wound up becoming zombie bait. (More on Abraham’s backstory here, in our interview with Cudlitz.)
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with McDermitt to break down Eugene’s big reveal, his affinity for, ahem, watching and how the man with the Tennessee top hat could possibly win back the group’s trust.
Why does Eugene pick this moment to confess he doesn’t know a cure?
I don’t think Eugene wanted to admit the truth of the lie as quickly as he did. He was in that moment where he saw that people were going to get killed or badly hurt — including maybe himself — and he doesn’t see any other way out at that moment. He wasn’t thinking, “How can I continue to manipulate the situation” or “Who are my friends?” He realizes he’s all by himself.
Do you think he was expecting the reaction he got from Abraham?
I think he probably knew he was on Abraham’s shit list. He’s made it this far manipulating the situations and talking his way out of things. Eugene probably wasn’t expecting to get his ass beat, especially after he was able to give an entire speech and justify his reasoning throughout. The beating didn’t come until after Eugene turned to Abraham and said, “Again, I am smarter than you,” which is the worst thing to say at the end of admitting you’ve been lying about knowing the cure to the apocalypse! (Laughs.) At that moment, Eugene didn’t think Abraham would do anything because he hadn’t yet. I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone else, but for as smart as Eugene is, he certainly lacks in street smarts and being able to read a room.
How will Eugene work to mend his relationship with Abraham?
Anytime you break trust with anybody, there’s a rebuilding period to try and figure out how your relationship will work moving forward. This is where Eugene is going to have to figure out how he fits in with the group — or if he’s still even allowed within the group or go on living. The biggest thing for him — and he said it to Tara — was if he doesn’t have the cure, there’s no reason the group would protect him. He’s a coward and just wants to be protected. So not only does he need to mend that relationship with Abraham but now he’s alone, and that’s a place he’s never had to be in. There are some scary things moving forward for this guy that need to be addressed.
Does Eugene know that he effectively saved Abraham’s life?
Absolutely. He comes running up and sees this guy with a gun in his mouth, and Eugene is trying to save his own life at this point. But after he gets the help that he needs and Abraham walks away from him, Eugene goes after him. There’s a moment where Eugene looks past Abraham and sees dead bodies where he had collapsed. The great thing about Eugene is he is extremely intelligent — he’s not a dumb guy just because he was lying. That’s how he was able to lie for as long as he did. He has the smarts and is able to do math quickly in situations like this, and he saw the bodies and put it all together in that moment.
Eugene did save Abraham, and that’s cool because you see the flashbacks that Abraham is going through in the episode, and then when we find out at the end that Eugene was lying, you think Eugene is a jerk. Then you check in one last time and see how they were brought together. It’s not that it made things OK, but it just wrapped everything up nicely, and you realize that there’s so much more here between these two guys than just a man trying to get another guy to Washington. They’ve been on this journey for a while, and they’re close.
Where does this group go from here now that there’s no mission anymore? Could they return to the church?
That is the huge question. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) were talking about meeting up with the group at some point down the road. Abraham certainly left Rick (Andrew Lincoln) a map of their journey. I don’t think the group is that far behind them. Whether the group is following them or not, I’m not saying, but they’re not too far away. Even after the bus crashed, Eugene said the church was just 15 miles behind them. We’re going to explore what the next objective is, and now that the rug has been pulled out from under them, where do they go? Who are these people now? They had a mission and a purpose, and now that’s been taken from them.
How does anyone trust Eugene at this point?
You cannot trust anyone in this world — even people that are within your group. You’re always on guard. And now you’ve got a guy who didn’t do something heinous, like kill someone, in the group, but people died because of him — people that Abraham and Rosita (Christian Serratos) knew but thankfully the rest of the group didn’t. But they knew Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), and he indirectly died because of Eugene pushing things in a certain direction. How do they get to trust him again? He’s an untrustworthy guy. He is a broken man at this point, which is an exciting thing for me and the character. Now we get to do something different with him and see how this man fights his way back into the good graces of people or if he’s even able to do that.
Eugene is a bit of a peeping tom. Do you think he has feelings for Rosita, as he does in the comics?
I think Eugene is just girl crazy. Anytime a girl is around, he’s checking out her butt and staring at her and wanting to touch her skin or any number of creepy things because he’s never had that before. His justification is that he sees it as a victimless crime that provides distraction and comfort, and that’s exactly what it is for him. As much as he wants to be with someone like Rosita in that hot, passionate and sexual moment, he probably wants to be Abraham just as much. He wants to be this guy who can actually contribute and survive on his own. Unfortunately for Eugene, he’s a fat guy that has nothing else to offer. There are a lot of things that he wants and wishes he was different. It’s fun to play with that struggle a bit.
Maggie and Tara (Alanna Masterson) were supportive of Eugene before his truth bomb. Do you think that will change now?
His relationship with everyone changes. When he admitted to Tara that he crashed the bus, that was him dipping his toe in the water, seeing if he’d admit the truth and who would be on his side. Tara said she would keep his secret, and right now, that’s his closest friend. The fact that he’s been lying and she’s been protecting and killing for him — it’s not a good way to treat your friend. She’s not a big fan of his, and that relationship definitely changes. The whole time he’s thinking about Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and what he did. It wasn’t the atrocity that the preacher committed; it was that he admitted that he’d done these things. That was weighing heavily on Eugene and why he needed to share with Tara that he caused the bus crash. Tara probably felt like an outsider as well, given some of the things that she did while she was with The Governor (David Morrissey) and that she didn’t really feel like a full member of this new group the way other people did. I think they had that bond there, and that should be interesting to see how they repair their relationship as well as watching how he repairs it with Abraham and Rosita.
We know Eugene enjoys his “Tennessee top hat.” Do you enjoy rocking the mullet extensions?
I love it and looking as ridiculous as I can when I’m playing a character. I’m not Jon Hamm or George Clooney, and I don’t have these striking good looks. I’m not going to try and look as good as they are. If I can be noticeable for looking ridiculous, then let’s do it! (Laughs.) Having that mullet is great. There are some moments in the middle of the summer in Georgia where it’s like a black curtain on my neck, and it gets so hot. But at the end of the day, I look unique. And if no one else on the show looks as ridiculous as Eugene, I’m all about it. I love it.
What do you think of Eugene now? Hit the comments below with your thoughts, and click here to read our interview with Cudlitz (Abraham).
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