No question about it: As The Walking Dead‘s upcoming Season 5 unspools, Dr. Eugene Porter has his work cut out for him. Trapped in a Terminus train car with comrades old and new, the survival of the ever-growing Grimes gang appears to hinge on the mulleted M.D. not being a fibber about the actuality of that cure in Washington, D.C.
“This is the only thing that’s giving them hope,” says Josh McDermitt, who plays the mysterious Dr. Porter. “We see in the trailer that they’re all tied up and Bob is pleading, ‘Hey, we got a guy — he can fix this thing. We just gotta get him to Washington!’ That’s a huge responsibility for this character, and I’m honored that so much of the plot looks like it might fall on that.”
And on the ingenuity of the folks tasked with getting him to the U.S. capital.
“That’s exactly why he is traveling with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) — he needs someone to protect him to get to Washington so he can cure this thing. On his own, he’s not going to make it 30 yards!” McDermitt laughs. “So it’s an interesting dynamic as he’s introduced to people in the group — there are people he’s going to trust and people that he’s not going to trust immediately.”
Not to mention the fact that virtually no one’s survival is guaranteed and — in the snap of a zombie’s jaw or the slam of a mysterious car door (where are you, Beth?!) — a total stranger could become the only hope you have. “In this sort of dangerous world, you never know who’s going to die at any given moment,” McDermitt stresses. “And I’m not just talking about these characters. I mean in this world. A person you can be traveling with can all of a sudden get bit and then it’s like, ‘Well now who’s going to take you?’”
Leaving viewers wondering anew what makes Rosita and Abraham so certain that their guy is on the up-and-up in the first place.
“We’re going to find out more about Abraham and Eugene’s backstory and their journey up until this point — because there were other people,” McDermitt promises. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised at the trajectory of our trio and to see where we’ve come from — and it continually evolves.”
That aside, McDermitt says he’s also enjoying finally working with the entire group of actors whose work he’s been admiring since the advent of the series.
“It’s fun because just coming in as a fan of the show, I want to work with everyone and I want to see how they work and I want to see their process,” he explains. “I’ve heard stories about how Andy Lincoln does things or how Norman does things and so forth, and it’s been fun to watch that. But it’s also been a bit of a learning experience to work with a cast that big within such a confined space, like the train car, for example. Not everyone is going to have a line, not everyone is going to have the focus be on them for the scene, and so you kind of have to learn to be present in that moment and observe and be clear with your intentions for your character.”
Still, while Eugene’s intentions are about to become the center of attention for Terminus tough guy Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his captives, Eugene’s hair is still the center of attention for McDermitt’s fans.
“It’s still pretty mullet-based — and I’m trying to push it in that direction,” McDermitt says of his interactions with the Porter faithful. “I’m trying to kind of brand it [laughs]. I’m doing these ‘mullet chats’ on Twitter — whenever I hit a milestone in followers, I’m like, ‘Oh, let’s do a mullet chat and talk about stuff.’”
Like just how low that mullet can grow.
“I’m talking to [executive producer] Scott Gimple about it — if we can grow Eugene’s mullet down to his butt,” McDermitt laughs. “Get some jean shorts and a cut-off shirt. Let’s go full out! That would be awesome!”
New episodes of The Walking Dead premiere Sundays beginning Oct. 12 at 9/8CT on AMC.
Images: AMC/Gene Page