[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Twice as Far” episode of The Walking Dead.]
The survivors of The Walking Dead have to be constantly concerned with being on the receiving end of a bite from zombies. Rarely are they the ones doing the actual biting. However, Eugene took matters into his own hands — well, mouth really — during Sunday’s episode when he chomped into Dwight’s man region to help Daryl, Rosita, and Abraham escape from the Saviors after Denise was shot dead.
However, that was only one of Eugene’s big moments in the episode. Josh McDermitt already hilariously clued us into what Eugene was up to in Alexandria while everyone else was off battling the Saviors. Now, he made up for lost time by discovering a factory for making ammunition that could prove pivotal for any looming war, while also displaying newfound confidence with some strong words for the protective Abraham. We spoke with McDermitt to get all the intel on Eugene’s entry into stage two, and the actor reveals a clever cast prank meant to honor his big bite.
(Click through both pages to read the entire interview. Also make sure to check out our episode Q&A’s with Merritt Wever (Denise) and Austin Amelio (Dwight). And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, normally I would try and go through things somewhat chronologically. That usually seems to be the way do it. But when you have a scene of one man attempting to bite off another man’s penis, that sort of demands immediate attention, so maybe we should start right there.
JOSH McDERMITT: Yeah, you can’t save that for the end. That’s the elephant in the room. You need to talk about it. We certainly took a bite out of this episode. [Laughs.] That was obviously ripped from the comic book pages, and it’s something I had been looking forward to for a long time. [Showrunner] Scott Gimple likes to remix things and do new storylines, give characters different bits and pieces of other people’s storylines just to keep fresh and come up with new stuff, as well. The crotch — the “junk bite,” I think as it was called in the writer’s room — that was something that I had been lobbying for since season 4.
So you’re like, “Dude, I need to be totally crotch biting on this show?”
Yeah, it’s such an iconic moment from the comics, and I said, “That’s just going to be good TV.” Fortunately, we got a great actor named Austin Amelio to play Dwight, and I don’t know if he knew when he took the job that I was going to biting his crotch, but hey, he rolled with it, and we had some fun. It was certainly a tense, high-stakes moment in the story, but we had a lot of fun with it on set. Norman Reedus got a hotdog truck the day we were going to do that, and I know Christian Serratos was a part of that, as well, and we were just kind of cracking jokes, and making light of a pretty intense situation as much as we could.
What do you mean they got a hotdog truck?
They actually got a hotdog truck! We need snacks on set sometimes, so Norman thought it would be funny to get some wieners out there for when we’re biting wieners. Everybody was biting wieners.
What sort of direction were you given in terms of how to approach this act of Eugene digging his face into Dwight’s crotch?
Well, Austin Amelio and I certainly practiced a lot in his trailer with the door closed, and it was pretty much like, “Don’t hurt yourself.” I think that is what they were more worried about because he wore a harness on his hips, and then he had a cup over his prized possession there, and so they were worried that I was going to ram my face into the cup or something like that. He had a little piece coming out of his jeans that was like a rope that I would bite onto. And so the very first take… it’s a delicate thing, you don’t just chomp down, you got to kind of nuzzle up there and…[starts laughing]. This sounds so…Dalton, I can’t…this is like the last conversation I expected to be having with you today. It just sounds so sexual! I don’t mean for it to be, but you get up there, and it’s delicate, and you want to treat the man right.
You want to treat the man right?
[Laughing] I am 12 years old. I am sorry. You got to get up there. You can’t just bite down immediately. You have to get up there, and make sure your teeth get on the rope that you’re supposed to bite, and everything is going to be perfect. And in the very first take that we did it, I went to bite, and I think he thought I got a hold of the rope already so he thrust his hips forward, and arched his back, and was screaming “Ow! Ow!” But I wasn’t on yet, and the cup knocked me in the teeth, and I thought a few of my teeth had fallen out. So it was pretty… that’s a dangerous show to shoot. Things come up that you’re not expecting. Everyone was worried about Austin, obviously, and then once he had the protective cup on, they’re like, “Well, Josh. You don’t hurt yourself,” but I ended up doing it anyway because I’m an idiot.
Once you did all your close-ups, your wide shots, your reverse angles…ballpark this for me, how many takes do you think you did this?
We probably did five or six takes of me actually biting down on the rope, biting his crotch. There were a bunch of takes that we did where I wasn’t biting, but my face was still buried in his crotch just in case the camera swings around, they need to see something, but this is a little bit more of a wide shot. My head and Austin’s crotch are good friends.
Now, do you feel at this point, Josh, that we have focused too much on the crotch biting, or not enough?
In the interview or in the show?
In the interview.
On the show, I don’t think you could do enough of it, but I think we might have covered it.
Okay, just checking. So let’s get into some other stuff now. Eugene and Abraham go on this field trip, and Eugene tells him “The key to survival is allowing oneself to be shaped by the environment. I’ve changed. Adapted. I’m a survivor.” Is he overestimating his abilities a bit here?
I don’t think he is. I think he certainly understands that he is still not an Abraham, or a Daryl, or Michonne in terms of physical strength and agility and things like that, but he certainly has the confidence at this point, which started way back in the midseason premiere when they were clearing the walkers out of Alexandria. Rosita said to him, “Look. You don’t have to do this.” He said, “No, I do. No one gets to clock out today.”
That’s when he finally got the confidence to step up and to do this thing, something that we’d been waiting for, for a couple of seasons, and it’s exciting to see him continue that, and to have that confidence be tested. I don’t think that he’s overestimating himself. Now, he certainly needs to show someone like Abraham that he can do this. He doesn’t want Abraham’s help. Look at that walker that he was trying to kill in the machine shop. That’s a difficult walker for anybody. I’m not going to count Eugene out just because he couldn’t kill that one walker, and I do believe he had that situation under full control, as he said.
You do believe? You think that if Abraham doesn’t come in there to finish the job, Eugene’s going to take care of it?
Eugene eventually uses his brain to take care of it, I think. Eugene’s a lot smarter than me. I would maybe trip the walker, and get him on the ground, and then grab the stake or the piece of rebar, and jam it up through the head to kill him. There’s other ways. He tried with the machete. He tried bashing the metal off of the head up against the cauldron. That didn’t work. He’s trying things, and that’s what you need to do. You need to fall off the bike in order to learn how to ride it sometimes. Unfortunately, though, in this world when you fall off the bike, you die. I think that’s why Abraham felt like he needed to step in at that point.
He also could’ve tried the old “your shoelace is untied” trick.
“You’ve got something on your shirt.” WOOP! And then run his finger up the guy’s face.
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A little distraction never hurts anyone. But we see Abraham does get in there to finish the job, and it’s one thing for Eugene then to say something like, “Hey, I’m a more capable guy. You have to let me do this on my own.” But instead he says, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me.” Those are some seriously harsh words. What’s going on there?
It’s very harsh. It’s an incredible breakup scene. We just saw Abraham and Rosita breakup, and now Eugene is breaking up with Abraham. It was nice to watch those parallels because both of those scenes were harsh to the other person, but yeah, he says, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me,” in that I don’t need you to protect me anymore. I don’t need to be the guy standing in the background awkwardly while you run out and kill all the walkers for me.
I think Eugene wants to be counted as a companion, like someone who is fighting side by side with Abraham. That’s why it took him by surprise when Abraham left and he said, “Where are you going?” because it wasn’t like, “You’ve outlived your usefulness to me. Why don’t you go home?” It’s like, “Your usefulness to me in the past was you would kill all these walkers for me and protect me. I don’t need you do that anymore. We can fight side by side together now,” and it was certainly very harsh, but I don’t think Eugene was aware that it was going to be taken as it was.