Crunchy Cucumbers – Josh McDermitt, Austin Amelio and Tom Payne (The VH Interview)

In the wake of last week’s psychological chess game between powerhouse Negan and snivelling Eugene, we were lucky enough to sit down with The Walking Dead stars Josh McDermitt (Eugene), Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Tom Payne (Jesus) to discuss their newfound relationships and a mutual love of pickles…

Let’s start with the dick bite…

(laughs all round)

Austin: Well, it’s healed now…

Josh: The issue is, Austin and I are both method, so I bit his dick off… Had to get a transplant… When you shoot a scene like that, it’s hard…

Tom: You’d only just met too, right?

Josh: Yeah, it was basically “Nice to meet you, I’m about to bite your dick.” It was fun.

Austin: I came back though. I came back strong. Ready to act again.

So this new relationship between you guys that’s brewing in the Sanctuary; that’s got to be a pretty tense one…

Josh: Well, I think we saw a little of what’s happening towards the end of episode 11, where they are both in the same boat, but both got on that boat from different points. They’re both “Negan”. Eugene’s optimistic; this is his new life. Dwight though, he’s completely torn and trying to figure out what the hell his next step is. I always like it when Eugene interacts with people he doesn’t know, because there’s always a bit of “who the hell is this guy?”. I think that’s where these two guys are. They have a unique history together, and yet they’re both still trying to suss each other out a bit. We’ll see if that takes hold, or if Scott Gimple has other plans.

How “Negan” is Eugene?

Josh: He is full Negan. Like he said, “I was Negan before I met you, I just needed to meet you to know.” That’s not just saying what he needs to say, he let Negan know he IS Negan. The question I’m getting asked is what are his intentions; is this a Trojan Horse sort of thing? I don’t know what his intentions are. I don’t wanna know.

But that’s Eugene, isn’t it? He’s a survivor now.

Josh: Yeah, so he’s gonna change and adapt to that situation! That’s what he said at the end of season six when we went to that machine shop. We’re seeing that even now. He’s been doing that since the moment we met him on the series; he came up with the lie the moment he met Abraham. He changed and adapted at that moment too. He’s a little cockroach and it would not surprise me if he’s the last man standing because he just morphs and figures out a way to do it. Personally, I don’t care if Eugene kills Negan, or if he kills Rick. I think either would be an interesting turn. I just want him to continue to grow and adapt and change. He does think of others at times, but he’s definitely a selfish individual who’s gonna think about his own survival first.

It was a big jar of pickles…

Josh: Well they weren’t even pickles yet, they were still kind of crunchy cucumbers at that point.

He’s used to crunchy cucumbers though by now…

Josh: (to Austin, laughing) Is that what you call it now?

(Austin nods morosely before laughing)

Austin: For me, the whole Dwight situation is really interesting to play. I’m not taking Daryl’s shit, I’m popping out behind trees and just killing random people. Episode 11 was great because you kind of get a background of where Dwight’s coming from and hopefully, if I did my job right, people will empathise with him a little bit. He’s a smart chess player. Everything else is out of whack, and the one thing he has control of is that note, so he’s like “well, what am I gonna do with this?”

Josh: They go about things in the same way in a lot of cases, like a chess match. Eugene even said that to Negan’s wives. When they said “you have this pill, and we’re gonna tell Negan”, he tells them that Negan’s not gonna believe them for the same reason he believed Dwight. Eugene knew Dwight sacrificed the doctor. Game recognised game. He gets it. That’s the beauty of these guys and how they come together. Like I said, they’re in the same boat, just coming at it from different angles.

Dwight and Jesus are perhaps two of the most iconic characters from the comic in the last few years. Was it daunting taking on such beloved roles?

Tom: It was fucking scary! I was really worried about it. I hadn’t actually read it. I read it after I filmed my first episode last year. I was worried about the people who read the comic books because they’ve been reading it for so long. A lot of people who read the comic books are like “oh, it’s perfect! You’re so great for it!”, but I looked at it, and I don’t think I even look like that guy… But that means they’ve become one and the same for some people, which is really nice. I hope I get to do a lot of the cool shit that he does!

Austin: I remember getting the call and I thought “oh great! I’m gonna go down to Georgia, shoot an episode and then cruise back to L.A.” But then I talked to Scott and he was like “oh, by the way, you’re a gigantic character in the comic book”. I was absolutely terrified, but the thing that gave me some resolution was that the collaboration between everyone on set really eased that tension a lot.

With Jesus now being a part of the main group, were you welcomed into the family?

Tom: It’s really odd! I know that a lot of people who have been working on the show for a long time found this season really weird, because everyone was split up and not working together, but for me and my character (and I’m sure Austin would say the same thing), you meet the actors and characters as you meet them on the show. My first episode I worked with Norman and Andy. The next episode I was sat in front of more of the main cast. So, as you work your way in on the show, you work your way behind the scenes as well. We all live an hour away from set, and yeah sometimes we hang together, but most of the time we’re all too fucking knackered to do anything, so we go home and collapse! So you socialise the most at work, and you socialise with those that you’re onscreen with. I love when everyone comes together on the show. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel really cool walking to The Hilltop in the midseason finale, but you don’t get that kind of payoff unless everyone’s been apart.

The Walking Dead, Mondays at 9pm only on FOX