He spends up to 15 hours a day fleeing zombies as the eccentric Eugene Porter in The Walking Dead, and actor Josh McDermitt has revealed that filming left him having terrifying nightmares.
About to resume series six after a winter break, McDermitt – who joined in series four – took a while to adjust to the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead.
“When filming stops, we try and laugh on set as much as we can. We also all hang out after work and just try to get back to normality,” McDermitt tells Loaded.
“It can be easy to get caught up in this crazy apocalyptic world where you’re going to work at four in the morning, get chased by zombies and you never see your neighbours because you come home so late. You start to believe you are living in that world.
“I had nightmares when I first started working on the show. It’s pretty violent and I’m not the only one who was affected. We’re shooting guns at zombies all day and I was having some pretty heavy nightmares for the first year of the show.”
Based on The Walking Dead comic novels, the Golden Globe-nominated show follows the lives of a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies following a deadly virus.
McDermitt’s mullet-haired Eugene proved to be a massive shit-stirrer upon entering the series, when he falsely claimed to be a scientist who knew how to cure the zombie virus to restore order to the world.
Still, as McDermitt stresses: “If Eugene had the cure, then that would mean that your favourite show would be over!”
He admits that, after a rocky start where he certainly ruffled some feathers, fans are now beginning to come around to Eugene and even like the fact that he possesses very few physical survival skills.
“I think a lot of the fans want to picture themselves in the apocalypse and wonder which character they would be,” says the 37-year-old, who also plays the lead in upcoming romcom Life In Color.
“I have a feeling that most of us would be Eugene – just scared, a coward and hoping that someone else will protect him. He has nothing really to offer the group and he’s relatable because of that. He’s kind of an everyman.”
So why did Eugene tell that astronomical fib?
“I think he saw a situation where he came up on Abraham, and you see the wheels turn in Eugene’s head. He makes up a line right there,” he says. “He just saw an opportunity and took it. Who wouldn’t lie in that position? He didn’t want to die.”
The lead in the show, Rick Grimes, is played by British actor Andrew Lincoln and McDermitt admits Lincoln is very much the glue that holds the entire cast together.
“Andrew’s such a great leader,” McDermitt says.
“Someone in Andrew’s position could just be like ‘I’m the lead on the show and I’m hot stuff’ and not bother with the rest of us. But he definitely is humble and leads from that place of humility. It’s awesome. I think that it’s a huge reason for the success of the show. Andrew just wants everyone’s work to be good.”
With so much death around The Walking Dead, does McDermitt live in fear that Eugene’s days could be numbered?
“When I started off on the show I got really caught up in how long he was going to last,” he admits.
“But we have such a good thing going on down there in Georgia and everyone loves being there. So if I got caught up on focusing on when my character is going to die, I’d really miss out on all those experiences we have in the present. I can’t let this great thing pass me by and I try to focus on having a good time.
“If my time does come to an end, I will be very sad. But at least I’ll have some really great memories instead of always focusing on my death.”
The Walking Dead Series 6 premieres on Fox TV UK tonight at 9pm. Josh McDermitt appears at zombie convention Walker Stalker at London’s Olympia on February 20-21.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1