Our final The Walking Dead roundtable is with Tom Payne (Jesus), Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene). We talk accents, the moral grey area Eugene and Dwight are inhabiting and the perils of long hair, beards and being mistaken for Jesus. The other one.
How are you finding the American accent? Easy?
TP: “It’s easier because I’ve lived in Los Angles for like seven years so I’m surrounded by it all the time. I wouldn’t go to auditions if I didn’t practice the accent and stuff but I did anyway.”
Do you stay in the voice?
TP: “It depends.”
JM: “We wish you would.”
TP: “Andy does and when I was on set at first I did too because I didn’t want to f**k him up, basically. I mean otherwise you arrive on a show and end up screwing up the lead actor’s accent and I’m not gonna do that. So sometimes I do but it’s still WEIRD. I’m still like, ‘What the f**k am I doing?’ Between action and cut it’s fine but afterwards I’m like, ‘Why am I doing this?!’ But it’s funny, because living in America I do use my day-to-day accent just to be understood.”
“Because I don’t want people to be asking me, ‘Sorry what did you say?’ a lot. I do it here too, sometimes. In an earlier interview I said ‘ROUT’ instead of ‘ROUTE’ which here, like, my dad would be like ‘…What the f**k did you just say?’ I’ll be picked up on that stuff really quickly here. But we have accent coaches who help us if we need to brush up on anything.”
Do you enjoy working with another Brit?
TP: “Yeah it’s bizarre. I mean we’re both from the same city and I knew Andy before, worked with him before. And to then be sat in the middle of Atlanta talking in American accents covered in blood, it’s a bizarre, bizarre thing. It’s FUN. I get paid for it. It’s COOL.”
Austin, we have to ask. The dick bite. How are you feeling?
AA: “It’s healed now.”
JM: “The issue is that Austin and I are both method so I bit his dick off and he had to get a transplant. Shooting a scene like that it’s hard.” (Fnarr, fnarr – ed)
TP: “You’d just met before that, right?”
JM: “Yeah it was basically ‘Nice to meet you I’m about to bite your dick off.’”
“But that was fun.”
AA: “But I came back strong. Feeling good. Ready to act again.”
So how is the relationship between the pair of you going to develop? Comic readers have a good idea of where Dwight’s going but the Eugene and Dwight relationship is unique to the show. Can you give us some idea of what’s coming up?
JM: “I think we saw a little bit of it at the end of ‘Hostiles & Calamities’. They’re both in the same boat you know? They just got on it from different ends. Eugene’s Negan. And he’s excited about it. He’s optimistic. This is his new life and Dwight is completely torn and trying to figure out what his next step is. I always like it when Eugene interacts with people he doesn’t know there’s always a little, ‘Who the Hell is this guy? I don’t understand him,’ and 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. And we’ll see if that takes hold or if Scott Gimple has other plans.”
How Negan is Eugene?
JM: “He said, ‘I’m Negan,’ that’s pretty clear. He said, ‘I’m Full Negan. I was Negan before I even met you I just needed to meet you to know I’m Negan.’ That’s not just, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m just gonna say what I need to say.’ He let Negan know he’s NEGAN. The question I’m getting asked is, ‘What are his intentions? Is this is a Trojan horse? Is he still Team Rick?’ and I don’t know his intentions. I don’t wanna know.”
Eugene’s always been a survivor. How will that continue this season?
JM: “He’s gonna change and adapt to that situation, whatever it might be. That’s what we talked about towards the end of season six with Abraham and Eugene going to that machine shop. He says, ‘In order to survive in this world you have to change and adapt,’ and that’s what he’s done. And we’re seeing that now. He’s had to do that from the moment we met him on the series. He came up with that lie the moment he met Abraham he had to. This is a guy who’s like a little cockroach, it would not surprise me if he was the last man standing because he morphs and thinks of a way to do it. He does think of others at times but he’s definitely a selfish individual who’s going to think about his own survival first.”
It was a very big jar of pickles though.
JM: “They weren’t even fully pickled either. They were more like crunchy cucumbers. So there’s some optimism there.”
Dwight is really questioning Negan now and showing some independence.
Was that interesting to play?
AA: “Oh, it’s the most refreshing thing in the world. I’m not taking Daryl’s shit, or popping out behind trees and killing random people.”
The beer and pretzels reveal was heartbreaking.
AA: “Yeah I LOVED that when I saw that. It was so telling to Dwight and Sherry’s relationship, that that was the one thing he remember. You know she says I have a horrible memory and I had to get notes written out for me and all this stuff and the one thing Dwight kept in mind was beer and pretzels. When I read that I was just… THANK YOU.”
I guess he’s a survivor as much as Eugene. He sacrificed the doctor to survive after all.
AA: “Yeah, I mean he’s a smart chess player. Right now you can see him making chess moves and the only thing he has control of the note and everything else is out of whack.”
There’s something almost Shakespearean about Eugene and Dwight. You have two guys starting interact who exist in moral grey areas and do so for entirely different and entirely understandable reasons.
JM: “And who go about things, like you say, in a chess match. They go about things in the same way in a lot of cases. I think Eugene even said that to Negan’s wives when they said, ‘We’ll tell Negan you have this pill,’ and he says, ‘He’s not gonna believe me for the same reason he believed Dwight over the doctor.’ Eugene knew Dwight sacrificed the doctor. Game recognised game. He GETS it. That’s the beauty of the parallel between these guys. Like I said, they’re in the same boat they’re just coming at it from different angles. Or at least looking out in different directions.”
What do you want for your characters?
JM: “ …To live?
“I want him to keep living and keep growing. I don’t care if he kills Negan or kills Rick. I think either one would be a great turn for the character. I mean no one ever wants their character to stand in one place. We see that on TV shows sometimes that characters don’t grow and it becomes boring and stale and I think that’s something the show has done a good job of. The characters you see are different episode to episode and we’re starting to see this world and these other communities are starting to take effect on each individual character and I would love to see Eugene continue to grow and to rise up. Now whether, as you brought up he’s living in a morally grey area, I kind of like that area. It’s more interesting than clear black or white. That’s what I like.”
For you guys especially, Dwight and Jesus are iconic characters in the comics. How did it feel to come aboard the show?
TP: “F**king scary
TP: “I was really worried about it to be honest because I hadn’t really read the comics. I read it after I filmed my first episode last year and got up to date on all that kind of stuff. I was worried about the people who read the comic books because they’ve been reading it for so long and they’re really into it and hopefully they’ll be like, ‘Oh you’re perfect for it!’ I looked at it and I was like, ‘Well… I don’t really look like that guy,’ but then that means they’ve become one and the same to some people which is really nice. I hope I get to do some of the cool shit he gets to do in the comic books because that looks really fun. So yeah I felt that pressure the most before I appeared to the audience.”
AA: “Yeah I remember I booked it and I wasn’t aware how big it would be. I was like, ‘Ah great, I get to go to Georgia, shoot an episode, then cruise back to LA and finish out pilot season.’ Then I talked to Scott and he was like, ‘Oh, by the way you’re a GIGANTIC comic book character’. I was absolutely TERRIFIED but the only thing that gave me some resolution was the collaboration between everyone on set. Me, and the directors and Scott they had to ease that tension before I got down there. And he did, he gave me everything I needed.”
Is the scarring hard to put on?
AA: “I’m so used to it now. Takes about an hour.”
Jesus is the driving force behind Rick and the others meeting the new groups. Do you see him as a leader?
TP: “I don’t think so. He’s not really a leader, he’s great in support. He’s a nice counterbalance. I mean, I enjoyed how he came onto the show. He takes the world in a slightly different way. He’s a bit more considered about things. He’s not a, ‘Shoot first ask questions later,’ guy. That was nice.
You’ve reached a point in this world where everyone’s done horrible things and when you meet people…
“He’s a good judge of character as well. I mean he could have just killed Rick and Daryl. But instead he decides to come in and play this little game with them. And he didn’t do anything they wouldn’t do to him. He’s a good guy, basically. I think he’s easing how things work out. He obviously knew about the Kingdom before. He knew about the Saviours but I don’t think he knew the depth of the danger that was there. I‘m still not sure if he’s ever actually met Negan. When that whole situation happened last season he’s like, ‘Well, the Saviours are these guys, and there’s this guy called Negan…’
“I don’t think he really knew. I mean he knew they were bad and they were coming in and **king shit up at Hilltop and it was dangerous. But I think until Maggie and Sasha came back to Hilltop and told him what happened he didn’t realise – and this all happened off-screen – that, ‘Oh shit, those two guys I met a few days ago are dead now and this is really serious.’
“So I think he wants to help in any way he can and he takes them to the Kingdom and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, this could work out.’ And then Ezekiel’s like, ‘No!’ but he’s just trying to help it. And who knows how many other communities there are? It was nice to come in and be the person who says, ‘Your world’s about to get a whole lot bigger.’ That was really cool.”
How much interaction do you have as a group?
TP: “It was really odd. And I know people who’ve been on the show for a long time found this season really odd because you were split up and working at different times. So you didn’t see people you’ve worked with for seven years. For myself and my character it works out, and I’m sure Austin would probably say the same thing. You meet the characters and actors as you meet them on the show. My first episode I worked with Norman and Andy. My next episode was when 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 in behind the scenes as well. Because we all live, well most of us live, like an hour away from the set. We drive ourselves in in the morning and drive ourselves home at night. And yeah we hang out sometimes after work but most of the time we’re two f**king knackered.”
“So we go home and collapse and then come in the next day. So you really socialiSe the most at work and socialiSe with the people you’re on screen with. SO I spent the first half of the season with Lauren and Sonequa and Cailtin at the Hilltop aside from a few people in the morning sometimes. So it was really nice. We all came together and we went to the Kingdom. And I LOVE – and the audience does too – when everyone on the show comes together. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was really cool walking to the Hilltop in the mid-season finale. Like, ‘Yeah! We’re gonna get SHIT DONE!’ that was really fun. It’s fun to have everyone together. But in order to have that payoff everyone has to be apart.”
Would you prefer not to be recognized?
TP: “It’s a bit weird. I can’t escape it. Even if I wear a cap or something I’ve got the beard.”
JM: “And even people who don’t watch the show are like ‘…Jesus?’”
TP: “I’ve had that! ‘Haha Jesus!’ And they don’t watch the show.”
All three of you have iconic looks. Would you change them if you didn’t have to keep them for the show?
AA: “I’d probably look exactly the same.”
TP: “It is F**KING annoyed having long hair and a beard.”
JM: “It PULLS, man.”
TP: “I can’t wait to at least like get it shorter. It’s a nice disguise. At the end of the show I can look completely different. That’s a bit of a gift. Or maybe no one will watch because they don’t recognise me.”
JM: “Or they’ll think you’re a tremendous actor and all you’ve done is cut your hair. ‘HE’S A CHAMELEON!’”