Auditioning is difficult enough—but auditioning for a mystery role on your favorite show? Nerve-racking. Actor-comedian Josh McDermitt lived to tell the tale, nailing his read to play Dr. Eugene Porter on the fourth season of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” filmed just outside of Atlanta in Senoia, Ga.
“I went in and the sides aren’t really from the script,” says McDermitt. “They were all character-based monologues about who the character is and what he’s going to do—it’s all backstory.” Two and a half weeks after his second audition, McDermitt was cast—but still didn’t know who he was playing.
Dr. Porter’s a quiet and rumpled science teacher who claims to know the cause of the undead outbreak, and takes advantage of the chaos and his ability to lie to keep himself safe. Much like the Governor from Seasons 3 and 4, Porter was a nobody before the apocalypse who rose to the occasion of his salvation at the expense of others. He is also very funny, which is a striking departure for the drama about a zombie apocalypse.
“He’s definitely a weird guy,” says McDermitt, who based Porter on his brother, in terms of demeanor and cadence. “I’m not trying to bring comedy to that role, but I think there’s something about him that’s kind of comedic because he’s different.” That sense of the comedic may stem from McDermitt’s background; before his stint on TV Land’s sitcom “Retired at 35,” he was a semifinalist on “Last Comic Standing.”
“I think I relied more on my standup in this role than I did for [‘Retired at 35’] just because of how undersold everything could be,” says McDermitt. “It wasn’t that difficult coming in and doing it—I just see it as a different role.”
To capture Porter, McDermitt read the comic books that inspired the series, worked with an acting coach, and called his brother for inspiration before heading down to Georgia. It’s an environment that agrees with the actor, despite the chiggers and humidity.
“I can’t imagine being on one of those shows where people have to look nice. I like to sweat, and this is the perfect show for me; I could just sweat and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you look great!’ They’re never coming over and touching me up, they just throw more sunscreen on and make you look sweatier!”