• Josh McDermitt as Eugene, a man with no plan

AMC’s The Walking Dead has offered a lot of scares and surprises in its five-year run. But one of the biggest shocks of all (spoiler alert) was when Eugene Porter admitted that he’d lied about being a scientist with a direct line to the Pentagon and a bead on a cure. Our band of heroes now runs low on everything, including hope.

Josh McDermitt, who branched out from his comedy roots to land a series-regular spot on one of TV’s most-watched dramas ever, has been tasked with keeping Eugene’s secrets on and off screen. He’s hilarious (usually unintentionally) and cagey as the man with no plan and a Tennessee Top Hat.

McDermitt will be at Walker Stalker Con at Navy Pier on February 21 and 22 to thrill the zombie-costumed hordes. He spoke with me recently about character development, getting regular tick checks, and hitting the “fan lottery.”

On Eugene’s new role in the group (if he has one):

“Right now, he’s looking for ways to insert himself back into the group and show that he has some value, even though he probably doesn’t believe it himself. But that’s going to be a struggle. I don’t think he really has a skill set to offer aside from his intelligence. And even then, he doesn’t know fully know how to use that yet. The group doesn’t have the luxury of time for someone to analyze the situation and then have a strategy session. Sometimes you just have to react.”

On the “quality assurance” moment from Sunday’s episode, “Them”:

“It’s [Abraham and Eugene’s] first interaction since the admission of the truth. We wanted people to talk about that and wonder. Was [swatting the water away] just a habit for Abraham? Or does he actually care for Eugene? It’s a fun and interesting dynamic, and I can’t wait for people to see more of it.”

On shifting acting gears:

“[Drama’s] not so different from comedy when you really get into it. You jump into your characters the same way; you want them to feel as real as possible. There have been a few things to adjust to, but it’s something I really enjoy doing and I hope to continue to do.”

On comic relief, on screen:

“Glenn [Steven Yuen’s character] has provided a lot of the comic relief so far, which makes sense because Steven has a comedy background [he trained at Second City]. And I think Tara’s (Alanna Masterson) sarcasm works well. But I don’t the writers look for moments to break the tension. When you break the tension, it can take you out of the reality, out of the moment.

I also think Eugene’s behaviors are inherently funny; he’s just a little goofy. He’s not necessarily trying to say funny things, it’s just the way he says them.”

On sharing Eugene’s aversion to viscera:

“There was this moment in the first season five episode after the Terminus break: I didn’t want to get touched by the zombie—that’s me personally—so I threw my arms up and tried to wiggle my way around him. I wasn’t trying to be funny; it was my natural reaction. But everyone loved it, so I let them think that’s what I wanted Eugene to do. And it worked really well.”

On the mullet:

“It’s half real, half fake, and 100 percent awesome. But it’s like wearing a black curtain that drapes my neck and absorbs all the heat. Insects are the real problem: ticks and chiggers hide in there, so the hair and makeup department has to check for unwanted visitors. It’s actually become this weird sex symbol to some people. At conventions, people will ask to run their fingers through my hair. Anything for the fans!”

On hitting the convention circuit:

“I don’t know that there’s a better fandom [than TWD fandom]. We just did San Francisco, and there’s always a huge convention in Atlanta. As a fan of the show, it’s great to get out and meet other fans. We get to geek out together. It’s really like I hit the fan lottery.”