INTERVIEW: Josh McDermitt talks Middle Man and The Walking Dead

Josh McDermitt as T-Bird in Middle Man. Photo credit: Skott Snider Photography.

Actor Josh McDermitt, who also stars in AMC’s The Walking Dead, spoke to me late this morning in an interview as he promotes Middle Man.  The indie film opens in select theaters this weekend.

Thanks for joining Solzy at the Movies today.  How are you doing?

Josh McDermitt: I’m doing awesome.  You doing alright?

Yeah, hanging in there.  What attracted you to the role of T-Bird in Middle Man?

Josh McDermitt:  It’s something completely different from what I’ve played before.  I think that’s what attracted me to Eugene on The Walking Dead as well.  Like it’s definitely something outside of the typical roles I’m usually cast with playing.  I even worked with Jim O’Heir in another movie.  He played my father and I fell in love with the guy.  When Andrew J. West, who plays Hitch in Middle Man, signed on to do that role.  He told the director, “Hey, you should look at Josh for the role of T-Bird.”  Because I had worked with Andrew on The Walking Dead and we became buddies there.

So when Ned Crowley, the director, had spoke to Jim O’Heir with “Hey, I’m thinking about hooking up this weirdo, Josh McDermitt, for this role,” Jim O’Heir was immediately on board because we had worked together.  Finally, I had a relationship with someone that didn’t end poorly because it got me another job so I was happy about that.  (laughs).

What did you bring to the character that wasn’t in the script?

Josh McDermitt:  I think I may have made him a little softer than he was initially portrayed in the script.  At least when I initially read it, I thought this guy was extremely unlikable.  The thing is, yes, he’s still going to be unlikable but there has to be some piece of believability to him so he’s not just one-dimensional.  There has to be some likeability to him where you can at least understand where he’s coming from.  Whether or not you agree with it, you can only to understand why he is behaving the way he is.

I think there’s a funny moment in the movie where he’s kind of a little loving to his girlfriend.  They are at the bar.  It’s when the queen, as they say, is singing her song and he kind of like gives her the finger and kind of dances over, walk over and be a little loving to his girlfriend.  I think just trying to soften him up a bit so he’s not as harsh, not as misogynistic as is coming off the page.  This humanized him a bit.  You have to be able to pull people back like that so they’re not one-dimensional.

How does your experience with Middle Man compare to that of The Walking Dead?

Josh McDermitt:  You know what’s funny?  It was great.  It felt like home and that’s kind of what working on The Walking Dead feels like.  It feels like you’re just hanging out with a bunch of friends shooting a movie, shooting a TV show—just like having a good time.  That’s basically what I love about the entertainment industry.  We’re making a TV show.  We’re making a movie.  Like this should be fun.  This was certainly fun.  Not everything you’ve ever worked on is fun 100% of the time.  As quickly as we shot this thing, working with people that I enjoy, that make me laugh and I can collaborate with, that was awesome.  Certainly the same types of things we get on The Walking Dead.  I don’t know that if any other piece were different on Middle Man that it would be the same experience but luckily, it was.  Pretty great.

You play a stand-up comedian in the movie.  Given your background in comedy, was the material ad-libbed or was it on the script that Ned wrote?

Josh McDermitt:  It was a little bit of both.  I had the opportunity to play a stand-up comic in a few different things.  I guess kind of a pet peeve of mine would be to play that comic with having an admirable thing.  I can be funny.  I’m not funny all the time and I need something to go off of.  That’s what I really appreciated about the role in this movie—that Ned gave me an amazing foundation that allowed me to kind of spin out and do my own thing as well and bring a little bit more to the character that wasn’t necessarily on the page so that was cool.  Like I said, a lot of times when you play a stand-up comic, just get up there, wing it, and have fun.  I don’t know anybody that could do it and kill it 100% of the time like that.

What was the chemistry like on set with you and Andrew having both come from The Walking Dead?

Josh McDermitt:  The one thing I was disappointed about was that I didn’t get to do any scenes with Andy.  But I think, as I talk to people who kind of come into The Walking Dead, it raises your game.  It certainly does and you’re able to take that into each thing you worked on after that and make sure your game is continually being raised, you can continue to clear that bar and you raise the game for everyone else as well.

I think there was a moment with Jim and I.  The sun’s coming up and it was basically the last day that The Walking Dead was allowing me to shoot this movie.  We were shooting it at the same time that we were doing the show.  The sun’s coming up and we had zero time left.  It was supposed to be a really intense scene.  What I’ve learned from The Walking Dead is that there’s no dancing around.  You have to bring it 110% from the get go.  I started doing my preparations for that and I caught Jim’s eye for a second and he just kind of like nodded like, “Oh, okay—this is what we’re about to do.  We’re actually going to do this.”  It was great to connect with Jim on that level and to know that had I not been on The Walking Dead before, we might be struggling to do this scene but the fact that both of us were pros, we were able to go in and kill it before the sun comes up and then I had to jump on a plane to get back to Georgia.

I know your question started with Andy.  I know Andy was doing the same thing.  He’s been able to take his experience from The Walking Dead and bring that into every other role he’s worked on since as well.

I’m curious to see the next season of Once Upon A Time given that he’s playing the older version of Henry.

Josh McDermitt:  Personally, I just want to see Andy in anything.  He’s so likable, really goofy, and charming and yet has this sinister side that is starting to come out.  We saw it when he played Garrett on The Walking Dead and we’re seeing it again as Hitch in Middle Man.  We’re starting to see a different side to him.  He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors to watch.

Last month, you quit social media because of threats against you.  Why do you think people have nothing better to do than threaten celebrities?

Josh McDermitt:  I’m not really going to get into that too much.  I just know that the internet is just kind of dark and negative place, which just kind of breeds that mentality and those sorts of thoughts.  I think that if people go left unchecked, there’s no consequences for what they say on the internet.  It’s just unfortunate so, you know, it is what it is.  Unfortunately, nothing’s being done about it at this point.  Oh, well.

Middle Man is only playing in a few select cities this weekend before being made available on demand in September and streaming on Netflix in October.  Any last words before you go?

Josh McDermitt:  This was a really fun movie to shoot.  We had such a great time doing it.  I think it really comes across in the film.  It’s different.  It’s quirky.  It’s really funny.  You’re going to see some actors in other roles doing things completely different than you’ve ever seen them do.  It’s really good and I’m really proud of it.  I hope people are able to see it and I can’t wait to hear about their experience seeing the film.

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with me.

Josh McDermitt:  Thanks a lot.  Great chatting with you!

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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