For Josh McDermitt and Jamie Brewer, co-starring in the Off-Broadway family dramedy Amy and the Orphans is a delightful departure. The former is used to interacting with blood-soaked zombies as cowardly smart party pants Dr. Eugene Porter on The Walking Dead(TWD) while the latter has made a name for herself appearing in several incarnations of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story (Nan!). I caught up with the two recently and asked them about being on the New York City stage (the show is playing for a very limited engagement at the Laura Pels Theatre at The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre), their respective cult following, and what their next move will be.
Your career is pretty across the board from your work in comedy to radio to, well, zombie dramedy. With your background in standup and conquering all other mediums, theatre seemed to be a natural progression?
The stage is where I started and although I don't consider it a return, it was something that I was always coming back to and will continue to come back to throughout my career. When I'm in LA and have the time, I perform with my sketch and improv comedy group. There's nothing like the immediate response from the audience that will help you feel alive. The great thing with theatre is that we have a lot of time to sit with the material. We are late in our run with Amy and the Orphans and it seems like we keep making new discoveries about our characters and the story. That's exciting! To have something that isn't just living and breathing with each performance but within the material is what I love most.
What drew you to the role of Bobby?
Lindsey Ferrentino wrote an incredible play and to see how many layers each character has was what I first noticed. These are the types of things I look for in a character; someone who is rich with emotion, conflicted in their decisions, etc. I feel like Bobby is a man who is trying to do the right thing, but is also paralyzed in his action. He's not quite sure how to do the right thing. He's also pretty far from the other characters I've played and that's always something I look for to keep me excited and not in a rut.
Can you talk to me about the dynamic of working with Jamie and the cast?
It's hard to work with Jamie and the rest of the cast because nobody is covered in zombie blood and I honestly have no idea what to do with a scene partner who showered earlier in the day. I keep looking over at Jamie and expect to see her sweating, breathing heavy with a machete in her hand after killing a walker, but that never happens. And so it keeps me on my toes. Of course, I'm kidding... we have a great time and have shared a lot of laughs.
But I've also had the honor of hanging out with and getting to know Eddie Barbanell who is Jamie's understudy for the Wednesday and Saturday matinee shows. Everyone vibes well with each other and puts the story first. That's important. If there was a stinker in the bunch, it would be disastrous. This whole experience from top to bottom is something I will cherish the rest of my career.
Did you and Jamie share fanboy horror stories?
Hahaha no... I think as passionate as our fans are, neither of us have horror stories. It's cool that the fans are fervent and embrace each show as much as they have. It's great to see little kids dressed as your character or someone's grandmother cosplaying as Maggie. This show's fan base spans a very large age range and to be a part of that, to be a part of something that has brought so many people together is incredible. I think Jamie would agree, it's special.
Do you get phased anymore with being on such a ridiculously popular series?
It never really gets old. I was an enormous fan of TWD before I started working on it, so I'm still genuinely excited to be a part of this show. I've said it many times, but it feels like I've hit the "fan lottery" by being on TWD. I'm grateful; not many people get an opportunity like that.
Eugene is definitely more serious nowadays. Do you miss him just being a quirky, weak fun dude?
I still think he's weak! He's trying to find his strength and his way in this world. He still wonders if he's a survivor and, of course, he is. There are many ways to survive in this world and frustrating people by only looking out for yourself is certainly one way to do it, as Eugene has. But we've seen the cracks here and there, the moments where he looks out for others and to me that is so fun. There is a selfless person hidden inside that selfish exterior, I can feel it! I just hope someday we can see that part of him more.
Do you have your own theories how TWD will end or how your character will come to an end?
I try not to think about how the show will end because whatever dumb idea I come up with will be trounced when an actual writer gets their hands on the story! And I'll say about Eugene's death... why does he have to die? Why can't he go on living forever? Maybe that's a cop-out answer... a hero. Eugene dying as a hero would be a satisfying way to see that character's arc come to an end. But I'm still pulling for him to continue to be the cockroach he is and never die :)
After TWD, do you see more theatre in your future - balloon flying, tv, movies, a bit of both?
I definitely see more theatre in my future, and I don't necessarily have to wait for TWD to be over for that to happen. For me, I'm drawn to interesting characters who are a part of good stories. So whether that's television, film, or theatre, I'll be open to anything.
Your background is in theatre, talk to me about how rewarding it's been performing in Amy and the Orphans in NY.
Every time I’m on stage I love hearing the reaction from the audience. Hearing their laughter brings an energy boost to everyone on stage including myself. It’s been fantastic to work with so many talented & experienced actors. I have learned so much from our Director Scott Ellis. I’m so lucky to have met the awesome playwright, and now my lifetime friend Lindsey Ferrentino. Doing this great play with the Roundabout Theatre has been a dream come true for me!
Is it refreshing playing a character like Amy after your work on American Horror Story?
Amy is a completely different character than any other characters I’ve played in American Horror Story. Amy is based on the playwrights aunt, so I had to get a feeling of her habits and her lifestyle to play this character. With this character I get an immediate response of the theatre audience right away to her fun personality. It’s so rewarding to share someone’s real family life with the world.
Speaking of which, can you describe how it feels to be a part of such a cult phenomenon like AHS?
It’s unbelievable! It feels great to show different sides of who I am when I’m portraying characters like Adelaide, Nan, Marjorie, and Hedda. I also love being a part of this amazing show! I’m so thankful that I was given the opportunity by Ryan Murphy to be a part of this cult phenomenon. It has changed my life forever! The AHS fans are so awesome and exciting to meet everywhere!
Do you and Josh share fanboy horror stories?
Josh is a really nice guy to be around and such a great person to work with. It’s neat after the play that the fans of Walking Dead and the AHS fans are outside mingling with each other before Josh and I come out after the play to meet them. It’s so amazing!
Can you talk to me a bit about Changing the Face of Beauty and how it felt to walk the catwalk during NY Fashion Week?
Walking the catwalk was very exciting and amazing! It was an awesome experience! Thanks to Katie Driscoll the founder of ‘Changing the Face of Beauty’ and Designer Carrie Hammer’s runway show “Role Models Not Runway Models” for giving me this wonderful opportunity. ‘Changing the Face of Beauty’ is a platform that Katie started to help include people with disabilities in the advertising world. We met thru my advocacy work for people with all disabilities. I was happy to be invited to be an ambassador for ‘Changing the Face of Beauty’.
What do you have lined up next? More theatre, TV, film...?
During this Summer, I’m filming a movie in California where I play somebody’s girlfriend. Then after that I will be a fairy in an animated movie called Snow Moon. I’m really excited to be in my first animated film. A short film I’m in called The Wagon will be released this year also. I’m hoping some more exciting work can be announced soon.