The Walking Dead star Khary Payton says cast members have taken to calling the series' head producer "the Grim Reaper," with news of their character's death often coming by way of telephone call.
"If you get the phone call during the season, 'We have to talk', you know you're not long for this world," Payton told Australia's The Age.
Payton, who joined the longrunning series as King Ezekiel in season 7, visited Australia for Walker Stalker Con Melbourne.
The most recent Walking Dead star to exit the show is Chandler Riggs, whose Carl Grimes revealed a soon-to-be fatal walker bite in the closing moments of December's mid-season finale.
Opening up about his unexpected departure from the show in December, Riggs said the decision was made by then-executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
Riggs, who had just purchased a house near the series' Georgia set, said he learned of Carl's death during rehearsals on episode 8x06 — the same episode where Carl receives a walker bite to his abdomen that will soon prove fatal.
"Scott wanted to meet in person because it was such a big deal," Riggs told THR. "We had just finished rehearsing for a scene in episode six and he wanted to meet with me and my mom and dad and talk about what's going to happen."
Admitting he "didn't expect for Carl to ever get killed off," Riggs said the decision to kill Carl "made sense story-wise" and will play out when the show returns February 25.
Leading man Andrew Lincoln told ComicBook.com he "didn't see it coming," saying he learned about Carl's death during a phone call with Gimple.
"Scott called me up and said, 'You're gonna hate this one. I want to just forewarn you,'" Lincoln said. "Even then, I was waiting to say, 'This is a really cool way of telling me that I'm off the show, you know that?' That's what I thought he was about to say. He said, 'It's the kid.' I couldn't even say, 'No.' I was silent for a minute. He said, twice, 'Are you still there?' I just didn't see it coming."
The Walking Dead has long had a tradition of hosting what its cast have dubbed "death dinners," get-togethers hosted in honor of cast members exiting the show following the death of their character.
New reports reveal Cohan is now in "active negotiations" to renew her contract and remain on the series.
Ezekiel is currently held hostage by Gavin and the Saviors and is expected to appear in the season 8 mid-season premiere, titled "Honor," premiering Sunday, February 25 on AMC.