"You can predict certain things from the comic books and certain things have happened and played out, but [Carl's death] really does change everything up. For everyone,” said Payne, who plays the Hilltop’s Jesus.
"We all kind of had an idea of where the show might go. I definitely said in the past that Carl or Chandler was the future of the show, and that made absolute sense,” Payne said.
"It's a big change. Always on the show when people leave, the group dynamic changes just naturally on-screen and off-screen. And not to have a young voice who's been there since the very beginning was kind of weird."
Carl, one of the television series’ few remaining survivors from the first season, is the most pivotal comic book character after lead Rick Grimes — making his death the biggest departure from Robert Kirkman’s monthly series.
With Carl dead, “then anyone’s fair game,” Payne said.
“We all definitely thought that he was never going to die."
Payne isn’t alone: 18-year-old actor Riggs, who has been with the show since 2010, admitted to THR he “didn’t expect for Carl to ever get killed off.”
Payne admitted previously Jesus doesn’t have much reason to be too upset over the loss of Carl, saying Jesus’ view of the whole thing “would be from a more removed standpoint.”
“Jesus doesn't really know Carl, and I'm not sure if he really is that impacted by it, to be honest," Payne said of Jesus’ feelings over the matter.
"He spent about as much time, probably more time, with Glenn than he spent with Carl. He's had that, and he's just always been more about the people left behind, like Maggie and Sasha and Enid."
Sunday’s episode, “Dead Or Alive Or,” returns to the Hilltop, where leader Maggie must contend with a dwindling food supply and a pack of imprisoned Saviors.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.