Tom Payne On Major 'The Walking Dead' Season 9 Threats And Changes

The Walking Dead Season Nine is in for some big changes by comparison to its prior seasons but the coming episodes have Tom Payne looking at the future optimistically.

The actor caught up with ComicBook.com at Walker Stalker Con in Nashville, Tennessee over the Mother's Day weekend, revealing some exciting new insight from the upcoming season. As the story goes, not only is Scott Gimple's showrunner role refilled by Angela Kang, but Morgan Jones actor Lennie James (who Payne worked closely with through Season Eight) won't be back on the zombie show in favor of a crossover with its Fear sibling series.

"It's kind of sad," Payne said of James. "I actually saw Lennie a few weeks ago just before I came back to shoot and he said it was just starting to hit him now. He was on some of the e-mail threads people had been exchanging like, 'Oh, see you in Atlanta!' He was like, 'Oh, wow!' He said it kind of felt like he's been doing another job, which he has done before, before coming back to Walking Dead. Now it's coming around to that time of year and he's not coming back but he's still filming Fear!"

While some suspect the two shows will eventually merge, Payne makes a good point as to how difficult that would be. "They're still working on that show," Payne said, with The Walking Dead having begun production in late April, as Fear the Walking Dead is merely through fourteen of its Season Four's sixteen episodes. "He's been working since we finished filming the main show last November. That dude has been working so hard and his TV show that he wrote and put together in England just got picked up. So, he has a whole other season of another TV show to put together, as well, so he's just gonna stop working for the next few years."

As for Angela Kang's new tenure as showrunner, Payne is excited for fresh eyes to be overseeing the series (as is Father Gabriel actor Seth Gilliam). "Angela's been on the show for a while and has written some of the fan-favorite episodes of the show," Payne said. "I'm pretty sure she wrote my first episode, actually. She's been a steady hand on the show and everyone feels very happy and comfortable with her. It's always nice to have a different vibe, like a new person who just brings a different energy. I think at this point on the show, going into the ninth season of this show, it was just a welcome breathe of fresh air. Nothing against Scott [Gimple], it's just nice to change it up."

In fact, the feeling has been expressed throughout the cast as they embrace the next phase of the AMC show. "I think we're all kind of feeling that," Payne said. "Also, it has to do with the resolution of the Negan storyline which happened, as well. That storyline, which pretty much happened when I joined the show abut two and a half years ago, has now been resolved. So, that in its own way, brings the next stage of the show and it feels like a new chapter in the whole story."

Of course, while the survivors including Payne's Paul "Jesus" Rovia will simply be looking to put war behind them and thrive as civilization is rebuilt, the apocalyptic threats will never be far. "There's always new threats," Payne said. "I would love it to follow the comic books in that regard. I think the next group of bad guys are the best ones. If the comic book ones come into the show, that would be great, but who knows? We killed Carl last season."

The closest thing to a real look at The Walking Dead Season Nine came when the cast rolled through Georgia on horseback for production of Episode 9x01. "It was really cool," Payne said. "I was on horseback next to Andy and it was like, 'Hey, so when was the last time you were on a horse in the show?' And he said, 'Oh, in the pilot!' I just forgot, like, 'Wow!' It just felt so natural and so right for us to be on horses but to be riding through the center of Atlanta was so cool. When do you get the opportunity to do that unless you're the police? As a citizen, you don't get to do that!"

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Check out ComicBook.com's full interview with Payne in the video above. Walker Stalker's next convention is slated for Orlando in August, with Payne scheduled to attend.

The Walking Dead will return for its ninth season in the fall. Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.