Tom Payne has quickly become a fan-favorite among The Walking Dead cast despite only being featured in six of what will be 90 episodes this Sunday.
His Jesus character's calm, level headed demeanor paired with an abilitiy to dispatch foes with ninja-like ease has been unlike the show has ever seen before. The role brings a certain zen to scenes which always seems to come at the right time. Perhaps that's why his friends call him "Jesus."
Going forward, Jesus' role on the AMC series will only grow. The character and his community will play integral roles in the inevitable war against Negan and the Saviors.
ComicBook.com caught up with Jesus actor Tom Payne for an exclusive interview to hear his perspective on the events which have lead to his fan-favoritism and to get a preview of the events still to come in Season 7 -- including a possible showdown between Negan and Jesus!
Check it out on the following slides.
The Midseason 7 Finale
CB: We're headed up to the mid-season finale this Sunday. Obviously Jesus has been a huge part so far in Season 7. What can you say about Jesus's role in the finale? Does he have a big part in it?
TP: I can't say too much, but I guess if we get back to the Sanctuary, we might see him again because he's not going to be anywhere else, or he'll be around the Sanctuary area. I don't know. I'm interested to see how Rick takes to coming back and finding Negan holding Judith.
CB: Every episode this season, they've all been very unique. They've all been so different from each other. What would you say is the tone of the fall finale? Is it one of these intense, brutal episodes? Is it more light-hearted, like some of the more recent episodes? What is the overall tone, would you say?
TP: It's a mid-season finale so there's a counterpoint as it always is. I think like you said there's an interesting spectrum. I'm actually surprised when I watched the episode again last night. You forget little things and what happens, and I had forgotten actually that Negan goes to Alexandria and is there with Carl and Judith. That's all set up for something to go down, because Rosita walked back and saw that they were here and Spencer's there, and with Rosita and Eugene, and they're all discovering Negan is back at Alexandria. We'll see how that plays out.
The Truck and the Note?
ComicBook.com: First of all, the obvious question ... Where is Jesus? What's his plan? What's he doing after jumping off that truck?
Tom Payne: Well, he's not on the truck. He can't be many places because there aren't that many places to go. I think if you noticed, you saw that Daryl noticed that he was up there. We did actually have a shot, but we didn't get around to it. We saw each other, so he's seen that Daryl is there and maybe wants to try and help out. We'll see.
CB: Maybe he left that note for Daryl. I know you can't say anything.
TP: Well, that's a maybe. I wish he could've done that as well.
CB: Everyone is already looking ahead to the second half of Season 7, Every 8 episodes, The Walking Dead reinvents itself. It has never been more true than this first half of Season 7, but we've come a long way from the premiere. What would you say is the tone and theme of the second half of Season 7?
TP: I think it's about understanding the best way to combat the Negan problem and the Saviors problem. How are the group going to get past it, and are they? What we've seen this first half of the season is all of the different characters taking it in different ways. Right now, you have Michonne in that car asking to take her to the Sanctuary and Jesus is around there and Daryl's at the Sanctuary. Rosita's on her own kick, and everyone is in their own place. I don't think that can go on for too long because you can't be one person against Negan. I think they'll probably hopefully come back and try and find a better way to fight him than just on their own.
CB: Right, and you mentioned how everybody is all separated. That has been really common throughout the season. Do we finally start to see people start to come back together, and maybe do we start to see the Kingdom, Hilltop and Alexandria all having a little conversation together?
TP: I think that's the hope. I think definitely Jesus's motivation that can keep him scouting for the Hilltop for a long time, and he's I think always been looking for help with that situation. I think he would totally be on the side of that, of everyone linking up. He had been on the back burner a lot and kind of been in the background and that was why it was nice to have Sasha push him towards "What is it that you actually want? What can you do?" I think he's probably had some ideas in his head of what could happen, what might be the next step, but he's not willing to take that step until he knows that it's a good one.
CB: So we're going to see more Jesus, is what you're telling me?
TP: (laughs) You may. He's not being too cunning.
Carl and Jesus
CB: We had a really cool moment with Jesus and Carl in the back of that truck in 7x07. Jesus seems like the most chill guy in the apocalypse. Everyone else is like, "Guys, we gotta kill people. We gotta survive. Serious, serious, serious." Jesus is just like, "Well, you know, it'll all work out." In this situation, he kind of trusts Carl when he jumps out of the truck. Do you think he actually expected Carl to find him, or is he just kind of saying, "Go ahead, Carl. Do your thing."?
TP: I mean, I love that they used the look at the end of 7x05. With him in the back of the truck. He respects Carl's decision and his journey and what he's doing. He has that kind of wry smile. He's like, "Oh, okay. Let's see what's going to happen now." He doesn't cast any judgment.
I think at this point in the apocalypse, everyone's had to grow up pretty fast. Everyone makes their own decisions and he respects that. I think he's a bit hacked up that he jumped out of the back of the truck and Carl didn't. At the end of the day, Jesus was doing what he thinks is smart in that situation. He wants to get out so that he can approach that situation in a more controlled way. The only thing that's going to happen if they go in together is they're going to get discovered and he doesn't know what they're going to face. At that moment, he's just doing what he thinks is the clever thing and he wants Carl to join him in that. He's a bit peeved about that.
Jesus vs. Negan
CB: In the comics, there's a really cool fight scene between Negan and Jesus. Obviously, it would be a long time before that was realized on television, but do you think that's something we might see? Who do you think would win in a fight, hand to hand, Jesus or Negan?
TP: I think that would be really interesting. In my training, I worked a lot because I read that in the comic books as well and I was like, "Wow, that would be really cool." Obviously there's a height difference between me and Jeffrey. We worked a lot on him being very quick and efficient, in much the same way that that scenes plays out in the comic books.
I definitely made sure that I prepared for that. I think it would be really interesting to see Jesus against humans, because that's a very different things. Because actually the walkers are pretty simple to deal with. Everyone can deal with the walkers at this point, Jesus especially. It would be interesting to see him in a fight against humans, where there's actual brain power involved and he has to really think about what he's doing.
Jesus' Love Life
CB: One of the hot topics this week was from your Facebook Livestream when you said that you would like to see Jesus's sexuality stay true to the comics. If you were writing the show and you could pick somebody for Jesus to form a romantic relationship with, what character would that be?
TP: (laughs) I can't answer that question, because I know what the aftermath is. I hope that if Jesus does want a loving, I trust that he'll find someone appropriate.
CB: We'll leave you with this one. Since we're ComicBook.com, we talk about superheroes all the time. If you could play any Marvel or DC character, hero or villain, who would it be?
TP: Ooh. That's tough. You know, I was going to say ... And I'll never, I can't, because it's already been cast but I think Black Panther is pretty damn cool.
I think he's badass, man. I can't wait to see that movie, which Danai [Gurira]'s going to be in actually. I think it's going to be awesome. I think he's a really interesting character in the Marvel Universe. So, yeah, if I could play anyone, I think it would be Black Panther.