Jesus actor Tom Payne admitted he “wasn’t very happy” about that clandestine meeting with Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan) at the end of The Walking Dead Season Eight.
The scene, set in a shadowy office, saw a smirking Jesus throw in with Maggie, who said they were going to show Alexandria leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) “he was wrong to do what he did” — capturing and jailing Savior leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) instead of killing him.
“I wasn’t very happy about it, if I’m honest,” Payne said with a laugh at Salt Lake City’s FanX convention this weekend.
“It kind of came out of the blue at the end of the season, as it did for everyone, and for me as well. I had a bit of a struggle with it, honestly. But I trust in the writers and what they’re trying to do.”
While the scene was a clear set up to play out in Season Nine, Payne said the actors could only go with it as they never truly know what direction the story will take.
“And the thing about that is, we’re never really told in advance where the story is headed and or what’s gonna happen and how that will be resolved, et cetera et cetera, so I had to just say the words and hope that it was all going to work out well in the end,” Payne said.
In his many interactions with fans at conventions, Payne explained he often sees both sides of the argument: those supporting Maggie gunning for her late husband’s murderer and those in support of Rick’s decision to spare Negan, whom he otherwise would have executed were it not for a change of heart inspired by late son Carl (Chandler Riggs).
“Funnily enough, someone came up to me today — because often I get people who are like, ‘Well, you’re not going to do anything against Rick, are you?’ — but today, I had someone come up and go, ‘Yeah you are! Yeah, you’re gonna get Rick and Negan, because he did the wrong thing!’” Payne said.
Payne found the unexpected development interesting because “the whole season he had been like, ‘No, we can’t do this, no we can’t,’” he said of Jesus’ position as the self-appointed moral compass, arguing against killing Savior POWs.
He argued the relatively pacifistic Jesus wasn’t necessarily supporting Maggie’s plan to act against Rick and win her vengeance against a now-jailed Negan, but was instead hearing Maggie out as her right hand man.
“I think, in that moment, it’s more about placating Maggie and making sure that he still has her ear in that moment, and not wanting to be completely anti whatever position she’s in. Because he doesn’t want to isolate himself, because he understands he still has some power of persuasion over her,” Payne explained.
“I think in that moment he’s not like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna absolutely go and kill Negan,’ he’s more, ‘Yeah we will, because I just want to make sure I’m still there with you, and maybe we can have a conversation about this later on.’”
Scott Gimple, executive producer and former showrunner on The Walking Dead, previously clarified Maggie and Daryl (Norman Reedus) are out to get Negan, not Rick, but warned of “potential conflict” and in-fighting over the ousted Savior leader.
“What Maggie has said to Daryl and Jesus was, 'The Hilltop is going to flourish… I’m going to lead this place and make it work. But after that, I have this little thing on my to-do list, and it has to do with Negan,’” Gimple told TV Line.
“That’s the main thing. It isn’t like, ‘I wanna get Rick!’ or something like that, it’s about Negan,” Gimple said. “Make no mistake, no one is getting in front of Maggie to stop her. That’s where there is danger and potential conflict.”0comments
The newest Walking Dead showrunner, Angela Kang, said more recently Rick’s solely-made decision to spare Negan is one of the driving forces wedged between Rick and Maggie, who remain close friends but will experience tension as the two community heads confront a clash in philosophies in Season Nine.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, Oct. 7 on AMC.