The Walking Dead killed off a main character in shocking fashion on Sunday night, bringing the show back to its "no one is safe roots" in terrifying fashion. The actor behind the shocking exit opened up in an interview with ComicBook.com.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Episode 9x08 follow. Major spoilers!
Tom Payne joined The Walking Dead in its sixth season as Paul "Jesus" Rovia. The character brought a sense of levity to the series, something it needed with the dark cloud of Season Seven and the Saviors arc on the horizon. Along the way, the character became a supporting player from the Hilltop community and eventually moved up in rank to leader, before a Whisperer plunged a sword into him to take him out for good. While Jesus will pop up on The Walking Dead in a future episode, the character is in fact dead and won't be in any scenes from the present timeline -- alive, anyway.
Below, check out ComicBook.com's interview with Jesus actor Tom Payne.
CB: First things first, when and how did you find out that this would be the end of the road for Jesus?
Tom Payne: At the beginning shooting episode seven, because that's when the script for eight comes out. Angela [Kang] called me, and I actually missed the call. I was texting with my girlfriend, and I was like, "Oh, s---! Angela just called me, maybe it's 'the call." I called her back, and it was the call. It was kind of funny.
I heard later from [Episode 9x08 director] Mikey Satrazemis that Angela was a bit nervous about calling me as well, and Mikey was like, "Oh, no. Tom will be fine, don't worry about it." I'm pretty sure, I actually haven't spoken to her about it, but I think that was the first time she's ever made that phone call. Because I think Andy [Lincoln] and Lauren [Cohan's] whole situation had been figured out before that.
So I'm happy, because I'm pretty laid back, and I was kind of ready to leave anyway, so I think it was a pretty easy. I know it was, because I was very, "Oh, okay, cool, uh huh, cool." She was kind of surprised, she was waiting for some kind of meltdown or something. I was like, "Sounds great, okay, awesome."
And then I was just worried -- not worried -- apprehensive. 'Okay, so how's it going to be?' Because if it's Jesus it has to be like a bunch of people taking him out or it has to be something that he can't prevent because he's the most capable fighter out of anyone. But then the way that it happened, I think was really cool. That was the way that he could get surprised and it was what no one was expecting, so that was really cool. I like the way we did it. I like that he had a big fight sequence before he left as well.
CB: With some actors like Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan having asked to leave the show, or Frank Dillane requesting to exit Fear the Walking Dead, was this your request, a creative decision, or a bit of both?
TP: Honestly, I can't tell you completely, but they were definitely aware that I was having a bit of difficulty. I had even said last season, I was like, "I mean, 'cause we're having a war, you know, and people aren't dying." I was like, "There's too many people on the show, you need to kill some people. Kill me, I don't care, just kill some people." And then, lo and behold, they kill me!
I was saying that knowing that I would be cool with it. All I care about is the story, and if the story is good, and they do it in the right way, then I don't care. And if I help to tell that story, in a cool, surprising, and shocking way, then I'm down with that, and I think they really did that with the exit. So I'm super happy actually. I loved my beginning on the show, and I loved my ending on the show. The middle was meh, but the end was really cool and I'm really, really happy with that. So, yeah, I think it was kind of a mutual thing.
CB: Your final living scene as awesome. Can you talk about how you guys shot that sequence in the fog, was that on a stage or was that on a location?
TP: We shot it all on a stage so that you could keep the fog in there. There was low lying fog and then there was a smoke throughout the room. The main challenge was just making sure that you weren't gonna step on anyone once they'd gone down, because you couldn't really see people on the floor. So we made sure that we really marked out the fight and where people were gonna fall and how all the kills were gonna happen.
Before I do my little fight, there's the fight which me and Ross [Marquand] do, but there's already people flying around and stuff. It's funny watching it, like Ross and I kill a bunch of people and then, I kill like six people in that last fight, but if they didn't shoot it in slow-mo, it's over in like five seconds. The slow-mo adds a lot to it, because now he's got this sword, he's got this sword and he's just like cutting through them like butter.
And what I wanted from that sequence was that he's kind of having fun. Like for him it's really easy. He's not threatened at all by the walkers. I think that adds to the whole, when he gets killed, they're not a threat to him, the walkers, especially when he's got his sword. So it was kind of cool, when he's walking backwards says, "Oh I'll just take this one out," and then just, oh, and then he gets bit. I really liked that surprise aspect of it.
CB: What did you and the cast do for a farewell? Was there any sort of dinner, people wearing man buns on set, anything like that?
TP: We had a little send off dinner like we usually do at a restaurant in Atlanta. But the thing about it was, it was really odd, that sequence, I went back and shot that, we did two days of re-shoots on that, spread apart, as well, to add in different reaction shots and stuff. So I had my kind of like, "Yay, and that's a wrap for Tom Payne!" And then, it wasn't because I just kept coming back to shoot that sequence. And like the last time I went back, I was literally just lying in a pool of blood while Ross cried over me. So I had an ending, but it wasn't really the ending. You know, it's not the ending until they finish shooting really because you can always do re-shoots and stuff. So yeah, I had an ending but it was pretty drawn out.
And it was kind of tough for me because when you finish something you want to be able to move on from it, but I couldn't really, I was kind of in this stasis where I couldn't move on because I knew that they would call me back, and lo and behold, they did. So I was incredibly annoyed, like, "Oh god, I'm back here again in this stupid graveyard lying on the floor, like why can't you just have me dead, bloody?" It's always fun.
I'm so happy that I get to work with Josh and Ross those few days, because it was really fun and that whole episode is so cool and creepy. The one sadness was like, "Oh, I wish I had more of this stuff to do. I wish I had worked with more people on the show." Because I love Lauren and Xander [Berkeley], but most of my stuff was with them, and it was just kind of... you want to play things off and work with different people. So, that's why I think towards the end, three years on a TV show is long enough, really. Especially if you don't get to work with different people. It was the right time.
CB: Other cast members have had their characters die and return. Can you speak to whether or not we will see Jesus again on The Walking Dead?
TP: No, but there's always the possibility in the universe of The Walking Dead for people to return. I mean there's a whole six years that we haven't seen, so yeah, there's always a possibility that Jesus could pop up again, or anyone, you know.
CB: So what are you gonna miss most, if anything, about Atlanta and the show?
TP: I'm gonna miss the cast and crew. They're just some really, really great people working on this show in every department. That's the one thing about working on something for an extended period of time is that you do get to know everyone, and it is turning up and seeing your friends every day, which is really, really nice, and gets you kind of grounded within that. That's more about the crew really, because you see the cast, I will see all the time at various functions, and we're always bumping into each other, but the crew don't do those things so I don't see them as much.
Having said that, all production seems to happen in Atlanta nowadays so I'm sure I'll see them on another job. And that will be fun, I'd actually really love to do that, like go to Atlanta and do another job and see some of the crew working on that. That would be really nice. You spend three years working with people and knowing that these people will pop up in my career for the rest of my life, which is really, really cool.
CB: Do you have any other projects lined up coming up? Are you an Avenger yet?
TP: No, I heard that they're casting The Eternals soon, and that's cool. But there's also a bunch of stuff, there's Interview with the Vampire show, there's the Lord of the Rings show, there's all these things casting, but I haven't been able to, not officially a free agent until the episode airs, so I haven't been able to really push it out there because I've also signed that NDA that we've all signed. So, after this weekend I can get into all of that, but I'm super excited just to do something different. I love Atlanta and I love the show, but I didn't become an actor to play the same role over and over and over again. I am excited to go do other stuff.
CB: So, the most important question, are you going keep the hair and beard?0comments
TP: I'm gonna keep the hair for the time being because that's actually two and a half years of growth and there aren't that many male actors with long hair, so that might give me an advantage in some way. But I can change the beard because that's only a few months. But I do think that the hair might help me with other jobs. Having said that, I'll shave everything off is some really cool thing comes along, you know.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET. Fear the Walking Dead will return for its fifth season in 2019. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter and watch ComicBook.com's After The Dead each Sunday night following new episodes.