The Walking Dead star Ross Marquand says time constraints forced Season Nine to cut some walker kills racked up by Aaron and a particularly “badass” finisher pulled off by martial arts expert Jesus (Tom Payne).
“We had a couple sessions at the beginning of the year with Steven [Ho] — basically our resident martial arts expert — and he’s been fantastic,” Marquand said at Walker Stalker Con New Jersey of the veteran stuntman, who served as the fight double for the bō staff-swinging Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and III.
Marquand and Payne also trained under fight coordinator Joshua Lamboy, who “laid out this amazing fight sequence,” Marquand said.
“And the bummer of it is, we actually lost a few kills because of time. But there were some other kills that we both had — especially one that Tom had that sticks out in my memory that was just so badass — but you know, timing. Hopefully they’ll have it on the DVD extras, I don’t know.”
Payne, whose Jesus was impaled and killed in the mid-season finale after a flashy display of his hand-to-hand prowess, underwent a three-year training regimen he was rarely given the opportunity to showoff during his four-season run on The Walking Dead.
A standout sequence was Jesus’ battle with a slightly crazed Morgan (Lennie James) over the fates of an escaping band of Savior POWs in 803, “Monsters,” which pit the ninja-like Jesus against Morgan’s bō.
“A lot of the times I was like ‘Come on, I want to do more, I want to do more,’” Payne said.
“And I got that one fight with Lennie which was good, but I was really building up to that whole last sequence for a long time and I’m really happy that they wrote that in and gave me an opportunity to really go crazy with it.”
Jesus, fighting alongside Aaron when rescuing a wounded Eugene (Josh McDermitt), made his last stand in a fog-ridden cemetery under siege from a walker horde, later revealed to be used as a cloak by the Whisperers — human survivors who disguise themselves within the flesh of the dead.
While cutting down walkers and Whisperers alike with a sword, the interim Hilltop leader was caught off guard and stabbed by a dodging Whisperer posing as a mindless zombie. The kill was particularly distressing for close friend Aaron, who will continue to utilize Jesus’ close combat training moving forward.
“I think it’s gonna galvanize his spirit, I think he’s gonna become a lot stronger because of it,” Marquand said. “And I think he’s gonna take the training that Jesus has instilled on him and he’s going to take that moving forward and he’s going to be the best fighter he can be.”
Asked if he’s going to continue on with the training, Marquand affirmed he “most definitely” will.
“I love it,” he said. “And just watching it all cut together, I was like, ‘I buy it, alright, cool.’ It’s cool.”
The Walking Dead Season Nine resumes with new episodes Sunday, February 10 on AMC.