‘The Walking Dead’s Tom Payne: “Maybe I’m Like a Ninja Zombie”

After being killed off in The Walking Dead’s mid-season finale, a playful Tom Payne teases fallen martial arts expert Jesus reanimating as a “ninja zombie” when Season Nine returns in February.

“It might be my essence in the next episode of The Walking Dead,” Payne told ComicBook.com with a laugh at Wizard World New Orleans when asked about Jesus’ corpse appearing in the mid-season premiere, where it will be transported home to Hilltop for burial.

“I mean, we’re still in the graveyard, and I’m still there in the middle of the graveyard, so it’s a decision on whether they take my body, what they do with my body, [or] if I get stabbed in the head. That hasn’t happened yet,” Payne said.

“Maybe I become a walker and bite [Aaron actor] Ross [Marquand], or [Daryl actor] Norman [Reedus]... maybe I’m like [a] ninja zombie.”

Of the reception to Jesus’ shocker death at the hands of a Whisperer — enemy survivors who masquerade as the dead — fans are “pretty bummed out about it,” Payne said.

“But I think they agree with me that it was an awesome episode, and if you’re gonna go out, that was the way to go out. I mean, I was happy with it. I spend most of my time going, ‘Yeah, but it was a cool episode’ to people, people are like, ‘Yeah, but I’m still bummed out.’ Well, that’s the nature of the show.”

Payne previously admitted to ComicBook.com the decision to have Jesus be the big death driving the allied survivors into conflict with the Whisperers was “kind of a mutual thing” following his frequent frustration with the role, which failed to carry over any of Jesus’ major standout moments from the comic book source material.

“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,” Payne said.

“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.”

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Payne is expected to reappear in the back half of Season Nine by way of flashback, some of which will detail the quiet exit of Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the now unfolding drama between the farming community and Michonne’s (Danai Guria) isolationist Alexandria.

The Walking Dead Season Nine returns to AMC with new episodes Sunday, February 10.