‘The Walking Dead’s Khary Payton Expected King Ezekiel to Die in Season 9: “I Had My Bags Packed”

The Walking Dead star Khary Payton admits he spent Season Nine worried King Ezekiel would meet his comic book fate as a victim of Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers.

“I was scared out of my mind. I had my bags packed, man, I was ready to go,” Payton said at Walker Stalker Con Chicago.

“I was like, ‘They’ve already got one dreadlocked woman with a better sword than me!’ I was like, I just said, ‘I’m leaving.’ I was like, ‘I’m gone, it’s okay, I know, no problem, I’ll be fine, these dreadlocks blowing in the breeze.’ But apparently the dreadlocks were too heavy to actually blow in the breeze, and so that’s why they’re like, ‘We’re gonna kill him a different way!’”

But Ezekiel was spared, and his gruesome death and spot in the pike line up was instead given to Henry (Matt Lintz), the adopted son the Kingdom leader shared with wife Carol (Melissa McBride).

Both Payton and co-star Christian Serratos — who plays Rosita, also a pike victim in the comic books — were speculated to exit as it was widely believed neither character would survive the season.

“There’s so much behind the decisions of who goes and who doesn’t go,” veteran director-producer Greg Nicotero previously told THR.

“Even at the beginning of the season, when we knew the sequence was coming, everybody was always saying to Christian and Khary: ‘Heads on spikes are coming! Here it comes!’ But it's always about what these moments and these deaths do to other characters that catapults them forward.”

Now that Ezekiel has outlived his comic book counterpart, he’s poised to enter all-new territory when he next returns in Season Ten, where Ezekiel will serve as leader of the Hilltop colony following the crumbling of the Kingdom.

“We’ve seen him evolve quite a bit from when he was first introduced,” executive producer Denise Huth said of the decision to keep Ezekiel.

“Losing Henry is significant, and the fact that he was able to take care of Henry for so long — I think there’s a lot of room there to explore the different side of Ezekiel, who is a highly positive king, who thinks and believes truly that everything can work out.”

Showrunner Angela Kang, meanwhile, has a story she’s “really excited about telling for Ezekiel in Season Ten,” she told EW.

“I’ve talked to Khary about it. It opens a door to do something that’s different and really hopefully interesting for people to see with Ezekiel in the next chapter of dealing with the breakup of his home and his family and the loss of his child. Hopefully good character stuff can come out of it all.”

The Walking Dead Season Ten is due out on AMC later this year.

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