“I’m hoping they’re gonna give me a new pet. I keep asking for an elephant. I feel like an elephant is a good apocalypse animal,” Payton said at FAN EXPO Vancouver. “They’ve got a nice, thick skin you can’t bite through, you can just step on a walker, if I get on his back I’m up high. I’ve thought this through, I’ve thought this through. So if you happen to see an elephant, it was my idea. So don’t start going on the internet and saying it was stupid, because it was my idea.”
The death of Ezekiel’s beloved tiger in Season 8 episode “Some Guy,” coming after Ezekiel suffered the loss of nearly every Kingdom fighter in an ambush from the Saviors, was picked by Payton as his favorite Ezekiel moment.
“You know what, it’s weird, because it’s the most emotional moment, but it’s when Shiva died. Because I played him being the king, him also being so distraught that he kind of lost himself, [and] I got to kill three zombies at one time. It was like everything you love about The Walking Dead, and hate about The Walking Dead, all in one little microcosm moment,” Payton said.
“It was really emotional for me because we not only lost Shiva, but so many people in the Kingdom. And to me, Shiva was the embodiment of all those people. It was a really special moment. It was hot, it was raining, it was disgusting outside, and I loved every minute of it. It was awesome, it was awesome.”
The Ezekiel-centric episode was “incredibly written,” Payton added. “I got some really plump stuff out of it, definitely.”
Heading into Season 10, Ezekiel is separated from wife Carol (Melissa McBride) and is now the leader of “Kingtop,” a portmanteau suggested by Ezekiel’s loyal advisor Jerry (Cooper Andrews) in the wake of the merger between the Kingdom and Hilltop communities. The king finds himself in a dark place following the murder of son Henry (Matt Lintz) at the hands of Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers.
The Walking Dead Season 10 premieres Sunday, October 6 on AMC.