Because The Walking Dead never brought to screen the comic book’s romantic relationship between Aaron and Jesus, stars Ross Marquand and Tom Payne decided their characters were romantically involved “at some point” during the mostly unseen six-year time jump that followed the disappearance and presumed death of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). When Michonne (Danai Gurira) turned Alexandria isolationist in Season 9, divorcing itself from the allied Hilltop colony, close friends Aaron and Jesus were forced to meet in secret. Aaron was later left devastated when Jesus was the first victim murdered by new enemy group the Whisperers, another major loss for Aaron following the Season 8 death of longtime boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson).
“I think it was kind of alluded to, in points. Tom Payne and I, we discussed [it], and we thought they probably were romantic at some point during the six-year time jump,” Marquand said at Comic Con Paris. “We didn’t know how that was going to look, exactly, but we sort of alluded to it. We decided it only made sense, because of their camaraderie, and they’re very similar. They’re both the recruiters for their respective communities, they have a lot in common.”
Jesus’ death, and the subsequent slayings of friends Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) at the hands of the Whisperers, has left Aaron seeking revenge and swearing off being “the good Samaritan” in Season 10.
“When he loses Jesus in the cemetery with all the Whisperers, I think it just destroys him. Because everybody he gets close to, they just end up dying horribly,” Marquand said. “That’s the show, though. You love to watch all these people, ‘Oh, here’s some hope,’ and then [they die].”
In the books, both Aaron and Jesus survived through its final issue, where they were still together after a some 20-plus year time skip.
Marquand said later the show’s remixing of creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book source material helps keep The Walking Dead “exciting and fresh.”
“I think that [TWD chief content officer] Scott Gimple and [showrunner] Angela Kang took as much as they could from the source material to honor it, but they wanted to make sure it was different enough so that readers of the comic, like myself, wouldn’t know what was going to happen every single step of the way. I think it’s really important to keep an audience surprised every week, and that’s what I love,” he said. “In the comics, it’s Rick and Abraham that discover Aaron. And [in the show], of course it’s Maggie and Sasha. People get taken out of certain storylines, added to certain storylines, and I love that, because it stays true to what the comic is all about, but also keeps everything very exciting and fresh for the viewers, I think.”