Khary Payton Discusses Landing The Role Of Ezekiel On The Walking Dead


Landing a role on The Walking Dead is a life changing moment for any actor. In the past few months, we've watch cast members like Ross Marquand blow up, Danai Gurira has joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and now it's Khary Payton's turn.

Payton is best known for his voice acting work. The actor has performed for several well known video games and animated series but the most notable role is Cyborg on Teen Titans. Even so, now that he has become The Walking Dead's Ezekiel, he is on his way to becoming a pop culture icon.

After months of having blankets put over his head while entering and leaving the Georgia sets and keeping the whole thing a secret from his family, Payton is finally speaking out about the role and how it all happened for him.

"The process was relatively simple, honestly," Payton tells EW. "It was essentially a four or five-page monologue that they gave me, so I spent a good 72 hours pretty much by myself cloistered in a cave trying to get everything down. I didn't audition in front of producers or directors or anything. It was all on tape, so it was just myself and the casting director."

During auditions, the sides with which Payton performed changed up some of the lines and characteristics of Ezekiel, like turning Shiva from being a tiger to a lion in an effort to keep him from figuring out what the role is. Payton was still able to figure it out, given his slight knowledge of the comics.


"I feel like I had a connection with this character in a weird way," Payton goes on. "I always say that when you're in this acting business, you get a lot of rejection. You get a lot of people telling you no and you've got to get up, dust yourself off, and try again, and I feel like in a way Ezekiel fits that same mold where he's in the hope business. I always say I'm in the hope business. You've got to stay hopeful. You've got to get up off your behind and try again no matter how many times they tell you it's not going to work out. Your opinion's got to overshadow whatever negativity might come your way. In a zombie apocalypse one can find themselves getting down about their situation, but Ezekiel's not one of those people. He fights with all he's got to make sure he stays positive and stays joyful. That's what I love about him."

The Walking Dead will return for its seventh season October 23 at 9 PM ET on AMC. For complete coverage, insider info, and more all season long, be sure to follow me on Twitter @BrandonDavisBD and check out The Walking Dead on on Facebook.