The Walking Dead’s newest addition Ryan Hurst has been welcomed aboard by King Ezekiel star Khary Payton.
“Welcome to the family, man,” Payton wrote on Twitter, tagging Hurst’s account. The Sons of Anarchy alum will play Beta, who in the comics was a mountain of a man and the number two of Whisperer leader Alpha.
Beta’s real name is never revealed. Like the rest of his clan, Beta disguised himself in the skinned flesh of a walker, but was the only member who refused to remove his mask and reveal his true face.
Hurst is the latest to join the expansive cast, following Samantha Morton (Minority Report) as Alpha and the just-announced Cassady McClincy (Castle Rock) as Lydia, Alpha’s daughter.
Payton, who boarded the series as the regal and theatrical Kingdom leader early on in Season Seven, admitted he was initially discouraged by the news Rick Grimes actor Andrew Lincoln would be stepping away from The Walking Dead but promised the series has a lot of life remaining despite the loss of its biggest star.
“It’s been tough for everybody and when I found out about it, I started packing my bags,” Payton said on The Walking Dead Season Nine preview special.
“Then I started reading the story. There’s a moment that happens in the story we’re telling, and I went over to my suitcase and I started unpacking… How do you go on without Rick Grimes? I read this moment, and I’m pretty sure everyone will know it when the see it, and it’s arresting. I thought, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got so much more to do!’ My drawers are full.”
This season the king will act as one half of ‘Carzekiel,’ as a full-blown romance has now blossomed between Ezekiel and Carol (Melissa McBride) come Season Nine. Ezekiel, Carol and Henry (Macsen Lintz) will act as a new family unit, as Ezekiel considers the boy his son.
“They realize in this world, the family you find is the family you got,” Payton said on Talking Dead. “And so it is very much, ‘I’m yours, and you’re mine.’”
Henry is expected to step into the role Carl filled during the Whisperer War in the comics, but Payton joked the Kingdom leader will spend time this season attempting to curb the blood lust of his young stick-wielding ward.
“I think he’s just trying to make sure he doesn’t keep stabbing people in the neck,” Payton said. “His official name is Young Murderous Master Henry. And I’m trying to get him to drop the ‘Murderous.’”
The Walking Dead Season Nine premieres Sunday, October 7 on AMC.