The Walking Dead star Tom Payne was getting frustrated with his role (or lack thereof) on the AMC series which contributed to his exit.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Episode 9x08 follow. Major spoilers!
With Sunday's Mid-Season Nine finale, The Walking Dead brought back its classic "no one is safe" attitude in shocking fashion. Upon introducing the Whisperers, Jesus was killed in a terrifying manner. A walker ducked under his sword and drove his own into the Hilltop's leader for a fatal blow. While it bolstered the narrative in an impressive and exciting way, it also was fulfilling a request by the Paul "Jesus" Rovia actor Tom Payne.
"I loved the character," Payne told THR. "It's sad to say goodbye to the character. But there was just so much potential in the character that wasn't realized. I was frustrated by that and wished we had explored it further. I wasn't sad to say goodbye to that frustration. It was constant. I had been training for two years. I was so prepared for this character and what he was capable of."
Payne has long been a fan of Jesus' role from Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comics and has repeatedly been disappointed when key moments with his character were cut from the TV series.
"There was just lots of unrealized potential," Payne said. "That was very frustrating for me. When we finally showed off this year what he was able to do, that was great. I have no wish to go back to being frustrated by a character. It's really just part of being on an ongoing series. You're constantly hoping the next episode you get, something will happen for you. You're on the edge of your seat all the time, pressing your hands together and hoping that something cool will turn up. You can only do that for so long. I'm looking forward to doing something now that has a beginning, middle and end, so I can see the character in front of me. I spent a long time hoping my character was going to have more to do. I was happy to have a great beginning, a great bit [in the middle] with Lennie, and then a really great ending. That's enough for me."
While Payne did not explicitly request to leave The Walking Dead, he made his willingness to go quite known. "They were aware I wouldn't be unhappy if they got rid of me. I expressed unhappiness last season," Payne explained. "I was very frustrated with what the character had been doing. He arrived in a very cool way, and then he floundered at the Hilltop. During the war with the Saviors, the only person he had a fight with was a man who was on his side [in Lennie James' Morgan]. In the comics, he has this massive fight with Negan. He catches a grenade, and throws it back [at his enemies]. He's the most capable member of the entire group! And he wasn't used at all [on the show]."
Payne, in fact, was over-prepared for the role when his expectations weren't met. "In the background, I was training every single week," Payne admits. "I was ready and raring to go. You can't help but feel a little bit despondent when you're not released to do some cool stuff. It was mutual and they knew I would be OK with it. It's an amazing show and I was so honored to be a part of it, but at the same time, being the same character without anything fun to do is a bit frustrating."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET. Fear the Walking Dead will return for its fifth season in 2019. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter and watch ComicBook.com's After The Dead each Sunday night following new episodes.