‘The Walking Dead’: Jesus Star Tom Payne “At Peace” With Being Killed Off

Former Walking Dead star Tom Payne says he was “at peace” with being killed off the zombie drama after three years. “I was okay with it. I was like, three years is the longest I’ve been on one job, and the nature of the job is that you want to play different characters and do different things, and I was at peace with it, to be honest,” Payne said aboard Walker Stalker Cruise 2019.

“I just told [showrunner] Angela [Kang], make sure it’s really badass, and it was. Because for me, there was just like no way he was going to go out [easily] — it has to be a ton of people, or it has to be a surprise. And it ended up being a big surprise.”

When rescuing a wounded Eugene (Josh McDermitt) from a pursuing pack of walkers, Jesus sliced through the undead, only for one to duck and impale him — revealing itself to be a member of the Whisperers, barbaric survivors who disguise themselves as walkers. That death, and the survivors unknowingly encroaching on unmarked Whisperer territory, has since propelled the remaining half of Season Nine with the introduction of Whisperer leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her brutal lieutenant Beta (Ryan Hurst).

“It was cool,” Payne said of being the Whisperers’ first victim. “I love the fact that Jesus introduced Negan and the Saviors, and then introduced the Whisperers. I liked that kind of bookending of the whole thing. So yeah, I was happy with it.”

Payne was compelled in recent weeks to clarify he didn’t “talk sh-t” about The Walking Dead in the wake of being killed off, after the star admitted to some “frustrations” with the oft-neglected Jesus, who failed to receive many of his standout comic book moments.

“I’ve never talked sh-t about the show because I wouldn’t. I don’t have anything to say badly about the show,” Payne told Huffington Post, explaining he was partially responsible for feeling underutilized. “Frustrations that I think I helped to put upon myself because I’m just very invested in everything I do, and I want it to be the best that it can be. I’m always working behind the scenes, and I didn’t get to utilize everything in the way I would’ve liked.”

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He has since booked the lead role in Fox pilot Prodigal Son, where he stars alongside Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and Bellamy Young (Scandal). Payne has since done away with his long-haired Jesus look.

The Walking Dead Season Nine airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.