The Walking Dead: Khary Payton on Broken Ezekiel, Missing the King, and More

The Walking Dead has stripped King Ezekiel of everything he once loved. The King lost his crown, his people, his love, and his son. The character who has outlived his comic book counterpart might not be feeling so lucky to have done so. While Ezekiel actor Khary Payton admits that he does "absolutely" misses the King version of his character on the AMC zombie series, he is still enjoying the challenge of pushing his acting to new ranges as was on display in Sunday night's Episode 10x04. As the character tries once again to find himself, Payton opened up about the journey he is experiencing in a spoiler-filled breakdown of Silence the Whisperers.

"It's literally a mind numbing thing to try to put yourself into is someone who's feeling that kind of useless and that kind of, like he's a drain on any and everything around him," Payton says. "I did a lot of research on post traumatic stress disorder, just in the last few years that we've seen with Ezekiel, he's gone from being kind of this positive light to a guy who's literally lost everything. He's living the life of Job right now, asking God, what the hell did he do wrong, you know, to lose literally everything."

In the uncut interview below, Payton goes into detail about his big moments with Michonne actress Danai Gurira and the current status of his character's mentality. Warning, spoilers for The Walking Dead episode 10x04 follow!

The Walking Dead Silence the Whisperers King Ezekiel Khary Payton
(Photo: AMC)

ComicBook.com. Khary, you did a great job with Episode 10x04. I want to start by talking about this acting performance. You've played so many different ranges of Ezekiel, and in this episode you had to play the lowest point version of him. Can you talk about getting to that point when you try to bring that performance?

Khary Payton: Yeah, it's literally a mind numbing thing to try to put yourself into is someone who's feeling that kind of useless and that kind of, like he's a drain on any and everything around him. I went and looked at... Cudlitz and I talked about it a lot and I did a lot of research on post traumatic stress disorder, just in the last few years that we've seen with Ezekiel, he's gone from being kind of this positive light to a guy who's literally lost everything. He's living the life of Job right now, asking God, what the hell did he do wrong, you know, to lose literally everything.

And he starts thinking that maybe he's the thing that is the problem, and maybe if he takes himself out of it that everybody would be better off. It's such a disconcerting place to, for any person to find themselves in, you know, where you're starting to think that your very existence is the problem. I don't know, it's a very sobering thing to try to emulate and empathize with, because the truth is is that I can't begin to truly understand that depth of despair and I don't want to claim that to have done that. I hope that for the people who are going through something like that, I hope that at least I got a percentage of what they were feeling so that at least they can feel like this was me and it can help in whatever kind of healing process that you go through. But yeah, it's one of those deals that weighs on me a lot. You know, I feel a great responsibility not to... Even though it's my job to pretend, I also don't pretend to know. You know what I mean?

CB: That's a great answer. It's a great moment where Danai Gurira comes in and Michonne rescues Ezekiel and then it leads to the big kiss that shocked everybody when we saw the trailer at Comic-Con. What was your reaction to reading that in the script and then having to act that part out?

KP: Mainly I just kind of shook my head and laughed because I said, 'People are going to lose their minds. People are going to lose their minds over this thing.' But it kind of works two fold because of course it's a great Comic-Con trailer moment. But in context, I think the fact that it was such a moment in the trailer and then you get sobered by the actual context of it, it's really pretty powerful both ways, you know?

CB: So, do Michonne and Ezekiel keep this their secret or does anybody find out about this? What happens next for these two characters?

KP: Oh, that's a good question. Yeah, I guess you'll have to keep watching. I don't think it's something that either Michonne or Ezekiel need to broadcast. This was about as intimate a conversation as you can have without actually being intimate, you know?

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(Photo: Skybound / Image Comics)

CB: I know you're a fan of the comics. I caught a fun little comic reference in this episode when they were talking about... Michonne said, "We would never work." And Ezekiel says, "Maybe in another universe." And it seems like that's like kind of a reference to them two be together in the comics. Did you catch that? Was that in the script?

KP: Oh yeah, yeah. That was in the script and it was funny to me because it was twofold for me that made it really funny because as far as Ezekiel and Michonne in the comic book, it's a nice little call to that. It also cracked me up because Danai and I, we have a lot of fun together. We also argue like nobody's business together and we would kill each other. And so when she said it would never work, I started laughing because just looking at the Danai I was like, "Yeah, you'd either kill me or I'd kill you." It'd be scandalous. It'd be all over, one of us would be dead. I just thought that was so funny.

CB: Now that you've played all these different versions of Ezekiel he's kind of trying to find himself again. Which version of the character is your favorite? Do you like the King version, do you like the normal guy who tells Jerry he's not a King but he's content or is it more fun to have the challenge of playing this broken version?

KP: I absolutely miss the King. I miss the King. I miss the guy we met who gave that speech to his people before they were decimated. I still got a big bone to pick with Rick and everybody because I feel like the King was just cruising, doing just fine. I mean until that high caliber gun came out, we were kicking ass all over the place and it only took Ezekiel losing hundreds of people and both of his adopted sons for him to crack and be a truly dropped down to earth. But I hope that he can climb out of this whole hole. I still am pining for the day that Ezekiel finds his mojo or whatever term you want to call it and starts to see more of the light and less of the darkness.

CB: Later on, it looked like a fun shoot, a night time action sequence killing walkers and you got Cailey Fleming in there with you. What is she like on set? What is it like working with her when she's swinging that sword around and she's doing her thing?

KP: Oh, Cailey's the most mature, most professional actor on set bar none. She is an absolute joy. She's the sweetest, cutest thing. Every time I think about her, I look at her, I can't help but smile. I think we're all incredibly grateful to have found a young lady so talented and just a with such a great head on her shoulders. It's always a joy. We're always dancing or singing or doing something silly when she's around and she's... As wise as Judith is, I would say Cailey might be a little wiser.

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(Photo: Gene Page/AMC)

CB: By the end of the episode also Ezekiel is helping kind of rebuild Hilltop and everything. He insists to Jerry, he's all good. We've known Ezekiel to kind of be I guess a bit of an actor in the past. Is he actually all good? What can we expect from him going forward?

KP: I doubt it. I doubt it. Therapy usually doesn't go the way of one session. You know, one conversation with Michonne probably isn't enough. I think he probably going to have to find a couch to lean on and wax dramatically about the problems that are going on in his brain. But I think it'll probably take a little more than one conversation to get him all the way back.

CB: My last thing for you, we've made it pretty far into Season 10 so far without a terribly tragic moment. So I just feel like that means something horrible is about to happen. What can you say about the rest of Season 10?

KP: Something horrible is always about to happen. Absolutely. I mean, what are you talking about man? You know the show that you're dealing with. You know the show that you're dealing with and you also know that I'm not going to be able to tell you a goddamn thing.

CB: Well listen, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't try.

KP: It's true. It's true. And I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't reprimand you for doing that, so there you go!

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The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC.