Khary Payton hopes King Ezekiel and Cooper Andrew's Jerry will one day meet again on The Walking Dead. The longtime best friends traded teary goodbyes in Season 10 episode 14, "Look at the Flowers," where Eugene (Josh McDermitt) convinced Hilltop leaders Ezekiel and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) to embark on a road trip to meet with Stephanie (Margot Bingham), Eugene's mysterious radio contact from a new community, who instructed Eugene to meet at a rendezvous point in Charleston, West Virginia. The cancer-stricken Ezekiel continued on with the mission alongside newly encountered ally Princess (Paola Lázaro) in episode 15, "The Tower," where Jerry and the other survivors came under attack from a walker horde unleashed by Beta (Ryan Hurst) of the Whisperers.
"It's hard to talk about for me, because I think that... I mean, this entire show has been a gift to me. But I think the greatest gift that both Ezekiel and I were given was Cooper Andrews and Jerry," Payton said on Talking Dead. "Because he wasn't in the comics, he wasn't really supposed to be there, you know? But they conjured this character out of the air, because they knew about Cooper and they knew he'd be a great fit, and he's been like a brother to me."
Payton and Andrews both first appeared in Season 7 episode 2, "The Well," in 2016.
"I don't know if that was the last goodbye, I don't like to think of it as the last goodbye, but people keep talking to me like it's the last goodbye, and it really starts to… I almost said the wrong word," Payton added. "It really starts to work on me emotionally, I guess would be the way of saying it."
When Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick gave the "passionate" Payton permission to swear on the video chat edition of the aftershow, the actor admitted, "It's f—ing with my sh-t, dude. It's f—ing with my sh-t real bad. I'm barely keeping it together!"
Fans have long expressed concern about the potential ticking clock on Ezekiel, who is battling untreated thyroid cancer.
"I mean, we'll see," showrunner Angela Kang said in a past interview when asked if Ezekiel's cancer diagnosis means it's only a matter of time before he succumbs to his illness. "Breaking Bad was a story about a guy with cancer, and he made it for many years, so it could go many directions, is what I'll say."
The Walking Dead next airs "A Certain Doom" as a special episode later this year. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.