The Walking Dead star Cooper Andrews once worried he joined the show as a bad guy when he suspected King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) was going to kill Carol (Melissa McBride). Though he plays Jerry, the bubbly and loyal adviser to current Hilltop leader Ezekiel, Andrews feared the worst when the Kingdom was introduced amid the survivors’ conflict with the enemy Saviors in TWD Season 7. When Andrews received the script for his premiere episode, 7x02, “The Well,” he turned its pages in suspense, believing the episode would end with the revelation Ezekiel is a villain. The star was relieved when he realized the king, smitten with Carol, visited her cottage outside the Kingdom to offer her a pomegranate.
“When we first met the Kingdom, and I was reading the script, and at the end, Ezekiel comes to Carol’s cottage with the tiger and he pulls up a pomegranate and he’s like, ‘You really gotta try one of these.’ Before he said you’ve got to try one of the pomegranates, I’m like, ‘Oh no, he’s gonna kill Carol! He’s gonna kill Carol. Oh man, I’m one of the bad guys? I’m with the bad guys?!’” Andrews said at Fandemic Tour Houston. “And then he was like, ‘Try a pomegranate.’ I’m like, ‘I’m a good guy!’ I was so happy about it. It was just so nice, because I didn’t want to be, ‘A new group, a new enemy.’ It’s like, hey, strangers can be nice [in the apocalypse].”
Andrews was recently elevated to a series regular for Season 10. The best thing about playing axe-swinging fan-favorite Jerry is his consistency, which Andrews compares to a “thick dough.”
“But also his consistency as a human being, there’s no drama with him. What you see is truly what you get with this character, and I find it really rare for a character in this show for someone to not be dubious and not have an ulterior motive,” he said. “It’s fun for me, because Jerry is very much a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of character. Other people are preparing, getting into the mode, getting super hardcore into it, and I’m just like watching cartoons [laughs].”
In Season 10, Jerry attempts to keep Ezekiel from disappearing within himself. Following the murder of son Henry (Matt Lintz) and his subsequent split from ex-wife Carol, Ezekiel is living in darkness and depression — a mental state impacting his ability to lead Hilltop, nicknamed “Kingtop” by Jerry following a merger with the shuttered Kingdom.
“When you think about Ezekiel losing the Kingdom, all of the people that were in the Kingdom, Shiva, the actual structure itself, not to mention his adopted sons — both Benjamin and Henry — it’s a lot for a guy who tries to look on the bright side,” Payton explained on a past episode of Talking Dead. “I think people who tend to look on the bright side are really trying to force that darkness back down, but the truth is, it’s still there, it’s brewing. It’s been no walk in the park.”