After Jesus was killed in November's mid-season finale, The Hollywood Reporter published an exit interview titled, "'Walking Dead' Star Gets Candid About His Exit: 'It Was Constant Frustration.'"
"It was a little bit of a gulp moment for me," Payne told Huffington Post, noting the Hollywood Reporter piece was "very fair" but resulted in widespread misunderstanding.
"I've never talked sh-t about the show because I wouldn't. I don't have anything to say badly about the show."
Those frustrations, Payne told HuffPost, were his own after feeling underutilized during his time on the show, which he joined in Season Six.
"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," Payne said. "I'm always working behind the scenes, and I didn't get to utilize everything in the way I would've liked."
Payne previously admitted at a convention he was disappointed television Jesus didn't get two of the standout moments from the comic book, namely a fight scene against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and a grenade catch during the Saviors' explosive attack on Alexandria.
The actor trained for three years to best portray martial arts expert Jesus, who shined in a display of ability first against Morgan (Lennie James) and then the Whisperers, in what would prove to be Jesus' last living moments.
"It's tough to just keep your fingers crossed for two years that you're going to get some cool stuff, and then it doesn't quite pan out, because that's what keeps you going, really," Payne told HuffPost.
"When you're in an ensemble cast like that, you just want to have these moments, and actually I did have one of the best entrances and one of the best exits, and I'm very, very happy with that, and that's kind of enough for me, really."
Payne, who had stated previously he pushed for a major death, said Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) shouldn't have been the only major loss during the All Out War storyline, which saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company rise up against Negan and the oppressive Saviors.
"I had said to the showrunners in Season Eight, I was like, 'Just kill people. We need to kill more people. You need to make some shocking deaths happen.' Carl was a big shocking death, but he was the only person that died in the war, the only main character, and I'm all about narrative," Payne said.
"I want it to be shocking and exciting, and I ended up being the sacrifice, but I was happy with that. It was badass. That's all I wanted, really. I wanted to tell a good story and be part of a shocking moment in the show, and I think we did that."
When speaking to ComicBook.com, Payne said his exit was "kind of a mutual thing" and that he "loved" going out on a top-notch action-slash-horror sequence that encapsulated Jesus' combat prowess like in the books.0comments
"I like the way we did it," Payne said. "I like that he had a big fight sequence before he left as well."
The Walking Dead Season Nine airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.