Khary Payton "Not Satisfied at All" With Ezekiel's Story on The Walking Dead

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "Outpost 22" episode of The Walking Dead. "And yet I smile." That's the mantra of the usually optimistic King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who has had a rough go of it since his days as reigning monarch of the Kingdom. As the father figure of Benjamin (Logan Miller), Ezekiel suffered a loss when the young knight died under the oppression of the Saviors. Then beloved pet tiger Shiva met her noble end fighting a pack of walkers. His adopted son Henry (Matt Lintz) died in a massacre committed by Alpha (Samantha Morton) of the Whisperers, the Kingdom shuttered, and Ezekiel was diagnosed with cancer. 

And yet he smiles. Ezekiel found his second chance at the Commonwealth, where he received treatment for his thyroid cancer from surgeon Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) and founded a secret clinic to provide for the community's sick and poor.

But then Eugene (Josh McDermitt) caused the accidental death of Sebastian Milton (Teo Rapp-Olsson), which caused Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) to disappear Eugene's friends from the Commonwealth, which caused Ezekiel to be exiled as a labor camp worker alongside the person he hates most: former Savior leader Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

It's a journey that has given Payton little reason to smile.

"No, I'm not satisfied at all. I wish that — there are so many places and situations that I would've loved to explore," the King Ezekiel actor told Insider when asked if he's "satisfied" with his character's journey through the final episodes. "But that's one of the things that happens when you have a show that has this many dynamic and interesting characters. 48 minutes or, sometimes, over an hour-long episode just isn't enough."

Payton added: "These characters are beautifully constructed. I think the strength of the show is that these characters are nuanced, interesting, and there's so many of them that you just can't get it all in. I am very sorry to say goodbye to Ezekiel and I cross my fingers and hope that maybe sometime down the road, we could tell the story of how Ezekiel came to be a king or something."

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Ezekiel has outlived his comic book counterpart, who dies decapitated on a pike marking Whisperer territory. With just three episodes of The Walking Dead left to air, Payton hopes to reprise the Ezekiel role in one of the Walking Dead spin-off shows in the works at the network that recently aired an Alpha origin story in the anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead

"Yeah. There's a chance. AMC+, there's a place to land there," Payton said of his possible future as Ezekiel. "If something like that happens, I would be excited to explore it. We'll just have to wait and see." 

Responding to the interviewer's hope Ezekiel survives The Walking Dead, Payton responded, "I do too. I do too, because maybe that'll mean that there's a chance that I could play not just flashbacks, but before and after. I'm keeping my fingers crossed 'cause I really would love to play Ezekiel again one day."

Follow @CameronBonomolo and @NewsOfTheDead on Twitter for TWD Universe coverage all season long. New episodes of The Walking Dead's final season premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+.