Actor Tom Payne reveals an early script for The Walking Dead's ninth season premiere gave Jesus his first on-screen boyfriend when the episode caught up with him after an 18-month time jump. Jesus was first confirmed to be gay in Season 7 episode 14, "The Other Side," where he told Maggie (Lauren Cohan) about his struggle to get close to "neighbors, friends, boyfriends." Payne has since speculated friends Jesus and Aaron (Ross Marquand) shared an off-screen fling during the six-year skip that followed Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) presumed death, but one version of "A New Beginning" partnered Jesus with another resident of the Hilltop colony.
"Because we had that six-year time jump, I was always like, 'I think [Aaron and Jesus] had a dalliance in those six years, and they just became friends afterwards.' Which is nice," Payne said on the Talk Dead to Me podcast. "There was an iteration of the first episode of Season 9 [where] I had a boyfriend in the first script, at Hilltop."
Payne did not elaborate on the boyfriend's identity or whether this was a character already familiar to audiences. In a 2018 interview, Payne said it might have been "quite lazy" romantically pairing Jesus and Aaron on the TV show despite the characters being partners in creator Robert Kirkman's comic book.
"I liked that they had a friendship, but I felt like a further relationship wasn't necessarily required," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I thought it would have been a bit lazy: 'Here are two gay characters. They should get together!'"
Acknowledging their romantic history, Payne added, "I could see that happening. But a long-term [relationship]? I'm not sure about that. They have a lot in common, and they did connect in a few different ways. It was nice to have them chatting; their sensibilities were similar. They were quite natural friends."
The comic book relationship was "kind of alluded to, in points," Marquand said during a 2019 convention appearance. "We didn't know how that was going to look, exactly, but we sort of alluded to it. We decided it only made sense, because of their camaraderie, and they're very similar. They're both the recruiters for their respective communities, they have a lot in common."
Whatever relationship Jesus might have had that season would have been short-lived: in another change from the comic books, Jesus was murdered by the Whisperers in the Season 9 mid-season finale "Evolution." Payne now leads crime-drama Prodigal Son on FOX.
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