A Major Walking Dead Star Thought They Were Being Killed Off in Season 9

One series regular still with The Walking Dead expected to leave the show in its ninth season, according to a former cast member. Last season culled the show's expansive cast when newcomer villain Alpha (Samantha Morton) of the Whisperers abducted and then murdered multiple zombie apocalypse survivors, including series veterans Tara (Alanna Masterson) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon), in the penultimate episode of Season 9. "The Calm Before" saw Carol (Melissa McBride) learn one of these victims was Henry (Matt Lintz), the son she shared with then-husband King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who is among those killed during Alpha's attack in the comic books.

"The rumor was that they hadn't fully decided who it was going to be. Because we all knew it was coming at the end of Season 9. If I remember correctly, it was pretty late before the final decisions were made," Matt Mangum, who played reformed Savior D.J., said on the Talk Dead to Me podcast. "I remember Khary thinking that he for sure was going to be a head on the pike, based on the comic."

Payton's Ezekiel wasn't the only cast member spared his gruesome comic book fate: in the source material, the monarch dies alongside a pregnant Rosita Espinosa. Since outliving their counterparts, TV's Rosita (Christian Serratos) delivered a baby girl fathered by Siddiq (Avi Nash), while a hapless Ezekiel revealed a growth he knows to be thyroid cancer.

In the Season 10 finale, "A Certain Doom," Ezekiel, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), and Princess (Paola Lázaro) join Eugene (Josh McDermitt) for his rendezvous with members from Stephanie's (Margot Bingham) mysterious new community.

"There are definitely aspects of his life that he wants to leave behind. He's got failed relationships, he's got memories of loved ones that have come and gone, he's built a community and seen it all get kind of toppled," Payton said when revealing what's next for Ezekiel during virtual Comic-Con. "I think he is looking for a fresh start, and he's also a guy who's got a clock on him. He's got that tick tock in his brain that says he's not long for this world."

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"In a world where nobody ever seems to have much time, he feels like he's got even less because he's dealing with this cancer," Payton added.

The Walking Dead Season 10 finale premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.