Former Walking Dead star Tom Payne admits he's a "bit sad" his character, Jesus, wasn't involved with a major storyline pitting the show's zombie apocalypse survivors against Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst) of the Whisperers. Jesus was killed off midway through The Walking Dead's ninth season as the first victim of this territorial enemy group in midseason finale "Evolution," where he was caught off guard and stabbed by a masked Whisperer disguised as one of the reanimated undead. His death ignited a bloody conflict that continues through the currently postponed Season 10 finale, where survivors trapped by Beta's walker horde fight the final battle of the Whisperer War.
Appearing on Skybound's Talk Dead to Me podcast, Payne said his first two seasons of The Walking Dead "hit really hard" but the character, introduced in Season 6 episode "The Next World," was lost in the shuffle as the sixth and seventh seasons "stretched out" the conflict with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors.
"I have to say, I haven't been watching intently, but I've been following what's been happening in the show with Alpha and everything, and I think that they've got that much more concise with what's happened with that storyline," Payne said. "I think they're doing a great job with that. I am a bit sad that I wasn't involved with any of that, but it was time for me to go."
Payne felt the character, who survived through the final issue of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book, did not live up to expectations and was underutilized in the television show. In the books, Jesus plays a larger role in the Whisperer conflict and is present during the final battle with Beta.
"That's the longest I'd ever been on a show, and … I felt like I'd done everything that I was gonna do, really," Payne said. "And in the background, I had been working really hard on the martial arts, and the fitness, and all that stuff. And what kept me going with that, and with the show, was 'This is cool, because I've got all this cool stuff coming up, hopefully, if it follows the comic books.' When none of that happens, then you just get a bit despondent and you're like, 'Well, I don't understand where this character fits.'"
Since exiting The Walking Dead — something Payne previously referred to as a mutual decision owing to his dissatisfaction with his character's minimized role — the actor was quickly scooped up for the lead role in crime drama Prodigal Son, since picked up for a second season on FOX.
"I think that was also a part of my feeling of the whole thing, was like 'I'm ready to move on.' Actually, I didn't think I was going to work again so soon," Payne said. "Prodigal Son actually came along a lot quicker than I was expecting my next job to come. I was prepared to take a while off, but then it was such a good opportunity that I couldn't turn it down."
He continued, "I did have some discussions about it — because it's network television, which is different, and we ended up shooting like 20 episodes — it was a lot of stuff. But there are so many cool people involved in front of and behind the camera that I would have been stupid to turn it down."
The Walking Dead airs its Season 10 finale as a special episode on AMC later this year. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.