Tom Payne Explains The Walking Dead Disappointment: "I Was Ready to Go"

No one was more disappointed than Tom Payne when Jesus died on The Walking Dead. Payne portrayed Paul "Jesus" Rovia across four seasons of the hit zombie drama and underwent extensive martial arts training to play the fan-favorite comic book character, only to be underserved during a war with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Frustrated the show didn't adapt the cooler moments of his comic counterpart, and wanting to up the stakes after a barely bloody All Out War, Payne suggested Jesus be killed off The Walking Dead as the first Whisperer victim.

"By the time I got killed, I was disappointed," Payne told fans during a panel at Fandemic Tour Atlanta. "I had told [producers], 'Look, if we're not going to do any of this cool stuff, like fighting Negan' — there's a lot of cool stuff he does in the comic books, and that was really the only thing that I had to go off. You don't get the scripts in advance, so I read the comic books, and that's how I did my preparation. I was like, 'This is so cool, he gets to do all this stuff during All Out War.'"

But as Payne pointed out with a laugh: "None of that stuff happened." 

"I was like, 'Aw, this is a bummer.' I worked really hard at the martial arts and everything," he said. "I was a bit like, 'You know what? We need to kill some more people. Why don't you kill me?' I was a bit disappointed in the All Out War as well, because it's an all-out war, who's going to die? And nobody really died. Some people did, but none of the big characters. So I was like, 'Listen, you can kill me.' And they did [laughs]."

Jesus is killed in the mid-season 9 finale "Evolution," dying when he's stabbed by a Whisperer posing as a walker in a fog-filled graveyard.

"I was serious about it, but I didn't expect them to kill me that quickly. But at the same time, I was ready to go," Payne said. "I was bummed that he never fought Negan and that he and Aaron weren't the ones who took down Beta. That bummed me out. It's such a big part of the comic books, and I know the show is different to the comic books, but Jesus did also live until the end. It would have been fun to see him with the Whisperers and all that stuff."

Though disappointed by the end of his time on The Walking Dead, Payne "did love the exit" for his character. 

"I thought it was a great way to introduce the Whisperers and a really big shock. So I was really happy and grateful to be a part of that big moment," Payne said. "I did so much [martial arts] work, like Tom Holland in Spider-Man [laughs]. My frustration is that I would do conventions and everyone would come up to me and talk about how cool the character was, and how they couldn't wait for these things to happen, and then none of them happened."

He continued, "I was kind of feeling the same with the fans. 'It's going to be so cool and exciting. I'm working really hard, don't worry, I'm gonna do it justice!' Anyway, that's how it goes." 

Follow @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for TWD Universe coverage all season long. New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season Part 2 of 3 air Sundays on AMC and AMC+.