Tom Payne says he’s been utterly frustrated with his character development on ‘The Walking Dead’ over the past couple of seasons…
SPOILERS AHEAD FROM THE WALKING DEAD MID-SEASON FINALE (RECAP HERE)
The shocking conclusion of the mid-season finale of ‘The Walking Dead’ saw the death of Paul ‘Jesus’ Rovia played by British actor Tom Payne as the show introduced the newest villains called ‘The Whisperers’ during the episode.
Jesus dying on the show was an even bigger shock considering the character is still alive and well in Robert Kirkman’s ‘Walking Dead’ comic books but this isn’t the first time a character has lived or died differently than the source material.
That said, Payne admitted in a post-show interview that he let the producers behind ‘The Walking Dead’ know that he wouldn’t be all that upset if they killed off his character because he wasn’t all that happy with the direction they had taken him in recent seasons.
“They were aware I wouldn’t be unhappy if they got rid of me,” Payne told the Hollywood Reporter. “I expressed unhappiness last season. I was very frustrated with what the character had been doing. He arrived in a very cool way, and then he floundered at the Hilltop. During the war with the Saviors, the only person he had a fight with was a man who was on his side [in Lennie James’ Morgan]. In the comics, he has this massive fight with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). He catches a grenade, and throws it back [at his enemies]. He’s the most capable member of the entire group! And he wasn’t used at all [on the show].
“In the background, I was training every single week. I was ready and raring to go. You can’t help but feel a little bit despondent when you’re not released to do some cool stuff. It was mutual and they knew I would be OK with it. It’s an amazing show and I was so honored to be a part of it, but at the same time, being the same character without anything fun to do is a bit frustrating.”
Jesus is a major part of ‘The Walking Dead’ comic books but there’s no doubt the character was vastly underutilized on the series, especially when it came to the biggest action sequences.
When Payne finally got the call that they were killing off his character, he wasn’t upset or all that surprised.
“When the call came, [season nine showrunner] Angela [Kang] was surprised at how laid back I was about it,” Payne said. “It was the first time she’s ever made that call [to tell an actor about their character’s impending death]. [Andrew Lincoln} and [Lauren Cohan’s] deals had been worked out before [the season], so this was the first time. She called and told me, and I said, “Yeah, as long as it’s a cool ending!” Because this character really is such a strong character. It would have to be a ton of people or a real surprise in order for him to die — which is what it ended up being. I wanted to make sure we were telling a story that surprises the audience. That’s what the show is all about: no one is safe. It sets up the Whisperers in a great way. It was a mutual thing, and I was really happy about it.
“The whole episode, I had this huge smile on my face. I kept thinking: “This is so fun. This is what I wanted to be doing!” I felt like Jesus was feeling. Jesus has been cooped up at the Hilltop for two years, and he wants to get out there and do shit. It may have gotten him killed in the end! But at least he got into a fight with his sword. The whole episode told such a great story. I was happy to tell that story. This is what the show’s about, and I just wanted to be a part of that. You want to be part of the shocking sequences. I ended up being very lucky in the end. I got to introduce you to the Saviors, and now I’m introducing you to the Whisperers. It’s a pivotal moment for the show.”
For fans of ‘The Walking Dead’ it’s a sad exit for a highly popular character but obviously Payne wasn’t all that satisfied with his role on the show so ultimately Jesus was sacrificed in the mid-season finale.
There is still a chance Payne could pop up in flashbacks during the second half of the season but his role as Jesus moving forward has officially come to an end.
‘The Walking Dead’ will return for the second half of season 9 on February 10.