The Walking Dead: Ezekiel Actor Talks Comic Similarities and His Relationship with His Tiger

Thursday, 28 July 2016 - 10:58AM
Zombies
The Walking Dead
Thursday, 28 July 2016 - 10:58AM
The Walking Dead: Ezekiel Actor Talks Comic Similarities and His Relationship with His Tiger
We all knew that Ezekiel and the Kingdom were coming to The Walking Dead in season seven (we have to get to All-Out War sometime), and then Khary Payton was finally revealed as the casting choice at San Diego Comic Con. Now, the actor has given his first interview about playing the iconic comics character, and he covers his inspiration (or lack thereof) from the comics, his character's philosophy on walkers, and his relationship with his beloved tiger, Shiva.

In his first interview with EW, he discussed whether his acting process included reading the comics, and whether his character will go "off the rails" in the series in relation to the source material:
Opening quote
I looked at the comics, but more to just kind of get a feel for the world and everything. I don't feel like I need follow it exactly. I don't worry about being affected by it too much. I feel like I live in the moment enough that a little bit of information here or there isn't going to kill me if they totally go off the rails and Ezekiel becomes a very different version than he is in the comic books. It's just another reason why I love to do this job, man. It's awesome.
Closing quote

We already know that there will likely be some changes, especially in his relationship with Michonne (they have a romantic relationship in the comics, while Rick has a long-term relationship with Andrea, who's still alive). But it seems like his close bond with his tiger, Shiva (who will be a mixture of animatronics and CGI), will be just as intense as it was in the source material:


Opening quote
Shiva is the beginning and the end for Ezekiel. She's one of the reasons that he didn't lose hope when this whole thing started. She's this beautiful unique creature in the middle of this dark, dark time, and so she's beloved, and she's also a symbol to him of what it means to be different in the context of the world that you're living in. It's like she's a constant reminder every time he looks at her that there's beauty in the world. She started off as his protector and now he feels like that relationship is reversed and she's this giant, powerful symbol that he feels a real kinship with and a need to protect. So she's kind of the end all, be all for him. I think Shiva's a really appropriate name for her because she's hallowed in his eyes. She's holy in his eyes.
Closing quote

Payton also discussed his character's attitude towards the walkers, and why he might be a different type of character than we're used to:

Opening quote
I love even his relationship with the zombies themselves. He's a guy who doesn't think of them as having a physical disease. It's more that their joy was robbed from them, and that he's one of the few people left on earth whose joy hasn't been robbed, and to him, that's the difference between the living and the dead. If you're still human, but you're letting your joy be taken away from you, you might as well be one of those mindless creatures walking all over. So to him, it's kind of a weird philosophy of life that he's developed living in this apocalypse that you don't let this world turn you into something that you're not.
Closing quote

"Joyful" would certainly be a change of pace on The Walking Dead, so we're excited to see Payton's take on the character. In the comics, Ezekiel helps Rick and the gang fight against Negan alongside the Hilltop Colony, but before that happens, it looks like he'll be teaming up with Morgan and Carol, who end up in the Kingdom at the beginning of season seven:

Opening quote
I think he sees potential in them. He sees potential in them for understanding his way of living and spreading this gospel of joy and light in a dark situation. I think he considers his Kingdom a lighthouse, and if you use it the right way, it'll keep you from crashing on the rocks.
Closing quote

The Walking Dead returns for its seventh season on October 23rd on AMC.

Image credit: EW

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