Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Khary Payton on Playing 'Walking Dead''s Charismatic King Ezekiel

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Khary Payton on Playing 'Walking Dead''s Charismatic King Ezekiel

Article excerpt

Khary Payton on playing 'Walking Dead''s King Ezekiel

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"The Walking Dead"'s newest cast member, Khary Payton, stands behind the show's controversial season 7 premiere, noting "it was a brutal episode but it was also six years in the making."

Payton's new character, King Ezekiel, was introduced in Sunday's episode, a week after the gruesome season opener in which two characters were killed in vicious fashion.

"This is a zombie apocalypse -- you're going to lose people that you care about," Payton said Monday in a phone interview.

"I think if it happened in a Shakespearean way in which all the action takes place offstage and someone just runs in and tells you Glenn died, everybody is going to be disappointed. There's a certain amount that you have to experience in order for you to be satisfied, from a storytelling aspect.

"And the truth is that if you've been connecting with characters for several years and you're invested in them, it's supposed to be brutal when they go -- that means that they meant something to you and that's what we're trying to do with this show. And frankly, if there is no conflict, then there is no drama."

As leader of a community called the Kingdom, Payton's charismatic dreadlocked character sits on a throne with a snarling tiger (which is created with special effects in post-production) by his side. He offers his followers protection from threats in the outside world -- be they living or dead. He appears to be an ally for Rick and his group, who are reeling from their deadly encounter with Negan and his gang the Saviors.

Payton, who hails from Georgia, acknowledges there is a duality to friendly King Ezekiel.

"I think when you're living in a crazy world, you've got to somehow deal with it in maybe an unconventional way," said Payton.

"It's like that Seal song, 'We're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy. …

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