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‘The Walking Dead’: Tom Payne and Ross Marquand Explain Jolting Mid-Season Finale Death

Gene Page/AMC

Caution: Contains spoilers for the mid-season finale of season of The Walking Dead.


During the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, we lost one of the beloved characters we’ve come to love.

The Whisperers made their official reveal and took Jesus with them, but not after a fight. The scene left the group baffled and Aaron specifically upset that his comrade Jesus had been killed. The two shared a special bond as illustrated in the past few episodes, as we find the two have been secretly meeting.

Ross Marquand and Tom Payne who play Aaron and Jesus were guests on Talking Dead Sunday, where they explained the relationship between the two characters and what shooting the sad scene was like.

We didn’t have much time to react. The shock of it all. We were all shocked and baffled that the walkers were moving like this. In my mind, there’s not gonna be time to mourn until later. One of the notes we kept reading from the network was they really wanted to see more of a breakdown. Because these guys have been meeting in secret for quite some time. Ross explained on the show.

He also went on to say that it was difficult to show the breakdown initially because the two weren’t shown on screen together a large amount. The network had asked them to re-shoot the scene with more of a reaction, and Ross says in the end it was the best move.

They haven’t really been shown on camera together, with the exception of when Eric dies. And he’s talking to Maggie at Hilltop.
There’s very few scenes when we’ve been together. But there’s clearly this camaraderie. There’s a lot that they have in common with each other. So we needed to make that scene pop, and watching that episode I’m glad they wanted us to redo that because I think it had more eight to it.

Tom Payne spoke with THR this week and he says he was happy to make his series exit the way he did.

I’m excited for everyone to see it. I just wanted to be part of telling a good story that shocks people. That’s what the show has been about for me. When they came to me with the idea, I said, “As long as it’s a really cool moment, let’s do it!” I know a lot of people are going to be bummed about it, but I’ve been bummed for the last two years, that the character hasn’t gotten as much cool stuff [on the show] as he has in the comic books. They gave me a really cool ending, and I’m happy with that.

He also shared how he got his death call from Angela Kang. It was the first call of that nature that she’d had to make.

When the call came, [season nine showrunner] Angela [Kang] was surprised at how laid back I was about it. (Laughs.) It was the first time she’s ever made that call [to tell an actor about their character’s impending death]. Andy and Lauren’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.

Payne says that his final scene is something he’d wanted to do more of over his time on the series.

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.

Many fans were rooting for the characters to get together romantically, but Payne says he’s good with how their relationship turned out. He also said on Talking Dead that over the six year time jump, they probably have hooked up and then just became friends after.

I liked that they had a friendship, but I felt like a further relationship wasn’t necessarily required. I thought it would have been a bit lazy: “Here are two gay characters. They should get together!” But someone else asked me about the six-year time jump [that followed Lincoln’s departure], and I was like, “Maybe they did hook up once or twice in those six years!” Maybe that contributed to their [friendship], but as you do, you just become friends afterward. I could see that happening. But a long-term [relationship]? I’m not sure about that. They have a lot in common, and they did connect in a few different ways. It was nice to have them chatting; their sensibilities were similar. They were quite natural friends.

How do you feel about the death of Jesus?

The Walking Dead returns February 10th on AMC.

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Shannon Toohey is Editor-In-Chief of FanFest.com. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2015 with a B.A. in Journalism from the Lawrence Herbert School of Communications. Shannon has been a proud member of the Fan Fest team since 2013. Tweet her in your prettiest bird voice: @shannontoo