Khary Payton‘s rise to prominence on The Walking Dead as King Ezekiel (First of his Name) is coming to an end after six years with the AMC series. During a recent conversation with Insider, Payton (who is also famous for voicing Cyborg in Teen Titans and Teen Titans GO!) admitted that he’s “not satisfied at all” with how the character’s story ends. Although the actor may not agree with the situation, they understand why it happened.
“There are so many places and situations that I would’ve loved to explore,” Payton explained. “But that’s one of the things that happens when you have a show that has this many dynamic and interesting characters. Forty-eight minutes or, sometimes, over an hour-long episode just isn’t enough. These characters are beautifully constructed. I think the strength of the show is that these characters are nuanced, interesting, and there’s so many of them that you just can’t get it all in.”
Ezekiel first appeared in Season 7 as the self-proclaimed king of The Kingdom, a community that paid tribute to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. When Alexandria, Oceanside, and Hilltop joined forces to overthrow their oppressors, Ezekiel allied himself with them.
After the war, Ezekiel married Carol (Melissa McBride), though they split up when their adopted son, Henry (Matt Lintz) was beheaded by the Whisperers. Despite losing his kingdom and Carol, Ezekiel continued to lead people and volunteered for an expedition that found the Commonwealth. It was here he got medical treatment for cancer as well as being able to return to his job before the apocalypse of being a zookeeper.
He and the other Alexandrians were exiled from the Commonwealth suddenly after Pamela Milton’s son, Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson), died. Ezekiel was assigned to labor detail in particular (one that includes Negan and Angel Theory’s Kelly), which Outpost 22 transported. Outpost 22 is a drab processing facility at Alexandria Payton described as “this sad, Siberian version of Alexandria.”
Lauren Cohan, Christian Serratos, Lauren Ridloff, Norman Reedus and Seth Gilliam play the roles of Maggie, Carol, Rosita Connie Daryl and Gabriel. While these six survivors hope to find their loved ones and go home they know that not everyone will make it through alive. They are more familiar with the area than anyone else which gives them a bit of an advantage.
“I think there’s home court advantage, and then there’s coming back home to a devastated place,” Payton continued. “It depends on how you’re thinking. At least for Kelly, Negan, and Ezekiel, Alexandria is not exactly home.”
If the celebrated royal does kick the bucket over the next three episodes, there’s always the possibility of a prequel. “I am very sorry to say goodbye to Ezekiel and I cross my fingers and hope that maybe sometime down the road, we could tell the story of how Ezekiel came to be a king or something,” Payton said, later reaffirming his hope for the character’s survival through the series finale. “I could play not just flashbacks, but before and after. I’m keeping my fingers crossed ’cause I really would love to play Ezekiel again one day.”
Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead a week before they air on AMC by subscribing to AMC+.
Covering superheroes, anything dark, horror, and more! Lead writer for Fan Fest