On last Sunday’s “The Walking Dead,” the AMC series introduced the Kingdom and charismatic new character King Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton.
“There were so many things that went into it,” Gale Anne Hurd said when AccessHollywood.com asked “The Walking Dead” executive producer about finding the right actor for the role. “And Scott [Gimple, ‘TWD’s’ showrunner] was dead on. He kept saying the character has a bit of the theatrical in him — after all, he’s a self-designated king. And so you need a great actor, but you also need someone who is putting on a show for his followers. And Khary Payton, who’s known primarily as a voice actor, was just able to nail that, as well as every other aspect of the performance that was necessary. He owns the role.”
During the episode, in an attempt to get her to stay in the Kingdom, Ezekiel revealed another side of himself to Carol (Melissa McBride). He opened up to her about who he is – a former zookeeper and theater performer, who uses his past onstage experience to keep people going and motivated in the zombie apocalypse.
When asked about why he trusted Carol enough to pull the curtain back on his life after such a short time around each other, Gale explained it had to do with what Ezekiel recognized in the survivor.
“This is what I think — I think that when you’re someone like Ezekiel who has been putting on a show for a very long time and you have no one to confide in, and you realize that her game is as good as his … the only way he can really gain her trust is when they both sort of call each other on it,” she said. “And, it’s nice to be able to shed that armor, shed that persona, and connect with another human being one-on-one as opposed to in the persona of King Ezekiel.”
But might King Ezekiel, who appeared at Carol’s door at the end of the episode (with his tiger, Shiva, and a piece of fruit), become someone Carol can be a little vulnerable with in turn?
“I think that at this point, Carol’s world is still tainted by what she has had to do and the blood on her hands. And I think that she still wants to keep her distance,” the EP said. “But the fact that there’s someone who gets her as well as her, you know, former group of fellow survivors, whom she left, is probably a relief to her — and he also seems to respect to a certain extent the boundaries that she’s established.”
Ezekiel was also impressed by Morgan (Lennie James) and asked him to stick around.
“Morgan is formidable. He’s a man who’s very strong,” Gale said, when asked what Ezekiel sees in Morgan. “He’s someone, who, if he chose to be [a] leader, could be a leader, but he chose not to be that. On the other hand, I think that Ezekiel is … smart in reading other people. I think that’s part of one of his gifts. And he can read Morgan and he realizes that Morgan’s not duplicitous, Morgan will not lie to him, Morgan may not always go along with him, but he’s someone he can trust.”
After the dark turns of the Season 7 premiere aired, Access Hollywood spoke with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays villain Negan, and Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon. During the interview, both actors hinted that after the Kingdom episode, things would get dark again on the show, something Access asked Gale about.
“Yes, I mean, let’s face it — we do have our characters separated,” she said. “They were separated toward the end of Season 6, they remain separated, so when we are spending time with the people … most of whom do not know what has happened in the circle of hell as I like to call it — one of Dante’s circles of hell, probably the lowest circle of hell — then they are living in a universe in which because we don’t have instant information from the Internet and our smart phones, they can continue on with a degree of, yes, they’re living in the zombie apocalypse, but they don’t know just how bad it’s gotten for their colleagues.”
“The Walking Dead” continues Sunday night at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.
— Jolie Lash