This week’s episode of The Walking Dead features a heart to heart between Ezekiel and Michonne that has the world talking as this scene is a pivital moment of the entire episode. With Ezekiel losing so much, it is safe to say that we fans hope that he can find happiness once again soon. Khary Payton is here to break down everything with Ezekiel in this exclusive interview!
With the fall of The Kingdom, losing Shiva, Benjamin, Henry, and the divorce bewteen Ezekiel and Carol, which loss do you believe affected Ezekiel the most?
KP: “I think I think it’s cumulative. Benjamin, who is Henry’s older brother, died first and then you have to remember that he [Ezekiel] lost nearly one hundred people with that with that big gun that just tore into people in Season 8. So it’s not just one person or two or Shiva or even Carol. It’s an entire community an entire way of life he really believed in and he looks around him and all of those people are gone. So it’s I think it’s more of a cumulative effect than anything else. He was kicking butt man. He was a light in the dark. He did that for the last few years. It’s just that he’s lost two sons and he lost the only Tiger left in the world that we know of. He lost everything and it has affected him badly.”
In the comic book series, Ezekiel an Michonne were in a relationship and we only got a small tease of that on this episode except that they both realize that it would not work. Do you think that Ezekiel kissed Michonne because he felt very lost and alone?
KP: “I think that’s what it was. When you’ve lost as much as he has, I think I think he’s reaching out for tenderness is understandable and he was desperately and absolutely lost and she provided an anchor. I think if you ask him, he’d say ‘Yeah I’m a hugger.’ And I think that’s what in that moment he was reaching back for. To be loved and to feel that he is wanted and needed.”
Both Ezekiel and Michonne told their stories with eachother as they both can relate to eachother. How much input did you and Danai had when it came to delivering those lines for that scene?
KP: “I think I have had a lot of input, but also Danai too just because we were talking about Rick and and she’s had such a long history that the relationship between Michonne and Rick I think she probably understands that that relationship just about better than anybody. And so there was definitely some back and forth about how she would remember Rick Grimes. And honestly, I felt like I was sitting and really listening and absorbing that because this was really about Ezekiel finding his way back. I don’t know if he found his way all the way back to shore. But at least he could feel the ground underneath his feet even if he was still waiting in the water.”
The threat of The Whisperers is affecting everyone in each community. Do you also believe that Ezekiel is also giving into the fear of them at this point now too?
KP: “I don’t know if it’s a fear of the whisperers, I think he’s more worried about himself. I think he blames himself more than anything else. I know that the whisperers are definitely a weird and creepy group. But in his mind, they’re not the thing that’s feared. It’s more like it’s a conversation between him and God. You know, I feel like he feels like he’s done everything you could to bring light and positivity into this world. And yet everything has been taken away from him and he’s wondering is he the problem. Does he need to extricate himself from this world. And would that be the right thing to do or is it just the easy thing to do. The demons in his own mind are far scarier to him at this point.”
We have seen Carol grieve about Henry. Will we see the same for Ezekiel in the future?
KP: “I think that we’re going to see Ezekiel grieving in his own way. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in his mind and as as verbose and eloquent as he can be sometimes, I don’t know if he gets the chance to to let it out when it comes to his losses in that sense.”
We have seen you interracted with Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) but not with Negan yet. Have the both of you been in a scene together in this season without giving too much away?
KP: (Laughs) “Yeah I can’t say anything about that yet, You’re just going to have to watch to find that out. I wish I can though!”
How did you mentally prepare for that scene with Michonne?
KP: “I did a lot of research on post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers because to me, this is about how you deal with loss. It’s sobering and it’s kind of heavy on my shoulders. I feel when you’re trying to portray that kind of pain and that kind of despair, and I don’t claim to even begin to truly understand what that pain feels like, but I hope that the people who are going through that and they were watching and if they saw themselves, that they felt represented. It was a big deal to me in the moment and it continues to be.”
Why do you believe that some of the Kingdom soldiers still look up to Ezekiel even though he does not want to be looked at as one?
KP: “I just I think it’s hard to forget what the man was able to build. You know, the people are still looking for hope and his ego was a big part of what kept people hopeful for a long time and they may want that guy back as much as people like to tear down their heroes. The truth is they say they love a comeback story even better and I have a feeling that Ezekiel will have a great comeback.”
All of you fought against the walkers at Hiltop after the tree crashed down. It was a great sequence and do you have any stories being part of it? And also, is killing walkers very therapeutic?
KP: “The crazy thing is, whenever you’re dealing with horses and smoke and all of this, it never goes the way that you want it want it to. And we were having so many technical problems that night. It was crazy. We ended up shooting the shot of me riding in on that horse and we were waiting and waiting and waiting and my horse, his name is black and he’s a beautiful horse and he can do all kinds of wild tricks and things like that. But at that point it had been so late. It was probably after 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and he was done. He was so ready to go home and I was just trying to give him exercises to do to keep his mind occupied because he would just get so kind of rattled by all of the noises and stuff going on around him. And he’s the most challenging horse that we use on the show. He’s tried to buck me off a couple of times, but he is a handful horsse and I’m just glad that it ended up looking pretty cool. Killing Walkers is incredibly therapeutic. It’s one of the best workouts because it’s full body. At least when I do it, I’m swinging with my whole body and swinging from my toes all the way up through my arm. And it is a cathartic kind of feeling to to just swing with all of your body and all of your mind. And the idea that we’re kind of going all night to clear this thing and it does feel great. What could be cooler, you know you’re killing things but you’re not really killing things. You don’t want to feel bad about it. You can do go for it. So yes, I absolutely love killing walkers. And every time I get to do it, I feel really grateful and I can’t wait to do it again.”