Khary Payton has been speaking about playing one of The Walking Dead’s most beloved characters, King Ezekiel – the leader of new survivor community the Kingdom.
Payton’s character – a firm favourite with fans of the comic books written by Robert Kirkman – will take a prominent role in the hit zombie series when it returns to our screens.
As longtime fans know, Ezekiel insists on being addressed as a king and carries around a sceptre while accompanied everywhere he goes by his pet tiger, Shiva.
Producers have been keeping season seven of the Walking Dead a closely guarded secret, with Payton telling Entertainment Weekly he’s been “diving in the backs of vans” and “having blankets thrown” over his head to hide any potential spoilers.
“I’ve got a lot of family in Georgia and I didn’t even tell them that I was there!” added the 44-year-old Georgian actor.
Payton also revealed that he feels a real “connection” with the character, saying: “I feel like in a way Ezekiel fits that same mould where he’s in the hope business. I always say I’m in the hope business.
“You’ve got to stay hopeful. You’ve got to get up off your behind and try again no matter how many times they tell you it’s not going to work out.”
Asked how he views the character, Payton said that Ezekiel is “in the business of not losing himself to his surroundings.
“I don’t let things get me down,” he added. “I brighten the things around me in that it’s a party when you’re going to be around him, and whether it was a party there before it’ll be a party by the time he leaves.”
The Walking Dead is due to return on October 23 in the US, and the following day in the UK.
You can watch a trailer for the new season below.