Comic fans may know Khary Payton’s voice. He’s portrayed Cyborg on the ‘Teen Titans’ cartoons since 2003, Aqualad and Black Manta on ‘Young Justice’ and many other animated characters. But now he’s appearing in the flesh as the most colorful character to ever grace the black and white ‘The Walking Dead’ comic book, King Ezekiel. This ruler lords over the aptly named Kingdom, a fourth settlement which already has ties to The Hilltop and Negan’s Saviors. On TV, the Kingdom was teased at the end of ‘The Walking Dead’ Season Six, when first Daryl and Rick then Carol and Morgan encountered some explorers wearing armor riding horseback. As quirky as Ezekiel is on his own– he insists on being addressed as a king and carries a scepter– the most outlandish aspect of his character is his companion, a tiger named Shiva, teased in the SDCC ‘Walking Dead’ trailer. Payton himself discusses his character and how he contrasts with the majority of the cast:
“In a zombie apocalypse one can find themselves getting down about their situation, but Ezekiel’s not one of those people. He fights with all he’s got to make sure he stays positive and stays joyful. That’s what I love about him… He’s in the business of not losing himself to his surroundings. I don’t let things get me down. 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. I love even his relationship with the zombies themselves. He’s a guy who doesn’t think of them as having a physical disease. It’s more that their joy was robbed from them, and that he’s one of the few people left on earth whose joy hasn’t been robbed, and to him, that’s the difference between the living and the dead. If you’re still human, but you’re letting your joy be taken away from you, you might as well be one of those mindless creatures walking all over. So to him, it’s kind of a weird philosophy of life that he’s developed living in this apocalypse that you don’t let this world turn you into something that you’re not.”
How will Ezekiel make his debut and which characters will he interact with? Payton spills, saying:
“I’m not a big zombie apocalypse guy, but I think the acting and the writing of the show is just exceptional, and the fact that I happen to be working with Lennie James and Melissa McBride on the show — their characters and their performances are two of the things that really kept me watching the show, so it was really wonderful to have those guys as kind of mentors and hosts introducing me to this world.”
Of course, Lenny James is Morgan and Melissa McBride is Carol, two of the main character that were NOT part of the gathering captured by Negan in the last episode. So now we know which character encounter him (and Shiva) first. And what about Shiva, the tiger that will be brought to life via a mix of CGI and animatronics?
Shiva is the beginning and the end for Ezekiel. She’s one of the reasons that he didn’t lose hope when this whole thing started. She’s this beautiful unique creature in the middle of this dark, dark time, and so she’s beloved, and she’s also a symbol to him of what it means to be different in the context of the world that you’re living in. It’s like she’s a constant reminder every time he looks at her that there’s beauty in the world. She started off as his protector and now he feels like that relationship is reversed and she’s this giant, powerful symbol that he feels a real kinship with and a need to protect. So she’s kind of the end all, be all for him. I think Shiva’s a really appropriate name for her because she’s hallowed in his eyes. She’s holy in his eyes.
This is definitely one of the wackiest developments in this otherwise somber and grounded show. What do you think of the introduction of Ezekiel and Shiva? Will this be incredibly cool? Or is this Jump The Shark territory? If you want to rewatch the SDCC trailer featuring Ezekiel and Shiva, check it out below: Source: Entertainment Weekly