The Walking Dead: Khary Payton on playing King Ezekiel

The comic book favourite is appearing in the new season

Actor Khary Payton has opened up about playing one of The Walking Dead‘s most beloved characters King Ezekiel.

The Walking Dead season seven will be returning to screens on October 24 after being launched on AMC in the US a day earlier on October 23. Season six concluded back in April with a cliffhanger ending that saw an unidentified character being beaten by newly introduced character Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Payton will be playing King Ezekiel – the leader of a new community called the Kingdom. Ezekiel insists on being addressed as a king and carries around a scepter while accompanied by his pet tiger Shiva.

Producers have been keeping season seven firmly under wraps 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!” he added.

Payton also revealed that he has a “connection” with the character, stating: “I feel like in a way Ezekiel fits that same mold 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.”

When asked how he sees the character, Payton replied that Ezekiel is “in the business of not losing himself to his surroundings.” He added, “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.”