Ezekiel (And His Tiger) Are Exactly What ‘The Walking Dead’ Needs

We still don’t know who in Rick’s group said hello (and goodbye) to Negan and his baseball bat Lucille, and won’t until Oct. 23, when season seven of The Walking Dead premieres, but one thing’s for certain: The scene’s going to be grisly — even by the show’s super violent standards. The footage made “people cry,” according to executive producer Greg Nicotero, “which makes me happy and sad at the same time.” That’s The Walking Dead in a nutshell: The only happiness comes from watching people — even the heroes — die.

So it’s about time a genuinely joyful character joined the cast.

Here’s what non-comic book readers know about Ezekiel so far: he’s the leader of the Kingdom, owns a sweet tiger, and… that’s about it. He’s still a mystery, but the good kind. However, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, actor Khary Payton expanded upon Ezekiel’s role on The Walking Dead, and it sounds like he’s exactly what the show needs.

“He’s in the business of not losing himself to his surroundings. I don’t let things get me down,” Payton said. “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,” he added, “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.” Like someone who doesn’t have a pet tiger.

There’s very little cheer to be found on The Walking Dead, which, understandable. One beer too many could lead to being turned into zombie chow. But Payton makes Ezekiel sound like a hopeful, cheery guy, someone who preaches “[his] philosophy and [preaches] it loudly so that it doesn’t get drowned out by all the crazy.” He’s just the wild card this show needs.

At least until his head gets caved in.

(Via Entertainment Weekly)