The Walking Dead tends to feature enough cliffhangers at the end of a season that some of us just need to hunt for spoilers over hiatus. Season 6 ended with the huge question of who got a face full of Negan's baseball bat Lucille, but there were smaller cliffhangers as well. Carol and Morgan encountered a pair of friendly folks who could only have been members of the Kingdom of the Walking Dead comics, so it seemed inevitable that comic Kingdom leader King Ezekiel would be in the mix for Season 7. The show went to some pretty extreme lengths to hide Ezekiel from prying eyes before he could make his grand debut in the San Diego Comic-Con trailer. Ezekiel actor Khary Payton has this to say about his work on The Walking Dead so far:
I've been diving in the backs of vans and having blankets thrown over my head so that nobody catches a glimpse of me and getting in and out of Georgia. I've got a lot of family in Georgia and I didn't even tell them that I was there, so to have an interview with a reporter is a little unnerving.
Khary Payton revealed the efforts to keep his involvement a secret in a chat with EW, and I can't blame the guy for being a little nervous talking about playing Ezekiel in Season 7. Ezekiel has had a pretty impressive run in the Walking Dead comics, but there's always the chance the he could be killed off early on the show if the actor starts spouting off secrets. Besides, the TV series has never been beholden to the comics. Payton may need an adjustment period before he gets used to actually having leeway to talk all things Ezekiel.
Frankly, Khary Payton deserves a lot of credit for doing his part to keep the secret from his family. The Walking Dead could probably handle hiding him in vans and during his travels to Georgia, but nobody could have forced Payton to really keep his family in the dark. If any of his relations saw the first look at Ezekiel in the trailer before hearing the news, they probably got the surprise of a lifetime. A self-proclaimed king of the zombie apocalypse is a pretty unusual role.
The role is even more unusual considering Khary Payton's scene partner in what we've seen of him so far. Ezekiel's pet tiger Shiva from the comics has made the cut for the series. The tiger has been created with a combination of CGI and animatronics, much to the delight of PETA. The show should bring so much spectacle with Ezekiel and Shiva that it's understandable that the crew behind the scenes would have wanted to keep the lid on Khary Payton as Ezekiel for as long as possible. The lid just happened to involve hiding under blankets in cars.
Sadly, we won't get to see Khary Payton in action as Ezekiel for a while yet. Season 7 of The Walking Dead won't be premiering until October 23, 2016. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 7 to tide you over for the rest of the wait.