'The Walking Dead' showrunner says Tom Payne volunteered to play his character's corpse on the mid-season premiere

Jackson Lee Davis/AMCYes, that’s actually Tom Payne just hanging out on that horse by choice.
  • Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for season nine, episode nine of “The Walking Dead,” “Adaptation.”
  • Tom Payne’s fan-favourite Jesus was shockingly killed off the AMC zombie drama during November’s mid-season finale.
  • That wasn’t the last we saw of Payne though. Sunday’s mid-season premiere showed a lot of Payne as Jesus’ body was dragged around and then carried on horseback for a majority of the episode.
  • Showrunner Angela Kang tells INSIDER Payne volunteered to finish out Jesus’ role even though they could’ve used a dummy.

Tom Payne’s Jesus was killed offThe Walking Dead” by the show’s new villains in November. While Payne may be off the AMC show now, fans may have been a bit surprised to see a lot of him on Sunday’s mid-season premiere as his lifeless body was carried back home on horseback.

In case you had any doubts, that’s no dummy or stunt double. That’s Payne himself sticking it out and playing Jesus until he’s literally in his grave.

“Tom was great. We could have just done a dummy or something,” showrunner Angela Kang told INSIDER. “He was like, ‘I’ll do it if you want me to. If you want me to be the body in the episode I will be there.'”

Twd 902 jesus tom payneJackson Lee Davis/AMCAs a reminder, here’s Jesus before he was stabbed through the back by a Whisperer.

Payne hinted at Walker Stalker New Jersey in December we hadn’t seen the last of him, something he also suggested to INSIDER in November after his character’s death. We just didn’t expect to see him as a corpse getting dragged around and then slung over a horse (yes, that’s him, too!) for the majority of the episode while keeping a straight face.

“We could have forced him to but he really just volunteered, which was really lovely of him,” Kang added of Payne seeing the role through to the very end.

Why it was important to show Jesus getting brought back to the Hilltop

Twd 909 daryl horse jesusJackson Lee Davis/AMCAnother shot of Tom Payne travelling on horseback on the mid-season premiere.

In the grand scheme of things, it may have seemed silly seeing Payne hanging lifelessly off the side of a horse for chunks of Sunday’s episode, something we mentioned some viewers may find meme-able to Kang.

The showrunner told INSIDER they considered not showing Payne on the horse and bringing his body back, but ultimately believed Daryl, Aaron, and the group would do everything in their power to bring Jesus’ body home, especially since Jesus was the one who helped unite his community, the Hilltop, with both Alexandria and the Kingdom.

Twd 611 tom payne hilltopGene Page/AMCJesus introduced Rick and Michonne to the Hilltop and the Kingdom.

“For me, the positive payoff of it all is that moment when they do bring his body in through the gates of the Hilltop and you see Tara just laying her hands on his body and just the grief that they all have,” said Kang. “I think seeing Jesus there really helped everybody’s performances. It is such a momentous moment for the Hilltop and that just reverberates through the rest of the season. It’s something that affects people very deeply. It changes the leadership structure at the Hilltop. It causes characters to change their minds even in the other communities.”

Twd 909 jesus funeralJackson Lee Davis/AMCThe Hilltop community gathers to pay their respects to Jesus. With him and Maggie gone, Tara is now looked at as the leader of the Hilltop.

On Sunday’s episode, we see that Aaron is among those characters who’s deeply affected by his friend’s death, apologizing to Michonne on the mid-season premiere for not listening to her when it came to leaving their own community. “It’s something that has impact, but I hear what you’re saying,” added Kang of fans seeing Payne strewn across the horse. “There may be memes with him on the horse. I don’t know.”

Read more: 4 frustrating moments from “TWD” mid-season premiere

We’re still hoping we’ll get to see more of Payne later this season. We expect to see some sort of flashback on the remaining seven episodes of the season to learn what happened to splinter the three communities (Hint: It probably has to do with those mystery “X” marks). You can follow along with our “Walking Dead” coverage here.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up for our weekly “Walking Dead” newsletter here, which is sent out every Monday following a new episode with show analysis and interviews from the cast and crew of the show.

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