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Khary Payton: Reigning Supreme On The Walking Dead

Linda Marie Linda Marie
Expert Contributor
April 7th, 2017

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Khary Payton: Reigning Supreme On The Walking Dead
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Khary Payton, star in the AMC hit TV series The Walking Dead (TWD) took time out his busy schedule to chat during Fan Fest Chicago 2017. With a background in comedy, theater, voice over and acting…. Mr. Payton was made for show business. Currently best known for his role as King Ezekiel on TWD and as voice over for Cyborg on Teen Titans, Khary Payton has an extensive list of credits to his name.

Khary Payton: Reigning Supreme On The Walking Dead

Mr. Payton’s passion for his career shines brightly. One need only spend a few moments with him to see how he embraces life, his family, and his fans with endless love and exuberance. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to delve into his world. Khary Payton is a beacon of positivity in a too often distraught world. His joy is contagious. 🙂

Khary Payton

Khary Payton has an extensive resume… behind the mic and on screen. Credit: saltcitycon.com

Living Life, Loving Laughs

Linda: What got you started in the industry? Did you always see yourself working in show business?

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Khary: Yeah, Yeah. When I was 8 or 9 years old I started ya know dabbling in this. I won a nationwide talent contest when I was 11 or 12 and after that I started doing a little standup comedy when I was in high school. I did little theater things. Then I decided that comedians are incredibly depressing people.

Linda: [laughs] Why do you say that?

Khary: They are! They are! It is a tough life to be on the road as a comedian. It’s lonely and its, these poor guys… I was 16 years old, I was enjoying just the process and enjoying how talented they all were. Some of my favorites were just so depressed because their friends had gotten famous and they were still not famous. You know, I’m sitting at the bar at 11:30 waiting to go up and they’re all commiserating with their alcohol and I’m havin’ a coke and really happy to be there. So I was like ya know, I think I’m gonna go to college, these guys are a little much for me.

Khary Payton, Fan Fest Chicago 2017, Fans

Khary Payton enjoying time with his fans at Fan Fest Chicago 2017. Credit: Linda Marie

Khary Payton Making His mark

Linda: A little too intense?

Khary: Yeah. Well one guy (who I really loved) after I did a pretty good set… he said, “So kid, you gonna take me with you when you’re famous?” I was just laughing, I was like yeah sure, whatever. He said, “Yeah, that’s what Chris Rock said.” Then he kinda stormed off. I was like, what’s going on, I wanna go home [laughs]. So, I opted for college. I did a lot of theater and after college I did a lot of Shakespeare, I did a lot of experimental theater and then I moved to LA when I was 28.

Khary Payton, Cyborg,Teen Titans, Fan Art

Khary Payton receives a gift from a young Cyborg fan. Credit: Linda Marie

I was doing little films and little guest star parts on TV, commercials and stumbled into a little cartoon audition that a friend of mine got for me and I happened to book it. That was for Cyborg [character on] Teen Titans. I’ve been doing that for 15 years and if I hadn’t gotten that part, I’d still be wondering how to get into voice over. But it’s been really great for me and during that time I did nine pilots that failed at one point or another. So after 22 years, I got an audition for The Walking Dead. I met that casting director, Sharon Bialy, 15 years before and I worked for her a couple of times but she always brought me in. So I was really lucky to meet people who remember that you always come prepared and ready to do your thing. I’ve been doing pretty well, taking care of me and mine and after 22 years, you get the best job ever.

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Khary Payton, Fan Fest Chicago 2017, The Walking Dead, Church and State Panel

Khary Payton takes part in The Walking Dead Church and State panel at Fan Fest Chicago 2017. Credit: Linda Marie

Linda: Sitting here listening to you talk, you already answered several of my questions [laughs].

Khary: People always want to know how you got started and how did you get this part and this audition. It’s always that the real story is a lot longer than well, I got a call to audition and I went over the script. This part is [The Walking Dead’s King Ezekiel]… I’ve been oddly training for it for my entire career with all the theater that I did. Kind of royal exuberance that he’s got and with the voice over it kind of lends itself to the character.

Khary Payton, King Ezekiel, The Walking Dead, Fan Art

Incredible King Ezekiel artwork given to Khary Payton at Fan Fest Chicago 2017. Credit: Linda Marie

Regal Encounters

Linda: I can see that for sure, there definitely is a presence. And, I gotta ask you… How do feel with being called ‘your majesty’ [laughs]? Do you get joked with about that?

Khary: I do. I do. It’s weird but, people have fun with it. I was at Disneyland a couple of days ago with my girls at spring break and we were at the Star Wars ride and as we were leaving, the guy that had let us in said “Thanks for coming Your Majesty.”

Linda: [laughs] How did you react to that?

Khary: You know, what can say… It was nice to know, it was a nice understated way for him to ya know say that e watches the show, he likes the show. Cause he’s working so he doesn’t have time to stop and ask to take a picture. So I guess it’s a quick way for people to acknowledge that they know who you are.

Khary Payton, King Ezekiel,The Walking Dead, Cast

Khary Payton poses with his Walking Dead family. Credit: Twitter – @kharypayton

Finding Family

Linda: That’s a good point. How is working with the rest of the cast? Do you guys have fun, play around a little bit?

Khary: I love them all. I work mostly with Lennie James and Melissa McBride. I really love those guys. My Kingdom people, I lost a couple already and Karl [Makinen] and Logan [Miller] who play Richard and Benjamin respectively…. I miss those guys already. Karl owns a restaurant in Los Angeles so I was there just a couple days ago but it still, I just hate that fact that we’re not gonna be doing this together. We were all brought in at the same time ya know, it was kind of like… this was our family that we brought in to the show but I know I’m gonna start getting to know Andy Lincoln and Lauren [Cohan] and Denai [Gurira] and all of these guys who have been on the show for so long.

Linda: If there is one thing I’ve learned from going to these conventions, especially the Walker Stalker, is what a tight knit family you all are. When the fans see you guys come together…. they just go crazy. They just love that.

Khary: It’s an ensemble show. It’s sticky and it’s hot and it kinda bonds you. First of all, we love the story that we’re telling and when you’re in those uncomfortable situations, I say uncomfortable but it’s still the best job ever, but it bonds you together. You’re kinda suffering, you gotta run through the walkers over and over again and it pulls you together in a weird way.

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Khary Payton, King Ezekiel, The Walking Dead

Khary Payton on set of The Walking Dead. Credit: amcnetworks.com

Good To Be The King

Linda: I’d like to talk specifically about [your character] King Ezekiel for a second. What do you feel are his best traits? What weaknesses do see in him? If you could change him, would you change anything?

Khary: I dunno if I’d change Ezekiel. I think we’ve all got our faults. I think that maybe as a leader he maybe swings one way and if something goes wrong, he overcompensate a little bit. Like he lost people before and so now with the Saviors he’s trying so hard to keep everybody safe and maybe he gave the Saviors a little too much leeway because of that. I think a good leader learns from his mistakes… and that’s what he’s trying to do. Honestly for the most part he had kept his crew safe from the Saviors.

Although you can stick pins in any leadership trait, I think he’s doing pretty good. You kind of think of him as this guy who’s not really a leader because he used to be a zoo keeper but I think that he’s played his role just about as well as anybody on the show has. He’s taken really good care of a large community and they’ve been thriving. I know people are upset that it took him a while to get going but the truth is he just met Rick and his gang, he’s gotta know if they’re on the right side of all of this. I think he’s finding his way. It’s all coming to head.

Khary Payton, Fan Fest Chicago 2017, Fans

Khary Payton engages his fans at Fan Fest Chicago 2017. Credit: Linda Marie

Costume Conundrums

Linda: It certainly is. I’m all caught up and there’s just a couple of episodes remaining. Before I let you go though, I promised a few fans I would ask a question that kept popping up… Is the wig hot?

Khary: The wig is not that bad. Everybody thinks the wig’s hot. It’s the clothes that are hot. It’s weighty and it’s weird ya know foam leather, neoprene with the fur and all of this. I wanna kill Robert Kirkman [laughs].

Linda: [laughs] Can you make this lighter?

Khary: Well that’s the thing. When they made this character, they knew we were shooting the show in Atlanta. In the summertime. They don’t have any lycra?

Khary Payton, Aqualad, Young Justice

Khary Payton does voice over for Aqualad in Young Justice. Credit: shmoesknow.com

Coming Up For Khary Payton

Linda: Right?! I don’t wanna take up too much of your time. So I will end by asking if you have anything new coming up? Anything you want to talk about?

Khary: Yeah, yeah. There is season 3 of Young Justice, a cartoon that I did that was canceled but because it got a really popular following on Netflix, we’re coming back for a third season and more seasons I imagine. I love that show so I’m really excited about that coming back. Big Hero Six is coming on Disney XD I believe in a few months. And of course more Teen Titans, more Justice League action, more Lion Guard. I like to keep the kids entertained until they’re old enough to watch zombies get killed.

I would like to thank Mr. Payton for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with me. I would also like to thank the hardworking management, staff, and volunteers for all they do to keep Fan Fest running smoothly. Great job as always! Be sure to follow Khary on social media… Instagram: @kharypayton Twitter: @kharypayton .

Khary Payton, King Ezekiel, Shiva, The Walking Dead

King Ezekiel and Shiva join the fight in The Walking Dead season finale.

Note: This interview took place prior to The Walking Dead’s season 7 finale. After having now seen that episode I would like to add… “Way to go Your Majesty!”

Keeping You Comic Con-nected!

Linda Marie

Twitter: @LindaMw87 Instagram: comic_con_crazy Cosmunity: ComicConCrazy

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