Walking Dead star Tom Payne, who played Jesus on the show, has opened up about his disappointment at the lack of a gay romance arc.
This article contains spoilers for the midseason finale of The Walking Dead Season 9.
Payne made a shock exit from the long-running horror show on Sunday, after three seasons playing the gay character, Paul ‘Jesus’ Monroe.
The show is known for dispensing with fan-favourite characters in brutal fashion, but in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Payne spoke about his disappointment that his character was dispatched before he had a real romance arc on the show.
I was disappointed it wasn’t in there more. It wasn’t ever even explicitly mentioned.
— Tom Payne
He told The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s been so amazing to be a part of that community and to give visibility as a gay character on one of the biggest television shows ever.
“It was an amazing responsibility, and I was happy to take it on. But I was disappointed it wasn’t in there more. It wasn’t ever even explicitly mentioned.
“[Jesus’ sexual orientation] was just one scene with Lauren in season seven. The right people picked up on it; they did recognise it. But you can find people who still don’t realise Jesus was gay.”
He added: “I think they could have been a bit more up front about that. While you’ve lost Jesus, you still have Aaron and Tara (Alanna Masterson), and now Magna (Nadia Hilker) and Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), so there’s still representation on the show. But it’s a shame. He was such a badass character.”
Walking Dead star Tom Payne ‘wished’ for bigger gay storyline
Jesus is gay in the original comic book series, and his sexuality has been depicted in several storylines.
Payne went on to praise Walking Dead comics writer Robert Kirkman, “who was so amazing to do it in the comic books.”
He added: “I was super excited to play that. I wish they made a bigger deal of it. But other storylines take precedent, I guess.”
Payne added that it’s possible his character and fellow survivor Aaron (Ross Marquand) “did hook up once or twice” off-screen but “just became friends afterwards,” birthing a thousand likely fan fictions.
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Is Daryl Dixon gay? Walking Dead star teased ambiguous sexuality
One of show’s other stars previously teased behind-the-scenes discussions about whether his character could be gay.
Walking Dead star Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon on the show, hinted that showrunners had discussed giving his character a gay storyline.
Speaking in 2015, he said: “I’m not opposed to it and I’m not running towards it.
“There was a hint [that he might be gay] and I was down with that… Whatever they give me, I’m gonna run with and I’m gonna try and kick ass with.”
However, writer Robert Kirkman said that plans for Daryl to be gay were eventually ruled out—and clarified that the character is actually straight.
He said: “We play Daryl Dixon being somewhat asexual on the show. He is a very introverted character, and I think that’s some of his appeal.”
Kirkman added of the rumours: “It caused quite a hubbub online. And I just wanted to make it clear that the possibility is there.
“I would have been fine with it; the network would have been fine with it; but we ultimately didn’t do that.
“I can make it official: Daryl Dixon is actually straight.”