There has been a lot of attention lavished on the impending arrival of Negan to The Walking Dead at some point in the back half of season 6, and with good reason: He’s the gnarliest of the villains seen in comic version of TWD, the casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan to play him is perfect, and as Robert Kirkman told us, his appearance will be like an “atomic bomb.”
But there is another key comic-book character about to burst upon the scene, albeit with significantly less fanfare. At some point after the show returns on Feb. 14, Rick and Co. will meet Jesus. Not as in the son of God — that would be a sharp left turn, even for a show about other people also coming back from the dead — but rather a bearded survivor (played by British actor Tom Payne) with ninja-like fighting skills who comes from another nearby community known as the Hilltop and could be a potential ally for the Alexandrians.
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We spoke to comic creator and TV exec producer Robert Kirkman to get his take on the character (who is also known as Paul Monroe) and his addition to the show. “Jesus is just such a fun character to write in the comics,” says Kirkman. “At this point in the life of the series, my thought is the apocalypse has been going on for so long, the people you encounter in your day-to-day life have to be extremely skilled. And they’ve been surviving for a reason, whether they were at a place like Alexandria that’s very safe, or they’re a great leader of their group and somewhat sadistic but in control of their group like Negan, or someone who’s an absolute, complete badass like Jesus.”
Badass is right. In the comic version, Jesus demonstrates his elusive fighting skills right off the bat, but gaining the trust of Rick Grimes is another matter altogether. (Just ask Aaron how his first meeting with Rick in the barn went.) “He’s smart, quick, very athletic,” says Kirkman of Jesus. “He’s kinda been surviving on his feet. He’s going to be bringing a lot to the show. There’s some cool stuff coming with him.”
Check out a video of the cast above. The Walking Dead returns Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.