Khary Payton has a lot of geek cred. In addition to playing Ezekiel on The Walking Dead, he also voices Cyborg on Teen Titans Go! (and a host of other Justice League animations) and Aqualad on Young Justice. He plays Dungeons & Dragons with his family, and had his mind blown by Black Panther. In other words, he seems like the best person to spend time with at a comic convention.
While at Emerald City Comic Con (which we happen to be livestreaming!), Payton delighted in answering fan questions about all his nerdy credentials. More Cyborg than Ezekiel, he was full of excitement when talking with the audience. It felt like he was just chilling with some buddies.
Payton nearly exploded out of his seat when Black Panther was brought up. "Wakanda is so cool!" he enthused, reminiscing about playing as Black Panther when he was a kid. He also believes that comic conventions are all about making adults feel like kids again.
When he was a kid, Payton and his brother decided they were going to play Dungeons & Dragons. But they were young, and the instructions were long, so they ended up fighting and never got a game going. But as an adult, he plays with his daughters (a cleric and a dragon master) and his wife (an elf). His younger daughter, 6 years old, was scared when they were being chased by trolls, so Payton changed them to "poop turtles." His time playing D&D came in handy when he appeared in an episode of Critical Role, playing his wizard character Shakaste. He had so much fun, he "forgot they were recording the game."
When Payton auditioned for Ezekiel on The Walking Dead, they changed the character name and gave him a lion named Nala. That didn't faze Payton, as he was a fan of the comic books, so he knew who he was auditioning for. He has great affection for Cooper Anderson, who plays Ezekiel's right hand, Jerry, as well as Shiva, and invited everyone to attend his YouTube group therapy sessions. ("Don't cry for me, Argen-Shiva.") If he could choose any animal to follow up Shiva with, it would be an elephant. Something with a thick hide that could stampede zombies. But don't hold your breath for a pet Dumbo anytime soon. "Animals are expensive on The Walking Dead," Payton says. "The only ones who were celebrating when Shiva died were the line producers."
A few other fun tidbits from the panel:
- On crazy fan encounters: "Grandmas grab my butt more than I expected."
- On getting hot in his TWD wig: "The wig is like a $40,000 wig. It is top of the line. It is fine until like hour 16." It's the layers and layers (and layers) of clothing that get him.
- If Payton could choose one TWD character (excluding Jerry) to be in a buddy cop movie with Ezekiel, he would pick Merle.
- While he didn't specify whether this was something in the works, or just something he thinks could happen, Payton did suggest there was a "very good chance" that The Walking Dead would be referenced on Teen Titans Go!
- Some of Payton's favorite cartoons growing up include Bugs Bunny cartoons, The Real Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and Dungeons & Dragons. But his favorite cartoon of all time? The Tick!
For plenty more Emerald City Comic Con fun, head over to one of our three live streams!