In its six seasons, AMC’s The Walking Dead has brought a rich diversity to primetime TV, with the survivors of the zombie apocalypse representing a melting pot of society, including the LGBT community.
Lesbian character Tara and gay couple Aaron and Eric have proven themselves worthy additions to the show, even if the latter’s same-sex kiss caused hysterical overreaction in some fans.
But now the gay bar has been raised with the addition of British actor Tom Payne, who premiered on last night’s episode as the enigmatic and endearing Paul Monroe/Rovia, known to his friends as “Jesus.”
It’s easy to see why.
Jesus made his debut in epic fashion, literally running into Rick and Darryl on the street and then somehow duping the duo into believing he was running from a horde of walkers. The guys momentarily let down their guard, and that’s enough for the charismatic Jesus to steal their food truck and leave them stranded.
They eventually catch up to him, but it takes both of them to overcome his ninja moves and incapacitate him. Jesus has somehow survived all this time using just his hands and guile as weapons.
Rick and Daryl leave Jesus tied up by the side of the road, but mere shackles can’t slow him down! Rick and Darryl find themselves in a battle again, but Jesus never comes across as actually dangerous. In fact, in one telling moment, he uses Darryl’s gun to save him from certain zombie death.
That altercation leaves Jesus unconscious, and Rick decides to bring him back to the camp. (Hey, hot ninjas are in short supply.) They tie him up again, obviously not learning their lesson, because in the final scene a naked Rick and Michonne are awakened by the resurrected Jesus, who tells them “We should talk.”
There was no mention made of Jesus’ sexuality during this introduction episode—understandable with all the fisticuffs and running around—but The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has assured us that it will addressed.
“Coming back in the next half of our season, we are going to be introducing a very prominent gay character from the comics,” he told Chris Hardwick on Talking Dead last year.
In a Reddit Q&A, he talked about the importance of inclusion and mentioned Jesus specifically.
“In my opinion there should be more awesome gay people in fiction because there are plenty of awesome gay people in real life. I want Jesus to be a character where his sexuality is as unimportant as Rick or other heterosexual characters.
So we won’t focus on it constantly, and it won’t be the focus of any big storylines for him… but he’ll make it with a dude every now and then… before going out and drop kicking zombies. He’s one of my current favorite characters.”
We’ll have to wait to see how Jesus’ sexuality is brought up on the show, but the show’s off to a good start with the casting of Tom Payne, who brings sly humor and a magnetic personality to the role.
And he ain’t bad to look at.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9/10c on AMC.