Khary Payton, who plays Ezekiel on The Walking Dead, poses with adorable animals in behind-the-scenes images from season 11 of the long-running AMC series. The second half of AMC’s zombie drama’s final season premiered its first episodes on February 20, with the final episodes expected to premiere sometime later in the year. Its eleventh season loosely adapts the comic storyline from issues #175-193 of the source comic book, in which the survivors cross paths with the post-apocalyptic society, the Commonwealth—the most advanced civilization in the comics.
Ezekiel made his long-awaited debut in season 7 of The Walking Dead. Payton’s character is introduced as the leader of a community known as the Kingdom, where he resides as “King” alongside his faithful companion, his pet tiger Shiva. It is later revealed that Ezekiel was a zookeeper before the zombie apocalypse and, subsequently, saved the wounded Shiva during the outbreak. Unfortunately, Shiva met her end in The Walking Dead season 8, episode 4, titled “Some Guy,” but Ezekiel continues to be a crucial ally of Alexandria’s survivors, including Carol (Melissa McBride), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and Maggie (Lauren Cohan). In the final season, Alexandria and company are taking on the last big bad, the Commonwealth, a community where Ezekiel is once again working with animals.
Sunday, Payton took over The Waking Dead‘s official Instagram account to share BTS photos. The slew of images sees Payton hanging out with some adorable animals on the Commonwealth set. Check them out below:
The Commonwealth’s leader is “Governor” Pamela Milton (Laila Robins). Unlike previous, more obvious antagonists, Pamela is a regular politician who survived the zombie outbreak and now rules over her massive settlement. While her people are protected, well-fed, and enjoy luxuries like concerts and sporting events, the Commonwealth is plagued by an unfair class system riddled with discrimination and racism. Amid all this, Ezekiel’s main concern is his health as he’s dealing with cancer. Hs tumor could be removed by Yumiko’s brother Tomi, who is one of the Commonwealth’s surgeons. However, given Ezekiel’s occupation and status, he’s at the bottom of the list.
In the comics, Ezekiel dies before ever moving into the Commonwealth. In the show, Carol is doing what she can to gain the favor of Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) and get Ezekiel the surgery he needs to survive. Irrespective of his fate, The Walking Dead universe will continue long after the flagship series’ final season. In addition to ongoing spinoffs like Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond, upcoming shows like Tales of the Walking Dead and an unnamed spinoff following protagonists Daryl and Carol are also in the works. On top of that, the franchise will also see a trilogy of films starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, who left the series in season 8. That being said, it remains to be seen if Rick will reunite with Ezekiel and company in season 11.