‘The Walking Dead’s’ Khary Payton says the Whisperers are a ‘crazy cult’: ‘I’m not sugar coating that’

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  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Sunday’s “The Walking Dead.
  • INSIDER spoke with Khary Payton, who plays King Ezekiel on AMC’s zombie drama, about Sunday’s episode, and he said he doesn’t think Ezekiel knows about the Whisperers, yet. 
  • Payton described this season’s villains as a “crazy cult.” “I know that it’s the apocalypse and we all gotta figure out how to survive somehow. That doesn’t mean that every way people figure it out isn’t f—ed up as s—,” said Payton. 
  • Payton said “extreme concern” is an appropriate feeling for fans to have going into the season’s final three episodes.

The Kingdom thought they were going to be in over their heads with the Highwaymen on Sunday’s “The Walking Dead,” but King Ezekiel (played by Khary Payton) and his community should really be worried about The Whisperers, who they have yet to meet on AMC’s zombie drama. 

“I don’t think he knows about the Whisperers yet, but I think he’s gonna be horrified just like anybody who comes across [them],” Payton told INSIDER on whether or not King Ezekiel is aware of the skin-wearing group. 

The group, led by Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst), consciously decide to wear the skin of the undead and refer to them as their guardians as they walk among them to survive. On last November’s mid-season finale, they were introduced by unexpectedly killing Jesus (Tom Payne).

Read more: “TWD’s” Greg Nicotero shares how helped bring the show’s scary new villains to life

“They take people’s faces and put ’em on their faces. That is just nasty. That is just freaking nasty, and I don’t think there’s any way else to react to that except some sort of revulsion,” Payton added.

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For as much as Ezekiel’s a thoughtful ruler, Payton said the Whisperers are going to give him pause. As we see with the introduction of the Highwaymen, people go very different avenues to survive. But at what point do you decide wearing the skin of dead people is the way you want to go about living in this new world?

“I know that it’s the apocalypse and we all gotta figure out how to survive somehow. That doesn’t mean that every way people figure it out isn’t f—ed up as s—,” Payton said of the Whisperers’ way of life. “I’m sorry man, I have no feeling of, ‘Well, they really were trying to figure it out and this is the best that they could come up with.’ No. It can just be f—ed up. The Whisperers are a f—ed up group of people! Sometimes there are communities that are not so f—d up, and then you get crazy cult nonsense, and that’s what the Whisperers are. I’m not sugar coating that s—.”

It’s safe to say Ezekiel and Carol wouldn’t be inclined to try and talk things through like they successfully did with the Highwaymen. 

“Yeah, I don’t know about talking things through, but I feel like they just need to figure out how to deal with them and it’s anybody’s guess at this point how they’re gonna do that,” said Payton. 

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It’s probably not going to be anything that has a happy resolution now that Daryl has run into conflict with Alpha and Beta. There’s also that little issue about how the Whisperers hurt Henry on Sunday’s episode. 

“That’s not gonna help at all. We saw what happened when somebody messed with Henry before,” said Payton, referencing Carol lighting some of the remaining Saviors on fire in the first half of season nine. 

If Carol doesn’t set her sights on the Whisperers after she learns they hurt Henry, Ezekiel at least has the advantage of the Highwaymen there to fight alongside him. Hurst, who plays Beta, recently told INSIDER the Whisperers have hundreds of members, so they’re going to need all the help they can get. 

“I think that the cool thing about the Kingdom is, and like the Hilltop before them, is that these communities work best when they’re bringing people together rather than pushing them away,” said Payton. “I think there are gonna be some more hard lessons about that before it’s all done.”

“You can never be comfortable on this show,” he added, commenting on what fans can expect from the season’s final three episodes. “I think extreme concern is a nice spot to be living in.”

“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. You can follow along with our show coverage here

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