Let’s face it: this hasn’t been an easy year for King Ezekiel on The Walking Dead. His best friend sacrificed herself so he could live and pretty much all of his neighbors died…in the same day. But my man-crush isn’t really on Ezekiel, is it? My crush is on the man behind the king, Georgia-born Gen-Xer, Taurus and all around good guy, Khary Payton.
I started doing my research on Khary earlier this month on my way to Emerald City Comic Con. First things first, he is a legend in the voice acting world. Ok, I’m not super familiar with the voice acting world, but the list of his best known characters includes Cyborg from Teen Titans and all DC iterations of Teen Titans, Wasabi from Big Hero 6 (The Series) and about 100 other voice characters from film, television and video games. I’m not exaggerating that number; it’s a lot!
As a real person, Khary is best known as the regal, silky-voiced King Ezekiel on The Walking Dead. He credits his recognizable, royalty-infused, Shakespearean “Ezekiel” voice to his uncle, a 400 pound security guard from Savannah, who made everything he said sound more important than it actually was. Although he has done stints on General Hospital and guest spots on Hannah Montana and Lie to Me, The Walking Dead has catapulted him to a whole other level of stardom.
Like many of his The Walking Dead co-stars, Khary spends his off-months traveling the world sharing his story and his passion with fans. Some important things I learned about Khary at ECCC are that he loves Bugs Bunny cartoons, if there was actually a zombie apocalypse he would want Yoda by his side and that a lot of grandmas at Cons grab his butt. Ok, that one is weird, but true. Oh, and when he plays Dungeons and Dragons with his daughters, they have to turn trolls into poop turtles, because trolls are scary. Yep, poop turtles. Adorable.
His heart is in the right place too. On March 4th, Khary posted a photo in support of his co-star Lauren Cohan who was in the middle of an ongoing contract dispute over fair pay with a quote that said, simply, “Pay the Woman”. Last year, during a stop at Tampa Bay Comic Con, Khary was approached by a group who supports the humane treatment of big cats (think lions and tigers). It seems that even though the show takes place during a fictional Zombie apocalypse, folks who saw King Ezekiel’s pet tiger, Shiva, still thought it might be cool to have one of their own. During the Con, Khary spent time at the Big Cat Rescue, met their tigers and even took literature back to his signing table at the Con to help promote the ethical treatment of big cats. Check them out here; they seem great.
Most recently Payton designed a t-shirt that was only available for two weeks (WHY?!?) that reads “Never Bring a Bat to a Cat Fight” and shows Shiva biting bad-guy Negan’s bat “Lucille” in half. Proceeds from the sale of the shirt went to help hurricane victims.
Khary is a cool guy and he does a lot of great things to support charities, his friends and his fans. What I loved most about him was the way he described his journey to this point in his career and the passion he has for his cast and crew members. His advice is this: “whatever you do, find that thing that gives you that connection with other people, that makes you vibe, that you feel that electricity that you can’t see, but you can feel. Then you know that you’re living.” Seems like solid advice because he seems pretty electric every time I see him.