Tom Payne is starring on a new TV show, but he’s still deeply connected to ‘The Walking Dead’

Former

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Former “The Walking Dead” star Tom Payne is going to lead his own show on Fox this fall called “Prodigal Son.”
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Kirsten Acuna/INSIDER

  • Former “The Walking Dead” star Tom Payne will star on a new Fox series this fall called “Prodigal Son.”
  • The actor cut his hair, which he grew out for the AMC zombie drama, for the new show.
  • “When I auditioned, I still had the beard and the long hair. It wasn’t the best look to get the part,” Payne told INSIDER Tuesday after a special screening of the series’ premiere.
  • Payne said he still watches “TWD” even though he was killed off the series and read the recent final issue of the comics, where he was happy to see his character survived.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Tom Payne’s fan-favorite character, Jesus, was shockingly killed off AMC’s “The Walking Dead” last November.

At the time, Payne told INSIDER that after growing his hair out for two-and-a-half years for the role, he was “a bit unhappy” and “bored” with how little he was given to do with the character. Payne was ready to move on and do something else.

He didn’t have to wait long. This fall, he’ll be back on TV leading his own series on Fox, “Prodigal Son,” where he stars as Malcolm Bright, the son of a serial killer played by Michael Sheen.

“It’s a family show. It’s kind of a procedural. Maybe there will be a case a week. But it’s really about Malcolm’s search for himself and his place in his family and his place in the world,” Payne told INSIDER about the show Tuesday afternoon in New York City after a special screening of the series’ premiere.

Payne told us about chopping off the long hair he grew out for the zombie series, why you should tune in to his new show this fall, and his thoughts on “The Walking Dead” comic surprisingly coming to an end this month.

Cutting off his hair to lead Fox’s new show ‘Prodigal Son’

Tom Payne grew his hair out to play Jesus (a character nicknamed such because of his resemblance to the religious figure) on

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Tom Payne grew his hair out to play Jesus (a character nicknamed such because of his resemblance to the religious figure) on “TWD.” He cut it all off to play the leading role on a new Fox show.
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AMC/Fox

In November, Payne told us he was thinking of keeping his long hair since there aren’t many male actors with long hair in the biz. There was only one thing that would make him change up his look.

“I said if the right thing came along. If you get offered the lead in your own television show at the new Fox, then I think you take it,” Payne told INSIDER of making the decision to cut his long locks.

Thursday, March 14, Payne shared a photo of his hair laid out on a table. The following month, he debuted his shorter ‘do to fans.

“Funny enough, when I auditioned, I still had the beard and the long hair. It wasn’t the best look to get the part,” said Payne.

“In the end, I ended up shaving the beard and tying the hair up so that they could see the character a bit more and that helped me get it,” he added.

Now that it’s gone, does he miss the hair?

“Not really. It was kind of annoying,” said Payne of his Jesus hair. “It was a good look. I’m still actually getting used to what I’m supposed to do with short hair right now.”

What you should know about the show and why Payne says you should tune in

Tom Payne (left) plays the son of Michael Sheen on

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Tom Payne (left) plays the son of Michael Sheen on “Prodigal Son.”
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Fox

On the show, Payne plays Malcolm Bright, a profiler who happens to be the son of a notorious serial killer from the ’90s. While he’s great at his job and knowing how a killer works, underneath the surface, Malcolm is struggling with his own demons that have others wondering whether or not he may be a psychopath.

Payne said he was excited to be part of a show from producers Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schecter who have worked on CW hits, including “Riverdale” and “The Flash,” and to work alongside the Emmy-nominated Michael Sheen. As well, it helped seeing the familiar face of Charlie Collier who left AMC to run Fox last fall.

“Having the opportunity to play the lead in something, and it’s not boring, there was a really interesting concept that you just read the tagline and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s cool,'” said Payne of what else attracted him to the role. “It just felt right.”

It’s certainly not boring. Not to give too much away, but there’s something about watching Payne play an analytical character who clearly enjoys solving murder cases with a little too much eagerness that puts you on edge. You’re never quite sure what his character, Bright, may do next.

When asked why people should tune into the show, Payne had two simple reasons.

“Michael Sheen and the light comedy aspect in the show,” said Payne. “I was surprised how much it comes through and how much it works. The cast is just amazing.”

On ‘The Walking Dead’ comic ending and what it means for the show

Jesus, who Tom Payne played on

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Jesus, who Tom Payne played on “TWD,” on the cover of issue No. 134.
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Skybound/Image Comics

Though Payne’s character was killed off “TWD,” his character was still alive and kicking in the long-running comic from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard.

Earlier this month, fans were surprised to learn the comic, which has been running for 16 years, came to an abrupt end after making a 25-year time jump after the sudden death of its protagonist, Rick Grimes, one month earlier. Payne said he had a chance to see how the comic ended.

“I read it actually a few days ago, and it’s great,” Payne said of the final issue of “TWD” comic.

“I also saw that Jesus is still alive at the end of ‘The Walking Dead’ comic, which is awesome,” Payne said while smiling. “I’m really happy about that.”

Though Jesus didn’t get a big part in July’s issue No. 193, readers do get to see that he’s still with his partner, Aaron. The relationship was something the show never adapted to screen. Payne previously told INSIDER the series cut a scene with him speaking about a boyfriend on the season nine premiere.

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“The Walking Dead” show made a nod to the relationship between Jesus and Aaron, but never explored it.
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Gene Page/AMC

The comic ends with Rick Grimes’ son, Carl, reading a book about his father’s legacy to his little girl. That’s something the show won’t be able to adapt, which Payne pointed out.

“The show and the comic-book diverged a while ago,” said Payne.

“It is kind of sad that the comic-book ended up, like the show was maybe going to -,” Payne trailed off considering how the show may have adapted the comic if it didn’t make some critical changes. “Killing off Carl was an interesting choice, and the show, obviously at that point, took a big diversion, and then killing Jesus. It’s a different beast.”

Chandler Riggs’ Carl was shockingly killed off “TWD” during season eight. Many thought his character was meant to eventually carry the future of the series.

“It’s an interesting spot the show is in,” said Payne of the “Walking Dead” universe. “They’re going to do a third spin-off now.”

“The Walking Dead” producer and writer Matt Negrete will be the showrunner of the third, untitled series. Wednesday, Variety reported Alexa Mansour, Nicolas Cantu, and Hal Cumpston were cast in major roles.

Payne still watches ‘The Walking Dead’ and still stays in touch with the cast

Jesus was introduced on season six of

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Jesus was introduced on season six of “TWD.”
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Gene Page/AMC

Even though he’s been off the show for a while now, Payne said he has continued to watch season nine for the new characters and that he still keeps in touch with in his #TWDFamily.

“The actors are so brilliant. It’s fun to watch people that you know. Sam[antha] Morton is just wonderful and Ryan Hurst,” said Payne of the two actors who recently joined the series as the new villains, Alpha and Beta. “I love the way the season went in the end.”

Ryan Hurst and Samantha Morton play Beta and Alpha seen below.

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Ryan Hurst and Samantha Morton play Beta and Alpha seen below.
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Gene Page/AMC

“I still talk to everyone on the show. It’s a nice group of people. I actually saw Lauren Ridloff today randomly,” said Payne of the actress who plays Connie on “TWD.” “I’ll see all those people for the rest of my life.”

You can follow along with our “Walking Dead” coverage here. “Prodigal Son” will premiere on Fox Monday, September 23 at 9 p.m. You can watch a trailer for the show below.