It’s safe to say that the last three years have involved the easiest personal grooming choices of Tom Payne’s life. As fan favourite “Jesus” Rovia on the people/ratings-munching juggernaut The Walking Dead, he had a pretty easy brief: don’t cut the hair or the beard. But for all the time it might have saved in the barber’s chair, looking like the Christian Lord and Saviour is not entirely without its confusing moments when not on a TV set.
“People would shout out ‘Jesus’ when they saw me on the street, and I would get ready to thank them for watching, but sometimes they actually meant the other Jesus — who, obviously, many more people know around the world,” Payne says dryly, before admitting that getting to shave was one of the big benefits to getting killed off. “I enjoyed the look while I had it, but it is nice to get my face back.”
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Payne has already found good use for the new look as the lead in the upcoming Fox drama Prodigal Son. He plays Malcolm Bright, an almost gleefully amoral criminal profiler who is both driven and tortured by the fact his father (Michael Sheen) is a notorious serial killer. For anyone who fretted that Payne didn’t get enough fun stuff to do in The Walking Dead, Prodigal Son, produced by Riverdale’s Greg Berlanti, is the antidote: the first episode alone features Malcolm talking down one serial killer, annoying nearly every cop he works with, and cutting a man’s hand off with an axe — but only so he could save him from a ticking time bomb.
“I think the fun of it is you’re never going to get a handle on Malcolm,” Payne explains. “He’s a damaged person and I think at times the audience should want to hug him, and at times they should be scared of him. He can’t find his centre or his peace, and I don’t think the audience will either.”
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