With a name like Jesus, your reputation definitely precedes you. That's been the case with The Walking Dead character thus far, anyway. From the moment he first arrived in Season 6, fans couldn’t help but want to learn more. He looked like the Biblical figure, with his long hair and beard. He didn’t exactly act like him, though – at least, not at first.
In the episodes since, Jesus has slowly become an important ally to many of TWD’s major players. Despite this fact, there’s a lot we still don’t know about him. Fans of Robert Kirkman’s comics have been able to spend a bit more time with the Hilltop scavenger, but they, too, still have unanswered questions about exactly where he came from, and how he came to acquire his particular set of skills (something we were hoping would be touched on in season 7).
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Walking Dead’s Jesus, but be careful, as potential spoilers await.
13 Some fans want him to hook up with Daryl
Jesus is not the first openly gay character on The Walking Dead, but he is the first one we’ve met that hasn’t been attached. That, of course, means that some fans love to theorize about who he might end up with eventually. Thus far, one of the more popular proposed romances is with none other than Daryl “It’s been seven seasons and I still haven’t hooked up with anyone” Dixon.
In some ways, that pairing probably seems a little crazy, since Daryl and Jesus really couldn’t be more different in terms of their disposition. Still, there’s not exactly any evidence that they couldn’t be into each other at some point. Sadly, TWD producer Greg Nicotero shot the idea down pretty emphatically during a panel at a recent fan convention. So the Daryl and Jesus (Desus? Jaryl?) ‘shippers will probably never get a chance to see their dream pairing make out.
12 He has a different last name in the comics
When we first met Jesus in the middle of The Walking Dead’s sixth season, he looked and acted almost exactly like his comic book counterpart. But there was one major difference in his on-screen persona that fans noticed right away. In the comic books, his full name is Paul Monroe – but in AMC’s adaptation, he goes by the name Paul Rovia.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it definitely got fans wondering. Tom Payne, who plays Jesus, explained in an interview that they chose to change his surname to avoid confusing TV fans. After all, there were already a handful of Monroes on the series – the recently deceased Reg and Deanna, and their surviving son (at least at that point), Spencer.
The Walking Dead’s creative team didn’t want there to be any confusion as to whether Jesus was related to the Alexandria Monroes. Thus, his last name got a refresh, and it was the comic fans that ended up scratching their heads.
11 He was introduced a little differently in the comics, too
Thus far, Jesus’ most memorable moment on The Walking Dead is still probably our introduction to him. He managed to pull one over on Rick and Daryl, and then sent them on a wild and crazy chase through the back roads. For a show that’s so often dark and depressing, watching TWD’s resident grumpy hunter sprint after Jesus offered up a much-needed bit of levity (see: the photo for entry #15).
Jesus’ introduction in the comic series, though, was a little bit different – and way less funny. Instead of encountering Rick and Daryl, Paul Monroe first met up with Abraham and Michonne. Like on TV, he evaded capture at first, but he did so by disarming his new acquaintances and then being all, like, “Take me to your leader.” (No, seriously, that’s exactly what he said.)
So, while comic fans’ first encounter with Jesus wasn’t exactly a laugh a minute, it did immediately show us how completely cool he was. Not exactly a bad trade-off.
10 Fans thought he was Hispanic at first
Jesus isn’t really Paul Monroe’s name, but it’s definitely become the one that most fans associate with him. That oh-so-unforgettable nickname, coupled with the dark hair and not-entirely-pale skin he’s been portrayed with on Robert Kirkman’s pages, was part of the reason why some fans thought the character might be Hispanic. After all, Jesus, often pronounced, “Hey Zeus,” is a pretty popular name within a lot of Spanish-speaking communities.
There was never any direct textual evidence within the comics to support that idea, though, and Monroe is a pretty Anglo-Saxon last name. In 2016, the very not Hispanic Tom Payne was cast to play Jesus and the theory was put to rest for good. Some fans were shocked, and others decidedly bummed to see that their guy wasn’t who they thought he was. After all, even though The Walking Dead has a pretty diverse cast, Hispanic characters have been relatively few and far between.
9 Tom Payne had a whirlwind audition experience
The Walking Dead’s creative team often goes to pretty extreme lengths to keep major plot points under wraps. That means that more often than not, when they’re trying to cast important characters for the series, they’ll float fake character descriptions and names to casting agents. They even hide the character’s true identity from the actors that are up for the role. That was the case with Jesus, so Tom Payne actually had no idea that he was auditioning to play the popular character.
According to Payne, the entire experience of booking the part was bracing. He was in London when his agent asked him to audition, so he submitted his reading on tape. Just two days later, he not only found out that he had won the role, but also who he was actually going to be playing. Three days later, he was in Atlanta and getting ready to shoot his first scenes. Hey, if he had to totally uproot his entire life in under a week, at least it's for a show as cool as TWD.
8 His hair isn’t real
One of Jesus’ defining features is his long and luxurious hair (seriously, how does he keep it looking so smooth in a zombie apocalypse?) and beard. So it might come as a shock to fans of the series that when he first appeared on The Walking Dead, the locks and facial hair he was sporting were both pretty much fake.
Tom Payne obviously didn’t have much time to prepare for his role as Jesus, and they haven’t exactly figured out a way to expedite the beard-growing process. So for his first few episodes, he donned a fake beard. He also hadn’t had a chance to grow his hair out to full-Jesus length, so the team at TWD gave him some hair extensions for good measure.
These days, the beard we see on Jesus is real, which is probably a relief for fans and the make-up team that had to apply fake beard hair to Payne’s face. The actor did recently admit they still supplement his Jesus look with the extensions, though. So, a note to future cosplayers: going full Jesus definitely takes time.
9. Robert Kirkman has downplayed the fact that Jesus is gay
Late in Season 7, fans of The Walking Dead TV series learned what many comic fans had known for quite some time: Jesus is gay. It led to endless headlines and post-episode discussions, and has since become one of the predominant ways that fans think about – and talk about – the Hilltop peacemaker.
If you ask TWD creator Robert Kirkman how he feels about Jesus’ sexuality, though, he’ll tell you he’d rather fans not focus so much on it. He once told fans on Reddit, “I want Jesus to be a character where his sexuality is as unimportant as Rick or other heterosexual character’s.”
In other words, he thinks that characters should be judged on their awesome traits and not just on their sexuality. He’s also made it clear that Jesus’ sexual orientation won’t be a major focus of his storylines in the series, but that we will see him “make out with a dude every now and then.”
7 He really likes to read
You’d think that there wouldn’t be much downtime when you're living in the midst of a post-apocalyptic landscape infested with zombies. In Paul “Jesus” Rovia’s case, however, you’d be wrong. The Hilltop’s main recruiter is an avid reader, and he has been open about his bibliophilic tendencies with his friends and lovers. He admitted to Rick that he’d only be leaving behind his large collection of books during the war with the Saviors. He even shared his favorite hobby with his lover, Alex, when they snuggled up to read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels together.
We haven’t had much of a chance to see whether or not the TV version of Jesus is also a big time reader. If he is, though, Robert Kirkman once told readers that Jesus’ favorite book series was Goosebumps. When you think about it, too, a little pre-adolescent horror does seem like a nice distraction from Jesus’ zombie-and-Negan filled reality.
6 His backstory is mysterious
The Walking Dead is a series that’s very much focused on present action. Still, we’ve learned quite a lot about its main characters’ pre-apocalyptic lives by virtue of backstories and some serious exposition. For most of the characters, we know quite a lot about what they did for work, where they lived, and what their families were like – with a couple of notable exceptions, that is. Jesus is definitely one of those anomalies, because we know close to nothing about what he was like before zombies began to roam the Earth. At this point, the biggest piece of information we’ve received is that he lived, at some point, in a group home. It’s a fascinating detail, and it really only adds to his mystique.
That said, it would be nice to know a little bit more about the guy, like what led him to possess such a generally mellow and fair-minded disposition. Then again, the mystery works for Jesus’ whole wise-and-wonderful persona. After all, it would make him seem way less cool if we found out he learned his awesome fighting skills by watching YouTube tutorials or something.
5 He’s one of the few comic/TV characters that also show up in a TWD video game
The Walking Dead has become a pretty impressive franchise since its humble comic book beginnings. In the years since AMC launched its adaptation, we’ve had a spin-off TV series, comic miniseries, action figures and several video games. Though Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead storylines have had a bit of crossover into the main plot of Robert Kirkman’s series, it’s mostly featured original characters and settings. However, a handful of familiar TWD faces have appeared in the games, and Jesus is one of them.
He first appeared in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, where he met the main characters while they were trying to escape from a zombie horde. Jesus’ video game counterpart looks more similar to his comic book incarnation than to Tom Payne – and he’s voiced by a different actor, Brandon Keener. He still exhibits many of the comic version of Jesus, too, including his friendliness and his awesome combat skills.
4 He’s not really afraid of Negan
If we learned anything from The Walking Dead’s seventh season, it was that Negan is a pretty intimidating dude. Plenty of characters, from Gregory to our main man Rick Grimes, spent quite a bit of time basically cowering in front of him, and given his proclivity for bashing skulls, that probably wasn’t a bad move. In the Walking Dead comics, though, Jesus showed that he was willing to go toe-to-toe with the leader of the Saviors, and ended up seriously embarrassing him in the process.
In Issue 114, Jesus infiltrated the Saviors' camp, where he disarmed several of Negan’s men. He didn’t stop there, though – he also straight up punched Negan in the face. Oh, and he told him his soldiers sucked, too, and still managed to escape with his life.
Tom Payne has hinted that he’s been preparing to bring that scene to life at some point in the future, and we can only hope it’s sooner rather than later.
3 He and Maggie get much closer in the comics
It became pretty clear by the end of last season that Maggie and Jesus are getting close. She’s relying on him to help her rally the troops, and he’s comfortable enough with her to share his most intimate secrets. In the comic version of events, Maggie eventually completely overtakes Gregory and assumes leadership of Hilltop – and she does all of this with Jesus by her side.
By the time the war with the Saviors is over in the comics, Jesus has more or less become Maggie’s second in command. He is without a doubt one of her most trusted advisors, and she’s turned to him multiple times for help in navigating the myriad political difficulties of leading the community. So, in other words, as Maggie starts to gain more power in the Hilltop during Season 8, we can expect to see Jesus step in and help her keep things running.
2 He’s super popular with comic fans
Even though Jesus has been a part of The Walking Dead ensemble for a while now, he still doesn’t quite feel like a main character on the TV series. Sure, he made a big first impression, and we’ve seen that he definitely has some influence where matters at the Hilltop are concerned. Still, we haven’t had the chance to really see him do all that much, especially since so much of Season 7 was about Negan and Alexandria.
In the comics, it’s a whole different story. Since he first appeared in issue 91, he’s steadily become a fan favorite. That’s thanks to his charming personality, witty repartee with more established players, and the fact that he’s pretty much a total badass. It’s also because he’s been around for quite a long time – more than five years for comic fans – and he’s become an integral part of the series. Hopefully, in Season 8, TV fans will get to know him a little better, too.
2. He’s a big reason why one major character is dead
Spoiler alert: Gregory eventually dies in the comics. What a relief, right? After he attempted to poison Maggie, she finally realized that he wasn’t just a nuisance, but a serious threat. Before she made the final call to have him executed, though, Maggie looked to Jesus and a few other Hilltop members for advice. One was, of course, Jesus, who had seen firsthand what Gregory was capable of after he discovered Maggie near death.
Though Gregory had taken him in and helped him survive, Jesus understood that the punishment for the attempted assassination had to be severe. He went so far as to suggest that anyone involved in the poisoning should be exiled. He helped Maggie interview those that knew something about it, and backed her up when she made the decision to have Gregory hanged.
So, while Jesus is in many ways resembles the religious figure he earned his nickname from, in this particular case, he was definitely way more for that whole “Eye for an eye” thing than his namesake.
1 He’s way more awesome than he gets credit for on TV
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the TV version of Jesus so far. He’s had a few great moments, and he’s definitely shown signs that he’s pretty badass when it comes to physical combat. When you compare him to the comic book version, however, there’s so much that fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead are missing out on.
In Robert Kirkman’s comics, Jesus has played a much more active role in fighting foes, both dead and alive. He’s an incredible martial artist – we’re talking flying-through-the-air-and-kicking-faces amazing. He’s a full-on escape artist, capable of twisting out of some incredibly tight situations. Plus, he’s got a great sense of humor, one that has only barely come through on the small screen.
A lot of that is likely just due to the fact that we haven’t spent all that much time with Jesus yet. Here’s to hoping that in Season 8, Jesus’ full awesomeness will be on display.
What's your favorite thing about The Walking Dead's Jesus? Did we miss any fun facts? Let us know in the comments!