Tom Payne (almost the namessake of founding father and vehement anti-christian, Tom Paine ) is, ironically, best known for portraying a character named Jesus in tv’s “Walking Dead,” (of whom he bears a striking resemblance to the popular image). A slightly tenuous segue maybe, but it promises the massively popular actor a varied and eclectic choice of roles in what looks like being a busy career.
Photography By Rowan Daly
M: Does the Walking Dead have a message for today?
TP: I think The Walking Dead is a pretty pertinent allegory for the world in which we live. Death lurks around every corner (albeit a little more apparently on the show) and the best thing we can do is band together regardless of any minor differences between us. It’s only together that we can survive as a people and create a better world for us all to live in.
M: Does the director’s chair hold any attraction for you?
TP: I think so. There are a few things floating around right now that I’m interested in making. I need to do a little work before that though. I’m under no illusion that I could just jump straight into the chair and make it work. I’d absolutely make sure I had a great team around me and would probably start with something short form and work my way up.
M: Do you have ambitions to play any of the classics? Shakespeare? Ibsen?
TP: Definitely. I’m classically trained as an actor (I did 3 years at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London) and only really learnt how to do TV and lm on the job after I left. It would be amazing to get back into some classical texts in the future. Unfortunately being an actor in the theatre doesn’t pay too much and in the past years I have been more concentrated on providing myself with a secure home life. Now that I have a bit more financial stability I’d love to get back on the stage.
M: Mindgamers (2015) was an interesting concept, a glance into a possible future. Does AI give you cause for concern?
TP: I think it needs to be monitored closely. There will always be a need for humanity to keep pushing forward and testing how far we can go with technology, but I think in this case we need to tread lightly. There are tremendous benefits and breakthroughs ahead but I feel there will always be risk attached.
M: Given the size of your social media following, do you feel any pressure from this? Do you feel a responsibility to be fair and balanced? Does fairness in society play a role in your philosophy?
TP: I don’t feel pressure as such. I am very careful with what I say. I think if you follow me on social media you’ll be generally aware of my political leanings but I’m careful to never define myself as being with one party or another. I hate that our political conversation has become Us vs Them and that you have to take sides. It seems preposterous to me. Surely we can all work together to forge the best way forward. Fairness in society is a huge part of my philosophy and I am grateful that the show has given me a position to promote empathy and understanding as a way forward.
M: How big an influence are young people going to have this November [midterms]? How important do you feel November’s elections are going to be for the millennials?
TP: I think if this movement sustains it has the power to permanently change things. Young people ultimately have as much influence as they choose to have. The November elections are a chance for the youth to demonstrate and experience their power. The youth are the future of the USA and the world, and if they understand that they can already play a part in its change then we’re in for an exciting future.
M: Given the historically low turnout for midterms and even lower numbers for millennials, how can we fire up a generation to take an interest in its future?
TP: They have to fire themselves up. The March for our Lives movement is on their doorstep and is owned by them. This is the time where we see if they have it in them as a generation to organize and vote. I believe that they do and will support them every step of the way.
M: Does the Parkland school shooting have any influence on your opinion on gun control?
TP: No more than any other school shooting in my lifetime. Since I moved to America, gun control has been a major issue that has always mystified me. Surely no one wants their child
to be shot dead in school and yet time after time nothing has happened to really tackle the problem. We have now reached a point where the majority of people in this country are in favor of gun reform. I hope America joins the rest of the world in realizing that there is a sensible road ahead that protects us all.