British actor Tom Payne has been busy setting hearts aflutter as Paul ‘Jesus’ Rovia on hit US drama series The Walking Dead, but it seems the star’s turn as a kick-ass gay zombie-fighter has had an even more important effect for some.
In Attitude’s June issue – available to download and in shops now – Tom, who first rose to fame playing sixth form student Brett Aspinall on BBC One’s Waterloo Road says he feels “privileged” to now be portraying an LGBT+ character on one of the biggest shows on US television, and reveals that recent scenes in which his character came out inspired a fan of the series to do the same.
“I had messages on Twitter the next day from people; like this girl who said her brother came out to her parents the day after that episode aired,” Payne recalls.
“That’s why we do this job: to help people through parts of their lives, emotional situations they might be going through. If you can see yourself on screen, that can help you to process whatever it is that you’re finding difficult in your life.
“And the other side of that is helping people who are outside of the gay world and don’t know anyone [who is LGBT+], and a just a bit scared of it.”
The 34-year-old, whose character looks set to become an increasingly pivotal figure when The Walking Dead’s eighth season kicks off in October, adds: “Jesus is a badass character, there are plenty of badass gay people, so why shouldn’t he be gay?
“For a show of this style it’s really great that we’re able to do that.”