By Dalton Ross
September 30, 2016 at 03:24 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Everyone has been focusing on the deadly duo of Negan and Lucille and the destruction they will leave in their bloody wake when The Walking Dead returns for season 7 on Oct. 23. But there is another equally important pair that will be bursting onto the scene: the enigmatic King Ezekiel and his favorite pet.

How enigmatic is this Ezekiel chap? Well, that aforementioned pet is a pet tiger, so there’s that. In fact, Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman admits that when he came up with the idea of the tiger —named Shiva — he did so partly to see if and how the TV version could even adapt it. We talked to Kirkman about bringing this other dynamic duo from page to screen.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s it like bringing Ezekiel and Shiva to the show?

ROBERT KIRKMAN: Well, I’ll say I’m really excited about Ezekiel and Shiva getting into the show because that’s probably the wildest swing I took in the comics. You know, a guy who has a pet tiger [and] who speaks like some kind of weird medieval king is pretty strange, and I have to be honest, when I was writing the comic, I was like, “Hell yeah, let’s see how we handle this tiger in the show! This is going to be difficult!” So to actually get to this point where we are adapting it into the show and to see the show expand in this way that the comic did in the past is pretty cool.

I think anyone who’s been reading the comics sees that while the introduction of Ezekiel was this really strange occurrence in the comic at the time, as time progresses and you learn more and more about him, he becomes a very pivotal character in where the story is going. So it’s kind of an important benchmark, and an important turning point in the series as a whole to have his character introduced and all the things that come from that. I’m worried about getting into spoiler territory, but I will say that any people that have read the comics kind of have a better grasp of what’s coming, and should be very excited that Ezekiel and Shiva are being introduced.

You said you wondered how it would even be possible to bring Shiva to the screen. You all are using a mix of CG and animatronics. How important is it to get it right so it doesn’t look silly?

Yeah, I mean, you have to get it right. You can’t have a fake tiger, because you know that’s not going to work. This is a very real world and if Shiva doesn’t walk on screen, and look like this amazing real tiger that’s existing amongst these characters, it’s going to be more farfetched than it is in and of itself. So you really have to sell it. You really have to have this deadly, terrifying creature coexisting with these people, and it has been a Herculean task to make sure that we get it right. But between the mastery of Greg Nicotero, and all the practical effects that he’s able to accomplish, and our crack visual effects team, I’m very happy with how it’s turning out. You can see in the trailer, it absolutely looks amazing. You wouldn’t, you know, think we had a real tiger on set, but thankfully we don’t or else I would never go to set again.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Episode Recaps

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
  • TV Show
  • 10
  • TV-14
  • 10/31/10
Complete Coverage
Available For Streaming On