'The Walking Dead' cast and producers 'excited' to cast Shiva and Jesus

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"The Walking Dead" is about to enter its fifth season, and the show has continually strayed further and further from the comic books on which it's based. Here and there it has nods to the source material, and many of the characters are similar, but everyone involved agrees that the books and the show are on two very different trajectories.

Nevertheless, there are characters and plots from the books that are guaranteed to make it into the show, including fan favorite villain Negan, who series creator Robert Kirkman has said repeatedly will appear onscreen at some point down the road. During group interviews at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Kirkman and the show's producers confirm to Zap2it that at least three other favorites from the books will likely make it to the screen eventually: Paul "Jesus" Monroe, Ezekiel, and Ezekiel's pet tiger, Shiva.

"Paul Monroe, known as 'Jesus,' I think is an interesting character that's emerged in the comic book series that is going to be a very cool character when we get around to him in the TV show," Kirkman tells Zap2it. "Because of the martial arts and all that cool stuff, I'm pretty excited about seeing how that comes together." Monroe is also gay, which could help add diversity to the show's existing cast.

When asked about Ezekiel and Shiva, Kirkman says, "I'm looking forward to the tiger as well. We'll see. We'll see."

There's no chance that either character will show up on "The Walking Dead" Season 5, but if the show continues on its current path, then judging by the story in the books it may be time to introduce them by the show's sixth season. And Kirkman isn't the only one who's excited.

"We want to cast Shiva," executive producer David Alpert says. "We're really excited to cast Shiva. That will be awesome."

"Yeah, yeah, that will be fun," fellow EP Gale Anne Hurd adds.

Norman Reedus, who plays redneck heartthrob Daryl Dixon on the show, was unaware there was a tiger in the source material before Zap2it brought it to his attention (he hasn't read the books, at least partially because his character doesn't exist in them). Afterward he seemed more excited than anyone.

"A tiger on set? Dude, that's the greatest news I've ever heard. That's rad," he says, suggesting Daryl might kill Ezekiel on the show just so he can take Shiva for himself. The image of Daryl with a crossbow in one hand and a tiger's leash in the other -- or Shiva riding shotgun in a motorcycle side car -- tickles Reedus as much as it should fans. "Tiger!" he yells repeatedly.

"[Reedus] has always wanted an animal," Hurd explains. "Is that what you're going to be begging all season?" she asks him. "'When do I get the tiger? Can't you give the tiger to me?' You can tell which of us have read the comic books."

Although that seems to answer the question of whether Shiva and Ezekiel will arrive on AMC's "The Walking Dead," the question of how still remains. Will they use a real tiger? Thankfully, the answer is yes, at least according to Kirkman.

"That's the only way to go," Kirkman says. "Got to keep it grounded. I mean, if we could get a robot tiger, that would be pretty awesome. But, you know, we might have to go with a real one."

"I think we'll just get a little cat and airbrush the stripes on," jokes executive producer and special effects makeup supervisor Greg Nicotero.

"OK, I'll tell you right now. We got the kitten. We're starting with it. We have three, four years to train it," showrunner Scott Gimple says. "That's actually a really great idea. I might need to go."

Addressing the question seriously, he adds, "Why go into the future? Give us some time to figure it out." And though fans will no doubt give them all the time they need to debut their favorite characters on "The Walking Dead," it's always nice to get a little confirmation that the wait is going to be worth it.
Photo/Video credit: Image Comics