After being introduced back in The Walking Dead Season 5, the character of Father Gabriel has slowly improved from scared, whiny baby into a legit force to be reckoned with. Gabriel has not only learned how to handle weapons and protect the group, but also finally managed to leave his demons in the past. However, according to a recent interview, it seems there were demons of another variety for the actor behind Gabriel, Seth Gilliam, to deal with.
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Gilliam chatted about Gabriel's role in the upcoming season of #TheWalkingDead, and also went into detail about the intense, vitriolic comments he received after joining the series as such a divisive character.
Blurred Lines And Death Threats
While discussing the difficulty that comes with joining a show with such passionate and dedicated following, Gilliam — whose previous works include the acclaimed HBO show The Wire — shared how he found it hard to adjust to The Walking Dead viewers often slamming the actor rather than the character. He also revealed that he actually received death threats from fans who struggled to separate him from the character he was playing in a fictional dystopian TV show:
"It was kind of different for me because it’s unlike any other role that I’ve played. It’s had such an impact on the audience. It took a little getting used to, the death threats, and realizing they were coming from 13-year-old boys in the basement of their Wisconsin home, as opposed to people who were really meaning me harm. That had a profound impact on me, on just how seriously people are involved with the characters in the show.
At first it was a little uncomfortable because every actor wants to be appreciated for what they’re doing — even guys who play bad guys. Yeah, you want to dislike the bad guys, but you want to like the actor because he’s making you dislike the bad guy. And for a while, I felt the lines were kind of blurred because it’s so personal. It was like, 'Well, wait I didn’t write these lines. This isn’t me improvising on set. This is the way the plot is going.' So, it took a little getting used to, and I had to take a little distance. That actor 'love me, love me, love me' thing that I think all actors have — I had to kind of put that on the back burner and realize that I still had a job to do, whether I was being loved or not. Which is kind of hard, because I think everybody wants to be loved. I think actors particularly want to be loved."
Sadly, Gilliam isn't the only Walking Dead star to be harassed online. More recently his co-stars Josh McDermitt (Eugene) and Alanna Masterson (Tara) have also been bullied to the point of leaving social media. When his character sided with Negan in Season 7, McDermitt received a barrage of hate prompting him to quit Twitter. Meanwhile after being body shamed on Instagram shortly following the birth of her first child, Masterson took a break from the social network, though has now resumed posting.
Controversial Character And Convention Conversationalist
However Gilliam does believe that a character provoking a fan reaction is one of the great things about working in TV (though not necessarily the actor bearing the brunt of the reaction!). And remarks that if fans are watching his character on screen and having strong feelings about him either way, that's how he knows he's done his job:
"What you want is for people to move forward when you come onscreen. You don’t want them to get up and leave the room to go get a snack, you know? I think if people are leaning forward to say, 'Father Gabriel, you this!' or 'You that!' then all the better! It means yeah, I am doing my job — even if only me and my family can appreciate it. "
He also understands that if Gabriel had endeared himself to fans from day one, he'd probably be making even more bank at fan conventions — but hey, at least he's had some great yarns with fans:
"As far as conventions go, I would be making a lot more money out of them if I was a lovable character. But I get some great conversations out of it. I could talk about acting all day long, so for me, it’s alright."
Father Gabriel In Season 8
With Season 8 premiering in just a few weeks, it looks as though Gabriel will have a more active role than ever before. In the trailer for the upcoming season (below), Gabriel looks to have been somehow been captured by Negan. Unfortunately things don't look great for him, as Negan asks whether or not he's got his "shitting pants" on. Uh oh.
Whether or not Gabriel follows in the footsteps of Eugene and sides with Negan remains to be seen. However, something tells me that this priest has long since swapped his shitting pants for shit kicking boots, and Negan better watch himself.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with Season 8 on October 22.
Have you warmed to the character of Father Gabriel in the last few seasons?
(Source: Entertainment Weekly)