Fans of The Walking Dead are passionate, intense and loyal to the characters they love. But sometimes they take that loyalty too far.
Everyone knows that playing the moral compass on The Walking Dead is the death knell for that character. But some actors on the show have found out the hard way that playing a villain can lead to real life hate and even death threats.
It’s a testament to the quality of the show that fans are so emotionally invested in these fictional characters. But when the line between reality and fiction gets blurred some fans seem unable to separate the actors from the characters that they play.
Seth Gilliam, who plays Father Gabriel, recently opened up to Entertainment Weekly about the hate and death threats that he received after his character tried to get Rick ousted from Alexandria. Even though Father Gabriel had a change of heart and now supports Rick some fans still are mad at the character and are not sure that Gabriel can be forgiven for his earlier betrayal.
Seth Gilliam On The Darker Side of The Fandom
When talking to EW, Seth had this to say about the hate directed at him for Father Gabriel’s actions:
"“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.”"
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Seth Gilliam is far from the only actor on the popular AMC zombie survival drama to be the recipient of this kind of negative attention from fans.
Actress Laurie Holden received a lot of social media hate and even death threats when her character Andrea accidentally shot Daryl in season 2. Josh McDermitt, who plays Eugene, left social media after being barraged with hateful messages and posts after Eugene decided to join The Saviors.
He discussed Lorie Holden’s situation as well as his own and compared it to the response an actor wants when playing a challenging role:
"“I think there’s still hatred directed at Laurie Holden because of the Daryl thing, and because she had an affair with the Governor. I thought she did a fantastic 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.”"
The Walking Dead inspires a lot of passion in its devoted fandom. That’s a great thing and something that is difficult for shows to do. But there have been several documented cases where the fandom crossed the line from devoted group to fans to a vengeful mob. Sometimes fans need to take a step back, get off social media for a while and remember the difference between an actor and a character.