- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season 11, episode seven.
- Seth Gilliam spoke with Insider about the show ending, Sunday’s episode, and more.
- Gilliam thought “TWD” would go on for years. He said Gabe would call out Pope as a ‘false prophet.”
Seth Gilliam knows how he wants “The Walking Dead” to end.
“I would like to see Father Gabriel as the last man standing with an extreme closeup on my face and smiling happy eyes, or should I say eye?” Gilliam told Insider, referencing his character’s one blind eye, while discussing the show’s final 11th season.
Gilliam has played Father Gabriel Stokes on the apocalyptic series since season five where he once introduced as a cowardly man who locked his congregation out of his church when the world went sideways to save his own skin.
Over six seasons, Gabriel gained Rick’s trust and that of the group he eventually came to call family. He went from a selfish individual who only cared about self-preservation to a community leader who would lay down his life for his flock.
For a while, it seemed like Father Gabriel could outlast everyone else. His character has already long outlived his comic death, a rarity on the long-running zombie drama.
But lately, Gabe has been going down a darker path, one which many fans think could become his undoing. Gilliam doesn’t seem to think fans are too off base if Gabe doesn’t get it together. The former coward is now a confident killer, skilled liar, and survivor. His cockiness paired with his former self-preservation tactics are a dangerous combination, making Gabe a true wild card on this final season.
In a wide-ranging conversation, we discussed everything from Gabe’s first real love, Jadis (aka Anne), to how things with his current relationship with Rosita have turned icy.
Gilliam also shared Father Gabriel’s candid thoughts on Pope (he thinks the Reaper leader’s a big phony), how Gabe considers himself Negan’s friend (so much so that he probably would have had his back on the season premiere when everyone wanted to kill him), and what he’d do if he knew his old pal Rick was still alive. (He’d likely hit the road.)
Gilliam was among those who thought he was about to learn his time on ‘TWD’ was over when he learned the show was ending. He thought, like ‘Law & Order,’ that ‘TWD’ would go on for many years.
Insider: I’m going to start out with what I’m asking everyone for these first batch of episodes. Do you remember where you were when you learned that this would be the final season of “The Walking Dead” and what your reaction was to learning that news?
Gilliam: I don’t remember where I was, but I do remember getting a call from Scott Gimple and Angela Kang [saying] this will be the final season and commiserating with them over that. It kind of took me by surprise because I thought that “The Walking Dead” could be very much like “Law & Order” and run for like 20 years.
Yeah, I thought that as well, because when you get a call from both of them, it’s like, “Well, this really can’t be good.”
Every time Gilliam gets a new ‘TWD’ script, he wonders if it will be Father Gabriel’s final episode
Every time I watch an episode with you right now, I’m going to be honest, I wonder, “Could this be Father Gabriel’s last episode since he long outlived his comic death? Do you feel that way at all? When you get another script, do you wonder, “Am I going to make it through this episode alive?” Or do you wonder, “Am I about to get my comic death, now?” They’ve teased it so many times at this point.
Yes they have [teased it]. And yes, I do wonder.
When I get a new script, I wonder if it’s going to be the last ride for old Father Gabriel, because we are in uncharted territory with the character in the story. I’ve heard tales of people not getting the call until they read the script in the past [about their death]. So I’m like, “Well, that could very much be my fate.”
But at this point I feel like I’m playing with house money. So, you know, anything that happens, I’m like, “Well, I made it much further than I thought I would anyway.”
Father Gabriel is ‘a bit of a wild card’ right now. It could lead to his demise.
I’m going to back up a little because on the original season 10 finale, I thought Father Gabriel had this amazing full circle hero moment. He started off as a selfish man who locked himself in his church to save his own skin. On the season 10 finale, he steps up to risk his life for everyone else.
Now, after the bonus episodes of season 10, should we be concerned about Father Gabriel right now? Is he going down a path where he could become so far gone that it could become his undoing and get him killed? It doesn’t seem like everything with Robert Patrick’s character Mays, who Gabe killed, is haunting Gabriel in the way it’s haunting Aaron.
Yes. I think it does lend itself to a possibility that he could just walk right into his death without seeing it coming because he’s so driven by darker forces at this point. But that makes it exciting. I think that keeps the tension in the air. This character is a bit of a wild card now. [Before, he was] someone who you kind of knew what to expect.
Gilliam wants a ‘Walking Dead’ musical: ‘Why not?’
I feel like I don’t even know what Father Gabriel’s going to do on a given episode right now.
Yeah, exactly — even break out into a song and dance routine. What’s up with this dude?
You are one of a few people to mention a song and dance bit to me.
Yeah, I think we should have ‘Walking Dead: The musical.’ Why not?
Josh [McDermitt] mentioned this to me in August. Scott Gimple has brought it up.
I think it could work.
That could be in the “Walking Dead” anthology series.
Yes. There we go.
Father Gabriel hasn’t told anyone about Jadis because he wants to keep that to himself. Now that she’s back in ‘TWD’ universe, he’d want to see her again
So since there haven’t been Comic Con panels with fans, I asked some of them what they wanted to know from you.
The most liked question that people wanted you to answer was why Father Gabriel hasn’t told anyone about Jadis and the helicopter people, who we now know are the Civic Republic. Has anyone ever asked him or anyone about Jadis’ disappearance on season nine?
I don’t believe he has shared any information about Jadis because I think, in a way, she was kind of his first love and he wants to keep that sacred and to himself. I’m not sure that he got enough information that it would be worth sharing anyway. I think it’s kind of sacred for him.
Well, AMC announced a few weeks ago that Pollyanna McIntosh is going to reprise her role as Jadis/Anne on “World Beyond” season two. You guys had that brief relationship. Is that someone Father Gabriel would want to run into again? Does he ever think about Anne?
I think he has many questions that he would want to have answered and I think he would want to see her again. Yeah.
Gilliam knows Gabe and Rosita need some sort of reconciliation.
What is going on with Gabriel and Rosita this season? Can you put their relationship in some sort of perspective because there’s some distance between you two. Things are a bit icy. You guys feel a bit fractured.
Yeah. I don’t think they’re on the same page in terms of how to go forward. It’s a little saddening, but it’s what happens with couples sometimes.
At some point they come together as two different people with two different views of the world. Then, they get together and start to have a similar view of the world and share each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. And then something happens to one and/or both of them that changes that kind of unified look at the world. I think that that’s where we all were father Gabriel and Rosita. They no longer have a unified look at the world.
We need Gabe to get back home, hopefully, so that they can have some sort of reconciliation or something—
Yes! Or something.
Father Gabriel is so confounded by the Reaper on Sunday’s episode that it spoils his opportunity to kill him.
On Sunday’s episode, Gabriel is keeping watch and then sees a Reaper, but notices he’s a man of God, someone who still seems to have his faith intact despite the world around them.
I thought you were going to reveal yourself and kill him, but then you hesitate and you change your mind. You look troubled. Why doesn’t Father Gabriel kill him in that moment? And then why does he lie to Maggie about seeing him?
I think he’s kind of confounded by someone who seems to still have the fervor for God that [Father Gabriel] has kind of lost. And I think that that kind of confusion kind of ruins the moment that he had, the opportunity that he had. I don’t think he can share that with Maggie because that’s the kind of stuff that would make him an unsure ally. I think he wants to project the kind of unity and confidence in her plan and in her leadership that’s necessary to walk side by side with her.
Father Gabe probably wouldn’t get along with Pope at all. He’d call him out.
What do you think father Gabriel would make of Pope’s philosophies on God and how his people are the chosen ones? Meanwhile, he’s casting people into the fires and burning people alive. A lot of fans have wanted a convo or something between Gabe and Pope.
I think that Father Gabriel will find it as just a whole lot of bullshit. You’re just another self-absorbed narcissistic human being. This is not Godly behavior. This is not God-like in its message, in its intention. You’re a false prophet.
Gilliam says Father Gabriel considers himself Negan’s friend. He had a joke with Jeffrey Dean Morgan that Gabe would’ve saved Negan in the subway tunnel on the season premiere from Maggie’s group
In this episode, you guys have a badass Whisperer-type zombie army that you’re leading towards the Reapers at the end of the episode. This is basically the opposite of the season 10 finale. How does father Gabriel feel about this whole plan? Does he trust Negan? Does he fully trust Maggie? Is he slightly worried he could be captured by these, I’m going to call them religious zealots, the Reapers?
I think father Gabriel has full confidence in Maggie and Negan at this point. I think he views Negan as a reclamation project that was successful, that he has successfully rehabilitated this, this totally self-driven man into being a member of a community and seeing the community for his own needs. And I think he sees Maggie as a fierce survivor and a more than capable leader.
That’s interesting that you say that. Let me rewind back a little bit to the tunnels and the subway on the two-part season premiere. How were you feeling about Negan when he left Maggie for dead? Other people were ready to kill Negan. But I don’t remember Gabe necessarily taking one side or the other.
No, I kind of backed away from the group that was swarming Negan at the subway door and threatening to kill him. [Laughing] I had this joke with Jeffrey. It was like — I think Gabriel was ready to start shooting people in the back for Negan at that point, because these are Maggie’s people. I don’t know these people. You know what I mean? I spent years working on this dude. You know, this guy is a friend at this point.
That’s interesting because Negan, at that moment he’s like, I don’t have a friend in this room, and you keep to yourself. Meanwhile…
I think, [Gabriel’s] only lie to [Negan] was [saying], “You’re just admitting it?” [leaving Maggie for dead] and hoping that would draw out a more extensive answer so that the people could see that Negan is not just this evil dude, that there may have been something else going on there. But he’s not given the opportunity to answer that because they thrust him up against the wall and started threatening his life.
That’s fascinating. I think, at this point, Gabriel, as you said, is a wild card and he knows that Negan is someone who knows how to survive and Gabriel wants to be with people who know how to survive.
Father Gabriel would want to find Rick if he knew he was out there in the world.
How do you think Father Gabriel would react if he knew that Rick was alive and out there somewhere?
I think he would want to find him. I think Father Gabriel had the utmost respect and belief in Rick and I think Rick was essential in helping Father Gabriel find some kind of confidence in himself and assuredness that he could survive in this post-apocalyptic world. And I think he’d want to— I think he wants to see him again.
You can follow our “TWD” coverage here all season long. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.