There are popular TV shows, and then there's megahits like AMC's The Walking Dead. The apocalyptic drama is one of the most watched and discussed shows on television, with a fandom who is absolutely rabid for new content. But this type of passion from fans also has an ugly side, as TWD viewers are known to lash out on actors when their character does something they don't like. And this was apparently the case with actor Seth Gilliam, who has played Father Gabriel on The Walking Dead since Season 5. Gabriel didn't take very well to the zombie apocalypse originally, and acted against Rick Grimes a few times during his early appearances. It's these action that apparently inspired death threats from the fandom. He recently revealed,
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.
Who knew that working on one of America's most popular shows would have such negative consequences? Because despite Seth Gilliam's emotional performance as Father Gabriel, the fans hated him due to his character's actions.
Seth Gilliam's comments to EW show the dark side of fame, and he's not the first Walking Dead actor to receive serious backlash from the fans. When Eugene turned out to be a traitor to Negan's Saviors last season, actor Josh McDermitt was forced to flee from social media amid endless death threats. Despite the fact that Eugene had been a beloved character, McDermitt was still at the receiving end of fans' wrath. Alanna Masterson (aka Tara) has also been through the ringer; lat season TWD fans began to harass her on social media, targeting her weight after she returned from maternity leave.
It must be difficult to be attacked by the same community who otherwise supports and loves you, but Seth Gilliam seemed to have taken the abuse in stride. He believes most of the death threats were just coming from over imaginative teenagers, although that doesn't make them any less serious. He revealed to EW how he managed to separate himself from the criticism, saying:
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.
I guess the fame and adoration from being on The Walking Dead also comes with its share of challenges and conflicts. And the bottom line is that the cast is just doing their jobs.