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The Walking Dead Q&A – Seth Gilliam (Gabriel Stokes)

Seth Gilliam, who plays Gabriel Stokes on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about killing his first walker on set and Andrew Lincoln’s superhuman commitment to the show.

Q: You actually didn’t know you were reading for the part of Father Gabriel during your audition. When were you told who you would be playing? Did you have any guesses beforehand?

A: I didn’t have any guesses beforehand. I was told about a week before I came down to start shooting. I started with a blank slate. I didn’t know anything about the character and just went off of what was on the page.

Q: Have you found any similarities between you and your character as you get to know him?

A: With every character that you play, you try to find what [characteristics] like you are in them and hopefully there’s a little something to use. I think there are some qualities in Father Gabriel that we share, but I imagine he exorcised those before all of the wonderful walkers came along.

Q: When we first meet Gabriel, it’s clear he isn’t fit for fighting off a walker. How do you think you’d fare against one?
A: I think until I was absolutely cornered I would probably have a similar reaction to Father Gabriel. I don’t really see myself switching the switch and grabbing a screwdriver and taking out walkers, but if I’m cornered – I’ve seen a lot of Bruce Lee movies. Your game plan would probably go out the window when they’re in your face. It’s a whole new world.

Q: If you met Gabriel under similar circumstances as the characters, would you trust him?

A: I think I would recognize that he’s not a threat to me or a dangerous person. I would trust him, but keep an eye on him as well. The guy has been alone – aside from letting his congregation die – he’s been shut in for months. You don’t know what kind of state of mind he’s in or what kind of post-traumatic stress he’s suffering from.

Q: How did it feel when you finally killed your first walker in Episode 508?

A: I think it’s a very troubling thing for Father Gabriel to kill a walker. Living or dead, murder is murder to him. I think it’s pretty black and white, so there’s a good deal of conflict.

Q: As the new guy this season, what was the most surprising thing about being on the set of The Walking Dead?

A: I was surprised at the level of commitment that Andrew Lincoln has. The extreme situations that he’s asked to perform – that’s got to be seriously draining and he keeps going and going. He’s almost not human. Is that guy plugged into something? Where’s his charger? [Laughs]

Q: You starred on The Wire, as did Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (Bob) and Chad L. Coleman (Tyreese). Were you excited to work with them in a completely different world? What’s it like to be on the same side as them, when you were opponents on The Wire?

A: It was great. The Wire is similar to The Walking Dead in so far as everybody pulling for everybody else to get to the turning point of the story. Everyone’s doing everything that they can to help you get through and to that place. It’s an electric safety net. It was great to reconnect with Lawrence and Chad because of that and remember that feeling that I’ve held onto and looked for in other projects and people I’ve worked with.

Q: Having played a former cop, how would you rate Rick Grimes as a police officer?

A: I’m not sure if I’d want him on my police force now. [Laughs] In the beginning, he was a conscientious guy and represented the badge well, but things are different now.

Q: You’ve also acted on the stage. Could you envision a The Walking Dead play or onstage production? What would it be like?

A: Well, it would have to be a musical…

Q: Naturally.

A: It would be a fantastic musical with the “dead” chorus. It would probably work best with a little bit of kitschy humor in it like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’d have to also have some real shocking special effects and moments to terrify the audience.

Q: I’m getting excited about this!

A: [Laughs] Hey, talk to Scott Gimple!

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