Q: Gabriel ends up trapped with Negan after trying to save Gregory. Is his moral compass an asset or a hindrance in this world?
A: I admire his ability to try to still find the good in this world. I think the moment that Father Gabriel loses that, we’ve kind of lost him as a character.
Q: Has Gabriel been looking for a purpose throughout his journey? Has he found it in taking Negan’s confession?
A: That’s what’s driving him now and is exactly why he’s still alive — what is the point of the life he’s got left? I think trying to take Negan’s confession is more of a way in which he feels like he’s got some purpose. If he’s going to die in that moment, then one more soul can possibly be saved.
Q: Was hearing some of Negan’s emotional backstory as new to you as an actor as it is for Gabriel?
A: Yes, it was. I don’t read the comics, so I don’t know what his backstory is… I didn’t have any idea what it was or what motivates him as a character. I thought Jeffrey [Dean Morgan]’s playing of it was beautiful. I think it’s important to be able to see this is a multifaceted character. He’s not just some kind of cardboard cutout villain. Once you get to see what people’s motivations are and once you can see a little bit more of their humanity, it’s hard to hate them. And that’s one of the things Father Gabriel is able to do — draw a little bit of humanity out whereas other characters haven’t been able to do that so far in the story.
Q: Negan, of all people, condemns Gabriel for locking his congregation out of his church. How did that land on you given Negan’s history?
A: [Laughs] I thought it was a little cheeky, but I also thought it was kind of a funny moment. I had a blast working with Jeffrey! He keeps things very light. He keeps it moving pretty fast. He’s exceedingly charming and he’s very gracious and giving as an actor.
Q: Does smearing guts on yourself to travel through a herd get any easier? Is it almost like a rite of passage on this show?
A: [Laughs] I think it is kind of a rite of passage, but I don’t know that it gets any easier. It is really, really gross. They bring out a bucket of guts for us to grab into and it’s just the nastiest thing — the consistency, the vicious liquid — it’s just really gross, man. It’s not something I ever want to actually get used to. And it was a lot of guts. They went a little crazy with it. I felt about 30 pounds heavier.
Q: What’s it like for someone like Gabriel to see how Negan’s men serve him at the Sanctuary and thank God he’s around?
A: I think it’s horrifying for Gabriel to see the level of commitment that the people have to Negan and the way they hold him up as some kind of deity. It’s a horrible moment for Gabriel.
Q: Gabriel and Negan ultimately save each other’s lives, so how would you describe their dynamic at this point?
A: I think it’s pretty cool that at one point, each guy saves the other guy. It’s like some kind of bizarre Batman and Robin kind of a thing. It’s pretty cool. Since Negan is yielding Lucille, I think he’d have to be Batman in this situation.
Read a Q&A with Khary Payton, who plays King Ezekiel.
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