"Call me Gabriel." That's what half-blinded priest Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) said when peering through a sniper's rifle earlier this season on The Walking Dead, firing warning shots at Leah (Lynn Collins) and the Reapers. The badass moment, since immortalized on officially licensed merchandise, was a cheer-worthy one for fans — and Gilliam. Appearing on Talking Dead after Season 11 episode "Warlords," Gilliam said the fan reception to Father Gabriel has undergone a one-eighty since his introduction as a cowardly preacher who left his flock to die in Season 5 of The Walking Dead.
"It was pretty cool," Gilliam told Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick of positive fan reaction to his character. "It kind of played out like a scene from a Clint Eastwood movie or something like that where the heroic final shot is fired by none other than Father Gabriel. It's quite a difference from the reception we first got from Father Gabriel, where he wasn't very trusted by the fanbase."
The shady Father Gabriel hides his past sins when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group of survivors come across Gabriel's church after escaping the cannibals at Terminus in Season 5, and a suspicious Rick accuses Gabriel of being behind the sudden disappearances of Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr).
Gilliam referenced a popular fan theory that Gabriel abducted the missing Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), who Daryl last saw speeding away in a car marked with a white cross. Though it's revealed later the car belonged to police officers operating Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, it took time for Gabriel to earn Rick's trust — and the audience's.
"It kind of played as if he could have taken Beth all those years ago when he was first introduced, so there was a lot of skepticism around him," Gilliam said. "I think the writers have done a great job with building the kind of trust that I think the fanbase now has, that Gabriel is going to be there in the badass moment to do the badass thing."