Gabriel Gray, more commonly known by his assumed name of Sylar (a name obtained from a brand of watch he encountered as a watchmaker), is one of the primary antagonist and antihero in the NBC drama Heroes. Portrayed by Zachary Quinto, he is a superpowered serial killer who targets other superhuman in order to steal their powers. He served as the primary villain of the first season and then as a recurring antagonist. After being rescued from a mental prison by Peter Petrelli in "The Wall", Sylar has now identified himself as a hero in "Brave New World".
Sylar was originally created as a cannibal who ate his victims' brains and "digested their power"; however, in order to avoid the potential silliness and zombie associations, the producers deliberately made this fact vague in the series, In an interview with series creator Tim Kring, it is asked if Sylar eats brains, and he merely states, "That's the popular speculation. There's a connection between the powers and the brain, and Sylar has found it." The question is addressed in the season three premiere, when he is depicted in the act of acquiring Claire Bennet's regenerative powers through examination of her brain with his hands. When Claire asks him the same question, he sounds surprised and replies, "Eat your brain? Claire, that's disgusting." The writers have never bridged the gap between the early insinuations regarding what Sylar does with the brains and the final incarnation they reveal in his encounter with Claire.
Prior to Quinto's first appearance in the episode "Seven Minutes to Midnight", the role of Sylar was played by stunt doubles in "One Giant Leap", with the character's face being obscured by shadows. Quinto himself played the role with his face hidden in the same way until "Six Months Ago". In the second episode of the first season, "Don't Look Back", his voice is heard in a recorded phone conversation on Chandra Suresh's answering machine, spoken by voice actor Maurice LaMarche. Part of this conversation is heard again in "Six Months Ago", this time spoken by Quinto.
Sylar was raised as the son of a watchmaker, but always felt that he was special and deserved more in life. This and the "evolution imperative" to acquire new abilities are what drive him to kill the victims with powers. Taking the name "Sylar" from a watch brand, he has shed all connections to his former life as Gabriel Gray to the point where he angrily lashes out at anyone who calls him Gabriel.
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