When last we saw Beth Greene — the once fragile blossom who wanted to kill herself in her mama’s bed in Season 2 of AMC’s pop culture phenomenon The Walking Dead — she was being swept away in a big, black, cross-bedecked car after a liberating few days in the woods with Daryl (Norman Reedus).
While the Season 5 trailer reveals that Beth is holding her own — and proving she can take a punch — in what appears to be a brutal asylum of some sort, rumors of the arrival of Negan and other baddies from the comic book series abound. Now more than ever, it’s not easy being Greene.
Though she couldn’t tell us precisely where dear, departed Hershel’s youngest daughter is, Emily Kinney, the 29-year-old songbird who plays her, says she’s loving the chance to display that Beth really is cut from the same cloth as her warrior sister Maggie (Lauren Cohan). “There’s definitely more violence and more physical stuff this season for sure — for everyone in the cast, not just Beth,” Kinney says. “I love it! It gives me a nice little buzz.”
The actress says she’s as surprised as anyone that Beth made it so far on a show notorious for its lack of sentimentality in killing off main characters — and that she was especially thrilled at the chance to delve deeper into Beth’s psyche when she and Daryl teamed up at the end of Season 4.
“It was so fun and satisfying for me to finally get to flesh out ‘Oh, this is how she was feeling. This is what her point of view on this is and this is what she felt about living in the prison,” Kinney says. “And there was the really great episode where she was reading from her journal that was so helpful for me and, I think, also helpful for the audience because they got to know the character in a different way. I do think it was an unusual pairing with Daryl and Beth, but what makes it so cool is that they pull different things out of each other that we haven’t seen before. I feel like Beth got to choose what kind of person she wanted to be — finally.”
A person shaped by months of watching those around her win or lose their battle to survive. “All along the way, Beth has been taking on different roles within the group and now being separated and being on her own, she’s had to grow up in a specific way,” Kinney explains. “We’ve seen her grow up being on the farm and being in the prison and taking care of the baby. Losing her father. And then being separated with Daryl. Those are all things that pushed her to be an adult — and she’s definitely gonna have to use everything she’s got and use everything she’s learned from the people around her to work it this season!”
Here’s what else Kinney, whose second EP Expired Love was recently released, had to tell us about Beth making it alive into Season 5.
When you first reported to the set, could you have ever imagined that you were pretty much walking into pop culture history?
There were so many amazing people attached, like Frank Darabont, Andrew Lincoln. And the comic books had such a huge following. So I knew going in that it was special. But I didn’t know how big it would grow and that I would be a part of it for so long either, so I didn’t realize how much a part of my life it would become. And the numbers have just grown every season, so it’s still gaining all this momentum and it’s really exciting. But I didn’t realize how big it would become.
Do you remember the point at which you guys looked at each other and went, “Good God, this is huge”?
There’ve been lots of cool moments like that! A more recent one is I’ve never been to San Diego Comic-Con and I finally got to go. You’re right in front of all these people who know so many details about the show and are really excited and are waiting in line to get autographs and then it kind of hits you in a really neat way that millions of people are watching something that you’re working on.
So that was definitely a special moment for all of us in the cast. All day we were doing press and panels and looking at each other going, “Oh my God, this is crazy and amazing and fun!” I’m going to do more of those conventions because I think there’s something really special about that one-on-one with the fans. I even have Walking Dead fans who come to my music shows and they’re just the best. They’re just very loyal and attentive fans and it’s just really special.
I’ve talked with others in the cast who’ve said that after filming as a group for so long, to be separated for the last half of Season 4 was really disquieting. And now, from the looks of the Season 5 trailer, you’re completely separate from everyone in the core cast. What’s that like?
It does help me as far as acting in a certain way because I’m kind of going through what Beth is going through. I’ve been a part of the show now for four years and all those people have become such good friends — especially Lauren, who plays my sister, and Steven. We’ve all become really, really close and I like being on set with them and I like doing scenes with Lauren and I miss them. So in some ways, I feel Beth where she’s like I want to be back with my family and my friends. But I love the fact, too, that I’ve gotten the chance to explore Beth more and I’m glad that the audience has gotten a chance to get to know all of our characters on a deeper level. I think it’s been so helpful for the show and for the audience.
But as you’ve probably seen from the trailer, there’s been some other great actors that I’ve been filming with, too, so I’ve definitely bonded and made some new friends, too.
Does Beth think Daryl is looking for her? And really, why isn’t Daryl looking for her? He kinda let her get lost …
[Laughs] It was so fun and satisfying to do that episode with Norman. Norman is so committed to the show and to the fans and he’s really special and really inspiring to me, so we had a great time working on it, too. He’s a really good friend now because of that episode — the way you get to know someone. So I’m hoping so. I think Beth is hoping so — that people are looking for her and that she is going to be reunited. I’m not able to tell you anything that is going to happen, but yeah, all of it will be answered, but I can’t tell you when.
Hershel’s death was mortifying for the fans, but he was your on-set dad. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like, knowing that Scott Wilson would be departing the show?
It was a really hard day for everyone! We’ve become really, really close. We’re living all together in Atlanta and so, in some ways, it becomes real to us. Because we’re so secluded away from our lives in New York and L.A. and we’re living together here and to have someone leave — especially someone like Scott Wilson who is such a great actor and in ways a father figure for me and Lauren, it was a really hard scene to shoot. We were grieving as much as the characters were.
Norman sent fans into a tizzy recently when he posted U2’s “Drowning Man” as the “set song for the day” on social media, which made people speculate that you die or he dies or Carol dies or you and he are reunited or he and Carol are reunited … do you read the fan sites or follow what the show’s fans are saying on social media or is it too exhausting?
I don’t read a lot of that stuff because I’m so much in the world of the show that I wouldn’t like things like that to influence my acting. I’ll read tweets to me, but I don’t follow anything else. And people like to read into everything! But it’s fun. Obviously we’re not going to say yes or no about anything, because we want it to be a surprise. You want to ride the roller coaster!
Is it hard keeping the secrets of the Dead, when virtually the entire world is dying to know them?
It’s not hard for me to keep the secrets because we care so much about the show that I would never want to ruin it. It’s such a fun ride. And when we work so hard on it, we don’t want it to be spoiled. But I do always have people guessing and I’m like, “I can’t say no; I can’t say yes.” And we all have different times off from filming, so people are like, “Oh, it must mean that, since Lauren went on vacation, she must be killed off!” Or “Since you’re in New York City doing a show …” and you find yourself sort of wanting to respond, but you just can’t. You just say nothing. It’s just the easiest way to go about it. It’s like, yeah, I don’t know!
Tell me about the incorporation of your singing into the show. Was that always in the plan or did they find out you can sing and thus Beth became musical?
It wasn’t a part of the character in Season 2 when I first auditioned; it wasn’t like I had to sing or anything like that. But between Season 2 and Season 3 there was a new showrunner, Glen Mazzara, and some of the different writers had seen me play shows in New York or L.A. because I play a lot of club shows of just my own music. So they knew that I could sing if I wanted to incorporate that into the show, and I remember that, for Season 3, I was talking to Glen and he was just looking for moments of calm because it was going to be a big action episode and that was one way to do it. To have me and Lauren singing around the campfire and have that connection to what our lives were like before.
I think we need those moments of levity in the show. And also I think the audience didn’t know very much about Beth and it was a way to identify with her — “Oh, she sings, she likes music, she sang that Tom Waits song.” There are so many characters that there is no way to give everyone a ton scenes, so it was good quick way for the audience to feel like they knew who Beth is.
New episodes of The Walking Dead premiere Sundays beginning Oct. 12 at 9/8CT on AMC.
Images: AMC/Gene Page