Emily Kinney might be best known for her role as Beth Greene on AMC's hit series "The Walking Dead," but she's also a rather talented musician off screen as well as on. I had a chance to talk to Kinney about both her work on the post-apocalyptic show and her burgeoning musical career during this past weekend's SCAD aTVfest. Kinney talked about shooting her scenes during the hot Georgia summers, how Beth will react to the events of the mid-season finale, and what's next for her character. She also talked about her recently released album, Expired Love and a planned re-release with additional tracks this March.
So how often are you filming in the area?
We end up here more than half the year. I'd say seven months. This last year was May through ... I didn't go back until December, so May until the end of November or so.
So you guys shoot through the summer?
We do! We shoot through the hot Georgia summer.
It's sweaty and dirty and ... I have it good. Between scenes I can go back to my trailer, but the crew is out there working really hard. It's very hot and sweaty and gross, but it feeds into the whole thing.
It fits the aesthetic.
It's awesome. I kind of dig when those things happen because there's no acting required. You're just like, "Ugh, I'm so hot and I'm also so tired." You know?
And zombies are chasing me! Yeah, it works.
Now at the end of the mid-season finale, everybody's scattered to the wind. Now I'm sure you can't tell me a whole heck of a lot ...
No, I can't tell you anything. [Laughs]
What is that like for your character? Did you go back to when we were first introduced to Beth and the Greene family, and then disaster hit the farm?
In season two, she was thinking about opting out of this whole world. Once she made that decision to stick with it, she became a lot stronger mentally. I think what you see from that point on is Beth trying to figure out what her role is in the group, how she can help, where she's needed. She's trying to find where she's needed most, I guess. But she's also really creative. You have these moments at the beginning of season four where you get to see who these people are if they did have a tiny bit of stability. She's very creative, and obviously into music ... obviously likes Tom Waits [laughs]. So you connect to that, but now that they're all scattered I think that's going to change and I think that rather than trying to find where she fits in and how she can help, it's more of an immediate "live or die," you know? So I think you're going to see her grow in a really great way. And you're going to see her mourn the loss of her father.
I want to touch on the music in a second, but since you just mentioned where Beth needs to go, do you think she's going to be capable of going to the dark places if she has to?
Yeah, I think that season two set up Beth really well in the fact that, when they did the episode about wanting to commit suicide, because I think that was a turning point for her character where the audience realizes that she's not going to go crazy, she is a mentally strong person. She pulled herself out of that and you don't see her go back to that; it's not a conversation she keeps having. I feel like she went through all this trauma - losing a lot of her family, her mother, and the barn thing - but it doesn't keep coming up as an option. It came up once and then she was like, "This is the world we live in and I'm going to figure out how to deal." So I think that they set up Beth that way. She is a mentally stable person and she can take a lot. She's a lot tougher than she looks.
Or even tougher than she started.
Tougher than she started. Also she's a teenager and I think that teenagers try on stuff. Like, maybe this is the answer, we should just all not be here, you know? Teenagers are constantly trying on who they should be. And you see her definitely do that.
It's tough enough in the normal world.
In real life, yeah.
How do you, personally, prepare to enter this world where every decision is life or death? How do you get in that head space when the cameras start rolling?
Well there is something about this show that is very much like ... as it being my job that I don't know what's going to happen next in each script, and you're living moment to moment and what could happen next? The life of a musician and actor is very unknown. You try to plan ahead and that just goes ... that doesn't work. In that way, I feel like I relate to this world, though it's a much more extreme situation [laughs]. But there is something, too, about the focus that we have down here and being away from New York and L.A. I think that helps you get into a different kind of head space. It becomes very real to you, for me. This world becomes something that you are very invested in, or for me anyway, that you think about a lot. And now it's been years that I've been with this character. I feel like I know Beth in a way that, maybe if I were doing a guest star on this show, I would be making up a lot for that character. So in order to prepare, I wouldn't even know how to start, it just happens. You ride with it; I guess that's the biggest thing. You take each moment as it comes and go for it.
Earlier when the group was comfortably set up in the prison, you got to do a few songs, which were some of the sweetest moments in the series. This show desperately needs those sweet moments. Now that you're all separated, are we going to see opportunities for you to showcase your musical talents?
I think it's a part of how Beth deals with this world. I think that human beings, in general, they want to be heard and be understood in a way that you get from music and you get from art and you get from drawing stuff and making stuff. That's going to happen. Even if it's not a stable environment, you're still going to be like, "What does it all mean?" You know? So, yes. It's a part of who she is as a character. Obviously she likes singing and she likes music. Also, it's a way that she probably stays stable.
Sane. Pass the time.
Decompress as an outlet. Is that something that you do with your own musical career?
Yeah, definitely. I feel like there's a lot of time in acting where you have a little downtime. Even just within this series, I'm in one episode, and maybe the next one I'm not in it as much. So I have these breaks, but I still want to be creative, I still want to feel like I'm making things. One of the ways to do that is write a song and work on my music. So for me, music has really kept me balanced in a career where one day there's a ton of auditions and the next day there's none, and one day you're working on a huge show. So, music has kept me satisfied creatively and balanced. I'm excited now that we have a little time between seasons to be working on music. "Expired Love" just came out in October, but I'm going to be re-releasing it in March with new tracks. I didn't quite have the time with the show. I'm working all the time, so I didn't have the time to do all the stuff I wanted with it. I felt like I wanted to add some tracks that didn't make it on the first time. So, that will come out in March.
Are you doing any touring for that in your spare time?
Yeah, it's a little bit more like one-offs, because I am still working on acting stuff. I just worked on The Following. But I have a show Feb. 13 in New York City, and then I do a show in L.A. at the Mint. And then I do a show here, a show in Chicago and then I'm doing SXSW, which will be really fun. I'm doing as many as I can, because it's fun and because right now I can travel a bit.
Did you mention you did a spot on The Following?
Oh, yeah! Just a few weeks ago. Which was awesome because I love Kevin Williamson. He wrote Scream, and I loved those movies growing up.
Any other auditions or new scripts you're taking in that you can talk about? Or are you satisfied with the show and your music?
Yeah, I mean I would say those are the main things I'll be working on. Expired Love is going to be a big project, that re-release, so that's keeping me very busy.
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