“The Walking Dead” has been taking a deep journey into character development in Season 4, and one face fans have finally gotten to know a lot more about has been Emily Kinney’s Beth Greene.
She went from a teenager trying to put on a thick skin (attempting to shrug it off when her boyfriend, Zach, didn’t make it back from the Big Spot trip), to a girl who – despite being devastated over the loss of her father, Hershel – was able to carry on and carry on with hope.
Paired up with Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), the two characters have bonded over tracking, snake eating, and heart to hearts, like when she helped him shake off some of the guilt he felt over what happened in the prison siege, and last week, when he revealed she’s responsible for giving him back his hope.
As she took a break (at SXSW) from playing songs off of her EP, “Expired Love,” which is being re-released this coming Tuesday, March 18 (on Em-K Music/Thirsty Tigers), Emily discussed Beth’s Season 4 development and what she really thought about that Beth/Daryl dinner table scene from 413, “Alone.”
AccessHollywood.com: I wanted to start out my ‘Walking Dead’ questions by asking you what you thought about little Lizzie now being the caretaker of baby Judith?
Emily Kinney: Yeah… She’s not necessarily the best (laughs). I don’t know that Beth would approve if she knew how it was going with the baby, but… for me, acting the role of Beth, it’s nice because it frees me up a little bit. My role can change and I feel like one of the things that we established at the beginning of the season was that that was kind of my role – to take care of the baby, to be taking care of certain things in that way. And now, we’re away from the prison and in some ways, there’s not that responsibility any more, so I think that’s probably why Beth is starting to think about, ‘What do I want?’
Access: Do you think Beth taking care of the baby in past seasons helped her regain who she was after the suicide attempt at Hershel’s farm?
Emily: Yeah, I definitely think that once she decided that she was going to live on, or fight to live, I think that there’s definitely a sense of, ‘Ok. Well, now I need to fulfill a role,’ and I think within the group in Season 3, you start to see her like, ‘OK, this is my role.’ And it’s like taking care of the baby and doing other things, providing comfort in other ways, even though she’s not necessarily the physically strongest [member] of the group who can fight the zombies and stuff. She’s taking on different roles where she can help.
Access: How old is Beth?
Emily: We established that she’s 18 now, but when we started the show she was 16.
Access: So do we know how old Daryl is?
Emily: I don’t know how old Daryl is.
Access: Mystery age.
Emily: Yeah. I mean, I think from Beth’s point of view [it is] like, ‘Oh, he’s cool. He’s older than me, but he’s not like my dad’s age or even maybe Rick’s age.’ I think she sees him as just like an older adult but not necessarily like a parent.
Access: There was that great moment you and Norman had in last week’s episode. You know it. It’s the one where [Daryl] admits to [Beth] that he has changed and explains why through grunting. And it’s this awkward moment. What do you think Beth was thinking about at that point in time? What were you, as an actress, thinking about?
Emily: I was thinking that at the beginning of that scene that she doesn’t know, and she’s like, ‘No, tell me. Why?’ and I think that just, through his looks, she sort of realizes that he…. really cares about her, in a really… special way and, you know, one of the reasons that he thinks there are good people is because of her, and there’s something like maybe this isn’t – as much as they’re trying to find other people, if there are other people – like, they’re okay kind of together. I think she still doesn’t completely know because he doesn’t ever say exactly, but I think she has a hunch that – she does say at one moment, like, ‘Oh,’ and I interpreted that — I mean, I don’t know what’s to come, but I interpreted that as she understands that he cares about her on a deeper level.
Access: There are a lot of things that you could read into that. It was such an awkward moment. If he does have romantic feelings for her, because he’s very innocent in many ways, you don’t know if she feels the same way.
Emily: I think that she definitely really, really cares about him and their relationship has grown and she’s like really connected to him [in] a friendship way, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily occurred to her… that like, ‘Oh, this could be something more.’ But I definitely think in that moment, that sort of realization that, ‘Well, this is like really special — this kind of connection that has grown.’
Access: One of the cool things was getting to see you on the piano in last week’s episode. Do you have any influence on what you get to sing on the show?
Emily: Each moment is decided differently. When the first opportunity came with ‘The Parting Glass,’ that is something that Glenn [Mazzara, Season 3’s Showrunner] had decided that we needed in that script. I don’t know if you remember the first episode of Season 3, but [there] was just so much fighting, barely any dialogue, just a lot of zombie fighting and he wanted a moment that showed them as a family and that connected them, and singing a little song that both Maggie and Beth had grown up with was a way to do that. And they knew that I could sing because I had released an EP and they had come, between Seasons 2 and Seasons 3, different people had come to shows of mine and stuff like that, so they knew that could be part of Beth’s character if they wanted.
Access: I always feel like when you sing on the show, that that is the time where Beth gets to be her most confident – in her singing. Would you agree?
Emily: Yeah, I mean we’ve gotten to know Beth so slowly and it’s interesting, when you go and see your favorite artist sing or play a show, you do feel like you know them in a certain way. There’s something about singing and there’s something about all artistic work that makes you feel – even if the person who made it, the artist who made it, is a stranger to you — you feel closer to them. And so I think it was a really clever way to, you know, there’s so many characters, and it’s hard to get to know each of the characters, but it was a really clever way for the audience to still feel connected to Beth and still feel like they know her, by having her sing and feel like they could identify something with her.
Access: And you get to show the promise of this character… Your voice is so sweet, but there is a confidence in your singing.
Emily: I feel like Beth is … she’s a teenager, she’s figuring out who she is, how she can help, where she fits in. … So there’s moments where she does feel like she’s helping or doing something that people like.
“The Walking Dead” continues Sunday at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC. Emily’s “Expired Love” EP drops on Tuesday.
-- Jolie Lash