Emily Kinney is best known for her role as Beth Greene in the AMC hit television series, The Walking Dead, but the girl can sing too! She starred in the Broadway rock musical Spring Awakening, in addition to multiple guest star roles before landing the role as Beth. As a double threat, she actively pursues both aspects of her career with grace and humility. A complete doll to interview and more than generous with her answers, please enjoy reading our interview.
The Daily Quirk: Your Wikipedia article says your a blogger for Unscripted Magazine, are you still blogging?
Emily Kinney: I am not anymore; they stopped doing the blog for Backstage a few months ago. I stopped blogging for them a while ago but I did blog for them for a couple years and it was a really awesome experience. It is all still on the Internet so people will send me notes once and a while saying “I read this” or you know, you can still find it on the Backstage website. I’m not blogging anymore, but it was definitely a really great part of my first few years in NYC. Backstage is how I found the first auditions I would go on and I actually had done this thing where they wanted to follow new actors in the city for a year and I did that with them. When that was over they asked “would you also like to keep continuing and do a blog?” and I agreed to do it. It was such a cool thing, because I made some really cool acting friends that were also bloggers. It was a really great place to think about my experience. You know acting has so many ups and downs and kind of share those experiences in a funny way with people. To go back and think what went good and what went bad at this audition and so forth. I’ve always loved writing, I’ve always written short stories and poems. So, it was a really great creative outlet. I think as I grew as an actor, and I started writing songs, I started finding I wanted to start really writing and create things that didn’t necessarily have to do with my experience as an actor. So I think I started to grow out of the blog in a way. After a while there are only so many of the same topics that you deal with as an actor that you can kind of write stories about so eventually I moved on from it. But it was a really great part of my time and first moving to the city, it definitely gave me a great creative outlet.
TDQ: When you were graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University, you moved to New York City to be on Broadway – does your heart belong to Broadway?
EK: It was definitely a huge dream of mine, I think mostly I just wanted to be a working actor – I love acting, I love being in theater. So definitely Broadway was a huge dream of mine and when I got to do Spring Awakening that was a dream come true. I love that show, I love doing eight shows a week. I always feel like I’m at my best because you’re working that muscle of performance every single night – it was definitely a dream come true. I actually moved before I graduated then got into the show and moved back to Nebraska to save a little money then moved back to the city. It was sort of a back and forth for a while.
TDQ: Do you, by any chance, watch Smash?
EK: Oh yes.
TDQ: It’s a great show. I’m covering it for The Daily Quirk this season.
EK: I love Smash.
TDQ: Do you think that your mid-west background helped land you the role of Beth in The Walking Dead?
EK: I’m not sure, the show takes place in the south and I’m from Nebraska but its definitely small town. Where I grew up was a little farming community, lots of my friends’ parents were farmers. Of course on the show we live on a little farm so I think maybe having that experience makes it easy for me to settle into that, like actually coming from the city and going to the set. The set feels more like where I grew up and more like the people I grew up around, so in a lot of ways its comfortable for me – and how a family that grew up in an area like that might interact. The importance of family, and I know with the Green’s, religion, that is definitely a part of where I grew up. So it made it easier for me to relate probably than maybe for someone who grew up in the city.
TDQ: What do you draw from in your life and/or previous roles to portray Beth in the apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead?
EK: I think about how already how hard it is to be a teenager and finding your identity and growing up into who you want to be and now being in this circumstance where you don’t even know if the next day is going to happen. I think I draw a lot from the immediacy of it all; it’s almost like when you’re just trying to survive like everything becomes so immediate. So I take it day-by-day, episode-by-episode. You can’t get ahead, just like the characters; I don’t know what’s going to happen in the season as I go episode-by-episode. It’s the same way for the characters, they don’t know what’s going to happen and its all kind of scary so I think that not knowing with our characters definitely infuses with what we’re doing. I think this idea of the world ending is something that everyone kind of fears and wonders…how would we act towards each other? Would we be kind each other, trying to help each other or would we be fighting each other? I think this is a question a lot of people have regardless of the zombie stuff. My dad is always joking to me, because I think he worries him me being in New York City, like when we had the hurricane – its scary because I’m so far away. My dad, for Christmas, got me a go bag that has all these survival things like: flashlights and this and that. I thought it was so silly but I think people get scared of things like that and how we’d survive. It’s a real fear.
TDQ: Did you read graphic novel before starting on the show?
EK: When I found out I got it, I was so excited and I was reading everything but it didn’t take me very long before I was like “okay I almost need to like just stop” because the scripts are different than the comic books, and my character’s not in the comic books. I think it’s cool to have that as a little bit of a reference just to understand what the world is and where it started but I also think the script is really where you get your information in the world that we’re creating. The TV show is different than the comic book, I didn’t want that to confuse what we were creating with new writers, new actors, and new characters. I have them all, I’ll look through them and stuff like that but…even if my character was in them…I wouldn’t want any preconceived notions about what’s going to happen.
TDQ: The makeup is amazing on the show; do you ever get caught off guard with a person made up like a zombie on set and get spooked?
EK: Yeah, totally. You know what’s spooky – when they have the fake people like laying, it won’t be a real actor but they’ll have a fake one lying there dead or something and it’ll be next to some trailer. I’ll be walking along on set or whatever and one is laying there and that’s definitely spooked me. I think it was like on my very first couple days on set, I remember I walked through this big shed and I jumped because there was this dead body laying there. As soon as you talk to the actors in the zombie makeup, then you know you’re talking about their family and how their day is going [laughs] so you quickly realize that’s an actor in makeup but it can catch you off guard for sure.
TDQ: Do you ever hope Beth becomes a zombie so you can wear the makeup?
EK: Well, I love my job more than I love the…but I do hope that I actually like…if or when I get killed off, I actually want to be a zombie. Now the problem is, we all know that their going to turn so I’ve noticed that a lot of characters just get shot in the head before they get a chance to be a zombie and I really hope that doesn’t happen because you want to have the full experience. If I’m going to live in this world I guess I want to do the whole thing.
TDQ: Who do you think you’ve learned the most from during your time with the cast of The Walking Dead?
EK: It’s hard for me to pick one, originally when I read your question I thought, “Oh, Scott Wilson (Hershel) of course” because he plays my dad and I end up spending time with him on set a lot. I’ve had dinners with him and he has so many amazing stories and he’s just been in the business for so long and I think he’s a really prepared actor. He’s such a good person and he makes everyone on set feel good and he really knows how to take care of his work but also make other people feel good too. He’s very relaxed in a certain way, you know and I think being an actor is an interesting career choice and you can be scared sometimes because you’re opening yourself up a lot in front the crew and stuff like that. He’s so open and I think that’s amazing, so I love working with him, he’s a great TV dad.
I also feel like I’ve learned a lot from Lauren (Maggie); Andrew Lincoln (Rick) is an amazing actor and he’s extremely focused and he knows what he needs – he does exactly what he needs to do and I think I’ve learned from watching him for sure. Melissa McBride, who plays Carol, has sometimes said things to me like the perfect thing on the perfect day on the perfect moment; she’s also someone who has been in the business a long time. She was a casting director as well as an actress and so she’ll help me with auditions. I think this season we’ve become a lot closer and I value her opinion and she’s just a really fearless actress; she’s so awesome to watch.
TDQ: What is your favorite part about working on The Walking Dead?
EK: Well, I definitely love the people that I’ve met, that has been a huge thing. It’s interesting because I didn’t know how long I was going to be on the show and now it keeps going and going and these people have become more and more a part of my life and my friends. Like Steven (Glenn) has become a really good friend and someone I really count on and Lauren. So I think probably the best thing, besides just I love acting and it’s a great gig – besides that part, is the friendships that I’ve made. I feel like we’ll all be connected because we’re on this show and working together. I also think it’s cool to be on something that reaches so many people. I have worked a lot in theater and me doing guest stars and stuff but its cool to see to how many people this is their favorite show. It’s not like, “oh yeah, you’re on that show.” It’s more like, “I don’t watch any shows but I do watch this show.” So it’s cool to be a part of something where you feel like, if you’re going to do a scene, so many people will actually get to see it. A lot of time as artists or actors, I’m sure for you as a writer, you write things and who knows if anyone will ever see it. So it’s extremely satisfying to know that I’m going to work really hard on this scene and its going to be received by someone, and not meaning that everyone will like it but it at least has that opportunity.
TDQ: Are you working on any other projects now that The Walking Dead has wrapped?
EK: I’ve been working on my music, which has been awesome. I recorded two songs, which I’m going to release in the spring, probably the beginning of March. I’m going to perform at the Hotel Café in L.A. on February 27th. You know what, I can send you the link to get tickets if people want to go or if you want to go. Yeah, that’s something I’m working on a lot is this show and releasing the new single and figuring out who I want to produce my new album, so that’s my project.
TDQ: So what are the names of your singles coming out?
EK: It’s called “Expired Lover” and I’m going to have another, like a single with a B side, and the B side is going to be this song called, “Julie.”
TDQ: Those are probably going to be available on iTunes, right?
EK: Oh yeah, it’ll be on iTunes. They haven’t set a release date yet though.
Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to answer my questions and providing our readers with a link to see you perform live – I wish I could go! Best of luck in your career and I can’t wait to watch The Walking Dead on AMC starting again this Sunday @ 9:00pm.