[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead.]
The Walking Dead midseason finale ended with a bang on Sunday night. Unfortunately, that bang was the sound of Officer Dawn Lerner’s gun blasting into Beth’s head after Beth stabbed with her some scissors to protest the Grady Memorial Hospital leader insisting on forcing Noah to stay in exchange for Beth. In the past we may not have seen Beth be so bold, but this was Beth Greene 2.0, who showed herself to be a much more outspoken and daring version of her former self. Of course, that daring is what ultimately led to her demise. We spoke to a still very emotional Emily Kinney — who will now turn her attention to her music career with a new single and video titled “Rock Star” due Dec. 9 and a new album in 2015 — to get her thoughts on Beth’s evolution and end game. She also tells us about Norman Reedus getting a bit handsy, talks what she will miss most about working on the show, and reveals that she has yet to even watch her final episode. (Also make sure to check out our deep dive with Andrew Lincoln, midseason finale Q&A with Norman Reedus, and burning questions with showrunner Scott M. Gimple.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me how and when you got the bad news.
EMILY KINNEY: The season finale was episode 508 and I found out during 507. So I found out a few hours before they released the script to everyone.
Showrunner Scott Gimple gave you the call?
I actually talked to him in person.
So did you go then tell your castmates or did they find out on their own?
All I know is how I found out, which is that day a few hours before the script came out. So different people from the cast reached out to me after that and that was really nice.
Tell me about that. What was it like when the reactions from cast started coming in?
They seemed surprised too. It’s always really hard. We’ve worked together for years now. So, it’s really sad.
I remember Scott Wilson told me he tried to talk them out of it at first for a minute when Gimple told him he was being killed off. Was there any of that on your end trying to plead your case?
No, I didn’t really think of that. I was more having a million things running through my head. I was like, oh, I have this apartment here. It was like a million things. I don’t know if I was worried about trying to…I don’t know. I was just really upset. I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t trying to pitch anything to the writers at that point.
It’s interesting what you’re saying because that’s not something we think about a lot — all the simple logistics involved in uprooting or changing your life. I remember talking to you a few months ago and you talking about being on this show and always wondering about things like “Should I buy this table for my Atlanta apartment or will I not be around to enjoy it?”
Yeah, I think as actors we are a little conditioned to think like, okay, you do a job and the job ends — it’s like freelance. You go to the next job. But I have been working on this show now for years and it definitely has been an anchor in my life. I schedule other things around the shooting schedule and all these people have become really good friends and so of course I am sad to leave the character behind and then there’s another part of me that is excited that I can play some new characters, and that’s exciting. But there’s also the life stuff, like, Oh, I have to get rid of my apartment. I have to figure out what to do with my cable! What does this mean for me and my schedule? And oh, but there are all these people and I want to see them because it’s my last chance. And then also it’s my last chance to give a really kick-ass performance so I really want to work on my scenes. I really want to dig in. So there’s a lot going on in your head any time that you lose a job but are also trying to give a great performance.
Tell me about your last day of filming.
We didn’t shoot it in order so some of those scenes with everyone where Beth gets shot in the hall and then going outside — those was shot before some of the more intimate scenes or more 1-on-1 scenes with me and Dawn. That was later. But those scenes with the big group, those are long days because you’re getting coverage of so many different people. And of course, there is fight choreography with the gunshots and stuff. So they are long days. I was happy to have those days with my friends. I’m glad I didn’t die in episode 4 and have it be Beth isolated. So it was fun to have those days back shooting with the whole group and being able to hang out with everyone on set even though it was so sad. And then honestly, I was thankful to kind of end that journey working on really good scene work. I loved working with Christine Woods [who played Dawn]. Sometimes the big moments like that last scene where I get shot — as exciting as those moments are, I really love just coming to set and working on a scene and having a conversation with someone and making it feel real. I was thankful I was able to not end on days where I was just laying around bloody. I got to work, you know?
Beth was a character whose strength was always being questioned, so as hard as it is to be ripped away from the show, you have to feel pretty good, I imagine, about this final arc you got for her in which we really did get to see the fighter within her.
Yeah, totally. I really do love the writing on this show and I do think it’s really smart and cool and I love how Scott incorporates things and little sparks of things in other seasons and then you see them come back, like the “I don’t cry anymore” thing coming back in this episode. It’s really special, and I was really thankful that this season that you did get to see so much of Beth and you did get to see her without her group and what kind of person she could be and how she could change in different circumstances. It’s fun to work on and I was really thankful. Although I’m sad it ended so soon and wasn’t expecting it to end so soon, I was happy that you really got to know her before she left.
I spoke to Norman Reedus, and that scene where he’s carrying your body — he said he thinks he may had inadvertently grabbed your boob on one of those takes. Can you confirm or deny that?
Yeah, exactly — in quotes. But what was it like playing dead in take after take there? Could you feel his arms giving out a little bit?
Yeah, I feel bad because at first before they were even rolling tape we would be all sad and he’d be holding on to me. And then after take after take after take it was getting more and more difficult to keep holding me. Because I’m just dead weight too! At least when he had to carry me last season it was piggyback and I was holding on to him and could jump up and help out at least — but this I was completely dead and limp, and then he’s trying to walk and cry and all of this and hold onto me. And there were a couple of times where I felt like I was definitely slipping towards the ground. [Laughs]
What was it like watching the episode?
I didn’t really watch it. I didn’t completely avoid it because there were moments like when I was waiting to go on Talking Dead where they were showing it and I wasn’t like “Oh, guard my eyes!” But I didn’t really watch it. Something happened this season — it started happening last season too, where I feel like I had a certain experience filming it, and while it’s nice to see the final product come out, it’s not so enjoyable. It’s not as though I’ve been like “Oh, I’m never watching it.” But I actually have not watched the episode. I haven’t sat down and watched it. I feel it’s sort of out of my hands at a certain point and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done with The Walking Dead. I don’t feel like it would be fun to watch myself. It feels a little painful.
What will you miss most about working on this show?
Probably the people. Because I feel like we’ve all become such good friends and they’ve made me a better actor. Not just the other actors, but all the people I’ve gotten to work with. They’re all really passionate people and really inspire me. I feel like Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman and Gale Anne Hurd and all these people are really great artists and being around them doesn’t just infuse my work on The Walking Dead, but as a songwriter as well. Being around them makes me excited.
Also make sure to check out our deep dive with Andrew Lincoln, midseason finale Q&A with Norman Reedus, and burning questions with showrunner Scott M. Gimple. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.