The Walking Dead’s fifth midseason finale bid a gory farewell to Beth Greene, the teenager with a subtle tough streak that shone through in her final confrontation with Officer Dawn Lerner, chief of the “Greater Good” cops at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. She successfully kept Carol alive, saw through Dawn’s power plays, and took one last (literal) stab at bringing the bad cop down. Unfortunately, trigger-happy Dawn instinctively fired a bullet straight through Beth’s head before anyone knew what was happening, but fear not: That was the last thing Dawn ever did.
Actress Emily Kinney, who has portrayed Beth since her introduction on Hershel’s farm in Season 2, hopped on the phone with The Daily Beast to talk about Beth’s last words, her favorite moments on the show, and what the actress has lined up next.
When did you first receive the news that Beth would be killed off?
I found out during [Season 5, Episode 7], the day the script came out. I mean, I found out a few hours before the script went to everyone.
What was it like walking onto set on your last day there?
We actually filmed some of the death stuff earlier than some of the episodes with Dawn or at the elevator shaft, so my last couple of days of that particular episode were actually fairly quiet. We had more of that time together as a cast when we were shooting the death scene and everything. That scene was really long, because it was a lot of people so there’s a lot of coverage. Yeah, it was really sad.
Did they throw you a goodbye party?
Yeah, we did have a party.
Throughout your time on the show, Beth evolved so much, from this quiet, suicidal teenager to this really tough, resourceful survivor. What did you think of her evolution?
I think if you look back at Season 2, there are certain little elements that come out. All along, Beth has been a very good listener and sort of very good at clocking everything around her and taking it in. I do think she’s always sort of had a certain bite. That’s one thing that’s so cool about this show is the writing really is so good; they thread little pieces in if you look really closely. Even in Season 2, you know that moment where she’s suicidal and then she [says to Lori,] “How could you have a kid?” She has this little bit of a bite to her and a fight within her that does come through in little moments. It was cool this season to finally see her do her own thing.
I like to compare it to when you’re with your family and then you go off to college, another element of your personality comes through more. Or you know how you’re different around different people? I almost feel like being on her own in Grady Memorial, a part of her personality that was always there came out way more when she was put in that position. She had to play a different role completely.
Right, that toughness was always inside her, like the way she had given up crying. A boyfriend of hers got killed at the beginning of Season 4 and she said something like, “Well, I’m glad I got the time with him that I did”—and that was that. Same with last night’s episode, when Dawn tries to comfort Beth by saying, “It’s okay to cry.” Beth’s response is just, “I don’t cry anymore.”
Yeah, exactly, there’s like little elements that are threaded through from past seasons. I really love that.
What have been some of your favorite memories on the show, either on camera or off?
I think of one of the most exciting days was in Season 2, where I had really only just started working with the cast and almost the whole cast was on set. It was when Sophia comes out of the barn. That day was really long and really hot and there were cranes and big huge movie shots. I had worked on a lot of TV and done a lot of guest star [roles] and stuff like that, but the energy that all the actors brought, like Andy [Andrew Lincoln] and Norman [Reedus]—I remember Andy pumping everybody up like, “Yeah! We’re The Walking Dead!” Because it had been such a long day, we were all out in the heat, getting so much coverage and all of this. I remember just thinking like, “This is really gonna be special. This is gonna be really cool.” That sticks out for me.
What do Beth’s last words, “I get it now,” mean to you? Do you think Beth knew what would happen if she stabbed Dawn with those scissors?
I think that Beth was saying, “I get it now,” like you don’t really know… You know, Dawn’s whole thing is that sometimes you have to do bad things in order to survive. Like, “I’m doing a good thing by doing these controlling things because I’m actually protecting everyone.” I think there’s something about Beth where she’s saying, “I get it now. Sometimes you don’t realize how horrible a person you can be until you get pushed to the limit. You don’t even realize that you’re capable of killing someone and being such a horrible human being in a certain way, just in order to survive.” I think that’s part of Beth’s “I get it now.” There is that moment earlier in the episode where she pushes the other officer and I think that does make her feel really bad and start to question the kind of person that she is and what her morals are and who she’s looking out for.
Right, so on a level she understands Dawn.
Understands Dawn, yeah. They kind of have an interesting relationship where they don’t like each other and are out to get each other, but they somehow understand each other and respect each other. I think that’s part of what Beth is saying, like, “I get it now.”
Were you watching the reaction to the scene on social media?
Um, I was getting ready for Talking Dead so I would try to check in, but I also was like a little bit…scared? [Laughs] So I kind of put it off. I looked at Norman’s, because I knew he was live-tweeting and I wanted to see what he said. But I limited it; one, because I was getting dressed and ready for Talking Dead and the other reason just being because there was so much of a reaction that I don’t even know where to start trying to read or favorite anything, you know? I knew people would be sad, I didn’t see too many things that were like, “Yes! Beth, I hated her! I’m so glad she’s gone!” [Laughs] But then again the only people I look at are tweeting right at me because they follow me, so they probably like Beth or they wouldn’t follow me. But it’s been cool, and I try to read some stuff. I’ll probably look at more today. I really love the fans of Walking Dead, I think they’re unlike any other show. It’s one of my favorite things from being on the show, being introduced to a fan base like this. It really inspires you to keep making things because you realize that what you make really can rally people together or make a difference. It’s exciting.
I definitely didn’t see any tweets from people who were happy Beth died. It was mostly just, “I can’t stop crying!”
[Laughs] I know, people were sending me pictures of their cry-faces while watching it and I was like, “Oh my God, I feel bad! You guys it’s just pretend, I’m still here!”
It was pretty sad though to watch Daryl carry Beth out of the hospital. It paralleled a much happier time when he carried her around after she twisted her ankle, back in Season 4.
Yeah. Obviously, I’m sad that it ended for her, but I do really think it’s a great show with great writing, and obviously really effective if people are having that reaction. That scene was probably really beautiful in a certain way. And to have Maggie there, too.
Definitely. The worst part of it, to me, was that Beth never got to see her sister again.
I wonder if it has something to do with not getting a certain amount of closure for Maggie, who was like, “Oh, Beth’s out there, Beth’s out there, I’ll find her!” But it’s also just part of this world.
So what’s on your plate now? I know you’ve got a music project going on.
Yeah, I mean I’ve always been a songwriter too, so I have a single coming out, probably next week. It’s called “Rockstar.” And I have a new album that won’t come out until 2015, so I’m sure you’ll hear more from me when it gets a little bit closer. I’m always doing shows and music stuff.
I’m still kind of figuring out what I want to do next. I have loved working on television so much and realized how much I like following a character for years because you get to know them inside and out. It’s almost easier acting when you have that much time to get to know your character. I’ve really fallen in love with television and now television is so, so good. So I definitely want to do more television.