By Brian Ives
“Making stuff” and “telling stories” are two phrases that come up often in conversation with Emily Kinney. Had she not been cast on one of the most popular shows on cable TV—Kinney is Beth Greene on AMC’s The Walking Dead—it seems as if she’d be just as happy acting in off-off Broadway shows, recording lo-fi albums and writing poetry.
Alas, she did get cast on that show, which returns for season five this Sunday, and since joining the cast for season 2 in 2011 has gone from a supporting character to one of the main ensemble. With every week that she evades the jaws of the “walkers,” or, worse, the evil humans causing trouble on what’s left of the planet, her profile grows. At this point though, we’re just asking “Where is Beth?” something Kinney is definitely not going to answer in this interview. “I can say that you will find out what’s going on with Beth,” she says. “It’s not like you’re never gonna find out what happened. I can tell you that it’s a lot of action this year.”
But back to Kinney, whose biggest early moment on the show was when she and Lauren Cohan—who plays her sister, Maggie Greene—sang a rendition of the traditional Irish song “The Parting Glass” in the premiere of season three. It was not only a great dramatic moment for Beth Greene, but also showed the world that Emily Kinney has a stunning singing voice.
But as Kinney tells Radio.com she’s been singing at talent shows and church longer than she’s been an actress. “But I quickly fell in love with acting as well,” she says. “I remember watching Kids, Inc. or Growing Pains and the movie My Girl, and I quickly got into the mindset that I loved stories and I loved acting as well as singing. It became important to me, how could I write my own stories [and] be a part of making things?”
Against her mother’s wishes, Kinney soon signed up for her first talent show, singing “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. She took second place, losing to a tap dancer. The next year she came back and took first, winning with the hymn “Jesus Loves Me.” But, thanks to her parents, her music tastes would soon get a bit more contemporary.
“What they would listen to was what I would listen to,” Kinney says. “I remember one of my first favorite songs being ‘Imagine” by John Lennon. I loved Carole King‘s Tapestry and the Carpenters, I used to learn all their lyrics. But then as I got older, I was definitely into MTV’s Beach House and I would watch Sisters With Voices. Remember them? I loved that group! And, I was obsessed with Mariah Carey.”
She eventually moved to New York and was cast in the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, which also featured a pre-Glee Lea Michele. Though she landed a few other roles in the theater and in movies, she was also in the studio creating music. By the time she was cast on The Walking Dead, she was finishing her debut EP, Blue Toothbrush, which she released via CD Baby.
Walking Dead‘s music supervisor Thomas Golubic told Radio.com that it was former showrunner Glen Mazzara who decided to have Kinney sing on the show. “I think Glen knew early on, that Emily was also a singer. I think she made that really clear,” he said laughing. “Once that became an opportunity for us, it was really nice thing. One of the roles Emily has on the show is to be a representative for the idea of ‘home.'”