'Walking Dead's' Latest Fatality: "She Is a Hero in Her Own Way"

The actress who was shockingly killed off during season five's midseason finale talks with THR about exiting the zombie drama
 Gene Page/AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season five midseason finale, "Coda," of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

AMC's The Walking Dead delivered a major blow during Sunday's midseason finale.

Emily Kinney's Beth Greene, kid sister to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and confidant for Daryl (Norman Reedus) was shockingly killed off after a peaceful hostage exchange went bad.

The shocking twist came after Beth came full circle, evolving from the hapless teen who attempted suicide at dad Hershel's (Scott Wilson) farm to the fierce warrior who helped Noah (Tyler James Williams) escape from Grady Memorial Hospital.

Her death came after Rick successfully traded two Grady cops for Beth and Carol (Melissa McBride)— and after Dawn (Christine Woods) asked for Noah to complete the trade. Beth stood her ground and jammed a pair of scissors in her captive's shoulder, with Dawn's gun going off immediately and firing a fatal blow to Beth's head. At that moment, a stunned and saddened Daryl shot and killed Dawn. (Read THR's full breakdown of the episode here.)

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kinney to discuss Beth's stunning departure and her hopes for what could have been.

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When did you find out Beth was going to die?

The day the script came out, during episode 507. I was really sad and shocked, I had no idea. I had a meeting with [showrunner] Scott Gimple and it was very sad. He didn't explain why [Beth was being killed off], but he said it was something he had been planning since season four. I was very upset. We both love working together and for whatever reason, that's how he saw the character going.

Do you think there was story left for her?

There were so many sparks of other things that hadn't been explored. But what's cool about the show is that it is unexpected and doesn't make a lot of sense always. If you remember Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), he had the story where he was saying he didn't know why he was the one to survive. There's something about that that's true in real life. Sometimes there isn't rhyme or reason [to things]; why does that person die and not that person? I think there was a lot left artistically for me. But no actor wants to play the same character forever. There was great writing and a lot that was just getting started. I was excited to explore those sparks. It ended in a flash. That's the way life is.

If Beth had survived Grady, what would you have wanted her to do?

I hadn't seen Maggie and we hadn't dealt with the death our father Hershel (Scott Wilson) together. Beth, when she was at Grady, was becoming a different person. It's like when you go to college and become a different person and then you go back home and try to fit in again. I wondered once Beth got back with the group if she'd be different and fit in the same way. Everyone takes on a different role in the family, even with this group. I thought that would have been interesting. And Daryl and Beth's unlikely friendship — I wanted to see how that would grow. I have worked on the show for a few years and I feel like I got to do a lot this season. Episode 4 was really fun to make.  

Why do you think Beth felt the sudden urge to kill Dawn?

I felt like it was a last-minute. The scissors were if she needed them. I felt like she was overconfident, she got what she wanted [to reunite with her group] and she wanted more. It's like she'd gotten stronger and tougher and was back with her group and, oh one more thing: I want to get Dawn. And it was a mistake. It was this little moment of overconfidence.

See more 'The Walking Dead's' Most Shocking Deaths

Do you think Beth died a heroic death?

I don't know. I haven't thought of her as a hero, really. I didn't think of it as a heroic death. You see Daryl and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as the heroes because they were the ones coming to get Beth and Carol out. But I think she is a hero in her own way.

What are you most proud of having played this character?

It's hard to pick one thing but I'm proud of the last few episodes. And last season, I felt really proud of the moments where we got to see what Beth had been thinking all along. I love the smart writing on the show and when you can see a thru line since season two, even with different showrunners. There's a specific voice for Beth that came through and I like how it has grown during the past few seasons.

What was your final moment like on set?

We actually shot some of those death scenes before the others. One of my last scenes this episode was with Dawn by the elevator. I liked that because it was emotional and sad. It was nice to have the time to work on those more before we shot them. Those group days were difficult and sad so it was nice to have days where it felt like normal work.

What was your "Death Dinner" like? Did Christine come? 

Christine wasn't invited to that one! It was fun getting to know her, I really liked working with her. She's really cool. But it was like a party; it was sad but fun and it was similar to Scott's. Both were really emotional.

What's next for you? Will you return to TV or focus on your music?

More of both; I love writing songs and working on TV. When you work on a long series like this one, you get to learn a character inside and out, like theater. You see a character actually change and I love that. I want to work on more TV. I'm always writing songs and playing shows and I'm singing "Rock Star" next week and will likely release my next album in 2015. I don't feel like I'm one or the other, songwriting and acting fulfill two very different parts of me.

The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its fifth season Feb. 8 on AMC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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