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Emily Kinney finds indie-pop life after ‘The Walking Dead’

October 3, 2018

Emily Kinney finds indie-pop life after ‘The Walking Dead’

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Emily Kinney knows what it’s like to have brushes with death. She did, after all, spend four years of her life trying to survive a fictional zombie apocalypse.

From 2011 to 2015, Kinney played Beth Greene on “The Walking Dead.” Her character so beloved that when the show did kill her off, fans launched an online petition to have the character brought back to life.

“Some of that was surprising,” says Kinney. “But it was sort of satisfying to feel like something you worked on for four years made such an impact on people. That was quite nice for my ego, I guess.”

Kinney has spent her time since “The Walking Dead” trying to hook fans with her singing career. The tour in support of her second album, “Oh Jonathan,” brings Kinney to Beachland Ballroom on Sunday, Oct. 7, coincidentally the same night Season 9 of “The Walking Dead” premieres on AMC.

Despite earning fame for playing Beth Greene, as well as standout characters on shows like “Masters of Sex” and “The Knick,” Kinney’s music career has been pretty DIY through her own label Em-K Music.

“It’s basically like a small business,” says the 33-year-old. “I definitely have people that help me out a lot. I have a manager, a publicist, a band and a booking agency. But I’m still on every email. Ultimately it’s very grassroots in the way it’s set up.”

Kinney’s music career has been about as modest as her upbringing, which was scattered throughout small towns in Nebraska, Oregon and Nevada. After college in Nebraska, Kinney moved to New York to pursue her acting career.

Performances in plays like “Spring Awakening” and “August: Osage County” helped her earn low-key roles in shows like “The Big C. and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” But it was “The Walking Dead,” the highest rated cable show in history, that would provide Kinney her big break.

She was so believable in her role as Beth Greene, that many people have a hard time believing Kinney is in her 30s and not the teenager they saw dodging zombies.

“I’ve always seemed younger than I am,” Kinney admits. “Which is fine with me, because I feel like then I got to tap into something I already knew about. I can look back at my younger self and have tons of information to draw from.”

That’s especially true for her music career as well. “Oh Jonathan” is an album about a relationship Kinney was in during her late 20s.

In case you’re wondering, the guy’s name really is Jonathan. But Kinney insists her album isn’t in the same vein as say Taylor Swift.

“I wasn’t necessarily trying to dive into this relationship,” says Kinney. “Like, there’s a line where I say I’m, ’Now I’ll never light the world the same without. Windy whispers of his name...” That’s the point of the album. I’ll never be the same because I met this person and that shapes how I’m interpreting the world around me. They’re coming up in stories even if they’re not the focus of the stories.”

Kinney has yet another story to focus on. She’ll star in the new Netflix series “Messiah,” a suspense thriller focused on the reaction to a man in the Middle East whose many followers claim he is the Messiah. The show is scheduled to premiere some time in 2019.

As for fans wondering whether or not Kinney keeps up with “The Walking Dead,” she doesn’t. But maybe not for the reasons you think.

“I’m still proud of it. But I travel a lot and I just don’t watch a lot of TV,” Kinney reveals. “Although, when I am at home and I’m thinking, ‘What do I want to watch TV?’ I don’t find myself wanting to watch ‘The Walking Dead.’ It’s scary.”

[To hear our full interview with Kinney, check out the season premiere of “The Stalking Dead Podcast” on Monday, Oct. 8]

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