- Jace Downs/AMC
- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Sunday’s “The Walking Dead,” “We are the End of the World.”
- “TWD” went back in time seven years to show us how Alpha (Samantha Morton) and Beta (Ryan Hurst) first met and the origins of Beta’s gruesome Whisperer face mask.
- Hurst spoke with Insider about how he asked to keep Beta’s face reveal a mystery on the show and confirmed the identity of the man he was close with in the zombie apocalypse was his best friend, not a lover.
- “Why does he not want anybody to know who he is or was?… By the end of season 10 you’ll get a real definitive answer of, “Oh, that’s why he wears this mask,” Hurst said.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sunday’s “The Walking Dead” gave fans the episode they’ve been waiting for since Alpha and Beta joined the AMC series. How and when did the two Whisperer leaders meet?
Fans also started to get a glimpse into Beta’s mysterious backstory, one that Hurst helped shape with showrunner Angela Kang.
“I remember in season nine Angela was like, ‘We would like to show your face.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding?'” Hurst told Insider of wanting to keep Beta’s face a mystery and explore that more on the show.
“After you see under Darth Vader’s mask, you don’t need to see him much more after that,” he added, making a parallel between Beta and the “Star Wars” villain.
Hurst spoke with Insider about seeing more of Beta’s backstory throughout season 10 and clarified who the mystery man is at the end of Sunday’s episode. He also discussed his love for Disney, whether or not Beta’s relationship with Alpha is symbolic of “Beauty and the Beast,” teaching yoga to fans at comic conventions, and more.
Beta is wearing his best friend’s face and we’ll learn more about his mysterious background as the season continues.
Kirsten Acuna: I have been waiting since we last spoke in March for this episode. We finally get some of Alpha and Beta’s backstory! You told me back then that you and Angela [Kang] had come up with a backstory for Beta. You couldn’t talk about it then, but you said you brought a “really wild idea to the table.” What did you guys discuss and what did you want to explore with Beta?
Ryan Hurst: In this episode, we really focus on the meeting between Beta and Alpha. There’s still some fun to be had with exploring who Beta actually is or who he was before the apocalypse. We very deliberately sort of are leading that as a question in the minds for the audience. One of the bits that I pitched to Angela that we do reveal in this episode is that the mask that he’s wearing all of the time is that of his best friend. And the shirt, the very sort of definitive happy face shirt that he wears is also his best friends’. But there’s a real sort of emotional quotient that there’s a bit of pathos behind this intimidating killer that he’s wearing the face of somebody who he loved dearly, and couldn’t let go of.
So that was something that I pitched and I remember Angela saying, “Oh my God, I love this.” And I was like, “Great!” Outside of that, there’s still a lot of questions of why does he wear this ski mask? Why does he not want anybody to know who he is or was? And we’ll explore more of that throughout season 10 by the end of season 10 you’ll get a real definitive answer of, “Oh, that’s why he wears this mask.”
Acuna: OK. So I feel like you answered a few questions there for me. You brought up one of the things that I also wanted to ask. We do see the man who’s in that photograph with Beta near the episode’s end and it is someone who’s important to him and I was wondering if it was a brother, a friend, or maybe someone who was a bit more intimate with him. But you can say that it is his best friend? Hurst: Yeah. That’s his best friend.
Why we don’t see Beta’s face, whether or not we’ll ever see it, and a possible Disney connection to “Beauty and the Beast.”
Acuna: There’s a point in the episode where Alpha does take off Beta’s mask. I thought maybe we were going to see your face. We didn’t. Is there a reason that we don’t? Is Beta maybe disfigured or is this something that will maybe be explored as the season goes on as you mentioned?
- Jace Downs/AMC
Hurst: They’re are all good questions. Those are all good questions [laughter]. I can’t give you the answer. All that I noticed is I’m doing my job if you’re asking those questions. I remember in season nine Angela was like, “We would like to show your face.” And I was like, “Are you kidding?” I was like, “No.”
After you see under Darth Vader’s mask, you don’t need to see him much more after that. I was like, let’s just pose, let’s just let the audience keep wondering up until the very last minute. There are answers to all of these questions about why he wears it and what’s underneath there. Is he protecting himself? Is he protecting the people that are still alive out there? How does that make any sense? These are all the questions that I wanted the audience to be asking.
Acuna: Well, I love this “Star Wars” parallel because while watching the episode, I’m a big Disney person, which I know is a huge contrast… Hurst: Oh, so am I. Acuna: Oh great! Hurst: [“Talking Dead” host] Chris Hardwick and I have been to Disneyland twice in the last couple of months together. I go to Disneyland multiple times a year.
Acuna: I went in August and I’m going to Disney World next week with 12 people in my family. So, so am I. But the reason I mention Disney is that I couldn’t help but see some parallels between Alpha and Beta and maybe “Beauty and the Beast.” Hear me out. Beta tells Alpha and Lydia to stick to their own corridor. That’s similar to how Beast tells Belle not to visit the West wing, the Beast and Beta don’t like being touched, and then there’s that photograph with Beta’s face scratched out. The prince in “Beauty and the Beast” scratches out images of his face. Was that fairy tale story an inspiration for this episode at all and Beta and Alpha’s relationship?
- Jace Downs/AMC
Hurst: All I can say is that’s very, very, very astute. [Laughter] Very, very good. I don’t know that anybody else, that’s not a Disney fan would have picked up on those things. Very, very good. [Laughter] That’s all I’ll say.
Acuna: Obviously, there are a lot of horror elements in the episode. But as someone who has watched “Beauty and the Beast” many a time, that is something that stuck out to me in those shots and some others while watching the episode.
“TWD” team was going back and forth between whether or not Alpha and Beta met six, seven, or eight years ago. Their initial meeting, according to Hurst, is not based around Rick’s disappearance on the show.
Acuna: I want to back up a little bit really quick and see if you know anything about this. When in the larger “Walking Dead” timeline does this take place? We see on screen, the episode starts and it says seven years ago if my math is correct. I’m thinking that’s around the time that Rick disappeared on season nine. Is that right? I don’t know if you had any discussions about why to make it that time frame? Hurst: We didn’t discuss exactly the timeline. It was sort of hazy up until the last minute. We were going back between six to seven to eight years. So it wasn’t really definitively based around the disappearance of Rick. That was just a happy accident.
Beta’s shock over being lied to by Alpha and the mirroring of Alpha and Beta saving each other in the past and present.
Acuna: Looking at the rest of the episode, what does Beta make of [Alpha’s daughter] Lydia being alive? Alpha doesn’t seem like the type of person who typically keeps secrets from Beta. Is that something that may come back and bite her?
- Jace Downs/AMC
Hurst: Yeah, throughout the entirety of season 10 what you begin to see more and more of is that Beta is less of a subordinate or of a consigliere. On the surface it seems like a very sort of master servant relationship. But behind closed doors, Beta is truly the sort of secret keeper of the Whisperers. He knows all of the hypocrisies that Alpha hides and she’s hidden very many things from the Whisperers that may not be flattering to or in accordance with the sort of Whisperers’ ethos. This is the first time that she has lied to Beta. They’ve sort of had an understanding of how to keep the ship upright.
- Gene Page/AMC
Hurst: I think that when he confronts [Alpha] and he finds out that Lydia is alive, it’s very sort of potent that he says, “Why would you lie to me?” I understand that you lied to them, but why would you ever lie to him? Samantha played it so beautifully. She allows herself to be saved by Beta. In the flashbacks, essentially what you’re seeing, is you’re seeing Alpha save Beta from himself and in the present you’re watching Beta save Alpha from herself. I thought the way that they mirrored those storylines is great, which is perfect.
When he’s not working on “TWD,” Hurst spends time participating in and teaching Kundalini yoga, something he’s been doing for the past decade
Acuna: What else are you up to these days? I see that you’ve really gotten into, and I hope I’m saying this correctly, Kundalini yoga. I see that all over your Instagram. I was wondering how you started doing that.
Hurst: I started Kundalini outside of “The Walking Dead.” Kundalini yoga and training dogs. Those are my two big things. Kundalini yoga, I started practicing probably about 10 years ago, and I became a teacher about five years ago. It’s been enormously transformative in my entire life. I practice all different forms of yoga. I practice Hatha, hot yoga, Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and then inevitably landed with Kundalini with a woman named Tej at Nine Treasures Yoga.
She’s a repository for a very enormous celebrity clientele. She was introduced to me by Russell Brand and Demi Moore goes there, and all of the stars go to see her because she’s a master teacher. She transformed my life with Kundalini yoga and I do as much as I can to put that out there. When I do these kind of comic conventions, I usually hold yoga on Sunday mornings, which just has been an enormous blessing. Kundalini yoga, you got to try it. Acuna: Yeah, I’ve done regular yoga. It looks very calming. Hurst: Yeah. Out here, we sort of think of yoga just as stretching, but, Kundalini is the mother of all yogas. It’s the oldest form of yoga. It gave birth to every other modality of yoga… It’s the fastest way to enlightenment, as they say.
“TWD” feels a lot like season one or two for Hurst right now.
Acuna: Is there anything else that you’re really excited for about this season or anything else that you want to share about “The Walking Dead”?
- Gene Page/AMC
Hurst: For this episode, I was just really happy with… Greg Nicotero, who is absolutely by far my favorite director that I’ve ever worked with, not just on this show, period! I told him this to his face. I said, “You know something, Greg? I’ve worked with the Cohen brothers, I’ve worked with Spielberg, but you’re my favorite director.”
I’ve never met a director who creates such a welcoming, creative environment. It’s a genuine meritocracy, and a lot of it is attributed to the way that he creates. I just absolutely love working with him. The way that the episode turned out, as a fan of the show, while I was watching the episode, it felt like the early seasons of a “Walking Dead.” It felt like it season one or season two when you were really still watching people grappling with their own humanity after the apocalypse. So I thought that we hit the nail right on the head.
You can follow along with our ongoing “Walking Dead” coverage here.
- Read more:
- 6 ways the first episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ could’ve been very different