The pieces of backstory behind always-masked Whisperer Beta, revealed in Sunday’s The Walking Dead, emerged from a pitch by actor Ryan Hurst when the Sons of Anarchy star boarded the zombie drama in Season 9. Unlike creator Robert Kirkman’s comic books, TWD Season 10 is peeking under Beta’s mask and taking a look at his dynamic with pack leader Alpha (Samantha Morton). “We Are the End of the World” shed light on the origin of that relationship when revealing another: that of Beta’s unnamed best friend, whose face and smiley t-shirt were incorporated into Beta’s look.
“One of the most fun parts that I’ve had on this show is the secretive nature of where this guy came from. It’s something that I very early on brought to [showrunner Angela Kang], that I had this idea of his backstory and also, how they met, and we collaborated a bunch on making this back story a reality,” Hurst told EW. “So, I’m just super happy with the way that it all worked out because Angela and I’ve been talking about this since the beginning of Season 9, when I first signed on. I had some different ideas that were sort of contradictory to some other stuff that was established in the comic books, so I think we’re on the right path. There’s still a lot of secrets behind who Beta was that we’ll investigate more and more. But you know, I like to dangle a carrot.”
Hurst also spoke on the setting of his first meeting with Alpha at a rehab medical facility. Covering its walls were disturbed messages alongside defaced photos showing Beta posed with this person pre-apocalypse.
“At the end of the episode we see a picture of him and what we can assume is one of his best friends, but this was the place that he was admitted for either some mental reason or otherwise. And he sort of saw it as a place of solace,” Hurst explained. “When the world went to hell, he went to the only place that he felt safe and he just happened to find it there.”
The episode left this person’s role in Beta’s life ambiguous — friend, relative, or lover were all possibilities — but Hurst confirms the unidentified man was Beta’s closest friend.
“I was sort of putting together this backstory of this guy, and when I pitched it to Angela, I said that I would really love the emotional currency of him wearing the face of his best friend. From an actor’s perspective, I was like, ‘Why doesn’t this guy take off his mask?’” Hurst said. “There’s a lot of answers to that question, but the main one was that I thought it would be so wonderful if he had a best friend that he just couldn’t let go and he was wearing the face of somebody that he knew and loved, and that would bring a bit of pathos to this very sort of dark and mysterious character. That was really important to me.”
He continued, “So, I think that we can take away from it that they were best friends and that his best friend was sort of the last vestiges of his old life of who he was before the apocalypse. And Alpha sort of instills in him this ‘Look the world is burning, the world is dying. The world now belongs to the walkers, but this is all that you can take with you,’ and he decides to follow her lead.”
And whose face might be hidden beneath this mask made from his best friend’s face? Hurst hints Beta’s true identity is a well-known celebrity.