TWD chief content officer Scott Gimple, executive producer on The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, confirms that was an unmasked and pre-apocalypse Beta (Ryan Hurst) on the cover of a country music album in a Season 5 episode of Fear. In Season 5 Episode 14, "Today and Tomorrow," a pile of vinyl records spilled by Daniel (Rubén Blades) and Grace (Karen David) revealed an unnamed singer bearing a striking resemblance to a bearded Hurst, who joined the flagship series in its ninth season as second-in-command Beta, an always-masked Whisperer who has so far only allowed Alpha (Samantha Morton) to view his bare face and live.
The Easter egg came back into play in TWD Season 10 Episode 5, "What It Always Is," when Magna (Nadia Hilker) was shown listening to a record performed by what sounded like a crooning Hurst — a song borrowed from ex-Walking Dead star Emily Kinney, who played Beth Greene. Hurst has hinted Beta was a celebrity pre-apocalypse, but the star has stopped short of outright confirming the connection, previously telling EW he intended to "keep dangling that carrot" throughout Season 10.
"[The three Walking Dead shows] do share a universe, so where there are opportunities, we want to take them. Even with that album cover [with Hurst's Beta appearing on Fear], it was so funny," Gimple told EW. "I mean just by virtue of the fact that there was a scene with all these records in it, and we knew this shared aspect, we didn't even want to make that big a deal of it. We just wanted it to exist in there so that people might, deep cut-wise, we were hoping one or two people might notice into the future."
He continued, "We didn't want to make as big a deal about it. It's just nice, even unto ourselves, between the shows to feel that it's one world. That said, unlike reality today, these worlds are so isolated from each other because of a lack of mass communications, mass transportation. In some ways, they are on little islands from each other, so when they can have those crosses, it's kind of wonderful."
Asked about the apparent Easter egg on a past episode of Talking Dead, Hurst teased a possibility Beta was "a large personality in the world before the apocalypse, and that sort of letting go of that might have been tragic to his psyche. I can't say much more than that." This was acknowledged in Season 10 Episode 2, "We Are the End of the World," where an early version of Beta was depicted having an annoyance towards music before Alpha — taking a risky peek under his cloth mask — seemed to recognize the face underneath.
More of Beta's history is expected to come to light in the back half of Season 10, which has already revealed a key part of his psychology in a flashback set during the early years of the apocalypse.
"I can't tell you too much about that," Hurst previously told EW of Beta's secret identity. "We've been dropping Easter eggs here and there, maybe on this show, maybe on another show that's connected to it, but I'll sort of keep dangling that carrot and let people wait for the end of this season to see what happens."