The Walking Dead star Ryan Hurst, who plays Beta, was hospitalized during filming when he suffered heat exhaustion caused by the Whisperer’s unique heavy duty costume consisting of a trench coat, multiple layers and a mask made from walker flesh. Set in Virginia but filmed in Georgia, production on The Walking Dead gets hot. And Hurst, buried beneath Beta’s sweltering disguise, takes summer shoots like a champ — even if it means a trip to the closest hospital.
“Oh my God. I landed in the hospital once this year from heat exhaustion,” Hurst told EW. “I’m in a leather trench coat and two layers under that in Georgia in the summer. It’s no joke, man.”
But Hurst, who joined the zombie drama in its ninth season, loves sporting the fleshy mask created by director and special effects guru Greg Nicotero. He better: unlike the other Whisperers commanded by Alpha (Samantha Morton), Beta never removes his mask that has deep sentimental value behind it.
“I wish I could say that I hate it, but I love it! Nicotero is a master teacher when it comes to zombie stuff, and it’s so comfortable,” Hurst previously told EW. “Even though you’re in Atlanta in 110-degree weather, I love wearing that mask. I really, really do.”
Still, it gets hot. “Every single job that I seem to do for long periods of time, I’m in 10 layers of leather in 110-degree heat,” Hurst added. “I don’t know why the universe has sort of put that in my path, but I’ve sort of accepted it at this point. It’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re gonna be on a bunch of hit shows, but you’re gonna be sweating your ass off.’”
The Walking Dead 10x02, “We Are the End of the World,” took a peek under Beta’s mask when exposing the origin of his relationship with Alpha. Audiences also learned why Beta’s mask is so important when a flashback, set seven years before current action in Season 10, revealed the mask’s origin as part of a back story pitched by Hurst.
“I was sort of putting together this backstory of this guy, and when I pitched it to Angela [Kang, showrunner], 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.”
This unnamed best friend was “sort of the last vestiges of his old life of who he was before the apocalypse,” Hurst added, later teasing Beta’s true identity is a recognizable celebrity in TWD world.
New episodes of The Walking Dead Season 10 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.