Zombie 101: KSU instructor appears in ‘The Walking Dead’

 Keith Perissi
Keith Perissi

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct 31, 2015) — The real-life experience Beth Keener shares with her students includes days of trying to outrun the living dead.

A part-time instructor with Kennesaw State University’s Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program, Keener this summer was on the set of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Fans of the show this month saw her as Annie, one of the residents of Alexandria, the town Rick Grimes and his group of survivors moved into during season five.

Keener has appeared in two episodes this month — the show’s Oct. 11 season premiere and the latest episode on Oct. 25. Her scenes for those episodes were shot in and around Senoia at the end of May and June, with her and other cast members brought back in July for pickup shots — scenes re-shot due to script rewrites, problems with previous shots and other factors.

“We paraded around in the woods for a while down there,” she said. “I think in total, I was probably on set 13, 14 days overall,” Keener said.

Spoiler alert: Keener’s character fell victim to the zombies — usually referred to in the “Walking Dead” universe as “walkers” — in the latest episode, titled “Thank You.”

But “Dead” fans haven’t seen the last of Keener. Those attending this weekend’s zombie-focused Walker Stalker Con Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center may see Keener on the job. She was recruited to host the convention’s documentary last year, and will go along with the same documentary crew again this year.

“I spent a full weekend at Walker Stalker Con meeting everyone (with the show), interviewing them, without ever knowing that I would be cast in the show,” she said.

“The Walking Dead” is far from the only credit on Keener’s resume, which includes roles on “Reckless” and “The Vampire Diaries,” another monster-based TV show that has been shot in the Peach State, as well as the big screen’s “Battle Los Angeles.” In all, her IMDb page lists 32 actress credits.

While she once called Los Angeles her home, she now resides in Midtown in the heart of the state called by many in the industry the “Hollywood of the South.” Most of her recent roles have been for productions filmed here in Georgia. “I rarely have to travel for work,” she said.

The 31-year-old grew up in Calhoun and Cartersville, and graduated from Woodland High School in Cartersville, whose theater and arts program helped launch her toward the entertainment industry.

Today, Keener helps KSU students as they pursue their career goals in the entertainment industry. Depending on her schedule on other productions, she is typically in the classroom two to five times a semester.

“Years ago, I met Keith (Perissi), who runs the (Music and Entertainment Business) program, and we had actually just discussed me coming in and speaking to the students before I moved to L.A., just about what it’s like to have a career here in Atlanta. I moved to L.A., and when I came back, I re-enrolled at Kennesaw to finish my degree, and I ended up in that class, without ever realizing it was one in the same,” she said.

Keener’s insight into film and TV includes her experience with productions and companies within driving distance of the campus.

“I talk to the kids about how to start a career, what it is to have a career here in Georgia, and how to build your resume, what headshots are, how the process of getting auditions work, getting an agent — all of those details that are pretty tricky when you get started,” she said. “The goal is to really help these students find a career in entertainment, whether it’s in front of or behind the camera.”

“It’s rewarding to help kids understand more about what it means, and not only how great the industry can be, but how difficult it can be and give them a real perspective. I really enjoy it,” she added.

Keith Perissi, director of KSU’s Music and Entertainment Business program, says he has been watching “The Walking Dead” since its premiere, adding that it was “absolutely exhilarating” to see Keener on one of cable TV’s biggest shows.

He added that Keener’s experiences on the show and other productions is valuable to the college’s program.

“For our students to have access to someone like that, and to ask them ‘How did you get in this business? How did you do this?’ All the experience and the real-world access for our students is priceless for me,” Perissi said.

Though Keener’s time on the show has come to an end, she says she’ll continue to watch it to see what happens next to Rick’s gang and her late character’s fellow Alexandria residents.

“(My husband and I) are planted on Sunday night, and we watch the show,” she said. “Unless we’re traveling, there’s really no reason that we miss it.”

-Marietta Daily Journal