Emily Kinney's character in "The Walking Dead" has been, well, almost zombie-like thus far in season two, with few scenes and lines.

But all that changes Sunday in an episode appropriately titled "Nebraska." The critically acclaimed AMC drama returns from its winter hiatus at 8 p.m. on Time Warner Channels 50, 277 and 1277.

Kinney, a Wayne native and 2006 Nebraska Wesleyan University graduate, plays Beth Greene, one of the family members of Herschel Greene, whose farm has become a sanctuary of sorts for a group of people attempting to survive in a world overrun by zombies.

"This episode we start hearing from my character more," Kinney said in a phone interview to discuss this and her other projects, including her work on her alma mater's production of "Spring Awakening," which opens Thursday night. "I wind up with some bigger episodes later on in the season.

"It's kind of coincidence, with the name (of the episode) being ‘Nebraska,' and I'm from Nebraska and I have new stuff for my character."

Kinney hasn't minded lurking in the background for much of this season. She said she came in nervous, and the early episodes gave her a chance to get her bearings.

"Every show is different," said Kinney, whose resume includes a recurring role on Showtime's "The Big C" and guest spots on such shows as "The Good Wife" (CBS) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (USA).

"There are so many ways to approach a role," she added. "The great thing (with ‘Walking Dead') was being able to observe and learn. I became a lot better actor because of it. I not only spent a lot of time on the set working, but also getting to observe some of best people working."

Last week, Kinney filmed NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," playing a kidnapped teen mother.

"It's pretty scary," she said. "Throughout the episode, I'm trying to escape, running through woods. I love that stuff."

The "SVU" role came on the heels of her return to Nebraska. She spent 10 days in January choreographing "Spring Awakening," accepting an invitation from NWU theater chairman Jack Parkhurst to do so. Kinney performed in the Broadway version of "Spring Awakening," joining the cast in July 2008 and remaining with it until the show closed in January 2009.

"Spring Awakening" is the modern adaptation of the 1891 play that was banned in Germany for its frank exploration of sexuality, rebellion and death. It won eight Tony Awards, including best musical and one for Bill T. Jones' choreography, which Kinney taught to the Wesleyan students.

"It was cool for them to experience and will be cool for the people in Lincoln to see," Kinney said.

Shortly after "Spring Awakening" ended, Kinney landed a role in the national touring company of "August: Osage County," the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the dysfunctional family of a once-famous poet.

While touring, she discovered another passion: songwriting.

"I had a lot of time to myself because many of the cast members were older than me," she said. "I always wrote poetry. It led me to start writing songs."

With help of Conrad Korsch, the bass player for Rod Stewart, she turned a handful of those songs into an EP, "Blue Toothbrush," which can be bought through her website at www.emilykinneymusic.com.

"Acting is so much about waiting ... waiting for an audition, waiting for the right part to come along," she said. "It's nice to write your own thing, write about what you're feeling and then go out and perform them. It's a nice thing to have and not get bored."

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/LJSjeffkorbelik.


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