One of The Walking Dead's charter cast members says his character's sudden death happened because he wanted out.
Veteran character actor Jeffrey DeMunn, who played the grandfatherly Dale Horvath during the first two seasons of AMC's long-running horror hit, said in a new interview with Cleveland.com that his character's shocking demise on the show was all his idea. He explained that AMC's dismissal of original Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont — with whom DeMunn had a long creative and personal relationship — is what set him off:
"Dale's death was my decision. I was furious about how Frank was pushed out of the show. I spent a week not being able to take a full breath. And then I realized, 'Oh, I can quit.' So I called them and said, 'It's a zombie show. Kill me. I don't want to do this anymore.' It was an immense relief to me."
Dale was dispatched on the episode "Judge, Jury, Executioner," shot in the head at his own request by Daryl (Norman Reedus) after being mauled by zombies. The character's gruesome exit was one of a number of early, surprising deaths that gave The Walking Dead its initial reputation as a show where even beloved characters could meet a sudden, nasty end.
Sudden and nasty was how Darabont's tenure on the show came to an end as well. Having developed the series for AMC and guided it through its first season and a half, he was fired halfway through Season 2 after clashing with the network over creative and budget issues, as well as his own alleged abusive behavior toward others on the production (he has since sued AMC for a hefty share of the show's profits, in a case that is still ongoing).
DeMunn was brought onto The Walking Dead by Darabont after the two had worked together on The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, the trilogy of Stephen King adaptations that Darabont directed. He said that the writing on the Georgia-filmed show's first two seasons was "just amazing, as was that original cast," adding, "You can't talk about The Walking Dead without talking about the extreme heat...The heat had a way of uniting us all, cast and crew."
So even though Dale's death was called a "monumental" one by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and held up as one of the events that set the show's unpredictable tone, it seems it was less an act of bold creativity and more due to the simple desire of the actor to leave the show. Do you think DeMunn did the right thing by staying loyal to Darabont and getting out when he did? Have the random deaths since then on The Walking Dead been dramatically powerful or arbitrarily shocking?