Of the six characters who appear in the series premiere of The Walking Dead, Dale Horvath was the first to die. He’s since been joined by Shane, Lori, Glenn, and most recently Carl — in other words, everyone but Rick — but they were all in the aftermath of Dale getting disemboweled by a walker in season two. It was a major departure from the comics, where he survived much longer, and as the actor who played Dale, Jeffrey DeMunn, told Cleveland.com, it was his choice.
Writer and director Frank Darabont worked with DeMunn many times over the years, including in The Blob, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, before casting him on The Walking Dead, which he helped develop. So when Darabont was fired by AMC in 2011 (lawsuits are being settled to this day), DeMunn demanded that he be killed off the already immensely popular show.
“Dale’s death was my decision,” he said. “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.”
Some people give two weeks notice, while others demand that a zombie eat and kill them. We should all be so lucky when we quit.