Dale Horvath is one of the Atlanta camp survivors. When the outbreak occurred, he was a traveling in the RV and picked up Amy and Andrea, who were stranded by car trouble. He viewed the sisters as daughters and refused to leave when Andrea announced she was staying at the CDC as it exploded. Because of Dale, Andrea fled the CDC and survived but felt deep resentment toward Dale afterward.
Dale’s life experience made him the wise, old sage of the group. He embraced this role, giving advice to all, even when it was not requested or wanted by the others. He was also the watcher of the group, observing everyone and everything around him and often gleaning from his observations peoples’ true natures and motivations. This often put him at odds with Shane Walsh, whom Dale began to view as unstable and dangerous early in the second season. Dale believed it is possible to maintain his humanity even in the face of the world’s end.
In Judge, Jury, Executioner, Dale, upset with a decision made by the group, took a walk and was attacked by a walker. As the rest of the group arrived and the walker was put down, it became evident that Dale was too injured to survive. While Rick hesitated when preparing to shoot Dale and put him out of his misery, Daryl stepped forward and took the gun from Rick’s hand. As Daryl pointed the gun at Dales head, Dale lifted up and put his forehead against the barrel, an indication he wanted Daryl to shoot him. Daryl solemnly told Dale “Sorry brother,” and pulled the trigger.
Dale was played by American actor Jeffery DeMunn, who has one of the most diverse resumes of all the actors on the series. He is perhaps best known for his roles in many films based on the works of Stephen King and directed by The Walking Dead show creator Frank Darabont. These include The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist. He also starred in the 1990 remake of The Blob, The Majestic (also directed by Darabont), and Burn After Reading. He has appeared in guest roles on multiple television shows such as Law & Order SVU, The X-Files, The Practice, The West Wing, E.R., Hill Street Blues, and as a recurring character on Law & Order.
- DeMunn studied acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in England. He was one of only two Americans accepted to the school out of 800 at that audition.
- He is a former member of the National Shakespeare Company and appeared on stage in King Lear.
- DeMunn and wife Ann have two children, a daughter, Heather, and a son, Kevin. His son was cast in a bit part in The Majestic.
- In the graphic novel, Dale and Laurie are lovers, very different from the relationship that the two share in the series.
- DeMunn had no exposure to the graphic novels prior to working on TWD but agreed to the role immediately when Darabont called. “I just took a leap because it was Frank Darabont,” he said.
- On the series, Dale and his late wife, Erma, had planned to ride the roads in the RV after his retirement but she died of cancer before they had a chance to do so. In the graphic novel, however, Erma was killed by walkers just prior to his meeting Amy and Andrea.
- Although never mentioned on the series, in the graphic novel Dale tells the other that he was a car salesman before he retired.
- Darabont’s once said “I’ve always said Jeff DeMunn is my good luck charm and I can’t make a film without him.”
- DeMunn and actress Laurie Holden have worked together on two other Darabont projects: The Mist and The Majestic.