Jeffrey DeMunn The Walking Dead after his friend Frank Darabont was removed from the series.
Jeffrey DeMunn is an actor who is immediately familiar. You know his face because you’ve seen him in something (The Blob), though at first, you may not remember what it was (Citizen X).
“He was that actor in…” and if you think hard enough, it’ll come to you (The Green Mile with Tom Hanks). But one of Jeffrey DeMunn’s most iconic roles was as Dale Horvath in the first two seasons of The Walking Dead.
Let’s look and see what the great character actor has been up to since leaving the AMC zombie drama.
HE WAS A CHARACTER ACTOR EARLY IN HIS CAREER
Jeffrey DeMunn’s early acting roles were an indicator of what his career path would look like, full of character actor performances. The roles didn’t demand much heavy lifting, but he was solid early on, dependable, and very likeable.
His first few roles were in TV movies like The Last Tenant, Sanctuary of Fear, and King Crab. His first venture into feature films was in the 1980 film Resurrection, starring Ellen Burstyn and Sam Shepard.
His next role came in The First Deadly Sin, which was led by Frank Sinatra and Faye Dunaway. Even though DeMunn had smaller parts in these films, he was a reliable supporting performer alongside massive names.
Jeffrey DeMunn would continue as a supporting actor in a variety of compelling films. DeMunn was Houdini in the racially-charged, wonderfully-told E.L. Doctorow adaptation, Ragtime, and played a doctor in I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can.
His early career also consisted of horror movies to the likes of Christmas Evil, The Blob, and The Hitcher. He was in Westerns (I Married Wyatt Earp), romance (Windy City), thrillers (Betrayed), and even musicals (Newsies). Jeffrey DeMunn was up for any type of film and his resume is proof of his range.
JEFFREY DEMUNN WORKED WITH FRANK DARABONT IN MULTIPLE FILMS
The first time Jeffrey DeMunn had the opportunity to work with writer/director Frank Darabont was in the 1988 horror remake of The Blob. It was a gory, but great, remake. DeMunn played a sheriff and Darabont c0-wrote the script.
DeMunn spoke to Cleveland about his relationship with Darabont, “That came out of left field,” DeMunn said. “Frank was a writer on The Blob. They suddenly needed to replace someone, and I really needed a job. I got there, had a blast and thought, ‘Well, that’s that!’ Then, a few years later, I got a call out of the blue to do Shawshank.”
In 1994, Frank Darabont would direct The Shawshank Redemption, based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption from his 1982 collection of short stories, Different Seasons.
In fact, it is DeMunn who has the first dialogue in The Shawshank Redemption, playing the prosecutor who explains in detail the murder case against Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne.
Frank Darabont would then use Jeffrey DeMunn in two more Stephen King novels-turned-films: The Green Mile, in which he played police officer Harry Terwilliger, and the 2007 adaptation of The Mist. They would also collaborate on the 2001 Jim Carrey dramedy The Majestic.
With their history, DeMunn summed it up quite well, “I immediately took to Frank and liked him and trusted him,” DeMunn said. “And I think he trusted me.”
JEFFREY DEMUNN STARRED IN THE WALKING DEAD
Jeffrey DeMunn was working on a play in Texas when his long-time friend Frank Darabont called him. “Frank called and said, ‘Hey, you want to come to Atlanta and kill zombies?’ I didn’t have to think about it. It was Frank. I knew it was going to be quality.”
The project was The Walking Dead, which Darabont co-created, along with Angela Kang, based on the comic by Robert Kirkman. DeMunn knew early on the show was something special. “The writing in the beginning was just amazing, as was that original cast,” DeMunn would say about the early days on The Walking Dead set. Sadly, it wouldn’t last for long with Darabont.
JEFFREY DEMUNN QUIT THE WALKING DEAD WHEN FRANK DARABONT WAS FIRED
It could have been the email Frank Darabont wrote to Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd that sealed Darabont’s fate with AMC. The email was referring to production issues Darabont was experiencing at the start of The Walking Dead’s second season.
In it he wrote, “Everybody especially our directors better wake the f— up and pay attention or I will start killing people and throwing bodies out the door.”
This email followed an earlier one penned by Darabont attacking two writers from the show stating in part that he should have “hunted them down and f—ing killed them with a brick, then gone and burned down their homes.” Whether these emails or Darabont’s erratic behavior were the final straw, AMC decided to part ways with Darabont and that didn’t sit well with Jeffrey DeMunn.
Jeffrey DeMunn had already become a fan favorite in the first season as Dale Horvath, the voice of reason on the show. He traveled in an RV wearing a fisherman’s bucket hat, picking up survivors along the way. Horvath’s story was going to continue well beyond season two, but Frank Darabont’s release forced DeMunn to rethink his Walking Dead home.
“Dale’s death was my decision,” DeMunn 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.”
The producers obliged and in a brutally sad scene, DeMunn’s Horvath promptly gets disemboweled, then put out of his misery by Daryl. It was not an ending anyone was hoping for, but one DeMunn asked for.
HE HAS HAD A SUCCESSFUL CAREER SINCE LEAVING THE WALKING DEAD
Jeffrey DeMunn’s career has continued on the same path prior to The Walking Dead and his zombie death. He has done more TV work, appearing in series such as Chicago Fire, The Good Wife, Mob City, The Blacklist, and Divorce.
He has also appeared in a few features as well, including Adult Beginners, Halfway, Marshall, and The Amaranth. It also seems like DeMunn has found a new home.
Since 2016, DeMunn has been playing Chuck Rhodes, Sr. on the Showtime original series Billions. He raves about the cast and crew, “It’s an amazing company,” DeMunn said.
“I tell you, during the table reads for this show, I just sit there taking it in. We have a table read with each new script, and I just look at all that talent sitting around that table and think about how fortunate I am.”
Since 2016, DeMunn has been playing Chuck Rhodes, Sr. on the Showtime original series Billions. He raves about the cast and crew, “It’s an amazing company,” DeMunn said. “I tell you, during the table reads for this show, I just sit there taking it in. We have a table read with each new script, and I just look at all that talent sitting around that table and think about how fortunate I am.”
DeMunn is especially fond of his co-star Paul Giamatti, “I just love working with Paul,” DeMunn added. “I think we had done a reading for a play many years ago, but we didn’t know each other. We really met on this and it was love at first sight. We get the scripts, look around, and both pinch ourselves.”
Jeffrey DeMunn continues to give character actor performances after decades of solid work. Sometimes you find that one piece of material that works (The Walking Dead) and then sometimes you get lucky and find another piece that works even better (Billions). Solid and dependable, that’s Jeffrey DeMunn.