The Walking Dead is no stranger to unexpected deaths, but deviations from the comic often raise questions. To wit, a fan-favorite star now confirms his surprisingly early exit was a specific request to showrunners, given behind-the-scenes turmoil.

You’re warned of light spoilers for The Walking Dead from here on out (if you’ve only watched as far as Season 2, get on that), but it seems Dale Horvath’s early death was definitely more contentious than we realized. Rumors have swirled for years that star Jeffrey DeMunn left the series over AMC’s dismissal of showrunner Frank Darabont, and the Billions star now confirms in an interview with Cleveland.com that his unusual exit was indeed of his own making (via UPROXX):

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.

For those in need of a refresher, DeMunn’s RV-driving character suddenly perished in Season 2’s ante-penultimate episode “Judge, Jury, Executioner” after the character was surprised by a walker lurking near a disemboweled cow on Hershel’s farm. The character was theoretically meant to survive until Season 5, as Dale’s comic demise was instead conferred on Lawrence Gilliard’s Bob Stookey. Granted, DeMunn’s Dale is only one of several comic characters granted early ends over unexpected circumstance, as Laurie Holden’s Andrea (Dale’s lover in the comics) and Chandler Riggs’ Carl (definitely not Dale’s lover in the comics) were killed off without the actors’ forethought.

It’s worth noting that showrunner Frank Darabont’s lawsuit against AMC has since added creator Robert Kirkman, producer Gale Ann Hurd and more, though the series will nonetheless continue through Season 9. Might Jeffrey DeMunn’s Dale have changed the series otherwise?

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