‘King of the Hill’ voice of Dale Gribble

Johnny Hardwick, the actor known for voicing the conspiracy-obsessed Dale Gribble on Fox’s “King of the Hill,” has died. He was 64.

Hector Nieto from the medical examiner’s office in Austin, Texas, confirmed Hardwick’s death to USA TODAY. Police made an urgent welfare check and found Hardwick dead in his Austin home Tuesday, according to the Austin police public information office. No foul play is suspected, and a cause of death is pending per the coroner’s investigation.

Hardwick voiced Dale, the friend to lead character Hank Hill, on the Emmy-winning animated series created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels. The Austin native voiced the Texas-twanged character from the animated hit show’s debut in 1997 through the “King of the Hill” final episode in 2010. He was a writer, story editor and producer on the show as well.

“Johnny Hardwick was an incredibly beloved member of the ‘King of the Hill’ family, whose tremendous talent, brilliant humor and friendship will be deeply missed by all who were fortunate enough to work with him over the past 25 years,” 20th Television Animation and Hulu said in a statement to USA TODAY Thursday. “Our deepest condolences go out to his friends and family as we mourn the loss of one of the animation greats. His voice gave life to one of our most iconic characters, and he will be truly missed.”

Earlier this year, Hulu announced that Hardwick would return for the series’ streaming revival. The actor had recorded a few episodes.

“King of the Hill” is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, and follows the life of Hank (voiced by Judge), wife Peggy (Kathy Najimy) and teenage son Bobby (Pamela Adlon). 

Hardwick earned a degree in journalism from Texas Tech University, according to Campus Live’s profile of Hardwick. Following graduation, Hardwick immersed himself in the stand-up comedy circuit in Austin and Dallas with numerous comedy club performances.

Hardwick would get his big break when he performed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, where he was spotted by Daniels and offered a writing position on “King of the Hill,” per Campus Live. The comedian was slated to be a cast member on the MTV sitcom “Austin Stories,” but in the end, he chose to work on “King of the Hill.” He later scored the role of Gribble after plans to cast actor Daniel Stern fell through.

“I ended up kind of basing his attitude on if he thought he was Jack Nicholson but he wasn’t, or if he just thought he was the coolest guy around, like Matthew McConaughey’s character in ‘Dazed and Confused,'” Hardwick told the Austin Chronicle in 1999. “The thing that they did have in Mike’s original pilot was that he was a conspiracy person, which I thought was a great touch.”

In addition to “King of the Hill,” Hardwick had voiceover roles in the 1999 comedy thriller “Natural Selection” and the Barenaked Ladies music video “Get in Line,” the latter of which saw him reprise his Gribble role for the “King” soundtrack single.

Contributing: Edward Segarra, USA TODAY

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