October 11, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Badge of Honor
The New York City native is named after his grandfather James Badgett Morris, and his family and close friends call him Badge. ”When I meet someone on the street and I say [my name is] Badge, it becomes a whole other conversation,” he says. ”Sometimes it’s a lot easier to just say, ‘Hey, my name is James.”’

Masters Class
Dale won notice for his work in HBO’s The Pacific and AMC’s Rubicon, but to him, his biggest turning point was a movie that never got made called Twelfth Man. At 22, while working construction to pay the bills, he was chosen for a table read to play the son of Meryl Streep and James Gandolfini. ”When she read, she gave all of her energy and focus,” he says. ”I locked in to her, and in those two hours I probably learned more about acting than in any class I’d ever taken.”

Death Becomes Him
Playing Lee Harvey Oswald’s older brother, Robert, in Parkland is a change for Dale, if only because he doesn’t die. He didn’t survive any of his three summer movies, and he also perished in 2011’s The Grey. ”My family calls me and they go, ‘Can you just make it to the end credits?”’

Into Darkness
Dale can be seen later this month in the Off Broadway play Small Engine Repair, ”a pretty obnoxious dark comedy.” And he’s the romantic lead opposite Katie Holmes’ vigilante substitute teacher in next year’s Miss Meadows. ”It’s this very strange, dark fairy tale,” he says. ”Maybe I like darker pictures.”

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