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"I want to try to scratch away and find that truthful moment that gets to people's emotions."
"I think we're on the cusp of seeing television change radically."
"What I like most about it is that you get to do the most amount of acting for your day, next to the theater."
"I keep thinking about bad guys. I love my bad guys. They're so much fun."
"90% or more of it, the people that pursue it, create something that is worthless."
"What I remember most is loving the experience of performing in front of a live audience."
Tim Daly  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
April 2008

"Maybe it's a congenital disease of some sort?" The notion that acting may literally be in Tim Daly's blood. The son of acting great, James Daly, and younger brother of award winning actress, Tyne Daly, Tim is no stranger to show business. Still, while acting may have been genetically inherent, Tim was never overeager, opting to develop real world experience first. "I knew I could do it, but I had to spend some time being a regular Joe and being out in the world and kind of making my way as a blue collar guy for a while before I got around to being an artist."

Artist skills he developed while at Bennington College in Vermont and the Trinity Square Repertory in Providence, Rhode Island. In NYC, he made his Broadway debut opposite Annette Bening in "Coastal Disburbances" (1986). His first feature film was Barry Levinson's Diner (1982). And in 1990, he rose to TV stardom in the sitcom, "Wings." The show lasted 8 seasons. And along the way, Daly diversified his repertoire, as Dr. Richard Kimble in "The Fugitive," astronaut Jim Lovell in the HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon," David Koresh in the TV movie, "In the Line of Duty," and even provided the voice of Clark Kent/Superman in the WB animated series of "Superman." Today, he stars on the critically acclaimed series, "Private Practice."

It was at the Vail Film Festival where I caught up with him. A recipient of the Excellence in Acting Award, Tim Daly has proven time and again that acting is all about the art. "I want to try to scratch away and find that truthful moment that gets to people's emotions." Dedicated, expressive, imaginative. Genetics or no, Tim Daly is the consummate artist.

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

What does it mean to be honored with the Excellence in Acting Award?

It's a surprise and it's fantastic. I mean, who doesn't want to be honored for what they do? But I'm not someone who truly believes in awards or contests because I think that as Americans, we try to make everything into a contest. Artistic pursuits should not fall into that catalyst model where somebody wins, somebody loses. Thankfully, this wasn't. It's just saying, 'We like you,' which always feels good! And I'm really thrilled to be here.

You come from a successful family of actors. Was acting always in your blood?

Maybe literally? Maybe it's a congenital disease of some sort? (laughs). No, you know, I found out when I was in high school that acting was something I could do. Something I'd like to do. And I think it surprised me a little bit. It scared me. I knew that I could do it, but I had to spend some time being a regular Joe and being out in the world and around the country for a bit. And making my way as a blue collar guy for a while before I got around to being an artist.

What kind of jobs did you tackle early on?

Well, I was a cook. I worked at a floor tiling company. I was a carpenter and a contractor. I worked on a bee farm. And did some landscaping. Essentially, mowing lawns.

How do you think television has changed over the years, from the 80's and 90's to today? What are some of the challenges today?

I think we're on the cusp of seeing television change radically. But, you know, network television has an odd irony, in that a lot of the programming is really, really good. The level of production is high. The acting is great. The directing is great. But the way it's delivered has gotten so bad.

The show that I did last fall, "Private Practice" - in an hour we have 48 minutes of show. Essentially, one third of that hour is taken up by previews and advertising. So, it's very difficult to watch. And I think that's why viewers are fleeing to Tivo. To cable. And are downloading from the internet. I think in five or ten years from now, it will be completely unrecognizable.

You've done an amazing amount of television work, from "The Fugitive" to "Private Practice" to "The Nine." Even "The Sopranos" and "Hill Street Blues." What do you like most about working in television?

What I like most about it is that you get to do the most amount of acting for your day, next to the theater. I'm not an actor who likes sitting in their trailer. And I don't like talking on the cell phone. Or working the Blackberry. I mean, I do all those things from time to time, but I like acting. And it's been my experience that the bigger the budget, the more time you sit in the trailer waiting for something to happen.

The pace of a lot of movies is very slow. Independent films are faster, but they run the risk of being so fast that you don't feel you have enough time to do really good work. And that's the risk you run on television also. But I like that you have to get up and do your work that next weekend.

One of your most recognizable roles is as Joe Hackett on "Wings." Looking back, what do you remember most about the show?

For me, the stories that we did, the shows that we did, are an absolute blur. What I remember most is loving the experience of performing in front of a live audience. I mean, I got paid like a TV actor, but I got to do a little play every week. And it was that experience, what happened in the room with the people who were held hostage during those hours of shooting - that was the experience I took away. Not necessarily the experience of what I saw or heard.

Do you still keep in touch with the cast?

I do. I keep in touch with Steven Weber a lot. He's my TV brother. He's a good man and I love him. And I run into some of the other people from time to time and we're all very friendly, but our lives are dispersed.

With all that you've accomplished, what are your current aspirations? Is there a particular subject matter or genre or character that you haven't done that you would like to?

What I would like to do in the next 10 or so years is work primarily in the theater. I'm at the point where I really want to tell stories from beginning to end. And I really want to have the power that you feel as an actor when you get to be the soul arbiter of your character in the given several hours that the entertainment takes place.

That being said, I've got some projects that I am producing that I'm really interested in guiding along. But that, of course, takes a long time. And I'm always interested in good material wherever it is. I try not to think about the medium too much because what I enjoy isn't always what other people enjoy. So, I'm attracted to material and hopefully, I can do a good job, and however it gets delivered is how it gets delivered.

Who or what motivates and inspires you as an actor today?

I'm scared of sounding pretentious, but I think it's a search for the truth. I want to tell stories. And the thing about art in all its forms is that 90% or more of it, the people that pursue it, create something that is worthless. But every once in a while, you walk into a museum and pass a painting and it stops you dead in your tracks and it rips your guts out. Or you go to the theater and instead of hanging your head in shame, you are riveted and moved. And you watch TV or go to the movies.

So, I desperately want to create that moment for other people. What I feel about it doesn't matter. But I want to try to scratch away and find that truthful moment that gets to people's emotions.

You've been the voice of Superman, you've portrayed astronaut Jim Lovell (From Earth to the Moon), the fugitive (Dr. Richard Kimble). What's been your favorite role to play and why?

I'm trying to think of all these things I've done. You know, I keep thinking about bad guys. I love my bad guys. They're so much fun. You know, I directed this movie called "Bereft" and I played a character in it called Happy who was just a great character. I loved playing him because he was so creepy. So, that would be one.

David Koresh was a very, very interesting character to play. It was a difficult part, but it was very interesting. You know, there's been so much. I did a production of "Bus Stop" years and years ago at Trinity Square Repertory in Rhode Island and I loved playing that part of Bo in "Bus Stop" so much. It was just a joy. And I did a part in "The Glass Menegerie" and it was all gravy. A part that's all fun. No carrying heavy lumber.

What has been the most challenging role?

Probably David Koresh because there was this bizarre experience of portraying that character when the standoff was still going on in Waco. And I thought that I was playing, not only an actual person, but someone who at the end, would come out and reveal to us who he was. I was very optimistic that the whole thing would be resolved peacefully. And because of that, I felt intense pressure to try and capture who he was.

How did you research the part?

I was able to do a lot a lot of research, actually. It was sort of amazing. There were a lot of audio tapes and I interviewed a lot of people. Former branch Davidians, people who weren't part of the branch but spent time in the compound and played music with him. There was also a great researcher at the time who helped me. And I spent a lot of time in the Bible belt because we shot in Oklahoma.

Interestingly enough, I spent a lot of time watching televangelists who were on every channel at all hours of the day and night. And it was very interesting because so many of them were saying exactly what Koresh was saying. Just without the guns.

What can you tell me about "The Skeptic?" And what other things do you have in the pipeline?

"The Skeptic" is a movie that I haven't seen, but I'm told that I'm actually getting a copy of it. It's been in some place, some vault, for the last year and a half, almost two years. And it's a fascinating subject that I hope turns out well. We'll see. I'll let you know. Other than that, I'm going to be doing "Private Practice," which starts up again in May.



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