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Tim Daly: The TV Squad Interview

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Jun 26th 2009 11:08AM
Tim Daly stars in Private Practice.There are talented TV actors who never get their big break. There are talented TV actors who managed to land one key role that has to last them a lifetime. Then, there are talented TV actors like Tim Daly.

The Private Practice star has progressed from a long-running sitcom (Wings), to an all-time television classic (The Sopranos), to an iconic animated series (Superman) and a cutting-edge drama entering its third season (ABC's Private Practice).

The New York City native and child actor turned adult success story connected with TV Squad to look back at his career and ahead to the future of Private Practice.

You seem to have a knack for choosing successful projects. Do you look for something in particular that helps you navigate the business?

A lot of that is good fortune and finding good opportunities. But, I look for characters that offer me opportunities to explore some aspect of the human condition. I think a lot of actors would say that and would look for that. I've been lucky enough to find projects that let me do that.

Some would say your big break was Barry Levinson's Diner, but a much wider audience got to know you as Joe Hackett on Wings. As an actor, was it challenging shifting into sitcom TV?

Wings was a blessing, but it was also very difficult. Whenever you do situation comedy, no matter how excellent the execution -- and we had a great cast and great writers -- but the format is somewhat limited. There's going to be some repetition and some places where you can't go as an actor.

But, Wings offered me the rare opportunity to be a full-time dad and a working actor for eight years. I'm grateful to have been part of a long running show like that -- as I was to be a small part of a TV classic like The Sopranos.

(Daly played the ill-fated screenwriter in the mob drama's fifth season.)

You were also part of the Warner Bros. TV animation productions of D.C. superheroes -- considered by many to be the most faithful recreations of the comic books. What are your recollections of giving voice to the animated Superman?

Superman was a total accident. The producers of the animated series were having a hard time finding someone to read the character. I was brought in through a connection and, I think, out of desperation. I went in thinking, 'This would be fun.' But, I was underestimating how deeply the fans care about that character and his legacy.

I think the failure to realize what a big deal it really was led me to read it easily, and something about that worked because the producers hired me on the spot. Afterward, I was taken aback by the response to the show.

The fun part for me was playing Clark Kent. Superman is pretty much a straightforward Boy Scout, but Clark is trying to be human. He encounters the problems of being a human -- though he isn't human. That was fun to play."

Now you're firmly established as an ensemble member of Private Practice. Why do you think the show took off so well?

It's such a well-written show with great characters -- a great cast. And none of us know from script to script where the story is headed, so it's fun for us to play.

As for (Daly's character, Dr. Pete Wilder), it's a great challenge to play a guy who's struggling to overcome himself. He can take big steps and do the right thing, and then slip right back into his womanizing ways. I tend to see things in shades of gray, so it's great to play a guy who's mixing in those shades.

Last season's Private Practice finale had Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) about to lose her life in a forced c-section by an insane patient. What was your reaction to that cliffhanger?

I thought it was shocking, but it's good television. I know it was controversial, but (series creator Shonda Rhimes) doesn't shy away from controversy. If audience members are shocked, that's not necessarily a bad thing. An audience can be passionate enough to disagree with what you're doing while still interested in the series.

Where would you like to see the show go in its third season?

I would like to find out who the freaking father of that stinking baby is. Other than that, I hope that it's a big mess. The messier it is the better, as far as I'm concerned.

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OK, did ABC pay to call Private Practice "cutting edge"? PP is an often good series with a quality of talent that far outshines the mothership, Greay's Anatomy, but cutting edge it is not.

June 26 2009 at 1:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Black

@ Sancty

The exact same thing went through my mind.

June 26 2009 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The interview was fine... but did you really refer to Private Practice as 'Cutting Edge'?

June 26 2009 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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