When Tim Daly assumed the role of wrongly convicted wife killer on the run Dr. Richard Kimble on CBS’s new remake of The Fugitive in August, he decided to tackle the stunts himself. Since then he has dangled from a 100-ft. cliff in the rain, jumped across an open drawbridge and swum in the 45° waters of Puget Sound. Daly even stood atop a tractor trailer as it barreled down a highway at 50 miles per hour. “I don’t scare easily,” says the actor. “It was cool. It was fun.”
Don’t fault the guy for flaunting his virility. After all, he had to bury his brawn from 1990 to 1997 as the lovably naive pilot Joe Hackett on the NBC series Wings. “He’s going to surprise a lot of people with this show,” predicts his Wings costar and friend Steven Weber. Adds Daly’s wife, actress Amy Van Nostrand: “That Wings character was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Many critics seem to agree. They say Daly, 44, holds his own with David Janssen in the original 1960s TV series and Harrison Ford in the 1993 film version, giving a steely yet soulful performance. “He can run with the best of them,” wrote Steven Oxman in Variety. Adds the show’s executive producer John McNamara: “Tim radiates intelligence and strength, [which] is incredibly rare.”
Daly learned the ropes from his parents. The youngest of four children and only son of actors Hope Newell and the late James Daly (he starred in the popular ’70s drama series Medical Center), Tim grew up in Suffern, N.Y., surrounded by performers. When his parents split after 25 years of marriage, Daly was only 9. “The one thing my parents managed to convey was that they loved me tremendously,” he says. As for his sisters (Pegeen, now 57, is a stand-in for Judging Amy star and sister Tyne, 54; Glynn, 52, is a homemaker), they routinely tormented him with a tough-love approach to swimming lessons. “We just kept throwing him in the water,” recalls Tyne. “Mother and Father weren’t in on that.”
Although “an actor from the moment he was born,” says Tyne, Tim didn’t pursue the craft seriously until he was 20. Two years earlier, in 1974, he had dropped out of Syracuse University two weeks into his freshman year and hit the road in his beat-up ’65 Mercedes. He crisscrossed the country, making money as a chef, a carpenter and by pumping gas. He also became hooked on drugs and alcohol. “I had some bad addiction problems,” says Daly (who kicked his habits in 1982 and has been clean and sober ever since). In 1976 a newly focused Daly enrolled at Bennington College in Vermont and immersed himself in theater. He graduated three years later.
With help from Tyne, who was already starring in Cagney & Lacey, Daly landed parts on TV and in the film Diner. Then in 1981 he joined the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, where he met Van Nostrand. “I immediately fell in love with her,” says Daly, who wooed the actress offstage with his accomplished acoustic-guitar playing. Though Van Nostrand was living with someone else at the time, she fell for the hunky charmer during the 10 weeks the troupe toured abroad. “It’s been a romantic adventure this whole time,” says the actress, 46, who married Daly in 1982.
The latest leg in the journey may be the most exciting. “I have a great deal of passion for it,” Daly says of The Fugitive. “I’m really interested in making it good.” The series films mainly in Seattle, far from the three-story 1870 Providence farmhouse he shares with Amy and children Sam, 16, and Emelyn, 11. Thanks to a strictly enforced pact with his wife, who appeared this fall in the play Dead End in Boston, Daly gets home at least every three weeks to catch his son’s basketball games, carpool his daughter or steal away to the family’s Vermont house. But during his 12-hour-long workdays in between, Daly draws upon his loneliness. “I miss my family a lot,” he says. “Maybe that’s why I feel so strongly connected to my character.”
Mark Dagostino in Seattle