-- TV drama fans are latching on to the CBS political series “Madam Secretary” thanks in great part to Tim Daly’s convincing portrayal of Dr. Henry McCord.
Daly plays the role of a retired United States Marine Corps captain who is working as a military ethics professor. His character is married to Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, played by Tea Leoni. Daly stopped by ABC’s “Popcorn with Peter Travers” and talked about his excitement to help develop the character.
“I thought it was this wonderful chance to have a guy that is constantly trying to right his ethical and moral course,” said Daly. “Because I think the mistake that a lot of us make in life is we think that our ethics or our morals are a fixed thing. When in truth it’s a practice. Every time you are faced with a different dilemma, you have to ask yourself what works.”
Daly's portrayal and his chemistry with the rest of the cast appear to have hit a sweet spot with fans. The show is now in its third season.
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In addition to acting, Daly serves as president of the Creative Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group of entertainment professionals.
“We’re non-partisan. So we have to make sure we don’t reveal our own personal political leanings when we’re operating as a member of the creative coalition,” Daly, 60, told Peter Travers. For that reason, Daly said he’s attended some six political conventions, Democrat and Republican. Just recently, he bumped into Bill Clinton in the basement of one of the arenas.
“He looked at me across the room and he said, ‘You, come over here! I’ve got to talk to you,’” Daly said while impersonating Clinton. “He said, ‘I’ve been the husband of the secretary of state. I know what that’s like. But I’ve got to get into some of this spy stuff like you. You’ve got to tell me how I do that,’” joked Daly. “Turns out that Bill and Hillary, they are truly huge fans of ‘Madam Secretary,’ which is kind of fun."
Daly added, “Another thing that’s fun about ‘Madam Secretary’ is that these politicians that we have, it shows you, no matter what you think, that they are actually real people.”
It’s no secret that Daly and his TV wife take their romance off-screen. The couple made their public debut last year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. But Daly said their private life has no bearing on their working relationship.
“Tea and I approach work in a very similar way. We both take it very seriously. We work really hard. And we both want to have a lot of fun,” Daly said. “One of the things that attracted both of us to this show is the family element. Seeing behind the curtain into the family was really important to everybody there, and especially Tea and me. So we worked really hard on making this aspirational relationship have some truth to it. And I think that once we found that common ground and worked so hard and had so much fun, that I don’t think anything can get in the way of that. We’re both professional actors and I don’t think we’re going to let our private stuff get in the way of our work.”
Daly’s dedication to acting may be in his blood. His father, James Daly, starred in the ‘70s drama series “Medical Center.” When Daly was 19, his father shared a long-held secret, revealing that he was gay.
“That was such a huge secret in my family. To me, it was if my life was a jigsaw puzzle,” Daly said. “And there was one piece missing. And I was this close to it. And I couldn’t see that piece. When the piece went in, my entire life went into full relief. And I sort of had to go back and re-evaluate everything based on this one little bit of knowledge that I didn’t have as a kid, that I now had at 19 years old. So it was a couple of years before I was able to sort of come to grips with it.”
Daly’s father died just two years later, just as they were set to begin working on a play together.
“My dad died early in the morning on the first day of rehearsals for this play. I was still in college,” Daly said. “And it’s one of those moments when I wonder what my life would have been like had my father not died. Had we been in that play together, what would his opinion have been of me? What would my drive have been to succeed and carry on? don’t know, but at that moment my safety net was removed from my life.”
Daly’s sister Tyne is a six-time Emmy winner for her television work, best known for co-starring on the ‘80s show “Cagney and Lacey.” He said they take the same approach to acting -- and that allows them to openly critique one another.
“It’s interesting because both of us are unafraid to do things that are sort of off-kilter,” he said. “Tyne and I tend to do things that are sort of a disaster. Usually when they’re over we tell each other like ‘Um, you know that thing you did, whew, not so much,’” said Daly. “And we go, ‘Yeah, I know.’”
Watch the full interview with Tim Daly on ABC News' "Popcorn With Peter Travers" above.