Tim Daly fights his clean-cut image

By Alan Carter
Updated February 11, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Last year he played David Koresh in In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco. Now he’s a death-row killer in another controversial NBC movie, Witness to the Execution. ”I have this burgeoning reputation for playing a scumbag,” says Tim Daly, 37. ”Isn’t it wonderful?” This, from a sitcom star (NBC’s Wings) who has always been cast as the good guy. Even as a slave owner in Alex Haley’s Queen, Daly was nice. So what’s with the grim stuff? ”It’s an actor’s job to play all the human conditions — light, dark, and medium,” says Daly, son of the late James Daly (Medical Center) and brother to Tyne (Cagney & Lacey).

Daly also wants to prove he’s not just a pretty face. ”I’ve always felt if my nose were more crooked, critics would focus more on my acting. Until now, my looks have been a drawback.” Taking the role of Koresh, he says, ”was a huge risk for me. I had to work my ass off to make it believable. I wanted to show that I’m more than [Wings’] Joe Hackett.”

Although Daly sees a need to address the issue of TV violence, the actor didn’t appreciate Sen. Kent Conrad’s denunciation of Execution. ”This points out the danger of the government kibitzing in freedom of expression issues,” says Daly, who opposes the death penalty. ”This movie is not violent or grisly. We’re not showing a real execution, with someone vomiting blood or their eyeballs popping out or their hair catching fire. It’s a think piece.”