Winning Raves Is No Stretch for Tyne Daly's Baby Brother Timothy

updated 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

There's a hunky lifeguard onstage in Broadway's Coastal Disturbances—a well-built male with a straight-from-the-bottle tan, who wows the females in the play with a physique kept taut by 4,000 sit-ups a week. But there's an angry actor in Timothy Daly's dressing room. "Just because I look like this doesn't mean I'm some dumbass who stands around looking at himself in the mirror," rants Daly, 31. "I get offered a lot of parts where I want to say, 'Why don't you just hire a model? Don't hire an actor.' I'm trying to convince people I'm a real actor, not some mannequin."

Like his sister, Cagney & Lacey's Tyne Daly, Tim tends to be a bit forthright. Like his father, the late James (Medical Center) Daly, he has a handsome Irish glow. The combination of his character and his looks landed him in Coastal Disturbances, the Tony-nominated comedy set on a Cape Cod beach. Running since September, the play has become one of Broadway's few hits, and by letting Daly finally show substance instead of just looks, it's given the actor one of Broadway's brightest recent debuts. In casting the pivotal role of the lifeguard, playwright Tina Howe says, "The danger was going for a hunk. A lot of good-looking men read for that role, but in 10 seconds you could see they didn't have any soul. Timothy was perfect. He brought an intelligence to the role, and his sensitivity was dazzling."

Daly's clean-cut looks belie his unorthodox upbringing. Raised in a rambling Suffern, N.Y. farmhouse, he was part of "a very tight, close family until I was 9. The dream was shattered when my parents divorced." Tim found consolation by immersing himself in the crowd of actors and musicians his three older sisters brought home. "It was a crazy '60s household, and the weekends were fabulous," he says. "Bands would practice in the living room, and there was a lot of cigarettes, deep talk and wine. My mother would make huge breakfasts for all the aspiring young artists who were in and out all the time." Becoming what he calls a "raging adolescent" with hair down to his shoulders, Daly went to boarding school in Vermont and dropped out of Syracuse University two weeks after enrolling in 1974. That's when he began his "on the road period," a two-year odyssey during which he drove across the country 15 times and settled with two buddies in Venice, Calif., where they started a floor-tiling business. "It was not at all romantic," says Daly. "We lived in a dive apartment with a TV, couch, taco wrappers, beer cans and no girlfriends. We took a lot of drugs and lived a real scummy existence. I could have been a rich kid who stayed in college and got by on the path of least resistance, but I got much more out of being in the world and pulling my own weight."

By 1976 Daly had seen enough of the world to know he wanted to act. He moved back East and enrolled with a vengeance at Bennington College, acting in 20 plays and graduating in three years. Moving to New York, he supported himself remodeling lofts, then landed a role in the Baltimore-made movie Diner and membership in Rhode Island's Trinity Square Repertory Company. Besides offering Daly the chance to do contemporary classics, Trinity had actress Amy Van Nostrand, now 34, in its ranks. She was living with another man at the time, but Tim pursued her anyway. "I was like a bad smell," he says. "I just wouldn't go away—I knew we were right for each other." Daly wooed Amy while their company toured India in 1981. "We didn't consummate our relationship until she'd broken up with the other guy. That's what I admired about her—she had values of steel. By the time we did consummate it, we were best friends, so we had a rock-solid foundation for a relationship and we still had the hots for each other." The couple wed in 1982 and had a son, Sam, in 1984. "He's my soul, my lungs, my everything," says Tim, who shares child-raising chores with Amy in their two-bedroom New York apartment.

Daly still stays close to his family, often visiting his mother in California and his sisters. His pedigree has been little help in getting parts: In 1985 he appeared in only three small plays and made a total of $8,000 (not counting unemployment). But things have picked up since. Daly was seen earlier this year as the blind brother in the Valerie Bertinelli miniseries I'll Take Manhattan, and will play Kelly McGillis' husband in a September film, Made in Heaven. Meanwhile Coastal Disturbances shows no sign of closing soon. "I have no illusions of being the big box office draw," admits Daly. "But I would like to have some choices. I see the same stars getting all the parts, and it bothers me. There are a lot of bozos acting now, and they are awful. I don't have much respect for that."

Obviously that irate actor, who's been dormant for a little while, is kicking up again. As he gets ready to do a few more of his 4,000 sit-ups, Daly leaves no doubt about the way he feels. "No one's banging down my door. People see the way I look and they don't feel threatened, but they should watch out for me. They don't know there's a steel rod that drives me. I get ticked off and the rage just gets me going. My motor is anger."

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