Miles Away from Miles

updated 09/14/1992 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/14/1992 01:00AM

Nothing fancy for TV's most lovable neurotic

FROM THE BLANK WHITE WALLS, BARE hardwood floors and minimal furnishings, you would think that Grant Shaud had just moved into his two-bedroom, contemporary Hollywood house or that he was waiting patiently for his ship to come in.

In fact, Shaud, 31, has lived in the place three years, and the ship of his dreams—more like a luxury yacht—has been in port since he began playing wunderkind news producer Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown, which begins its filth season next week. He now earns big bucks and can certainly afford some conspicuous affluence. But forget it—Shaud is a confirmed penny-pincher and makes no apologies for it. "Why pay 50 bucks for dinner in a restaurant when the meal's a memory in two hours?" he asks. "Why should I give some guy three bucks to valet-park my car?"

Clearly Shaud (rhymes with "awed") bears little resemblance to his yuppier-than-thou TV character, who lives in a modern apartment and drives a BMW. Perhaps even more unlike the neurotic, Harvard-educated Miles, the laid-back Shaud barely graduated from the University of Richmond, where, he says, "one semester I got a D, three F's and an Incomplete."

That squelched his plan of following in the footsteps of his business-oriented parents—Edward, 57, a publisher's representative, and Ann, 57, who sells real estate—back home in Radnor, Pa. It was only after he auditioned for a college production of Henry V "just to see if I could wear tights in front of my fiat buddies" that he decided to become an actor.

After settling into a seedy boarding-house in New York City in 1984, Shaud got a few bit parts and hung out with fellow struggling actors such as Northern Exposure's Janine Turner, who remembers, "If you wanted to see Grant, you had to go to the cheapest place in Manhattan."

His luck—and his venue—changed in 1988 after he auditioned for Murphy Brown in L.A. "Originally we wanted someone Jewish to play Miles," says coexecutive producer Joel Shukovsky, "because being Jewish brings with it about 5,700 years of tsuris [troubles]." But the Irish-Catholic Shaud convinced Shukovsky that live years in Manhattan had taught him all he needed to know about angst. Says the show's creator, Diane English, who modeled Miles on Shukovsky, her husband: "We needed someone engaging and attractive, and also someone who could stand up to Candice Bergen."

Shaud was an instant hit with fans and castmates alike. "Nobody laughs harder than Grant and I," says Bergen. "We're always the ones falling apart on the set." Faith Ford, who plays former beauty queen Corky Sherwood-Forrest, introduced Shaud to one of her roommates, actress Jane Leeves, 28, who would go on to play Miles's girlfriend on the show. They began dating, lived together for a year and seemed headed for the altar but then separated last year. "We still love each other, and I don't think that will ever go away," say's Leeves, who remains friendly with Shaud and still appears on Murphy. "It just wasn't the right time."

For now, Shaud, who's mum on the subject, shares his nearly empty nest with two cats—one named Audrey, after Leeves's character on the show. "I always think I'd rather be alone," he says, "but then when I'm alone, I think, 'Where is everybody?' So I'm trying to slowly start expanding myself."

It shouldn't take long, since women find Shaud, unlike Miles, hunky. English thinks he's "cute and huggable." Says Bergen: "He's great-looking, has great vitality and a wonderful sense of humor, which is sexy."

Pshaw, says Shaud. "I don't think I'm sexy," he insists, squirming and stroking Audrey's fur. "But I love; to hear other people say I am."

He also still has trouble believing his own success. "For a while, I didn't dare let down my guard and enjoy this," he says, "because I was afraid I'd get popped in the face." Shaud can certainly afford to smile now. With his future at least as promising as Miles's, he probably could even spring for some furniture.

ALEX TRESNIOWSKI
MICHAEL ALEXANDER in Los Angeles

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