Tim Daly, 'Madam Secretary' Star, On Playing The Perfect Husband To Tea Leoni

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TIM DALY MADAM SECRETARY
Tim Daly and Tea Leoni in 'Madam Secretary.' | Global
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It's hard not to gape at Tim Daly upon meeting him. There's just something so manly about him, and whether you watched "Wings" or "Private Practice," his recent stints on "The Mindy Project" or "Hot in Cleveland," or even caught him on the little-seen "The Nine" or "Eyes," there's no question -- you loved him. We all loved him. Because, honestly, what's not to love? And it's no different on his new show.

"Madam Secretary" may seem like a political drama but at its core, it's a relationship drama, a family drama. Daly plays Henry McCord, a (dare I say?) hot religion professor whose wife just happens to be Secretary of State (Téa Leoni). A successful, gorgeous, kid-raising, hard-working couple who are still madly in love with one another? A foreign concept, it seems, but one every couple will strive for after watching an episode. But, please, you'll be tuning in every week.

HuffPost Canada TV spoke with Daly in Toronto and not only did we hope for/badger him about his possible return to "Mindy," we unabashedly gushed about "Madam Secretary" (after watching the pilot three times) and we delved into the possibility of Henry not being as perfect as he seems. Dun-dun-duuuuuuuuuuun.

HuffPost TV Canada: I loved "Madam Secretary." It being paired with "The Good Wife" makes for the perfect one-two punch.
Tim Daly: Good.

Elizabeth and Henry seem rock solid -- and then she becomes Secretary of State. How does this affect their marriage?
It challenges it in a lot of ways. She becomes a public figure, and he by proximity becomes a public figure as well. And the lives of their children change, they move, they both have new jobs, he's working at a new university and he's very happy about it. In short, they are dealing with all kinds of changes, granted on a very high level, but regular folks go through it all the time. Moving, two careers, raising kids, all the stressors that go along with that, which is why I think the show will be relatable to people and not just another to add to the pile of political dramas.

We see the female students ogling Henry like a piece of meat. Please say that's not foreshadowing what's to come for them, because I'd really love to see a powerful woman not have an unfaithful husband.
Well, you said please, so I won't say it. No, come on. Look, one of the things that interested me about the show and I know interested Téa and Barbara Hall, our creator, is to portray a woman who's in a position of power and doesn't have a private life that isn't a complete and utter disaster. No one can have it all, but you can have bits of all of it, and you can work through the challenges of having all those pieces of that thing. And that's what this is about. I think that, sadly, it's rare that you see a marriage on television that is this dynamic and functioning because Henry is not just a dutiful, supportive husband. He's a guy, he has his own significant career who is not just supporting his wife, but he's a real partner. He is confident enough to ask that she be his partner too. It's not a sanitized marriage, it's just one that these two people happen to be passionately dedicated to making work.

That all being said, Henry can easily just be the supporting player in this, but he's got his own thing happening. What I liked most about Henry is that he adds a lot of the humour to the show, with the way he interacts with Elizabeth and the kids. Is that what attracted you to the role?
If it's not, it should be the job of any actor, if you smell even the faintest whiff of comedy, you just make it happen. So I tried to do that and I'm glad, at least for you, it did.

I love the scene where Elizabeth asks Henry if everything's OK with them and if he's turned off by women in positions of power, and he's all, no, baby, I'm completely attracted to your masculine energy.
What's interesting about this is I haven't met anyone yet whose favourite scene hasn't been that scene in the bedroom. And I think that's what will set the show apart. There's this funny, sexy relationship that shows a real couple who's into it despite all the stuff that they have to navigate with this new life. So hopefully that will be a hallmark of the show.

Does Henry being a professor of religion help with the stuff she deals with on a daily basis? Do their work lives ever collide?
Yes. There's a lot more to Henry than meets the eye. You're going to discover a lot about him, his past, present and future, if you watch for more than five or six episodes.

Well, there's a scene, when George shows up at their home and divulges his conspiracies to Elizabeth, and just as they're really about to get into it, Henry shows up and buzzkills the whole thing. When I first watched it, it seemed like he was trying to save his wife from an uncomfortable scene. But watching it again with my husband, I wondered if he was interrupting the scene for other reasons. And as soon as the episode ended, the first thing my husband asked was, "Is he bad?" Do we explore that or is that all a little too "Blacklist"-y?
You might be going a little too "Blacklist"-y but let me just say this. The last two words of the pilot are "I know." And I think that portends a lot of interesting stuff about him. He's not a bad guy but, well, you have to watch it and find out, I can't tell you. He's not a bad guy, don't worry.

You're lying, that's fine.
I'm not lying. OK, maybe I'm lying. No, no, I'm not lying, I'm really not.

Because of Elizabeth's job, there are secrets -- but Henry also kinda-sorta knows what's going on, like you said with the whole "I know" at the end. Does that ever get in the way of their marriage, or that's just part of her job and Henry just knows it and accepts it?
Yes and no. It's part of her job and he knows it, and yet I think that whenever you are aware of someone withholding from you or keeping secrets from you, it has to have an effect. It's one of the things that they will have to navigate in their relationship. That being said, there's so much pillow talk in D.C. I was talking about it to my friend Lawrence O'Donnell, who does a show for MSNBC -- he's an Emmy Award winner for "The West Wing" and been a writer, an interesting guy -- and he said, "Remember the guy who was the head of the CIA who said, 'I'm just going to take a little work home on my computer?'" His personal computer which was unprotected, and lost it. Like, lost all these top-secret things. People are human beings. They talk about stuff, they make mistakes, they try to impress each other with their tidbits. It's like secrets in Hollywood, everybody talks. So I think that that will be something that's explored also, like how much do Elizabeth and Henry talk about things? How hard to do they work to keep everything secret?

There are so many avenues for this show to go. With a religion professor husband, a self-described anarchist son, a daughter who seems like the good girl but, come on, no one's that good -- it all seems normal but will they cause Elizabeth problems, personally and professionally?
I won't talk about the kids but I will say this about Henry: the fact that he's a religious scholar is interesting. First of all, you've never seen it on TV and I don't think we've ever seen a religious scholar who's not condescending and pious or just really uncool; Henry is not that. Being an afficionado of religious history, he is necessarily knowledgable about ideological, spiritual, ethical conflict and violent conflict, because it goes along with religious conflict, so he can very possibly have a unique perspective on some of the things Elizabeth is having to deal with in terms of global conflicts and religious conflicts.

How did you enjoy your run on "The Mindy Project," and will you be going back? Because that would be lovely.
Oh, gosh. I loved it. I had so much fun on "The Mindy Project."

You're like Man Danny.
[Puts on New Yawk accent] "Charlie Lang. Sauce. Sauce." That was my favourite. That was one of the best lines I ever had. I had a great time. I'll tell you what: why don't you talk to Rupert Murdoch and Les Moonves and see if they can make a deal. If they're fine with me doing two series at once, I'm glad to do it.

"Madam Secretary" premieres Sunday, Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Global and CBS (thanks, football overruns) and returns to its regular timeslot the following week, Sundays at 8 p.m. ET.

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