Charles Kimbrough, 'Murphy Brown' Actor, Dead at 86

Charles Kimbrough, who played the serious anchorman Jim Dial on CBS' Murphy Brown, has died. He was 86. The Emmy-nominated actor died on Jan. 11 in Culver City, California, but his death was not announced until this weekend. His son, John Kimbrough, confirmed his death to the New York Times.

After spending decades on the New York stage and only making sporadic appearances on television, Kimbrough scored his breakout role as Jim Dial on the beloved CBS sitcom Murphy Brown. The series starred Candice Bergen as the titular investigative journalist at the FYI news magazine who is a recovering alcoholic. Kimbrough's Jim was the stuffy veteran anchor at the program, who longed for the golden age of television journalism and clashed with younger colleagues. Kimbrough starred in all 10 seasons of the show's original run, from 1988 to 1998. He appeared in a handful of episodes during CBS' 2018 revival. Murphy Brown won 18 Emmys during its original run, and Kimbrough scored a nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1990. He was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award when the cast was up for Oustanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 1995.

Kimbrough's performance as a stiff who clashed with unique characters in Murphy Brown led to other roles, on the stage and screen. When he starred in a 2012 Broadway revival of Harvey, he didn't get to play the man friends with an invisible rabbit but was instead cast as the psychiatrist obsessed with how other people saw him.

"Unfortunately, I'm really good at playing jackasses of one kind or another," Kimbrough told The Wall Street Journal in 2012. "I've always been slightly self-conscious as an actor, and I guess that sometimes reads as pomposity." He added that even at 30, he "somehow gave off an impression at an audition that had them mentally put me in a three-piece suit or put an attaché case in my hand."

Before Murphy Brown, Kimbrough was a versatile actor on the Broadway stage. "He played a wide variety of characters who were much more dynamic," his son John told the Times. "Some of my earliest memories are of watching him in Candide... he played five different characters, and he was a dynamo, jumping in and out of costume changes."

Kimbrough was born on May 23, 1936, in St. Paul, Minnesota, and raised in Highland Park, Illinois, near Chicago. He credited his upbringing for helping him understand the repressed characters he played. His family "felt very deeply, but kept it hidden beneath a facade of manners and propriety," John told the Times. "Somehow he was able to communicate that feeling to audiences, even as the guys he played were keeping it all inside."

Kimbrough began his career in the late 1960s and he earned a Tony nomination for best featured actor in a musical for his performance in Stephen Sondheim's Company. His movie credits include The Front, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, It's My Turn, Whisper of the Heart, and The Wedding Planner. He voiced the gargoyle Victor in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Kimbrough was married to Mary Jane Wilson from 1961 to 1991, and to actress Beth Howland from 2002 until her death in 2016. He is survived by his son, his stepdaughter Holly Howland, and his sister, Linda Kimbrough.