Charles Kimbrough, the Tony and Emmy-nominated actor best known for his role as straight-faced anchorman Jim Dial on the hit sitcom Murphy Brown, died Jan. 11 in Culver City, Calif. He was 86.
His son, John Kimbrough, confirmed the death to The New York Times.
A veteran stage actor, Kimbrough got his big break as the hard-drinking Harry in the original production of Stephen Sondheim‘s Company, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination in 1971. He later appeared in another acclaimed Sondheim musical, Sunday in the Park With George, in 1984. Kimbrough also starred in the 1995 off-Broadway production of Sylvia opposite Sarah Jessica Parker and appeared in Leonard Bernstein‘s Candide, as well as Same Time, Next Year, Accent on Youth, The Merchant of Venice, and most recently, the 2012 revival of Harvey opposite Jim Parsons.
Kimbrough would go on to achieve mainstream success for his role as anchorman Jim Dial on the sitcom Murphy Brown, centered on the personal and professional misadventures of the title character played by Candice Bergen, a star reporter for FYI, a fictional television newsmagazine. The hit CBS series ran for 10 seasons between 1988 and 1998. Kimbrough reprised his character for a few episodes of the 2018 reboot.
CBS via Getty Charles Kimbrough as Jim Dial on ‘Murphy Brown’
In an interview for the Archive of American Television in 2007, Murphy Brown creator Diane English said Kimbrough “wrote a whole biography for his character before he started to play him.”
“Charlie is the most lovable, lanky, rubbery, sweet, adorable man,” English said. “When he came in to read for us as Jim Dial, he just brought it all there: I mean, that ramrod posture, the anchor voice, the slicked-back hair. He brought a credibility to the character. We didn’t want a Ted Baxter version of this guy. We wanted the real deal, from the Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow era, and Charlie brought all that weight, in addition to just amazing comic timing.”
Kimbrough has appeared in over 40 titles throughout his career, including TV shows Another World, Kojak, All My Children, Tales of the Unexpected, American Playhouse, Love Boat: The Next Wave, and Ally McBeal. His film credits include The Front, It’s My Turn, The Good Mother, and The Wedding Planner. Kimbrough also provided voiceover work, including as Victor in the 1996 animated version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mort Chalk on Recess, and Sandy Dreckman on Pinky and the Brain.
In addition to his son, Kimbrough is survived by his sister Linda and stepdaughter Holly Howland.