When actor Grant Shaud returned a few years ago to live in the Main Line community in which he grew up, he never imagined the homecoming his career still had in store.
Thirty years after the role of wunderkind TV news producer Miles Silverberg first made the Conestoga High School grad famous, he'll be back on CBS this month in Murphy Brown. The latest onetime broadcast network hit to be brought back to prime time, it's returning Sept. 27, two decades after its supposed finale, with much of its original cast, including Candice Bergen as the irrepressible Murphy, and with creator Diane English back in charge.
"It's crazy," Shaud, 57, said in an interview in Beverly Hills last month during the Television Critics Association's summer meetings. "I mean, I live in Wayne. … And I've been doing some theater around the area — a couple of plays in Trenton [Out of the City and Paradise, at the Passage Theatre], and one in New Hope [The Nerd at the Bucks County Playhouse] and going up and back" to New York for a recurring role in TV Land's Younger, with "an independent film here and there."
A high-profile network television reunion with a 13-episode order, to be shot in New York? "Not in my wildest imagination," he said. "I didn't see it coming at all."
In 1988, Miles was an up-and-coming producer, younger than most of his colleagues at the fictional news magazine FYI, and frequently butting heads with Murphy.
Shaud can't say. Really, he can't.
We know from CBS that "amid a divided nation, chaotic national discourse, and rampant attacks on the press, Murphy decides to return to the airwaves" in a cable morning show, and that Miles is part of the old FYI team that she recruits, which also includes Corky Sherwood (Faith Ford) and Frank Fontana (Joe Regalbuto). (Charles Kimbrough, who played Jim Dial, will guest-star in three episodes, English told reporters last month.)
Exactly how Miles returns, though, is meant to be a surprise.
"I wish I could help you, but I can't talk about where he's been, just that I can tell you that they go get him. Like they decide that they're going to do a new show, because everybody's been out of the game, everybody's itching to get back into the game," he said. "This I can give away [because it's already been in the show's official trailer]: Two years on [ABC's] The View nearly killed him."
As it might anyone.
It's easy to imagine a news junkie like Miles thriving — or drowning — in 2018's nonstop news cycle, but it's one Shaud himself tries to avoid.
"It's gotten to the point where it's so saturated and it seems like nothing but bad news. And, you know, it's not that these things aren't going on … [but] is there a station that's like nothing but good news? Does that exist? Feel-good stories?" Shaud asked. "I just personally, being on the planet, don't want to feel like everything is bad, as bad as I'm being told it is, on a daily basis. So I stay away."
Shaud and Ford are no longer the newbies offering a contrast to Bergen's then-middle-aged Murphy, an alcoholic who, when the series began, was just out of rehab.
"We've got the fresh blood, with Nik [Dodani, who's playing the new show's social-media director, Pat Patel] and Jake [McDorman]," as Murphy's now-grown son, Avery, a token liberal working at the conservative (and not so subtly titled) Wolf Network. In addition, Tyne Daly plays Phyllis, who now runs Phil's Bar, after the death of her brother. (Pat Corley, who played Phil, died in 2006. Robert Pastorelli, who played Murphy's house painter/nanny, Eldin, died in 2004.)
McDorman, who starred in CBS's Limitless — in the role Bradley Cooper played in the movie — and Dodani, whose credits include Netflix's Atypical, both have a bit more TV experience than Shaud did when he landed a job as a series regular.
Before Murphy Brown, "I'd been at it for about four and a half years in New York, doing mostly theater," and gradually adding other work, he said.
"I got a commercial or I got one line in a film or then I got my first TV pilot, and then I was fired from my first TV pilot," he said, laughing; the pilot was picked up for series but its cast wasn't.
He'd majored in journalism at the University of Richmond because, "being from Philly, I thought I might want to be a sportswriter."
He'd always loved film and had performed in some school plays, Shaud said, but he didn't really think of acting as a career until he "heard that in order to get to a Philadelphia Inquirer, I'd probably have to spend eight years in Lincoln, Neb., or Wichita, Kan., you know, building up my portfolio. And that's when you find out, when the rubber meets the road, it's like, oh, I don't think I love that enough. And that's when … I suddenly realized I had this secret desire to [act] that I wouldn't even admit to myself."
Trading a risky career for a riskier one might not have looked like the smartest move, but "I somehow knew I had a passion for acting," something that's sustained him through the ups and downs of a working actor's career.
"I'm just very understanding of that being the nature of the beast. Like something can come out of nowhere, there can be long stretches of desert, where you just feel like you're trudging through the desert, you're screaming into the wilderness and nothing is coming back, and then suddenly something like this can happen," Shaud said.
Not that he didn't wonder what going back to playing Miles would feel like.
"I thought, is this going to be weird, because the whole foundation of the character was he's young, he's in over his head, blah, blah, blah, so here it is like 30 years later from when I started and I'm like, am I going to have to play him younger? Is that going to seem awful?" Shaud said.
"And then we shot these promos here a couple of months ago, and I just had to go right into it, and the way Diane writes him, I didn't have to do a thing. It was just like putting on a coat that still fit."
Coming home to the Main Line also turned out to be a good fit.
"I'd just reached a point in my life where I was like, I want to go home," said Shaud, for whom the move has meant "having my mom close and both my brothers [and] … watching my nephew and niece grow up," as well as being close to friends who've "known me since elementary school."
After decades away in New York and Los Angeles, "it kind of feels like I never left."