Nothing delights Tim Reid more than a good fish-out-of-water tale. A story where, say, a decent man finds himself thrown from the life he knows and loves into one that's completely unfamiliar.
Sure, he's summing up Frank Parrish, the Boston professor turned New Orleans restaurateur he played on "Frank's Place" or Venus Flytrap, the supercool yet sensitive disc jockey from "WKRP in Cincinnati."
But the life he's also describing could be his own.
That's because after winning praise playing offbeat TV characters, the 45-year-old actor has left the high-profile world of prime time to co-host with his wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, a daytime talk show being taped in Baltimore.
As "Tim and Daphne" finishes its second week on the air, however, one half of that duo is still feeling slightly out of his element.
"I'm in a whole different environment with very little first-hand knowledge, a lot of heart, a lot of energy and a lot of creative juices," Mr. Reid says. "But I like shaking it up. I like change."
For his actress wife, the major change has been learning how not to perform. "As actors we've been, for the past 15 or 20 years, putting on characters. You get comfortable doing that and then someone asks you to stand before the camera and, 'Be yourself, expose yourself, relax, enjoy,' " she says.
As they sit in the Rusty Scupper, having just taped an interview with Jasmine Guy of "A Different World," the couple playfully rib each other, often turning conversation into an impromptu comedy skit.
He has bad taste in shoes. She has bad taste in friends. He's too idealistic. She's too pragmatic.
With Ms. Reid's megawatt smile and seemingly poreless skin, it's easy to understand how the 42-year-old actress was once Northwestern's homecoming queen and a Glamour magazine cover girl. But if she exudes grace and composure, her husband counters with comic relief.
How have they managed what others might consider unimaginable, living -- and working -- together during their eight-year marriage?
"Therapy," says Mr. Reid with a laugh. "We have a psychiatrist who lives with us."
His wife answers more seriously. "We balance each other. He's intuitive. I'm analytical. He's black and white. I'm gray. He's highly emotional. I'm highly adaptive," she says.
Those same qualities attracted executives at King World, the high-powered syndicator of "Oprah" and "Wheel of Fortune," when they met with the Reids last spring, says Bianca Pino, the director of development for the company.
"My first impression of them was that there was this great bond between these people. I thought, 'We've got to get this on television,' " she recalls. "They don't always agree on everything, which causes a little of the fun. But there's always true respect between them. That's never in doubt."
The show, which is seen weekdays at 11 a.m. on WMAR-TV (Channel 2), is being test marketed in Baltimore. By December, the company hopes to begin national syndication, while continuing to tape here, Ms. Pino says.
Baltimore was chosen because it fit the syndicator's demographics and was a favorite of the couple's. "It's a city that's close to our hearts," says Ms. Reid. "We have friends here in Baltimore that make it comfortable for us to stay here."
In their show, they aim to deliver a blend of inspirational segments, celebrity interviews and consumer-oriented pieces in an informal setting. "When you try to create a show for daytime, you don't want to reinvent the wheel," Mr. Reid says. "We can't compete with Oprah Winfrey and the way she does her show. She is the top of the form. . . . We're trying to take the daytime talk show format that everybody's familiar with and add a few unique features. Every day hopefully someone will come away from our show with a very uplifting, positive attitude about their lives based on something they've seen."
That outlook, no doubt, came from the couple's own backgrounds. She grew up in the Manhattan projects, the daughter of a housewife and short-order cook, and graduated from Northwestern after majoring in architecture and interior design. She married while in college, had a son, Christopher, now 19, and worked as a model before turning to acting.
Mr. Reid's youth, by comparison, was far less stable. "I got all the traumas," he says. Born in Norfolk, Va., he was raised in poverty by his mother, a domestic, who separated from his father before he was born.
"Every time the rent was due we moved," he says.
One of those moves brought him to Baltimore, where he spent several years living in homes on Fulton Avenue and McMechen Street. "Whenever I think of Baltimore, I think of being very hungry," he says. "I remember a little Jewish grocery store where . . . the man was very kind to me and my mother. I could go in with 21 cents, and he'd give me a pound of bologna, four slices of bread, four cigarettes and a Coca-Cola."