"This has to be the first show I've done in 17 years where I'm not going to be called Kid," says the 42-year-old Chicago actor, who could still pass for someone 10 years younger. "I guess I've finally grown up."
In more ways than one. Murphy, who has six prime-time series to his credit, has been storming through most of his career like a kid locked overnight in a candy shop. Only the sweets were women--and the kid came close to overdosing on several occasions.
Photo Caption: Ben Murphy: The perpetual kid grows up.
"Until recently, I have always been a self-destructive person. Where a lot of actors screw up with drugs or booze, my addiction was women. I looked at a woman and I was in heat. I still find myself doing it, but I've learned to control my appetites better."
The one-time Paul Newman look-alike, who has been on the verge of stardom more times than he can count, figures his scatter-gun romancing and his undeniable penchant for making things difficult for himself have a lot to do with a lack of self-image and self-love.
"I went into therapy to find these things out about myself. I was always poised over that self-destruct button because I never believed I deserved success. I was always taught that it was difficult to make a living. If you didn't work hard you just didn't deserve any success."
This wasn't helped along when he confused security with a long-term, complicated contract with Universal Studios that locked him up for 11 years. He got tossed into an assortment of small parts until the studio found Alias Smith and Jones, a western series that moved Murphy into another strata he couldn't handle--the land of fame and fortune.
"I was 27 years old and I couldn't cope with it. I was all over the place with so many women I lost count. People were telling me I was going to be a huge star. They were calling me a young Paul Newman. It didn't work out that way."
The series ended when his co-star and close friend, Peter Duel, who also couldn't deal with success, committed suicide. Murphy longed for the open market, but his contract held him back. He had a shot at doing Starsky and Hutch, but Universal nixed it. Instead, they handed him The Gemini Man and Griff, two stinkeroos that bombed.
Once again he hit the screw-up button. If he couldn't work the field, he wouldn't work. He took himself out of active duty and did nothing for two years but play tennis. His $100,000 annually from Universal enabled him to pay the freight.
A free man once again in 1979, Murphy moved into yet another series, The Chisholms, a western that died a quick death. He knocked around movies and TV for a couple of years before stardom once again threatened, this time in the form of Robert Mitchum's oldest son in the mini-series, The Winds of War. But the boffo success dribbled away and Murphy, whose only venture into marriage ended around this time, hit the bricks again.
"I guess what started to turn things around for me was when I lost the part of Face in The A Team. Even though I had all kinds of credentials, NBC wanted me to audition. I wasn't used to that and my performance was rotten. As it turned out, the rejection was good for me because it convinced me it was time I turned my life around."
In an effort to find himself and rejuvenate his career, he went back to acting class and also threw himself into interaction therapy groups. It was a process geared to make Ben Murphy feel good about himself and it paid off.
There were more than 300 actors up for the role of Patrick Flaherty, the fun-loving, dashing Irishman who doles out the the [sic] enormous sweepstakes cheques on Lottery! In the old days, Murphy would have worried himself to death over the audition. Instead, he walked in cocky and happy and beat out the pack.
"The way I felt, it didn't matter
if I got the job or not. I knew something else would come along.
It's the first real fun part I've had in a long time. I get to
use all that charm I wasted for so many years chasing women."
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