HOLLYWOOD - Faith Ford wanted to make one thing perfectly clear right from the top. "Corky is very different from myself, very different from myself, definitely." Ford was referring to her character on CBS' Murphy Brown, Corky Sherwood, the former Miss America who joined a bunch of serious journalists on the show's fictitious TV magazine program FYI. Corky's wide-eyed naivette contrasts with the hard-driven approach of the show's title character.
"I was more like Corky in high school," Ford said in a recent interview here. "I was Miss Drama and wanted to do everything right.
Then I learned you shouldn't take life that seriously, just play it one day at a time, take it as it comes.
"Corky takes everything so seriously. She's Miss Goody Two-Shoes, very dedicated and stuff. But she has a childlike quality that makes her likable.
"She's not a ditz," Ford said. "I'm always fighting against that. Sometimes she says something that sounds ditzy, but she has a very reasonable point to make."
"If a thought enters (Corky's) head, it goes right out her mouth," explained Diane English, creator of Murphy Brown. "She doesn't edit."
"We have made her a slightly better journalist this year because we figure she had to learn something being around for a year," English added. "She's fun to write, but she's the hardest character to write because you have to be careful. There are so many great dumb jokes you can do, and we don't do those with Corky."
Despite her claim of such a definite difference, Ford's biography seems a combination of just such Corkylike determination and her stated claim of a take-it-as-it-comes attitude.
"There's some of me in every character I play, so I guess there's some of me in Corky," she said.
After her years on the stage in high school in Pineville, La., where she went from junior high cheerleader to a regular on the Dixie Dance Line for the Pineville Rebels, Ford headed to New York in 1982.
She had already been a finalist in Teen magazine's annual model search and expected doors to open in that profession.
"I decided to take acting classes because I had always done that, but I thought acting was going to be very closed off," she said. "Instead I found it was modeling that was closed off. The same people who had been so enthusiastic the year before now were saying my face just wasn't right. It was in acting that the doors just opened."
"The first thing I did was lose my accent because I didn't want anyone to think I was another little Southern girl, someone who was not going to stick with it, not willing to pay the price to be there, who would be on her way back home soon."
Within a year, Ford landed a job on a soap opera, playing over the course of the next year Muffy Critchlowe on One Life to Live, then Julia Scheerer on Another World.
"If I had to do it over again, I think I'd take advantage of New York and do more theater," she said. "But coming from Louisiana and all, a soap opera seemed next to gold."