Candice Bergen wears Murphy Brown’s pajamas well. On a Friday evening in late August, Bergen is basking in a standing ovation from an enthusiastic crowd at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens, as CBS’ highly anticipated revival of hit comedy “Murphy Brown” is about to film the third episode of its 11th season.
It’s been 20 years since Bergen took regular bows in front of a sitcom studio audience. The star, who won five Emmys during the show’s 10-season original run, might have donned a more glamorous outfit for her pretaping introduction.
But Bergen is immersed in her TV alter ego, the hard-charging, fast-talking broadcast journalist with a love for Aretha Franklin and a knack for nailing big stories.
On this day, bringing Murphy Brown back to life means greeting the audience in a gray T-shirt, loud print stretchy pants that look a little overstretched and a mop of messy hair tucked into a disheveled ponytail. The first scene calls for Murphy to sleepily make her way down the staircase in her familiar Washington, D.C., townhouse set at 4 a.m. in order to get ready to co-anchor “Murphy in the Morning.”
As the warm-up comic introduces the veteran cast members Faith Ford (Corky Sherwood), Grant Shaud (Miles Silverberg), Joe Regalbuto (Frank Fontana) the applause is strong, but the crowd hops to its feet when Bergen hits the stage in all of Murphy’s frumpy glory. Ford gives the actress’ shoulders a warm squeeze, and Bergen for a split second rests her cheek on Ford’s hand. With “Murphy Brown” creator-showrunner Diane English standing just off to the side, it is clear to all that these people are a family.
“It’s very emotional for me,” Bergen tells Variety in an interview days before the Aug. 24 taping. “In all of these first few weeks that we’ve been rehearsing and shooting, I’ve been trying to contain my emotions but it’s just … floods,” she says, indicating tears streaming down her face.