If you still think of Tim Reid as laid-back DJ Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati, think again. Since the hit sitcom wrapped in 1982, Tim’s built his own movie studio, produced and starred in the Emmy-nominated show Frank’s Place and just celebrated 50 years in showbiz, all thanks to his remarkable drive.
“I’ve always been a survivor, and never afraid to take chances,” the Norfolk, Virginia, native exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. Indeed, from his start in comedy to roles on shows like Simon & Simon, he’s overcome adversity time and again, including a battle with prostate cancer at age 60.
Tim attributes some of his strength to the love and support of his second wife, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Daphne Maxwell Reid, and his kids Tori and Tim Reid II. On the eve of three new holiday TV movies — Radio Christmas, Check Inn to Christmas and Baking Christmas — Tim opens up to Closer about his amazing life and why, at 74, “age means nothing to me.”
Scroll below to read our exclusive Q&A with Tim!
How did you get involved with the Lifetime movie Radio Christmas?
Christmas movies are certainly “in,” and it’s nice to be part of something that’s heavily viewed, so I said, “Why not?”
You also have OWN’s Baking Christmas, Hallmark’s Check Inn to Christmas …
It’s the time of year people are shaking off some things they’ve been putting up with. Why not give them something uplifting with good characters?
Speaking of those, fans love WKRP in Cincinnati. How did it change your life?
It was my first ongoing experience on TV. I did so many pilots, I was probably qualified to fly a plane. [Laughs] I knew it was something I’d never experience again: the friendships, the way the writers, the producers and crew worked. Everybody in that show stayed together.
In what way?
We had weekend parties with everybody — the entire production unit was a family. When people got married or divorced or somebody died, we were always there. It was a break-out situation, and we attached our hopes with each other. It should’ve gone on for at least eight to 10 years, but we were such rogues, and we created a lot of uneasiness and frustration for the network. Finally, they had enough of us.
Did you stay in touch with anyone?
Most of the crew and actors. Loni [Anderson] and I have probably stayed the closest. Howard [Hesseman] would be next, then Jan [Smithers]. If any of them calls me, or I needed them, we’d be there.
How about your Sister, Sister costars?
I worked with Tia [Mowry-Hardrict] on [2018’s My Christmas Inn]. She and [her twin, Tamera Mowry-Housley], what wonderful young people. We had a close relationship, and I’m even closer to Jackée [Harry], one of the most underrated TV actresses. She’d steal a scene from you, so you’d better be on your game! [Laughs]
What was it like getting producing and acting Emmy noms for Frank’s Place?
The show was a dream, 22 episodes of creative delight. We were touching on things, and if it had stayed on for four to six years, race relations would be different today.
Now you’re in all these holiday movies. What does Christmas mean to you?
From age 9 I lived with my grandmother, so I was always going to Baltimore or New York to visit my mother.
I read that after your mom wed a man who was abusive to her, she sent you to live with your aunt, then your grandma.
It was a bit traumatic at the time, but [the traveling] broadened my horizons.
As a young man you worked with Martin Luther King Jr. How did that happen?
I’d been in some trouble when was 14 or 15. He came to our church and the pastor said , “I want you to be his bodyguard.” He was like a rock star. I didn’t see him again until ’63 at the March on Washington. It impressed me to where I did better in school, became president of an NAACP chapter. It changed my whole attitude.
How did you get into acting?
I was married [to my first wife, Rita, from 1966–1980], living in Chicago, working for DuPont [as a marketing rep] when I met Tom Dreesen and we started America’s first black-and-white comedy team, Tim and Tom. I moved into commercials and modeling and got my first acting job.
What did you learn from your wife Rita?
She’s one of the best friends I have, and one of the funniest people. We have two children, so our connection is eternal. They’re writing a pilot about Tim and Tom now. I’m so happy in how she’s portrayed.
Any secret to your 37 years with Daphne?
We were so busy! I was producing movies and TV shows, she was creating a clothing line and acting on series. We built the first black-owned studio since the 1930s, had that for 20 years and sold it four years ago. We’ve semi-retired, bought a farm in Charlotte. Now’s the time we’ve exhaled!
You’ve also survived prostate cancer.
I’ve been cancer-free going on 15 years. You have to fight cancer, you can’t give into it. I said, ‘Who’s the best [doctor] in the world?’ His secretary happened to be a fan of Frank’s Place, and Daphne got us an appointment. He said, ‘How did you get in here?’ [Laughs] It’s the spirit or an angel that made it happen. Today I’m fine. I won’t die of that cancer, that’s for sure.
How are your kids and grandkids?
My son Tim  is doing well as a music producer and marketer; Tori  is a marketing expert, and my [step]son Christopher has a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical research. I have three grandkids — two are 16, one is 12. The thing I look forward to most is spending time with my family.
What’s your life like today?
I’m not trying to be young or look like somebody younger. I am who I am and I enjoy my life. I still exercise and travel the world. I slept more in a hotel in the last year than I have in my bed. I’ll keep going until I can’t go. I’m going to die in the saddle!
For more on your favorite stars, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!
Reporting by Diana Cooper