Character Deep Dive: Henry McCord

Portrayed by: Tim Daly
Show: CBS’ Madam Secretary

Tim Daly as Henry McCord in Madam Secretary.

The man beside the woman — the theology professor, NSA operative, former Marine Corps Captain and pilot, but most importantly, a father and husband noble in ways not many in the world are. Henry McCord is, in every sense of the word, a hero. The kind of hero who’s not exactly in the spotlight as one, but when it comes down to his work, he’s proven that time and time again, the lives of those who know him benefit greatly from his presence. Madam Secretary is the kind of show that’s easily filled with a number of good-hearted characters, and Henry McCord is one of those characters. Henry’s ethics, kindness, and empathy make him undoubtedly inimitable and with Tim Daly’s excellent portrayal in every episode, he’s a character who could inspire many.

Sometimes, when TV shows tackle politics, there’s a ton of drama and scandal involved, but because this is absent in Madam Secretary, it’s one of the main reasons why I was drawn to it. There’s enough of the scandal and lies in our world today, but in these times, being reminded of the fact that there’s also good is refreshing. When all our social media feeds are filled with the negative, that glimmer of hope that’s found in people who still value integrity is always appreciated.

Henry McCord’s beliefs play a huge part in showcasing the character’s heart. His choice to give grades based on what people deserve and not some alternate reason go a long way in reminding viewers that nothing is worth compromising your morals for. No money, no rank, just the honest truth in whatever area it may be. And I appreciate the fact that as viewers, we can be certain that while Henry may come to a place where he could doubt or question aspects of his life, he’ll choose to remain steadfast to his beliefs more often than not. Henceforth, that steadfastness not only sets a proper example for his children, but it allows Elizabeth to find a place of serenity when diplomats of every area make her question her initial plans. This type of integrity is rare in the world, but it isn’t rare on this show, and thankfully, it’s something present amongst a lot of the characters on this list. But it’s a fact that if any male character on this list would win the ethics battle, Henry McCord would be that character.

While Henry’s integrity is his greatest trait, the first thing that’s essentially noticeable is his kindness. In the midst of his sarcasm, Henry’s a man with the world’s compassion within him consistently finding ways to help everyone who crosses his path. And that kindness may have gotten him into life-threatening situations, it’s something that he’d never compromise even if his life is the one in question. Henry McCord isn’t the type of man who’ll let anyone take advantage of him or his family, but in a dark world with a number of threats from every corner, his conscious choice to lend a helping hand whenever he learns that someone’s in need of it is something people forget to do. As the Secretary of State’s husband, he’s done a lot behind the scenes to bring light into the office, and for as long as the show airs, I’ll always get a little emotional over what he’s done for Dimitri and his family. Henry’s kindness along with Elizabeth’s also something that played a crucial role in shaping their kids. And though I’ve talked about it during the post dedicated to the McCord family as a whole, kids are a reflection of their parents which Elizabeth and Henry are doing a superb job setting examples for.

Going hand in hand with his kindness is Henry’s empathy — the ability to understand all that he’s told in order to be the best kind of help he could possibly be. It’s that very empathy that makes it so easy for Elizabeth to come to him about anything. It’s that very empathy that allows his kids to be completely honest with him in almost every area of their lives. (Almost.) As a character who’s so easy to talk to and easy to relate to, he’s done a phenomenal job of being the pillar of strength for everyone. The kind of person you look to and are immediately comforted by. He is the kind of father every boy deserves to look up to and learn from — the kind of father every girl deserves to have as a hero. Henry McCord may not be the kind of brave hero everyone knows of, but in his everyday life, the examples he sets and the attentiveness he listens with inspires profoundly. It’s one thing to be a great listener, it’s incredibly helpful for anyone in the world to have that one person, but it’s a whole other gift when that great listener is also empathetic and kind in their advice. As the perfect husband and father, Henry sets examples without trying to. (Except when he brings forth the occasional dad joke here and there.)

Henry McCord is perhaps one of the strongest figures on television right now, and that strength is measured by his ability to remain kind in a world that pushes and pulls too much. It’s measured most importantly by the choices he makes every day that aren’t for him, but for his family and friends. As a team player and in a sense, a great leader, whatever challenges await Henry, he tackles them with love and empathy. He questions what needs to be questioned and trusts what he knows. And let’s be real for a moment, a man married to a woman like Elizabeth McCord would not only feel ample pressure, but they’d be intimated, and perhaps even a little jealous, but when it comes to Henry, he not only loves his wife more because of how gracefully she’s able to carry on the position of Secretary of State, but how much the two of them need one another in their lives.

Every person falls — even the strongest, most noble men that everyone turns to have their breaking point, but where Henry is concerned, his understanding of this fact makes it easier for him to not only be honest with himself, but his wife thereby, allowing him to grow from every obstacle that he faces. #HusbandGoals to be quite honest. But Henry McCord is merely writing on a page without Tim Daly’s superlative take on the character — the meticulous choices he makes in allowing us to see every ounce of emotion Henry feels never fails to impress. For even when there are no words, Daly makes it all clear to the audience. When he’s a father who’s afraid that he may give away his daughter too soon or a friend greatly troubled, or a husband in turmoil when Elizabeth’s life appears to be threatened — whatever the emotion is, Daly exhibits it spectacularly. The McCords are a special breed, dear readers — and every character on Madam Secretary is incomparably inimitable. Here’s your cue to watch it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “When everything seems to be lacking in integrity, you find it in yourself.”
  • “If you want girls to love you, and someday, you’re going to be in love — then you’ve got to be a little more than clever. You’ve got to be respectful.”
  • “A lot of people say that morals are how we treat the people we know, and ethics are how we treat the people we don’t know. So, morals are what make us a good parent, a good friend, a nice neighbor. But, ethics are how we build a society. That’s the *true* test of our higher self. But, what happens, Jeff, when society is ruled by the subjective morals of say, you and your family, and you choose to project that onto complete strangers is that we all end up with is a society that’s governed by self-aggrandizement. So, really, by calling to make sure you’re the first little peasant to jump off your chair and teach me a lesson with smug superiority about your own particular moral point of view when you know precisely nothing of the situation, you’ve done your part to contribute to the erosion of our entire social fabric. Pat yourself on the back. Bravo.”

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