BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ Charles Kimbrough, who plays the staid anchorman Jim Dial on television's ''Murphy Brown,'' doesn't have to look far for inspiration.

He was just like the stiff-as-a-board Dial before he entered Indiana University in 1954.

''In school I was incredibly timid,'' Kimbrough, 56, said Wednesday while visiting his alma mater. ''I hated confrontation. So I tried to develop this cool, cynical man-of-the-world pose to fool people into thinking they shouldn't mess with me.

''My Jim's very much the same way. He likes to imagine himself as hunched down on the front lines, cool, bullets whizzing around his head. Of course, he's nothing like that.''

He said his drama training at the university helped him grow out of his Dial-like fears of other people.

''Theater is like being a high-wire artist with a net,'' he said. ''Somebody will always be there to catch you if you fall.''