If you were one of the zillion Grey’s Anatomy fans caught up in a collective swoon over Eric Dane’s “Dr. McSteamy”Mark Sloan, you may do a double take when you first see him as Navy Commanding Officer Tom Chandler in TNT’s pulse-pounding new action series The Last Ship.
There’s no mistaking the heartthrob face and piercing blue eyes, but that signature seductive heat has been replaced with an austere cool that Dane attributes to the kind of real-life hero he’s representing.
“This guy is not just the square-jawed Navy guy with the commander’s voice, barking orders; I wanted to bring as much humanity to him as I could,” Dane says. “But at the same time, I think there is a certain swagger that comes with being a CO. Physically, I gained about 10-15 pounds. And let me tell you something —you put on those dress whites, you walk a little taller!”
Crafted by executive producer Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers), The Last Ship features Dane’s Chandler as the captain of a naval destroyer on an intense global race to help paleomicrobiologist Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra) save humanity after a mysterious virus kills much of the world’s population.
Dane says despite Bay’s reputation as the consummate big-budget adventure guy, and the plot of the William Brinkley novel on which the series is loosely based, there’s more to this story than a whiz-bang survival thriller.
“It’s got to be about something bigger than just surviving,”Dane explains, “because if it were just about surviving, we’d find an island in the tropics somewhere, eat coconuts and go out in style. It’s about preservation. Preserving what is left of society and mankind, and saving the world.” A quest made all the more dire by the fact that the ship had been on a radio-silent mission before discovering the world’s fate, and its crew has no idea if their own loved ones are among the lost.
“Now that I have two little girls of my own, it’s something that has been very internalized for me,”Dane says. “He’s got a family that’s out there in the woods and he doesn’t know if they’re dead or they’re alive. So not only is he making decisions that are for the good of the mission and the good of the crew, but he’s also got to selflessly take himself out of the decisions that are going to lead him back to his family, because that would jeopardize everything else.”
Which, he adds, makes him and his costars all the more appreciative of America’s real-life military men and women —and especially the San Diego-based Navy crew who allowed them the use of a $3 billion guided-missile destroyer and showed them the ropes of being Navy proud.
“They’re an incredibly honorable group of men and women,”Dane says. “We couldn’t make this show without their support. They give great material, and they let us observe and study a lot of what they do. The captain of the USS Dewey told me, ‘We set the conditions for success and we execute with precision and style.’That’s what we love about the Navy.”
The Last Ship premieres Sunday, June 22, at 9pm on TNT
Photo © TURNER ENTERTAINMENT NETWORKS, INC. A TIME WARNER COMPANY. Credit: Maarten De Boer