This Sunday (June 22), TV overloads with new shows and new seasons. It has debuts ("Rising Star," "The Last Ship," "Musketeers"), season-openers ("True Blood," "Wifeout," "Falling Skies"), a terrific movie ("Miracle Landing on the Hudson") and the second half of a smart mini-series ("The Escape Artist," via "Masterpiece Mystery"). All of that is summed up in the Sunday column (click "TV column," above); now let's stop and visit "Last Ship" and its star, Eric Dane. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Often enough, TV characters are content to catch a crook or
two. This summer, the stakes have soared.
There is Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on Fox’s “24,”
trying (again) to prevent a war. And there are two TNT series Sunday, each trying
to preserve the human race.
On “Falling Skies” (with the season-opener at 10:03 p.m.), Tom
Mason (Noah Wyle) battles outer-space aliens; on “The Last Ship” (debuting at
9), a virus has swept across the globe.
“Society has broken down, the majority of the world is suffering,”
said Hank Steinberg, a co-writer and producer. “And there’s this lone ship of
survivors, led by a captain who has to keep alive his humanity.”
The ship (and Captain Tom Chandler, played by Eric Dane)
happen to be large and impressive. Early scenes were shot on what producer/co-writer
Stephen Kane calls “a $3-billion set,” a Navy destroyer.
“It was enormous,” Dane said, “900 feet long – big in its
depth and its length.” Only the inside headroom, he said, felt small “for
someone who is 6-foot-2 to walk around.”
And in a way, that ship dictated his life and career. Dane,
now 41, had just done his final “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes (the first two of the
2012-13 season) and planned to slow down. “I was going to hang around with my
family” – his wife (actress Rebecca Gayheart) and their daughters (now 2 and
Then? “A few weeks later, we started shooting (the pilot),
as a result of the availability of the ship,” Dane said. And then “there was a
year in between shooting the pilot and starting up with the series.”
It’s sort of the hurry-up-and-wait life familiar to military
people and to actors.
As a kid – a water-polo star whose dad was an architect and
interior designer -- Dane hadn’t thought about acting, he said. “Living in
Northern California, Hollywood seemed a million miles away.”
But in high school, he got a chance to play one of the great
theater roles – Joe Keller, the guilt-ridden dad in Arthur Miller’s “All My
Sons.” He soon landed some little TV roles, then recurring ones in “Gideon’s
Crossing,” “American Embassy” and “Charmed.” He was mostly unknown when “Grey’s
Anatomy” cast him as Dr. Mark Sloan. “It was supposed to be one episode,” Dane
It turned out to be six years and fan-magazine fame. He left
the show (staying long enough for Sloan’s lingering death), then stepped into a
classic captain’s role.
He’s in the middle of what Michael Wright, the TNT
programming chief, calls “a big, fun, exciting action-adventure series.” It has
strategy debates, with Adam Baldwin as second-in-command, and medical rush, with
Rhona Mitre as a paleo-microbiologist, setting up her onboard lab to try to
create a vaccine. It also has military action, Steinberg said, with “people
chasing them who want to get that vaccine.”
And it has Captain Tom Chandler, trying (like Jack Bauer and
Tom Mason) to save the world.
“The Last Ship,” 9 p.m. Sundays, TNT; debuts
June 22, rerunning at 11:05 p.m.
Opener reruns at 11:03 p.m. Wednesday (June 25),
11 p.m. Saturday (June 28), 9 a.m. June 29.
Opener also airs at 11:01 p.m. June 26 on Tru