Access Pollywood: Eric Dane On Board With TAPS

‘The Last Ship’ star shows support for military families. 

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Bonnie Carroll and Eric Dane (Photo by Erica Moody)

and (Photo by Erica Moody)

Eric Dane, star of the TNT drama “The Last Ship” and best known for playing “McSteamy” on the hit show “Grey’s Anatomy,” is in D.C. to support the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). The actor will be hosting the 2015 Honor Guard Gala at the National Building Museum on Wednesday, March 18 and also joined TAPS founder and director Bonnie Carroll to discuss TAPS programs with leaders and staffers at the Pentagon.

We sat down with him to talk about his involvement with the organization, his work with Navy officers and his deep-rooted respect for the U.S. military.

WL: How did you get involved with TAPS? I met Bonnie at the premiere of “The Last Ship” at the Newseum and through my publicist, got involved. This is really my first official introduction to TAPS.

What do you think of it so far? I think it’s pretty darn inspirational. All day long Bonnie and I have been going back and forth about how weird it is that we were put in each others lives. We have a lot in common. I lost my father when I was seven. My father served in the United States Navy and his whole side of the family is military. They live in Anchorage, Alaska and Bonnie is from Anchorage. There are a lot of similarities in our stories. It’s pretty incredible to me what she’s built here.

Eric Dane with the staff at TAPS HQ (Photo by Jackie Ross for TAPS)

Eric Dane with the staff at TAPS HQ (Photo by Jackie Ross for TAPS)

How did your role as CDR Tom Chandler on “The Last Ship” come about? I worked on a hospital drama called “Grey’s Anatomy” for seven years. It was time for me to go and do something different. A few weeks after I was finished filming my last episode, I was called to meet with Michael Bay, who has this project he really wanted to do and was going to be closely involved with the U.S. Navy to execute. He was setting out to make a show that told sensational dramatic stories but was rooted in reality and kept as true to form as we could possibly keep it. It really hasn’t been done in television. Certainly the scope of it hasn’t been done in television before. And then he gave me the pilot to read. I went home and read it and thought, ‘Wow this is the best pilot I’ve read in a long time.’ The two writers of the show, Hank Steinberg and Steve Cane, are phenomenally talented writers. They have great track records. Turner is trying to change the face of their network, and this is a great show for them while they’re in that transition and, moving forward, it’s a great show for them. And it’s great entertainment. It says, we’re going to entertain you and we’re not going to insult your intelligence. It’s a very smart show, it’s wildly entertaining, the storytelling is fantastic, the characters are great and who doesn’t love the Navy.

In what capacity do you work directly with the Navy on the show? We collaborate with the Navy all the way to the top, almost. We have tactical advisors and military advisors, and any time they have an idea, it’s either carried out or considered heavily. You have to understand, sometimes we do things because we’re making a television show and you have to bend reality a little bit and create the suspension of disbelief so that you can tell a story that’s compelling enough to hold an audience’s attention. Sometimes the reality is just not as interesting as the sensationalized, but as it turns out, the reality of the stories that we’re telling is more interesting. And it’s Michael Bay, so it’s bigger and brighter and prettier. We cannot make this show without the Navy. A show like this couldn’t be made without the Navy for obvious reasons and not so obvious reasons. Like, we need a ship to shoot on. The only place you can get that is from the Navy.

Did working on the show directly with the Navy change your outlook on the military in any way? It didn’t shift dramatically because I’ve always had a pretty respectful outlook on the military. I’ve always felt that it was an honorable thing to sacrifice and serve your country. My father served in the United States Navy and passed away when I was seven and I’ve always felt sort of connected to the military. I felt like taking on this role would sort of pay homage to my father, but I didn’t respect the military, or more specifically, the Navy, as much as I do now because it’s one thing to live by a code– this honor, courage, commitment, but they live this stuff every single day. It’s very difficult to go about your life and make the correct choices and live through good, orderly direction as consistently as these men and women do. I have an inordinate amount of respect for the men and women that sacrifice as much as they do for this country. I love paying taxes, because I get to live in a country that allows me to do what I get to do for a living. Anything that has to do with patriotism, I back one hundred percent. I love this country. And if somebody wants to go fight for it, you’ve got my respect.

Though based in California, Dane will be back in Washington for the White House Correspondents Dinner. He tells us he wants to increase his involvement with TAPS to really make a difference, and will begin by visiting Good Grief Camps for Young Survivors.

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