Text by Kee | Main photo courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen
Eric Dane is a friend of the brand for IWC Schaffhausen

McSteamy died, get over it. Eric Dane did. The Grey’s Anatomy alum has already traded in his scrubs for camouflage fatigues as the lead of a Michael Bay-led drama pilot. Rest assured that the charismatic actor is in the pink of health and he is still one of the sexiest men alive.

It is late January and we, and what seems like the rest of the world, have convened for the annual watch fair in Geneva known as Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), considered as the most prestigious one in the watchmaking calendar. Think of it as horology’s version of Milan and Paris fashion weeks. But while everyone’s sniffing out the top draws for the year in mechanical watchmaking, we got to sneak out for a breather and spend an early Wednesday afternoon catching up with actor Eric Dane. By now, you’re probably unscrambling the clues in your head like Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code – Geneva? Timepieces? Mr. Grey’s Anatomy? And no, he isn’t in hiding or seeking retirement at the Alps after his departure from the much-loved medical drama that garnered him a cult following. The correlation isn’t that complex. Dane, like most men of his stature, is a watch lover, and in particular, an IWC Schaffhausen fanboy (or friend of the brand, as they say). Each year, on the occasion of the watch fair, IWC throws the most glamorous gala dinner with an invitation list on par with most film, theatre and sports award ceremonies. The 40-year-old is on that coveted list of stars this year as his schedule permits, and he is present with his wife Rebecca Gayheart to grace the red carpet and gala dinner. We are waiting for him at the five-star hotel, where he is putting up for the duration of his stay in Geneva. He is not here for our meeting yet, and we are told by his management that “he is taking a shower and will arrive soon”. Right away, the thought of Dane’s famous entrance on Grey’s Anatomy – also one of modern television’s most-talked about scene – springs to mind. Is he going to walk into the room soaking wet and sporting a startled expression after we catch him wrapping a skimpy towel around his waist? (Ladies, keep calm. It didn’t happen.) Dane, who played plastic surgeon and part-time eye candy Dr. Mark Sloan for six seasons, earned his nickname McSteamy when the female characters in the show were looking for a catchy name that is comparable with that of another beloved character, Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd, played by Patrick Dempsey. Since then, the moniker has stuck, so has his reputation as a sex symbol, and so as that short but decisive introduction that has made a home in the memories of many. A search on YouTube for that clip will draw up roughly a million hits spread across several videos, with a three-minute fan-edited clip detailing the towel acrobatics contributing to half of the aforementioned tally. Need a still frame? Sure, Amazon is retailing an 8x10 glossy photo of it that is only missing his John Hancock. When Dane announced his departure from the show less than a year ago – his character was subsequently killed off at the premiere episode of season nine – it drew a collective sigh from die-hard fans mourning the loss of one of their guilty pleasures. Internet forums were filled with colourful commentary directed at its creator-writer Shonda Rhimes, who also sounded the death knell for McSteamy’s longtime love interest just an episode before. To the fans, it was a double homicide for one of television’s favourite star-crossed lovers that happened too fast, too soon. Dane, however, wasted no time in snagging the lead role of Captain Tom Chandler in the Michael Bay-produced television pilot, The Last Ship (a working title), which is a modified version of a Michael Brinkley novel about a post-apocalyptic world where a naval crew led by Dane’s character have to find a cure to a pandemic that destroyed the world. “He’s here,” says one of the minders. The doting father of two walks in, clothed and apologetic. But look at him – at 40, he still sports that same salt and pepper hair and chiselled frame worshipped by legions of female fans, and when he flashes that megawatt smile you know that is a closer in most situations. So how does one not accept McSteamy’s sincere apology? We wouldn’t know. It would be like punching a kitten square in the face. Simply unfathomable.

MANIFESTO: Since we are all gathered here today for watchmaking, share with us your love for IWC Schaffhausen.

ERIC DANE: I used to own a Rolex and it never kept time. It was an old Rolex. When I first started making money I wanted to go buy a nice watch so I went to a watch dealer and asked him to recommend me a few that actually keep time. So he showed me a few IWC watches – I was already familiar with the brand – and I bought an IWC Flieger Chronograph, which I still have to this day. I loved that watch so a few years later I bought another, a titanium Aquatimer. I did a Men’s Health shoot one day and I wore the watch on the cover. And I didn’t know that somebody would appreciate the fact as well. I worked hard and I wanted to buy something nice for myself, so my IWC watches mean something to me. IWC reached out to me and asked if we wanted to work together.

M: So what aspects IWC do you identify with?

ED: They keep perfect time, and I am never late! (Laughs)

M: After six seasons at Grey’s Anatomy, was it easy to move on from Dr. Mark Sloan?

ED: I am doing another show [The Last Ship] with a character that is the polar opposite of Mark Sloan. After six years, the moments of discovery for an actor playing a character are so few and far between. So it was the fact that I can play someone new, different and exciting. Playing Mark Sloan was easy for me.

M: But the McSteamy nickname is sticking around. Are people still fond of calling you by that name?

ED: Yeah, but perhaps not as frequent anymore. They usually call me McDreamy and I have to correct them. I don’t get tired of people calling me McSteamy because that name was very good for my career.

M: The moment many fans remember is your introduction on Grey’s Anatomy in nothing but a towel. What were your thoughts when you first read the script?

ED: Yeah, I didn’t write that. I worked out a lot and spent time in the gym so I was ready. Shonda (the show’s creator and writer) would usually tell me two weeks before that we have to shoot a scene with my shirt off so I would be prepared.

M: What is your biggest take away from the show that has probably defined your career thus far?

ED: Six years working with the same group of people… there was just a great chemistry that was translated onto the screen. I have not done a lot of work but I have done enough to know that if you have an ensemble of 13 cast members who all get along and genuinely like each other, it is rare. I miss those guys but we are close and never too far away. I talk to Patrick [Dempsey] every now and again. I know what exactly where they are right now. They would be exactly where I was last year, not Geneva, but on the set bumbling over a medical procedure. (Laughs)

M: What was craziest reaction you got when you announced that you were leaving the show?

ED: I do remember women saying to me that they were going to kill me if I left the show. But it has already happened. I think the character is missed and the reaction was a bit of a shock because it didn’t make any sense. There was no real reason that the character should go.

M: So killing off the character wasn’t a decision you agreed with?

ED: I am not glad but I am content about the way things unfolded. Creatively it was getting very difficult for me, and my storyline was tied to the character Lexie Grey, but she died in the show. So my storylines would become thin. I loved working with the cast, but you would know when it is time to go.

M: Although your character has been killed off, any chance we might see you on the show again?

ED: The great thing about Grey’s Anatomy is that you can come back. They might do a flashback episode and there I am again. Or I might be a ghost walking the halls, and they have a wing named after me. It is an unbelievably flexible show.

M: In The Last Ship, you are playing a captain of a naval destroyer. Share with us how the role is shaping up and how you prepared for it.

ED: This character is usually on the right side of things. Circumstances often leave him conflicted as he has the responsibility of protecting so many lives. But it is just fun to play someone like that. Mark Sloan’s moral compass was a bit dicey whereas Tom Chandler is straight down the middle. He is unapologetic, noble, humble and heroic. Thanks to Michael Bay’s connections, the Department of Defence and the United States Navy were generous with the access they gave us and we spent four weeks on a US$4 billion naval destroyer. We saw a bunch of stuff we weren’t supposed to see.

M: So you can’t tell us anything about what you saw?

ED: I would… but I would have to kill you. (Laughs)

M: Gossip is part and parcel of Hollywood. What is the craziest gossip you heard about yourself?

ED: All of them are not true. Once I was parked near a handicap spot, and the way they took the picture made it look like I was parked in the handicap spot. I don’t do that.

M: Your marriage to Rebecca was a spur of the moment decision. Are you always this spontaneous and not likely to back down from a dare?

ED: Yeah, don’t dare me. Do you want to swim across the lake right now? Dare me. Let us race!

M: We would, but we don’t have the time and you management would be pissed. Now, you are a father of two lovely daughters. How has life changed for you?

ED: Everything changes. First of all, you don’t sleep anymore. I was up at two in the morning sending Michael Bay ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) through my iPhone. He would feed me lines and I would record it on the phone and send it to him. Rebecca and I are conditioned to go to bed at nine or ten, and wake up later at midnight, and then wake up again a few hours later because we have a one-year-old and a three-year-old. I think the most dramatic change happens when you realise that there is someone out there you would step in front of a bullet for – I wouldn’t hesitate. The love I feel for them is indescribable.

M: You got married to Rebecca in 2004, had your first child in 2009 and the second in 2011. Is everything going according to plan for you in your personal life?

ED: Not the way it went down. In my fantasy world, I am a traditionalist. I thought I would be engaged for a couple of years. We planned the kids – the process of making them was a lot of fun. (Laughs) However, I had a more traditional perspective to marriage and ours didn’t go according to that. (Note: They decided to get married over dinner, flew to Las Vegas and got hitched at a chapel.) But knowing both of us, it would have been the only way. 10 months into the relationship, we said “Let’s get married! Let’s go!” And we are now married for nine years!

M: You sound like a changed man from where you were ten years ago.

ED: I am a totally different person. I was a rascal ten years ago. I was Mark Sloan-ish.

More from Manifesto iwceric danetv
Watch & JewelleryCall it the mood of the times if you will because the current favour for these Batman-esque black-on-black-on-black colourway is certainly not by any means accidental. Since when did any purist initiate an idea that they needed legibility to take ... Read More
StyleSummer isn’t cancelled contrary to popular opinion. Proof? This boat-friendly capsule collection between Orlebar Brown and IWC Schaffhausen is giving you ideas about slathering on sunscreen by the bottle and downing Mai Tais like it is the vaccine you’ve been ... Read More
AgendaYou witnessed the Spitfire MK IX aircraft in all its original glory during its campaign tour across Asia. And at long last, the much-anticipated Silver Spitfire has finally embarked on a 43, 000 kilometre journey across 30 countries starting from West Sussex's ... Read More