Men Who Set the Time: Eric Dane

The matinee idol behind The Last Ship never stops running full-steam ahead.

Eric Dane

Becoming a TV idol — the kind that women truly idealize, the kind upon which they bestow nicknames ("McSteamy," let's say, for sake of argument) — is no easy feat. Ask Eric Dane.

Just looking the part isn't enough these days. It takes a sense that you're someone who's solid, operates with authority and integrity. Stars like Harrison Ford and Steve McQueen defined that kind of icon. Dane does too — that's why he's one of our Men Who Set the Time, inspired by the Tiffany & Co. CT60.

At 44, Dane's has had his stops and starts in Hollywood. His success was hard-earned, far from guaranteed, requiring 15 years of perseverance. What got him through was his "Fear of failure,". After guest roles on shows like Roseanne and small parts in movies like X-Men: The Last Stand, he broke out big time on the hit primetime soap Grey's Anatomy, as a surgeon who stepped out of the shower and into millions of women's minds in his first scene. (Hence his nickname.) "The moment my life changed?" he says. "It started with a towel."

The show's storylines required him to project both charisma and gravitas, rogueishness and selfless genius. After six years and 138 episodes on the long-long-running series, he stepped out front-and-center as the star of TNT's The Last Ship, playing a Navy commander charged with saving humankind from a rampaging virus. Now heading into its fifth season, the series is produced by perhaps the best action-movie producer alive, Michael Bay — who has no time for slouches — and has attracted top-flight directors like Peter Weller. "Great writing attracts great directors," he said. "It's led to this golden era of television that we have right now."

The fact that Dane attracted Bay and Weller speaks volumes about his skills, but he notes that the most important thing in his life is family. (He has two preschoolers with Rebecca Gayheart, whom he's been married to since 2004.) The secret to his success these days? "The best way to have what you want is to want what you have."