'The Last Ship's' Eric Dane: Captain Tom Chandler is 'mission first'

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"The Last Ship" represents a big change for star Eric Dane. He has left his McSteamy "Grey's Anatomy" character far in the past to play Navy Capt. Tom Chandler, the head of a vessel that may be humanity's last hope for survival.

Who is Chandler and what can viewers expect from this military man in "The Last Ship"? Dane gives some answers in this Zap2it interview.

Even the basic description of Chandler makes it clear that this is no Dr. Mark Sloane. "He's a family man, he's a Navy man. He's honorable and sincere," Dane says of his character. "He's a bit of a maverick at times but he believes in the chain of command."

Those are skills Chandler will need if he wants to keep charge of his Navy warship after an isolated mission means that the crew missed, and therefore survived, a global pandemic. Chandler also has to maintain order so that research scientists onboard can discover a vaccine to end the disease.

That isn't always easy. "As we get deeper into the season, we see that people are itching to get back to their families -- some of them might want off the ship," Dane explains, adding that Chandler has to be "keeping his crew together, keeping everybody on the same page, keeping the morale up."

Even Chandler has to grapple with conflicting desires. As a family man, he can only keep the faith that his wife and children have remained safe. "That factors into every decision that I have to make," says the actor. "It factors into what's in the best interest of the mission, and I also have to make sure that decision is unfettered or unclouded by my desire to get back to my family."

At least Dane and the rest of the "Last Ship" cast got to learn firsthand what it would be like to be military men in that situation -- the pilot episode was filmed partially aboard the USS Halsey, an active-duty ship in the U.S. Navy. "It was one of the coolest experiences for me to date, because we got to take the ship over the horizon," Dane says of the shoot. "We had three days with them, and we got to take all those wide, sweeping, cinematic, establishing shots. We had cameras on helicopters, and it was pretty awe-inspiring to say the least."

There were a few downsides too, of course. "It was also kind of interesting bunking with people," he adds. "The ship rocks and rolls a little bit -- you've got to strap your stuff down and hold onto something when you're taking a shower. You get your sea legs pretty quick -- either that or you get sick."

"The Last Ship" premieres Sunday (June 22) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT.

Photo/Video credit: TNT