'Euphoria' star Eric Dane on how his battles with drugs and depression shaped his role on the HBO show

Teng Yong Ping
Lifestyle Editor
Eric Dane at HBO's "Euphoria" premiere on 4 June in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO)

Eric Dane, whom you might know better as Dr Mark Sloan from Grey’s Anatomy, currently stars in HBO’s teen drama series, Euphoria. The show is a hard-hitting examination of the thorny issues that many teenagers face, such as sex, drugs and body image.

46-year-old Dane plays a supporting character in Euphoria as Carl Jacobs, the father of Nate, a high school jock. Carl draws viewers in as a deeply troubled character who has brushes with the law. In the first episode, he hooks up and has underage sex with Jules, a transgender teenage girl.

Dane himself has dealt with personal traumas in his life, so being in a show which covers similar issues that he has been through was an emotional experience for him. He checked himself into rehab for an addiction to painkillers at the height of his fame during Grey’s Anatomy’s run. He also suffered from depression, which prompted him to take a break from acting after shooting season four of his last TV series, The Last Ship, in 2017.

“I've had battles with my own demons,” said Dane. “I don't see much of a difference between the double life Carl is leading and the double life I was leading at times.”

Euphoria premiered on HBO on 17 June and four out of its eight hour-long episodes have aired. Past episodes of the show are still available on HBO GO.

Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore had a telephone chat with Dane about how his own battles with drugs and depression have informed his acting, and how he deals with always being known as that plastic surgeon in Grey’s Anatomy.

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Have you found it hard to step out from the shadow of your iconic role as Dr Mark Sloan in Grey’s Anatomy?

No, I mean, look, I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to play a role that became so iconic, and it's nothing I would ever run away from. It's just something that's on my resume. At the end of the day, actors are always going to be remembered for a few roles, irrespective of how great they are and how many great performances they turn in. There are a few roles that are really going to resonate with people. And that was one of them. And I'm just grateful that I got the opportunity to be that guy.

Eric Dane stars as Carl Jacobs in "Euphoria". (Photo: Eddy Chen for HBO)

Euphoria is about sex, drugs and other social problems among teenagers. As someone who has encountered similar problems in life, how does being involved in this project affect you?

If I'm going to be a part of telling these stories, I certainly want to make sure I'm a part of something that's endeavouring to tell them as truthfully, as boldly as they can. You know, I have had some experience getting mixed up with some of the wrong things and I've had struggles with mental health and addiction. And, you know, I'm always willing to tell my story. I'm willing to be a part of telling somebody else's story as long as it's done truthfully.

Did you find Euphoria too daring for TV when you read the script?

No, I didn't find it too daring. I didn't see how you could tell these stories without being daring, if you're going to tell them truthfully. It's a raw and unapologetic look at teen life. And, you know, the first thing I thought was, well, it's beautifully written, Sam (Levinson, the show’s creator) is really fantastic with his words. And you kind of got a feel from the script that there was going to be a music element, which I love. And I knew that if I were going to play a character like this, that I'd be in good hands with him because I trusted him implicitly.

How do you relate to your character, Carl Jacobs? What was most challenging for you about portraying him? And how did you relate to his demons?

I've had battles with my own demons, and I don't see much of a difference between the double life Carl is leading and the double life I was leading at times. At the end of the day, the demons he's battling are about control and secrets and having, like I said, a double life, and I've had to live that too. Not with the same specifics, but you know, the feelings attached are the same.

How do you feel about shooting with such young actors and actresses?

These guys have put together a tremendous cast. They're all wildly talented, obviously, starting at the top with Zendaya, who's fearless, courageous, and very honest in her portrayal of Rue. I don't know where these guys came from. But they're all fantastic. And they've all got a great future ahead of them.

You haven’t starred in movies for a couple of years since Grey Lady (2017). What's holding you from getting involved in the silver screen?

Well, after I stopped working on The Last Ship, I took some time off to reflect and get myself together and you know, maybe take a different approach to my life personally and professionally. And as a result, it was a while before I started looking at other roles to play. I have a movie I'm going to do in Madrid in a couple weeks called American Carnage. So hopefully, I'll be back on the screen at some point. But I gotta tell you, I love TV. And I've always been consistently a part of that world.

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