Fun Fearless Male of the Year
During the years when you weren't getting a lot of work, did you consider giving up and trying something different?
I never knew what else I could do. I left school when I was 17, and now I play a neurosurgeon, which is scary. Years ago, I did a movie, With Honors, which was filmed at Harvard, and I would sneak into classes all the time. I would listen to people, and I would hang out with all of the students so I could be like, "I didn't miss anything." I think not finishing high school has always made me work harder.
ER alums Noah Wyle and Anthony Edwards are both married to makeup artists. What is it with guys on hospital shows falling for women in the beauty industry?
Well, I think it's because they understand the business, but there's no competition. Two actors together is very difficult. I can work with an actress and have great chemistry with her, but I'd never want to be married to one.
You started off playing nerds, and now you're the biggest hunk on TV. Which of your characters do you most relate to?
I relate to my Can't Buy Me Love character in that I went from geek to chic. It took a while for me to mature into Derek Shepherd...to grow into a nurturer, a sensitive guy. He's the idealized version of a man. I don't think I'm as good a person as Derek is.
Can you be friends with your exes?
No. I've never been friends with an ex.
What's something that people say is different about you when they meet you in real life?
Sometimes people say I look different in real life than I do on film. I don't know if that's true, but I'm certainly shorter than I seem on TV.
What words do you live by?
"Live in life, live in the dream." That's become a mantra for me.
Is there something you wish you knew at 20 that you know now at 40?
Fame is completely fleeting. I had no clue when I was starting out. I was kind of a ditz.
What's the downside of fame? I've been in the business for over 20 years, and I just don't trust people easily. You have to earn that right with me. People who wouldn't take my calls a year ago suddenly are calling me. So I'm wary. I'm cautious. I always feel like I have to protect myself.
Do you have a bad habit that only someone who loves you would put up with?
I'm incredibly moody. And I think that's probably the hardest thing about me to deal with.
What's the best gift you've ever received from a woman? My wife enrolled me in a three-day ski competition class, which reignited my desire for ski racing. But the most amazing present was the E-Type Jag she gave me two years ago for Christmas.
You're really into car racing. How did that start?
My dad was always into cars. We would watch the 500 together, so it's an important race for me. Car racing is about all I do with my downtime. I don't have time for anything else.
Where are you happiest? I'm really happy being home in Maine, where I have a farm. I just want to be running around the fields with enough money to live on. So my goal is to live there permanently. The older I get, especially being a dad, the more I just want to be living in the middle of nowhere. I just want to go back to living in the country.
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