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Why Kiwi star Alan Dale can’t return home

Dunedin-born Alan Dale reveals the "foolish" decision that's keeping him from returning home to New Zealand.
Alan Dale

Before filming his latest series Dominion, Alan Dale had to cope with a lot, including botched surgery and relocating to South Africa. But there’s one thing the Auckland-born actor couldn’t deal with – being away from his sons Nick (17) and Daniel (12).

“I’m the only one in the cast with a young family,” says Alan (67), who plays General Edward Riesen in the post-apocalyptic supernatural series screening on Sky TV’s The Zone channel. “I’ve got a 12-year-old who said to me, ‘Every night you were away, Dad, I would sit in bed and sing songs. I sang a different song every night for you. I didn’t like it, Dad.’”

Alan in Dominion with his on-screen daughter Claire, played by Roxanne McKee.

It is the price he pays for success. Since leaving behind his best-known role as Jim Robinson in Neighbours, Alan has starred in US dramas Lost, Ugly Betty, Once Upon a Time, Hot in Cleveland and The OC.

As the actor’s career took off, so did his home life. Alan (who has two 40-something sons, Simon and Matthew, from an earlier marriage) was thrilled to became a dad again with wife of 25 years, former Miss Australia Tracey Pearson. And despite the challenge of being away from his family, he believes there are more pros than cons to being a father later in life.

Kiwi actor Alan rubbed shoulders with the young and glamorous in The OC from 2003 to 2005.

“The phrase everyone uses is that it keeps you young. But what actually happens is that if you want to be part of their lives, you have to make more effort. When you get to this age and you’ve done well, you think, ‘I’ll go out for lunch, have a nice time, go home, have a nana nap and at 6pm open the wine. Life is good.’

“What having kids forces you to do is get up early, take them to water polo or yachting. You’ve got to go and do things. And I have a wife who’s very understanding. She knows what I bring into the house, is sympathetic for me being a bit older and takes the weight off me as much as possible – like I do for her when I can.”

Alan’s character Jim Robinson was a Ramsay St regular between 1985 and 1993.

The pair met at the Australian Grand Prix when Alan – who got his start in Auckland radio before moving to Australia – was 39 and Tracey was 21. She’d worked as a journalist and a television host – and didn’t bat an eyelid when her new beau brought up retirement.

“In my early 40s – and I said it to Tracey because I had just met her – I said, ‘We have to think about retirement.’ Most pretty girls in their 20s would go, ‘What are you talking about?’ But she didn’t. She said, ‘Okay’ and we started to think about it.”

Before heading to the US, the couple bought property in Sydney, which will help them when they want to stop working (Tracey is a writer and also manages the family’s real estate). But it won’t be New Zealand where Dunedin-born Alan, who recently underwent hip replacement surgery, hopes to retire.

“I love Auckland. That’s where I grew up. I’m deeply passionate about it and I never wanted to leave,” he says. “The thing is, I foolishly married an Australian and when I said to her, ‘What about living in New Zealand?’ she said, ‘That was never part of the deal!’”

Alan has been married to Tracey Pearson for 25 years.

While some children of actors fall into the wrong crowd in Los Angeles, Alan decided to settle down in Manhattan Beach, which is a 30-minute drive away from Hollywood’s “misbehaving kids”.

He’s also reluctant to let any of his boys follow his footsteps into acting. “If you’re good [at it], you can have a wonderful life. But I won’t let my kids do it as children. There’s about a 50% death rate for kids who become child stars, and I won’t risk it! But I do let Daniel audition to be the voices of cartoons. If he got one of those, it would be fine because he could make money, put it in the bank and no-one would know who he was.”

Alan is a proud father to four boys, including his radio DJ son Simon.

Alan tries to keep the boys grounded and remind them that not many teens get the opportunities they’ve had – being in Sydney for Christmas one minute, in San Francisco at the Apple headquarters the next, and encountering lions while visiting their dad in Cape Town during the filming of Dominion.

“We took them to one of the wildlife parks and they didn’t have any idea what to expect. We left the park and Daniel was in tears. And Nick – it’s hard to impress a nearly two-metre tall 17-year-old – said, ‘You didn’t tell me we were going to be doing this!’ He was astounded.”

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