The following article was produced in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen.
Not many people have what it takes to stop when they’re on a roll in their career and give everything up for a chance at the big time in another country. Dan MacPherson does.
The 41-year-old actor and presenter gave it all up seven years ago while a contract for five years’ work was being dangled in front of him. While your average Joe would have snatched it from the hand that held it, MacPherson instead set off on an adventure, not knowing how things would turn out, just as he did when his acting career began at 17-years old.
Growing up in Cronulla, MacPherson loved the beach. “There were a lot of freedoms in the 80s and early 90s in beachside Sydney,” he says. Anyone who’s seen him in his most recent roles on screen as a special forces soldier among other strong characters would struggle to believe he wasn’t an athletic kid. But MacPherson wasn’t.
“Genetics didn’t lend me that direction early on,” he recalls. Things changed when his rugby coach began a kid’s triathlon series. Before long he was on tour, running, riding and swimming on different tracks, roads and water all across the country from age 11 to 16.
One day out of the blue he was hit with something that made everything stop. After five years on a roll, wave and stride he contracted glandular fever and chickenpox. “Every time I’d move, I’d get sick. I couldn’t get away from the sport so I actually went and worked as an official on triathlons,” he says.
“As it turns out, the guy I was stationed with on the bike course was an acting manager…”
He encouraged MacPherson to consider acting and the two exchanged numbers which led to an audition a couple weeks later. From this, he got his first gig the night before he sat his HSC. It wasn’t anything special… Just a gig on Neighbours, Australia’s longest-running soap opera. No big deal.
“My dad bought me a second hand Mitsubishi, we packed it up with everything I owned and we drove it to Melbourne. I started on Neighbours two days later,” he said.
“That was it, that was how it started. I was going to be a bike mechanic at the local bike shop. Instead, in the course of four months, my life completely flipped upside down.”
In his 30s, MacPherson again would pack up everything and start again, with no real indication whether things would turn out well.
“The biggest challenge that I had to overcome was backing myself to step away from the Australian industry,” he says. “I gave up hosting the biggest live TV show in Australia [Dancing With The Stars] to literally start at the very bottom of the pile in my early 30s in America.”
MacPherson knew he was tempting fate. “One thing that nobody tells you when you move to America and pursue an acting career is that when you walk into every audition, there’s going to be 50 guys who look exactly like you sitting in the waiting room… There’s a shorter version, a taller version, there’s this and that. Before that, I had thought I was kind of special,” he says with a smile.
Everyone thought he was mad, and at times, he wondered too. “Age 30, married at the time, providing for family… Am I delusional?” he asked himself. “I pulled myself apart, I went and found the best acting coaches. I worked with the best people I could to completely reinvent myself as an actor.”
It didn’t pay off at first. “For three years I didn’t get a job. But after three or four years of digging deep, you start making headway.”
MacPherson said it was one of the hardest, most transitional phases of his life. “I can tell you now that I have never been as satisfied with my work, with my career and ultimately with my life as I have in the past five years.”
While it was undoubtedly one of the hardest times in his life, it taught him many lessons.
“One of the best pieces of advice I received and it still serves me to this day is that hard work never goes unrewarded,” he said.
“You can work hard at a goal thinking that hard work has gone to waste but you will realise it hasn’t, maybe a way you hadn’t imagined. No matter what, if you put in the work toward a certain goal, that hard work won’t be wasted – it’ll never go unrewarded.”
In a life surrounded by change, the one thing that has remained constant is his watch. MacPherson’s choice is the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43.
“To me, the Big Pilot is almost a metaphor for life. In life, you have to learn what you can control,” he says. “You can’t control time, but you can control the instruments used to measure it.”
“I’ve worn lots of watches, I love watches,” he says. “But this one is different. I think at the end of the day, you wear a timepiece because you want to look at your wrist and feel good. Well, I feel that every time.”
Discover the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch 43 collection here.