Actor of many parts
Ginnifer Goodwin and Alan Dale in Once Upon A Time

Alan Dale has played all manner of characters on US television, from wealthy businessmen and politicians to judges and the vice-president.

He is now playing royalty as the recurring character, King George, in the fairytale-inspired drama, Once Upon a Time, a show his young son, Daniel, can enjoy.

"Yes, indeed, Daniel, who has just turned 10, has always been allowed to watch it," Dale said by phone from Los Angeles yesterday.

"One of the lovely things about the show is it still has mystery and bite to it but it is actually suitable for kids.

"I am very pleased about that. It can be played in the early evening and a younger generation gets to see it."

When we last saw King George, he was unhappy that his son, Prince James (aka Prince Charming aka Storybrooke's David, played by Josh Dallas), had fled his arranged marriage to Abigail (aka Storybrooke's Kathryn, played by Anastasia Griffith) because Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) was his true love.

This weekend Dale returns, with viewers meeting his alter ego in Storybrooke, Albert Spencer.

A generation of Australians grew up knowing the New Zealand-born actor as Jim Robinson, patriarch of the Ramsay Street Robinsons of Neighbours fame and before that as John Forrest in The Young Doctors.

But a new generation has come to know him as the go-to guy for American series looking for powerful, mysterious characters, from Toothpick Man in The X-Files and wealthy Caleb Nichol in The OC, to Vice-President Jim Prescott in 24, magazine publisher Bradford Meade in Ugly Betty and the manipulative Charles Widmore in J.J. Abrams' cult drama Lost.

The creators of Once Upon a Time, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, were writers on Lost but Dale never met them when he worked on that series.

"I didn't know them then, I didn't have any physical contact with them, although now I do as this is their baby," he said.

"I loved working on Lost, it was fun. I still don't know if I was a good guy or a bad guy but there I was. I had lunch with them a few months ago to discuss Once Upon a Time . . . and the first question I asked was 'Can you clear up, was I a good guy or a bad guy on Lost' and they were 'No we can't, we don't know'."

Dale lives in Manhattan Beach south of Los Angeles with wife Tracey, Daniel and their other son, 15-year-old Nicholas.

With so much work in the US, he can't see himself returning to Australia to live but says he would work here again, not having done so since Sea Patrol. He also has two adult sons from his first marriage. Simon is a radio announcer at Kiss FM London and Matthew is an editor on Nine's hit series, The Block, whom he visited in April.

"I have two grandchildren now in Sydney so we wanted to go visit them and see Tracey's family, and we went briefly to Melbourne since that was where I lived," he said.

Australia has claimed Dale, like Russell Crowe, as one of its own success stories.

Which country does he identify with more - Australia or New Zealand?

"I am very grateful for that and am very pleased," he said.

"The only time my New Zealand-ness comes out is when the rugby is on, then I am afraid I can't help myself.

"I lived for 20 years in Australia and still own real estate there and love Australia dearly.

"Sometimes I get disappointed I get asked to choose; I don't have to choose, I can be both.

"I sort of am. But if I was to go home, I would probably go home to Australia."

Dale appeared as a politician in season two of recently ended cult crime drama The Killing and had a guest role in House of Lies, coming to Ten later this year.

"One of the producers said to me the two series of The Killing are like the first half of an episode of Law & Order; a crime that hasn't been solved yet," he joked.

"It was really interesting working on it; it was one of the few times the director didn't ask me to act faster because the story was being stretched out. I loved watching it."

Next week he returns to Vancouver to start season two of Once Upon a Time.

"Of all the shows I have done it is a particularly fun show to work on, the people are great and the crew is fantastic," he said.

The West Australian

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