After the iconic U.S. sitcom came to an end in 2004, Matt then signed on to star in the spin-off show Joey, but it was a ratings flop, and was cancelled in 2006.

Matt was then plunged into a "dark time" as he gave up on acting and retreated from the spotlight.

"For years and years, I barely left the house. I was burnt out. I wanted to not have a schedule, not be somewhere," he told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper.

"I was in a position to do that. My agent was bummed. Most actors call their agents and say, 'What's going on?' I'd call mine and say, 'Please lose my number for a few years'. It was a very dark time. I almost had a nervous breakdown."

The actor retreated to his cattle ranch in California, and suffered another blow as his marriage to British model Melissa MCKnight crumbled.

The couple split in 2006, and concentrated their efforts on taking care of their daughter Marina, who was born with cortical dysplasia, an abnormality in the brain's development which is a common cause of epilepsy.

"It was a very dark period," Matt confessed. "But I got through it. Don't they say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger?"

Marina, now 11, has reportedly outgrown her medical condition, and is the apple of her father's eye. "The second I laid eyes on her (when she was born), I was in love, and I had never felt that way before," he said.

"I couldn't believe it. I knew from that moment there was nothing that would ever stop me from loving her - even if she crashed my Ferrari."

Despite being thrust back into the public eye with his new role as co-presenter of revamped U.K. TV series Top Gear, Matt prefers to spend his free time with his daughter instead of at showbiz parties.

"We make breakfast, go horseback-riding, hiking, I really try to off-set this computer age kid thing that's going on now with as much time outside," he said. "Spending time with her is the best thing I've ever done. We have a great bond and it's the best thing in my life."