What ‘NCIS: Los Angeles” Chris O’Donnell Says About Marriage and Being the Dad of Five Kids

Playing Agent G. Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles since 2009, Chris O’Donnell has a list of acting credits that includes major motion pictures such as Scent of a Woman with Al Pacino and Batman and Robin with George Clooney. What some viewers may not know is that O’Donnell also has the starring role of husband and father with his wife and five children.

“NCIS: Los Angeles'” Chris O’Donnell | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

How he met his wife

Married to wife Caroline for over 20 years, O’Donnell talked about meeting her in an interview with Redbook in 2010. “I lived in the same building as her brother Andrew. She came to visit and we had a little smooch. I knew there was something special about her from that moment, but we didn’t see each other again for three years,” O’Donnell recalled. “One night I was out with Andrew and said, ‘What is that little sister of yours up to? Let’s give her a call.’ So we did, and she was like, ‘Why are you calling me?’ I didn’t really know why, except that I had never forgotten her. And we started talking… We dated for three years and got married when I was 26.”

Though some may have considered 26 a young age to get married, especially since he was starting to hit it big in Hollywood, O’Donnell thought it was perfect timing. “I was in the right place earlier than I thought. I would think to myself, ‘Could I imagine not marrying her?’ And there was just no way,” he told Redbook.

Despite being an up-and-coming actor, O’Donnell said he knew he wanted to live his life on a traditional path, which drew him to Caroline. “I knew when I got into this business I couldn’t have it both ways: I could live the playboy lifestyle, which is not a bad thing to do, or have a traditional family life, which is how I grew up. And that was more important to me,” O’Donnell said in the interview. “Our families have the same values and traditions, and I think that goes a long way, because when the excitement and heat of romance wears off, those are the things you fall back on.”

Five (yes, five!) kids

O’Donnell is the father of five children: Lily, Christopher Jr., Finley, Maeve, and Charles. As the youngest of seven, O’Donnell relishes having a big family. “I love it… I’m the youngest of seven, so I didn’t know any different,” he said.

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Busy elves

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The NCIS: Los Angeles star also realizes that his family brings him the most contentment. “When I’m sitting in the backyard at the end of the day with a glass of wine, watching the kids having fun and clowning around, for me, that’s what it’s all about,” O’Donnell said, according to the Huffington Post.

What he learned from him mom

O’ Donnell clearly has a close relationship with his mother, Julie. Respecting the fact that she successfully raised seven children, O’Donnell recently said in a Parade interview that he values everything she has taught him over the years. “Now that I have five kids of my own, I think about the moments where she just decided what was best for us, and that was the way it was going to be,” he said of his mom. “We could fight about it, but it wasn’t going to change because she knew best. If there was a kid she thought was not a good influence on you, you were not doing a sleepover at his house and that was just the end of the story.”

The actor often reflects on his mother’s parenting skills when he’s interacting with his childen. “Every day I’m faced with a different challenge with my own kids. I’m always thinking back, ‘Well, what did Mom used to say here?’ I’m using the old, ‘Because I said so,’ which carries a lot of weight,” O’Donnell told Parade. “I look back on it now as a parent and I think, ‘Yeah, she put her foot down because she was the law.’ Dad [William Charles O’Donnell, Sr.] was working all the time and Mom ran that house with seven kids. If she had to call on Dad for backup, that was one thing, but she was running the ship and she was pretty good at that.”

Chris O’Donnell and parents Julie O’Donnell and William O’Donnell | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

O’Donnell also talked about his mom’s persistence, and how it launched his career. “The first movie I ever did was a film for Warner Bros. [Men Don’t Leave]. I was 17 years old. I was kind of dumb. I thought, ‘This is a waste of time. In a million years, they’re not going to cast me in this lead role opposite Jessica Lange. I’m not sitting in traffic for an hour and driving down there,'” he recalled to Parade.

Turns out mom didn’t agree. “She left me a note saying, ‘No, you’ve got to go, they really like you,’ because I had [auditioned] once already. She’s like, ‘Just promise me you’ll go.’ It ended up that audition changed my life because I got that role. So, it wasn’t that she had some secret to the business. It was just her persistence: Just go, just go to this one more audition. You never know.”

Mom really does know best!