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Q&A With Chris O'Donnell

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At the height of your film career, you turned down big Hollywood roles to spend more time with your family. Looking back, at 42, are you content with how everything turned out?

I’ve always known family was a priority for me, and it’s something I really wanted. So it’s a matter of balance. Had I continued to crank out films, I would not be sitting in my house right now with five kids and living the life I’m living, so it’s not even close. I would never trade the children we have, or the family set-up we have. I’m so fortunate to have a steady job in such a competitive industry. Forget the fame -- success can be very fleeting. To be working on a show at a point where I need to be locked down and stable in one place because this is where the kids go to school … I feel so incredibly fortunate.

Now you star in a hit TV series, NCIS: Los Angeles, and you even direct episodes. How do you balance the pressures of the set with the demands of family life?

It’s an amazing schedule for a 1-hour show. We keep it to 12 hours a day. It’s a credit to the production team. I hear so many stories of other weekly shows going 14, 16 hours every day, where Fridays nights usually extend as late as 2 or 3 in the morning, so they call it “Fraturday.” That never happens on our show. I’m either home for dinner, or I drive the kids to school in the morning.

You share a lot of screen time with ultra-buff LL Cool J. Feel the pressure to stay in tip-top shape?

I will never be in the condition he is -- he’s a rare human physical specimen! I’m more concerned [about exercising] in order to maintain my energy level. We’re doing 25 episodes this year. That’s 200 days of filming. You gotta watch it, and get in workouts simply to recharge your batteries.

While playing Robin during your Batman & Robin days, you injured your back doing a stunt. Does this injury still plague you?

My back pain is not going away. Like anything, it gets worse when I don’t take care of myself. It’s all about core muscles. If I feel back pain it’s a reminder that I need to get back into the gym. If I can stretch out in the morning and get a 30-minute workout in, I’m a new man. Yoga is the greatest thing for it. For me, two days a week of traditional cardio and weightlifting, plus one day of yoga -- that’s the perfect way to take care of my back and my body.

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