The views are stunning, but Chris and Caroline barely have time for a glance as they corral their brood. Fourteen-year-old Lily, the oldest, is out the door and heading to high school across town. Charlie, 10, “my focused little guy,” as Chris calls him, has already gotten dressed, eaten breakfast and is watching the Golf Channel. Chip, 13, is present but not fully accounted for; his eyes may be open but he’s half asleep. Finn, 8, is nowhere in sight. “You’ve called him 12 times but he’s still in bed and won’t come down,” Chris says. And 6-year-old Maeve, snuggled on a lap, is having her ponytails done.
The rush hour of life
At 43, Chris is in the throes of what he calls—borrowing a phrase from sociologists—“the rush hour of life.” It’s that period when both the demands of career and family peak. “Right now I’m in the vortex of everything,” he says. “It’s crazy for me.” Days on the set of his hit CBS series NCIS: Los Angeles can run 14 hours, and weekends are, if anything, even more jammed. “It’s literally divide and conquer,” he says; he and Caroline split duties of shuttling the kids to riding lessons, soccer, basketball, football and baseball games, with most Sunday mornings devoted to church.
As hectic as rush hour may be, Chris is more than content riding in the carpool lane. He has created the life he always wanted for himself: a large, happy family and the means to provide for them. That desire for blissful domesticity seems woven into his very DNA.
A couple of years after his beloved father, William, passed away, Chris looked into his roots on the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are? (This is a sharp contrast to his TV character, G. Callen, a military special agent who grew up in 20 foster homes and doesn’t even know what the “G” in his first name stands for.) What Chris discovered left his blue eyes watering several times during the episode: Generation after generation, the men of his family had answered a call to service—fighting in the War of 1812 and later in the Spanish-American War, helping bury bodies during the cholera epidemic that hit St. Louis in the 1840s—but always returned home to their families when they were needed.
“Family was the most important thing in life to them,” Chris says. “And maybe that’s part of why it feels so natural to me, so right, that it’s also my instinct to put family ahead of everything else. There are past generations that instill that in you without your even knowing.” (…)