×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Chris O’Donnell Receives a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

As they say in Hollywood, timing is everything and, for child star-turned-“NCIS: Los Angeles” lead Chris O’Donnell, this was certainly the case.

“I got my letter from Boston College and it said, ‘You’re wait-listed,’” the Chicago-born actor recalls of senior year in high school when it was the classroom, and not a film set, on which he had set his aspirational sights. “Then I got a call from David Rubin, the casting director (of ‘Men Don’t Leave’), and he said, ‘You’ve got the part.’ And I couldn’t believe it. He says it’s going to film from July to October. And I sat there thinking, ‘Oh my God. I’m going to miss college.’ And I actually said, ‘Let me call you back.’ Because this was a huge decision. I loved acting, but I was so excited to go to college. I think there was a part of me that was scared, thinking, can I do this? What are the chances that I’ll actually be successful at (acting)? I was the youngest of seven kids and my dad worked his ass off my entire life and I said, ‘I need to have a real job. I can’t just chase an acting career the rest of my life. I need something to back it up.’ So the idea of getting a finance degree, because I also loved business, just made sense. I figured if the acting thing doesn’t work out, that’s what I’ll pursue.And then Boston College sent me a letter and said, ‘You’re off the wait-list. Unfortunately we can’t take you until January.’ And I said, ‘This is meant to be.’”

It wasn’t until sophomore year when a roommate relayed a phone message from Barbra Streisand that fellow classmates noticed O’Donnell wasn’t your average co-ed majoring in finance.

“I didn’t tell anybody what I’d been doing,” says O’Donnell of his then-burgeoning film career (His expanding resume would come to consist of roles in critically applauded dramas “School Ties,” “Fried Green Tomatoes” and, in 1992, the movie that made him a break-out star, “Scent of a Woman,” in which he appeared opposite a “Hoo-ah!” spouting Al Pacino). “I didn’t want to be the kid at school that made a movie. I wanted to meet everybody on my own terms. And I had to kind of come clean and explain that I was an actor. I had almost a whole year of nobody knowing who I was. It was great. I wanted to be one of the guys.”

While it took him a while to graduate — “I took four night classes when I made the first ‘Batman’ movie, and people thought I was crazy” — O’Donnell, who will receive his star on the Walk of Fame on March 5, was committed to making it happen. “It was about fulfilling a promise to my dad,” he says. “At that point, I knew I wouldn’t be going to business school and pursuing a finance career. It’s no different than, say, a quarterback in the NFL going back and getting his degree over the summer.It was just something I wanted to do. I knew it would be hard to raise kids someday and not say that I had a college degree.”

To this day, O’Donnell, who eschewed the whole “L.A. club scene” in his youth, remains one of those rare celebrities leading a fairly normal life amidst the oft-tumultuous terrain of Hollywood.
“I never intended to get married at such a young age, but you meet the right person in life and it kind of takes care of itself,” he says of meeting his wife and raising their five children.
“And it was a choice. I knew at that point that I was going down a different path. You’ve got to know who you are. I thought to myself, this is my chance. This is the last normal person I’m going to meet. I knew it was right.”

From his 2006 stint as a sexy veterinarian on “Grey’s Anatomy” to his current gig playing opposite LL Cool J on CBS’ popular procedural “NCIS: Los Angeles,” now in its fifth season, O’Donnell seems to have the best of both worlds: a stellar career (he’s also directed two episodes of the series) and a grounded home life.

“I wouldn’t trade my current job for anything,” says O’Donnell. “It affords me the ability to be in Los Angeles, to see my kids every day and have a steady job. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and it’s just crazy. To still be providing for my family like this is so great.
And I love the people I work with. I remember sitting in my house as a kid and watching LL Cool J in videos. If you would have told me that 30 years later he and I would be spending every waking hour together, I would have been like, ‘You’re insane.’ It’s so funny how life brings you together with certain people. He and I have a solid bond and I can trust that guy with my life.”

But while working in television is “very satisfying on a professional and an artistic level,” the itch to return to the bigscreen remains.

“I want to do film again at some point,” says O’Donnell. “And I will. I’m actually excited, when the show ends someday, to take some time off for a while. I’ll be a 50-year-old guy. I’ll be a different person than people remember. And there will be exciting new roles to take on, but this is where I’m supposed to be right now.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmys: Big 4 Broadcasters Post Lowest Combined Wins Ever

    The Big 4 broadcast networks put a cap on their worst year in Emmy history on Sunday night. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC brought home just 16 Emmy Awards — the lowest combined total in history for the four major broadcast networks. The previous low was 19 combined wins in 2016. Last year, the networks [...]

  • Karamo BrownLA LGBT Center 'Hearts of

    Karamo Brown Addresses Backlash Against Sean Spicer Comments

    Karamo Brown has doubled down on comments he made about his fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Sean Spicer, in which he promoted the idea of meeting political adversaries “in the middle.” The amicable “Queer Eye” host received criticism when he said he was “most excited to meet” Spicer ahead of the show’s 28th season, [...]

  • Billy Porter Emmy Win 2019 Pose

    Billy Porter Dispels Rumors of RuPaul Rift Backstage at Emmys

    Billy Porter choked up backstage on Sunday at the Emmy Awards as he spoke about the larger cultural significance of his lead drama actor Emmy win for the FX drama “Pose.” Porter leads the large ensemble on the series set in 1980s New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis and the birth [...]

  • Michelle-Williams-Rupaul-Split

    Emmy Winners Urge Political Activism During Acceptance Speeches

    As the country inches closer to the 2020 election, Emmy winners on Sunday night used their time in the spotlight to advocate for political causes. Celebrities such as Patricia Arquette, Michelle Williams, and RuPaul Charles all urged activism from viewers while accepting their awards. While accepting her Emmy for her supporting role in Hulu’s “The [...]

  • Julia-Garner-Billy-Porter-Phoebe-Waller-Bridge

    An Emmy Night Full of Surprises Matches TV's Energy in the Streaming Era (Column)

    The 2019 Emmy telecast effectively began with a speech by a star from the recent past: Bryan Cranston, who recalled watching the moon landing on television, noting that the most famous televised event in history made him feel he could “go anywhere — even Albuquerque.” The reference to the setting of “Breaking Bad,” the past [...]

  • Phoebe Waller Bridge Emmys

    TV Review: The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards

    The 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards had some truly surprising moments, twists that not even the most experienced prognosticators saw coming, moving tributes and calls to action. It’s just too bad that not a single one of them came courtesy of Fox’s production.  The Emmys are, all things considered, a dependably tame awards ceremony. They [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content