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With five kids, making couples time takes proper planning for NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell and wife Caroline.

“You’ve got to carve out some date nights every now and then,” the actor, 40, tells me during Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Male Awards held recently. “We were just out in the desert. It wasn’t a family trip – it was an adult trip – but ultimately it was a couple days with just the two of us. I think that’s really important.”

He adds, “It’s really easy to get so caught up in either the kids or going out with groups and having fun, but surprisingly, you do get time because the kids are done at 8:00. They’re asleep. So from 8:00 on, that’s kind of our time. It’s not the worst thing to stay home on a Saturday night and hang out.”

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Managing a family that includes Lily, 10, Chip, 9, Charles, 6, Finley, 3, and Maeve, 2, requires a certain amount of give-and-take.

“I have a wife and a nanny, too, so it makes it a little bit easier,” he says. “It’s my number one priority. It really is. With the show taking up a lot of time, my golf game is gone. I don’t play anymore.”

He adds, “Before I came here, I was in Palm Springs and I was supposed to fly here from Palm Springs. I wasn’t feeling it. I’m like ‘I’ve gotta see my kids before I go,’ so I drove to L.A., and I saw them for five minutes, and then I got on a plane, but it made the difference. I can’t handle being away from them that long.”

For Chris, family life provides constancy.

“As crazy as our lives are, the highs are so high and the lows are so low, but at the end of the day, you go home and you see these beautiful kids, and nothing else matters. You’re grateful for what you have.”

How did Caroline, whom he wed in 1997, react when she heard about her husband getting the prestigious honor?

“She burst into tears,” he says. “I don’t want to say it was like the lottery win, but she said ‘honey, I always knew you could do it, you’ve always been fun and fearless.’ No, she was upset that she didn’t get to come tonight because she was with the kids. But I was excited to be here. It’s a fun group. I’m happy to get out of Los Angeles, I’ve been working so hard. I’m happy to be at the party.”

NCIS: Los Angeles airs Tuesdays at 9/8c.

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