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Childhood

Christopher Eugene O’Donnell was born on June 26, 1970 in Winnetka, Illinois to  William O’Donnell, Sr.(Irish descent) and his wife Julie(German descent). He is the youngest of seven children (two brothers, four sisters). Chris admits to being a “spoiled brat” in his childhood days.  His mother would make him whatever he would want for breakfast, despite what she had fixed the rest of the family. The O’Donnell’s lived on a golf course and young  Chris would tag along with everyone and has enjoyed playing golf ever since.  (Actually, his attraction the course predates even that: his mother recalls finding a 2-year-old Chris on the golf course after crawling out the family’s doggie door.)

Chris showed an interest in acting from an early age. He would watch television and think about how easily he could do what the actors were doing. He started modeling in his early teen days. His sister Sally had gotten him a break when she met an agent at a wedding. The agent immediately saw that there was something special about him. Chris continued to model and even made a McDonald’s commercial with basketball superstar Michael Jordan. He also appeared on the ABC-TV drama “Jack and Mike.”

Early Career

After graduating from Loyola Academy in Chicago, he attended Boston College. With education becoming his main concern, his mother realized that he might give up acting, so she bribed him with a car to audition for the role of “Chris” in Men Don’t Leave. He thought he had blown it when he failed to attend the whole audition process. (He had other plans: a Bruce Springsteen concert.) When he heard that he had gotten the part, he called his mother and started telling her about cars that he was considering. He would pick out really expensive ones just to tease her. His Men Don’t Leave costar Jessica Lange even got Chris another part in her next movie Blue Sky, which would have to wait about four years to be released. (She won an Academy Award for her performance.) He was the original choice to play Barbara Streisand’s son in Prince of Tides, but her own son was seen as a better actor for the role. However, Chris still got paid, not to mention recognition from his roommate who first answered the phone when Barbara had called to break the news to Chris herself. Once word got around, there was a crowd in Chris’s dorm waiting for Barbara to call him back. Chris also had a small part in Fried Green Tomatoes, which starred actresses Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates. He played the memorable all-around-good -guy Buddy. This role got him recogniton at school, not to mention the title “The Fried Green Tomatoes Kid.” Chris also made a movie called School Ties with many other up-and-coming stars.

During filming, Chris went to an audition for the role that would give him his big break, not to mention convince him to make acting his career: Scent of a Woman. Chris first met the film’s star Al Pacino in an elevator after auditioning. He felt that he made a bad first impression and had lost the part for sure. To his surprise, he got it and made an impression on the Hollywood scene. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance and also listed as one of the twelve “Promising New Actors of 1992″ by John Willis in Screen World,Vol. 44. Pacino also gave Chris some advice: “Never date an actress, you’ll always be second in her life.” Chris heeded the warning and ended up marrying an elementary school teacher, who was the sister of his BC roommate Alex. He didn’t date her while bunking with Alex, fearing his disapproval. Caroline Fentress (her name) and Chris first had a little date that ended with a kiss. They never really talked to each for a few years afterward. This ended when Chris called her up and had to remind her who he was.

The Batman Years

Caroline and Chris courted during his early career, which brought about movies such as The Three Musketeers, Circle of Friends, and Mad Love. He was awarded ShoWest’s “Male Star of Tomorrow” in 1994. These roles led up to his being cast as Dick Grayson/Robin in the 1995 Summer blockbuster Batman Forever . He attended UCLA to finish getting his marketing degree while on the set. He soon became a household name, not to mention named one of People’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1996. A few less successful films followed. After making the 1997 sequel Batman & Robin(for which he won a Blockbuster award), Chris took some time off to enjoy married life, with his new wife (April 1997), the previously-mentioned Caroline.

New Roles: Producer, Theater Actor, and Dad

He came back to the big screen in Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune. He followed his role by starring in The Bachelor, his first venture into the producing field, as well. His production company was part of a deal with Warner Bros. It’s called George Street Pictures, named after a former address of his. Other projects he produced were Miracle on the Seventh Green and The Triangle, both for TV. Chris starred in the 2000 blockbuster Vertical Limit. The movie was very significant to him personally. His wife had their first child Lily Anne(September 1999) while he was filming it in New Zealand, and right before doing the talk show circuits, they had their second child Christopher Eugene O’Donnell, Jr.(October 2000), whom they call Chip. He went on to film an indie movie in 2001 called 29 Palms, which will not be having a theatrical release. He moved on to theatre, and starred as Davey in Arthur Miller’s play The Man Who Had All the Luck at the Williamstown Festival. He later went on with the production to Broadway, where he received great reviews. The theatre bug bit Chris a few more times. He did some charity productions of The World of Nick Adams and Short Talks on the Universe.

Chris’s film projects have been more sparse in the past decade. He appeared as Wardell Pomeroy in the biopic Kinsey with Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard, and friend Oliver Platt. The movie was released in 2004. It managed to gain some Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Chris appeared on screen again two years later in the indie The Sisters playing David Turzin — a professor enamored with
the youngest sister Irene. The film costarred Eric McCormack, Maria Bello, and Mary Stuart Masterson. He’s also since made some small appearances in Kit Kittredge, Cats & Dogs 2, and the indie flick A Little Help with Jenna Fischer.

Switching Gears: Television

Chris’s absence on film is due to his concentration on television nowadays. Chris has stated in interviews that TV schedules are easier on his family, which has only grown over the past few years: Charles McHugh O’Donnell was born in July of 2003 and Finley O’Donnell was born in March 2006. Chris’s foray into television began when he guest-starred on the hit television drama The Practice. Chris was able to score a pilot deal with CBS and filmed the pilot for The Amazing Westerbergs/mans. Unfortunately, the show was not picked up by CBS.  However, the CBS deal did give Chris a chance to show off his comic chops when he guest-starred on the show Two and a Half Men with former The Three Musketeers costar Charlie Sheen. Chris turned in a hilarious performance as Bill/Jill: a former girlfriend of Charlie’s who has undergone a sex-change operation. (The CBS work would pay off years later.)

Chris was given another shot at a TV show. He costarred in the quirky and delightful legal dramedy Head Cases
with the always unpredictable and entertaining Adam Goldberg. Unfortunately, FOX gave the show a horrible timeslot and it was pulled
after only two episodes. At midseason, though, Chris guest-starred on the hit show Grey’s Anatomy. He played the
lovable vet Dr. Finn Dandridge. His arc extended over from the end of the second season to the third. His character
exited in the fourth episode of season 3.  Chris followed his Grey’s stint with TNT’s mini-series The Company, based on the novel by Robert Litell.  The mini-series underperformed, but did give Chris the chance to work with such acting vets as Alfred Molina and Michael Keaton.  Soon after, Chris and Caroline welcomed a fifth child: Maeve Frances, born in December of 2007.

NCIS: Los Angeles

Chris’s TV career continues: after appearing in a backdoor pilot on CBS’s N.C.I.S., he went on to star in the show’s spin-off NCIS: Los Angeles.  Chris plays Special Agent G. Callen.  The series costars rapper turned actor LL Cool J and is already in its second season.  The show scores hit ratings week after week. While the hours may be long somedays, Chris has said that this helps him set a good example of hard work for his kids.  He’s also stressed how much free weekends mean “family time” for him.

Biography written by Zelie

Credit is mandatory if any of this is duplicated