In Flipped, an adaptation of Wendelin Van Draanen's young adult novel, your character, Mr. Loski, is a judgmental dad. Was it hard to relate to him?
The movie helped me realize that even well- intentioned parents can still mess up their kids! There isn't a lot of gray area with Loski— it's all black or white.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on father?
I definitely spend a lot of time with my kids. That was the choice I made in leaving ER—and Hollywood. I wanted to participate more in their lives.
How did you meet your wife, Jeanine?
She was a makeup artist on the set of Pet Sematary Two in 1992. I sat in her chair, she cast a spell, and that was it—done for life. Jeanine can help just about anyone with any problem. She takes care of a lot of people, and I'm lucky to be in that circle.
What's hardest about parenthood?
Watching my kids go through puberty. They feel awkward, lost, lonely, and not part of the group. Or one minute they're popular, and the next, not so popular. It makes me feel inadequate as a parent, but it's part of life.
You mean the kids actually talk to you about those things?
They do! Well, okay—their mom is better. But dads have to find a way to discuss tough topics, even when we don't agree with what our kids are doing. It can be frustrating when your teenager gives attitude. You actually think, "I don't want to talk to this person." But you have to because you love him and communicating is the only way to work through it.
Do the kids think it's cool that you're an actor?
Nah. When I showed them an old trailer for Gotcha  they were rolling on the floor laughing at my hair. They weren't interested in the movie because I was so ridiculous looking. My daughters just wish I'd work with Robert Pattinson!
Best Known for... Playing Dr. Mark Greene for eight years on the hit drama ER. But he's also appeared in film classics like Top Gun and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
My Kids Hate It, But I Like to... "Embarrass them by telling bad jokes in front of their friends. It makes them squirm."
Me Time: "I run for an hour, three or four times a week. In 2009 I ran the New York Marathon to raise money and awareness for Shoe4Africa, which is building a children's hospital in Kenya."
Perfect Saturday: "No one has to get out of bed until he's ready. We make crepes or pancakes, then head out to do something fun. Weekends are a break from school for parents too—packing up four kids every day is no easy feat!"
If I Weren't an Actor: "I would be a race-car driver. My guilty pleasure is watching Formula One racing, and years back I was the pace car driver at the Indy 500."
I Try Not to... "Barter with my kids or reward them for something they should be doing anyway."
Originally published in the October 1, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.