June 22, 2016 08:00 AM

Matthew McConaughey opens up about falling in love, raising three kids and his provocative new film Free State of Jones. Subscribe now for an inside look into his journey from Texas to Hollywood, only in PEOPLE.

It’s hard to imagine a star more all-American than Matthew McConaughey.

Raised in Longview, Texas, the actor grew up playing sports and driving pickups, and was voted Most Handsome Student of his high school class. But despite being a major Hollywood star for 20 years, the Oscar winner has never forgotten where he comes from – or lost an ounce of his down-home charm. Thoughtful, hard-working and fiercely proud of his family (he still calls his mother, Kay, a former schoolteacher, every Sunday), McConaughey tops PEOPLE’s first-ever list of 100 Reasons to Love America.

Relishing a thriving career and a full life with wife Camila Alves, 33, and their three kids, Levi, who turns 8 on July 7, Vida, 6, and Livingston, 3, McConaughey opens up about his early years, raising his family and his amazing journey from Texas to Hollywood in this week’s PEOPLE cover story.

He gives a lot of the credit for his success to his wife. With Camila, “I’ve never been able to make any excuses,” says the Free State of Jones star, who sat down with PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly’s editorial director as part of the exclusive video series The Jess Cagle Interview.

For much more from Matthew McConaughey – and to celebrate all 100 reasons to love America – pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. Plus, watch more Jess Cagle Interviews at people.com/jesscagle.

VIDEO: Matthew McConaughey Opens up About his Evolution as an Actor, Being a Dad, and Wife, Camila Alves

The couple, who married on their sprawling Texas ranch in 2012 after six years of dating, delight in their kids’ distinct personalities. “[Levi is] the architect. Levi observes, Vida sees, Livingston does,” McConaughey says.

Matthew McConaughey poses for PEOPLE
Sam Jones

“[Levi is] the most considerate person I know but he loves to measure the anatomy of the situation. Very much a perfectionist like me. Vida just makes sense of situations. She cuts right to the nut of the answer real quick Then Livingston is the doer. He’s the monarch.”

Grateful that he can “create my own path,” the Oscar winner threw himself into his starring role in the provocative new Civil War drama Free State of Jones with his signature focus.

“I couldn’t help but feel a certain very vital relevance,” he says.

True to form, McConaughey sums up his life with these free-spirited words: “In process, baby. In process.”

WATCH: Behind the Cover: One More Reason to Love Matthew McConaughey

PEOPLE’s July 4th issue also celebrates 99 other people, places and things that make American great – from Serena Williams and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda to muffuletta sandwiches, Girl Scout Cookies and the Grand Canyon. Celebs chime in with their favorite things too. As Gwyneth Paltrow says: “The American Dream is still alive – we can build an extraordinary life and find an amazing opportunity.”

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