“Oh yeah, it takes over my life. It’s horrendous,” he tells PEOPLE jokingly. “You’ve got to be prepared that at a table read, you’re going to sit down, read the script and think, ‘Oh God, I can’t eat tomorrow!’ ”
To get in shape for the role, Foley worked with personal trainer Gunnar Peterson and had a nutritionist over the summer. “Especially when I knew the possibility of me being on a beach somewhere with my shirt off for the first episode was really high,” he says.
The actor even makes time for exercise when he can’t get to the gym. “We’ll be in the middle of watching Survivor and my wife is like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m just like, ‘I’ve got to do some push-ups, babe.’ That’s what you do when you know that 12 to 15 million people are going to see you without your shirt on.”
Torn between Tony Goldwyn’s character, President Fitzgerald Grant, and Foley’s Jake, the show’s loyal viewers are quick to lean in either direction, Foley insists. “There’s still some vitriol aimed my way and I understand, but people have really come around to Team Jake,” he says. “Someone said that to Tony, too. He’s like, ‘It’s amazing the things people will say to your face.’ ”
His favorite fan encounter? “I was walking through the grocery store, my wife had sent me to get some chicken, and this woman was talking on her phone, and we were walking toward each other and she stopped dead in her tracks and said into her phone, ‘I have to call you back,’ ” Foley recalls. “She took her earpiece out and to me she said, ‘Oh my God, I love you!’ And she ran up and gave me a huge hug. Out of nowhere, I’m looking for chicken, and I was damn near proposed to. It was so sweet.”
At home with his wife, actress Marika Dominczyk, whom he married in June 2007, Foley says his favorite time of day is bath time with their kids – daughter Malina, 5, son Keller, 2, and son Konrad, who was just born on Nov. 13.
“Right after dinner, there’s that pre-bed energy. I join them in the bath or they take one and we play games and talk,” he says. “They’re not old enough to have dinner conversations and talk about school yet. That’s when we all just enjoy each other’s company.”
For more from Foley, pick up PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, on newsstands Friday