"I had to leave them this morning to come here – that's tough," Duchovny, 49, told PEOPLE at the film's Sunday premiere. Though last fall the couple separated, that was then. Now at home, he says, "Everything is great."
After calling Leoni, whom he married in 1997, a "great partner, wife, and mother" (and a killer on the tennis court, to boot), Duchovny talked up his cross-country family vacation over the summer. His favorite part of the journey? "Just being with my kids and watching them open up," he tells PEOPLE. "Just watching them relate to new people and new experiences – it's just great seeing them as little people."
Derrick Borte, director of The Joneses, added that it became evident during the filming of the movie just how devoted a family man Duchovny is.
Dad Duty"I'd go visit him in his trailer and one of them is hiding in the cabinets in there and they're running around... climbing all over him," says Borte.
But that's not to say the Californication star's on daddy duty all the time.
"He's a prankster and a jokester and really keeps everybody fresh and loose just by his humor," Borte says, adding that he could share any of Duchovny's jokes "without bleeping things out. But [he's] just a very funny guy. Very warm and giving and fun to work with ... And the smartest guy in the room."