Jerry O'Connell on bond with 'Stand by Me' co-stars Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman: 'They're the people I feel the most comfortable with'
The "Pictionary" and "The Talk" host also shares which of his career credits his kids care most about.
Jerry O'Connell is settling into this whole hosting thing.
It's been nearly two years since the actor who grew up on camera — playing Stand by Me's Vern at just 11 — became The Talk's first male co-host after Sharon Osbourne's dramatic departure. At the same time, he landed the job of game show host for Pictionary, which was recently renewed for a second season. On both, he's high energy and humorous, two qualities needed for the gigs.
"Some people call that 'extra,'" the funnyman quips while talking to Yahoo Entertainment. "Online they say, 'He's 'too extra.'"
If they mean extra mindful of the opinions he shares when weighing in on current events on The Talk each day, they're right. He's aware — from show history — how quickly one exchange can go wrong.
Asked if he ever gets nervous he'll slip up, he says "maybe... about doing a live show and saying something that will get me into trouble. But it's funny: My thoughts aren't bad. I don't have bad intentions. So I don't think I'll ever say anything that gets me in trouble. Watch I'll go on tomorrow’s show and say: Insert crazy thought here [laughs]. But I don't really think in a negative manner."
He continues, "It does take a second to get comfortable because, listen, I got this job on The Talk because they had a change in cast and they let go of some cast members," with Osbourne's forced exit being followed by the departures of Carrie Ann Inaba and Elaine Welteroth. "That's how a seat became open and that's why I'm on The Talk. So it's something that I used to think about, but I don't think about anymore. And that's probably why I'll say something that'll get me kicked out of here [laughs]."
Jokes aside, O'Connell says it's important to him to contribute to the conversation during each show.
"We have topics — like today, for example, we talked about the Gisele [Bündchen] interview in Vanity Fair — and you just don't want to come out and be like, 'It's great!' and not say anything," he says. "You want to say something. I really try to think: How can I be honest here without offending people? Will my words hurt anybody? I try to be as honest as possible. I don't want to hurt anybody. I'm not in the hurting business. I'm not in the business of making people angry. That's not my job. There are enough channels and Instagram channels and online content for that."
So far, he's provided an array of memorable moments, like last year when he apologized on-air to his Stand by Me co-star Wil Wheaton for "not being there more" when they were making the film. (A year prior, Wheaton told Yahoo Entertainment that a childhood with "emotional abuse" had fueled his performance as in the 1986 coming-of-age film.)
"We're very honest with each other," he says of Wheaton, holding up a series of old photos of them — along with Corey Feldman and the late River Phoenix from Stand by Me — that he keeps on his desk at The Talk. "We're very open. I went to Wil's 50th birthday party last summer. He's doing great. He's got a show called The Ready Room on Paramount+. It's the quintessential everything Star Trek show and he's so good at hosting it. And Corey's doing great too, touring with his music. I'm so proud of them. We're just old friends. We just fall right into a dialogue. They're the people I feel the most comfortable with... They're just family. It's beyond friendship. It's everything."
O'Connell's also had real family members on the show. In February for his 49th birthday show, he surprised his wife of 15 years, Rebecca Romijn, with a shirtless dance alongside some Magic Mike Live pro dancers.
"My wife was like, 'Don't tell me anything. I want to be surprised,'" he says, adding, "My wife was surprised" as he gave her a lap dance. "By the way, I tried to make it look like I just jumped in and started dancing, [but] that was six weeks of rehearsal" for the steamy moment in which he kissed and licked the X-Men actress while she played along.
"Play" is the theme of his other big hosting gig — of the game show Pictionary, which was recently renewed for a second season on Fox First Run. There will be 180 new episodes airing on Fox-owned stations through the 2023-2024 season.
"I mean, don't tell my superiors this: But it's kind of a joke that I'm paid for it," he says. "Like it's the easiest job I've ever had. I just host a game of Pictionary in my parents' basement."
Well, actually he hosts it in a soundstage that looks like a finished basement. Each team has celebrity co-captains — Romijn has also been one along with Jaleel White, Ross Mathews, Carson Kressley, Greg Grunberg, Loni Love and Mike the Miz, who "really add the energy." He says the only thing changing for the second season, which will be taped this summer, is that there will be more money given away.
"The prizes are gonna get bigger," he says, "and that's the best part of being a game show host. You get to give people cash money." When he meets the contestants for the first time, "I'm like: Let's get this money, everybody! Let's go get it!"
What's unlikely to change are contestants drawing skills, which are a sign of the times.
"Nobody draws anymore or doodles in notebooks … because we have phones. People just don't have pens and paper," he says. "So people are bad at drawing. But, listen, when people are bad at drawing, that's great for our show as well."
O’Connell and Romijn have 14-year-old twin daughters and family game night at their California home are one of the ways to stay connected in this tech-obsessed world. It’s multi-generational, with O’Connell’s parents involved, and it gets a little rowdy.
"My parents are — sorry, they're gonna get mad that I say this — but my parents are in their 80s, my wife and I are of a particular age," 49 and 50 respectively, "and my kids are teenagers. So, what's the game you can all play together? Pictionary. We love it," he says, "But it's also the only game where you're allowed to go, [pretending to yell] "Grandma! Hurry up! Go! Come on, Grandma! Grandma, what is this?!"
O'Connell often shares funny videos he takes while driving his daughters around:
O'Connell says that despite his long career, also including roles in the film Jerry Maguire and TV’s Billions, Crossing Jordan and Sliders, his daughters really only care about one of his credits.
"I've been in movies, I'm currently the host of The Talk and Pictionary, [but] me being in that Mariah Carey video — that's all my kids care about," he says. "Literally. My kids, when they introduce me to new friends, they go, 'This is my father. You might recognize him from playing the bad boyfriend in Mariah Carey's "Heartbreaker" video.' Nothing else matters."
As for whether he’s seen Carey since they made that iconic 1999 music video — in which two Mariahs brawl in a bathroom — which he shot at the Los Angeles Theatre helmed by director Brett Ratner, that would be no. But they do exchange pleasantries via text through a friend.
"We have a mutual friend and whenever I'm with that friend, we always send a photo or a text [to Carey] and she's very nice. So I'm two degrees separated," he says with a laugh. "I don't have Mariah’s number. I'm not texting with her. [Through her] friend, I say hello to her. I'm not that close."
He does keep in touch with another star he worked with: Kelly Ripa. He's been a guest-host on Live a lot over the years and was, at one point, a contender as replacement co-host before Ryan Seacrest got the gig. Now, years later, with Seacrest out and Ripa's husband Mark Consuelos in.
"Kelly and Mark are going to be incredible," predicts O'Connell, who pulls out a copy of Ripa's book, Live Wire, while we chat. Even more, he thinks her new podcast Let's Talk Off Camera With Kelly Ripa "is going to be fire."
"I want to ask Kelly and Mark, get my wife and I on your podcast," he says. "Let's make this happen. They're like couple goals for my wife and I. They're like parent goals as well; they're so good with their kids. I love them. So, look, their show is going to be great, but the podcast is going to be fire. That's where you're gonna get everything off off-camera. They're great."
Pictionary airs new episodes every weekday. Find out where to watch in your area.