It’s hard to believe that Jerry O’Connell has been acting for more than 30 years; he got his first break in 1986’s coming-of-age drama Stand By Me. He’s one of those former child actors who transitioned smoothly into adulthood, without pulling a Lindsay Lohan. Now in his fourth decade in showbiz, O’Connell, who’s married to Rebecca Romijn,, shows no signs of slowing down — he’s working on TV, movies, and stage plays. He's even had a go as a chat show host (The Wendy Williams Show and Live! with Kelly). Yes, the father of two daughters likes to talk. When we recently got him on the phone from LA, he was all upbeat and enthusiastic about his latest endeavour, Carter, a hour-long TV show where he plays an actor working as a detective. The show isn't autobiographical, by the way. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
8 DAYS: On Carter, you play Harley Carter, a Hollywood actor who sidelines as a police consultant in his hometown in Canada. What drew you to the project?
JERRY O’CONNELL: They wrote a script and they sent it to me. I’ve done these types of shows; Carter is about an actor who worked on a crime show, then moved back to his small hometown where he uses his knowledge from working on a crime show to help the police. I also worked on another show called Crossing Jordan for six years. It just really made me laugh that I would be this amazing television detective who [thinks he’s an] amazing detective [in real life]. Also, when I knew that Sydney Tamiia Poitier, who plays Harley’s childhood friend and the local cop, was going to be in it, I knew it was going to be a special experience. I first met her when we went to the New York University, and I really wanted to work with her.
You’ve played cops on a few occasions. Do you think you’d make a good cop in real life?
I have played a couple of cops. I think when you work in television, a lot of times you either play a cop, a lawyer or a doctor. Maybe I just look like a cop! I don’t think I could be a cop in real life; I’m not that law-abiding in real life. I speed a lot, and I jaywalk. I’d probably be a better lawyer because cops have to wrestle and restrain people. I don’t want to have do that; I’d keep getting beaten up if I were a cop.
Harley Carter is going through a midlife crisis. Even though he’s on a successful show, he doesn’t find it creatively satisfying. Have you experienced what he’s been through?
I’m not as neurotic as Carter. I’m a pretty easygoing guy. I don’t get into fights at work. I‘m really not as crazy as the character of Harley Carter, who’s a pretty crazy, neurotic guy, and I am not (laughs). So it’s sort of fun to play a crazy actor. But if you ask Sydney, she’d probably say I’m a crazy actor. I don’t think I’m as dramatic as he is though, so it’s fun to play the over-the-top drama of the character.
In the first episode, Harley makes a Tom Cruise reference. Was that in the script or ad-libbed?
It was in the script! Because our boss Garry Campbell is just such a good writer, I didn’t change the style of it at all. I don’t have to change his stuff. It’s just great; it’s just all there. I didn’t ad-lib. We name-dropped a bunch of celebrities because we always try to make it seem like we’re a part of [the real] Hollywood as much as we can.
I asked that because you and Tom Cruise were in Jerry Maguire. I thought you’d be sick of talking about that movie…
Are you kidding me? I can talk about it all you want. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever worked on. I think we should all talk about Jerry Maguire.
How about The Defenders, the legal drama where you and Jim Belushi play Las Vegas lawyers. It lasted just one season. Do you get sentimental when a show gets cancelled?
Sure, you do, but you also have to realise that there’s a good chance this is happening because there’s another great job waiting around the corner.
Which do you prefer, doing a show that can potentially go on for six years or guest spots on shows like The Big Bang Theory and Scream Queens?
I like mixing it up a little bit. When you do a show like Carter, that’s my baby. That’s the one that we really started from scratch, and it was just a script a year ago. Here we are, we’re done with the first season, and we want to keep going.
If there was a Jerry O’ Connell retrospective, what would you programme as the opening and closing movie or TV show?
Stand By Me would have to be the opening one — I was in that movie when I was a kid. And I’d close with Carter. I really think Carter is just one of those shows where it's a lot like Castle. It can run for a lot of years. There could be a lot of murder stuff we have to solve. We just have such a fun time doing it, we really hope it catches on. I’m really hoping that Carter is a big hit so that I can be in your neck of the woods. I really want HOOQ to send me over there.
If you could have an actor guest on Carter, who would it be?
I wanna get Nathan Fillion, because our show is a lot like Castle, and it would just be so much fun to get Nathan Fillion on our show.
Carter is on HOOQ.