O'Connell stands by his choice to keep on acting
January 21, 2003

Jerry O'Connell was always a hyperactive kid. At one point there was even talk of treating him with Ritalin to calm him down. But he found his own cure: he became an actor.
While many people might remember him as the chubby kid from "Stand by Me," O'Connell is all grown up now. With a cherubic face and bright blue eyes, at 28 he has managed to avoid the hazards that trip most child actors.

Now as the star of the comedy film, "Kangaroo Jack" and with a continuing role as Detective. Woody Hoyt on NBC's "Crossing Jordan," O'Connell figures he did the right thing when he traded his blossoming career for college.

"I said to my mom after high school, 'What if I don't go to college?' And she said, 'Over my dead body.'"

So O'Connell went, and graduated from New York University in 1995, with a major in screenwriting.

"I know college isn't for everyone but it was definitely for me. It helped me to become an adult. A lot of my acting friends did not go to college and I think it gives them a narrow, skewed view on Los Angeles and I think it's pretty much the only world that they know," he says.

O'Connell says "Stand By Me" was shown in one of his college classes.
"It was a big class, about 500 students,'' he says, "and everyone was analyzing it. And I thought, 'I should really take a shot at getting back into acting.'"
He did, and found himself starring in "Sliders," a slick sci-fi series, which aired first on Fox and moved over to the Sci Fi Channel in 1998.

Still blessed with excess energy, O'Connell admits that the long working hours stunt his social life.

"I'm a young guy, a single guy. I love to go out, especially in Hollywood where there are probably the most beautiful women in the world,'' he says. "When I was working on these films and 'Crossing Jordan ,' you work, like, 16 hours and it'll be 11 or 12 o'clock at night and you could go out for an hour but you're just so beat at that point. You go home and go to sleep. I don't think people understand how time consuming it is. That wears on me a little bit because I see friends going out and having a good time. And I think, 'God, I should be doing that.'"

What he's doing isn't bad. He co-starred in films like "Scream 2," "Mission to Mars," "Body Shots," and in the miniseries "The 60s" and in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Room Upstairs."

With the bigger budget "Kangaroo Jack," O'Connell feels he's finally hit the big time. "When you do these films everything is top notch. Like the chase scenes, in some movies you take three or four days, and we'll take three weeks. Everything is just larger. And it's fun to do these stunt movies because I'm a young, athletic guy and I like jumping around.

His climb in show business has enabled O'Connell to realize at least one dream. "I bought this 1973 Buick convertible, and it's a pimp mobile," he says, with a wide, jack-o'lantern grin. "Everybody loves it. Being from New York we never had a very cool car. . . So I started to make some money and I bought the coolest car I possibly could. It's amazing how good a car can make you feel - and I'm not a car guy. I'm from New York."

"My parents had a pretty embarrassing car growing up. I love my parents and I can see that things like cars are not important to them, and that's great. But it was awful! I remember, before you had a license your parents had to pick you up with your dates. It was a 1975 Cadillac and this was the 1990s! The floor had actually dropped out of the back. I remember thinking to myself, 'If I ever make a couple bucks I'm going to buy myself a really nice car.' My mom came to visit L.A. and I picked her up at the airport and she'd never seen anything like it. She put her scarf on like Jackie O, we put the top down all over L.A.''

(Luaine Lee writes entertainment profiles at Scripps Howard News Service.