Interview with Jerry O’Connell

As any junior cadet in the space corps will tell you, it is no easy task harnessing the power of a star and making it work for you! However, defying all convention, that is exactly what we tried to for our first Sliders Special: Narcotica, when we asked television and film star Jerry “Quinn Mallory” O’Connell to take some time out of his hectic film schedule to write a comic for us.

With the growing popularity of our Sliders miniseries prompting us to schedule a special one-shot edition, line editor Jeff Gomez entertained the idea of having Jerry O’Connell write the tale. Jeff had heard that O’Connell was an aspiring screen writer, but there was some initial concern about whether he’d be up to the rigors of scripting for sequential art. However, Sliders series co-creator Tracy Tormé put those questions to rest by telling us that Jerry had a strong creative interest in the show, and would love to take a crack at the comics.

Imagine our surprise when we got a call directly from Jerry, and found out that he was more than gung-ho about doing the project! It turns out that Jerry is a loyal comic book fan and has enjoyed the Sliders comics immensely. “The comics have been fantastic,” said Jerry. “It’s so great to see stories that are limited only by the writer’s imagination, and not a TV series budget. And so far, D.G. Chichester is letting it go all out!”

From there, Gomez and Asst. Editor Jeof Vita got down to business, setting Jerry up with whatever he needed to produce a comic plot. Normally, when the eitorial team has to coordinate with a writer, it’s as simple as dialing that writer’s phone number and waiting for them to pick up. Not so in Jerry’s case. With Jerry jetting from his home in New York, to the Sliders set in Vancouver, Canada, to his Hollywood film work in Los Angeles and then back again, we had our hands full trying to maintain this colossal game of “phone-tag” with the elusive writer. Still, within a matter of days, Jerry had turned in a an initial treatment for the plot of Narcotica.

“This guy can actually write!” exclaimed Jeff Gomez after reading the initial offering. While there were the usual editorial notes that had to be addressed, Jerry’s plot remained pretty much intact. Unaccustomed to the entire comic process, Jerry constantly urged us to “fix whatever you think needs to be fixed, and if you have any questions, please, please don’t think twice about giving me a call.” But from what we had to work with, we didn’t have to do that much calling.

Jerry’s story turned out to be a provocative and controversial tale about a world where the taking of hard drugs is not only legal, but encouraged by the government. One can see why such a topic might be considered “taboo” for prime-time television.

Jerry appreciated the fact that we could do in comics what they might not get away with on TV saying, “That’s what’s so great about the whole thing! Comics have really grown up! They’ve allowed me to tackle a tough subject, and give something extra to the fans.”

Although much of our work was done by phone, Jerry did take some time out to pay us a visit and talk shop. Accompanied by his brother Charlie, Jerry sat in with Jeff, Jeof and Editor-in-Chief Fabian Nicieza to make sure that everything was moving along according to schedule. The visit mixed business and pleasure as Jeof invited the brothers to stop by anytime to choose up sides for Acclaim’s traditional Tuesday lunch time basketball games. Keep in mind that Jerry and Charlie are easily 6’3″, if not taller, and Charlie has professed that he can indeed slam dunk. Apparently, white men CAN jump! The invitation is always open, guys!

After Jerry’s story was approved by Lisa Crane, Connie Rush and Tracy Tormé over at Sliders HQ (MCA/Universal Studios), the plot went off to the artists, Jackson Guice and Dennis Calero. Having Jackson Guice work on the book was a personal treat for Jerry as “Butch” Guice (as he used to be called during his successful run at Marvel Comics) was a favorite of his during his comic-reading years. Although Jackson couldn’t finish the book, it was left in capable hands by penciler/colorist Dennis Calero.

And what of Jerry’s experience throughout the ordeal? “Oh man, I have to say, I had a blast! Working with Jeff Gomez was cool, he really helped out a lot. Working with Jeof Vita was huge. Both of them made everything go so smoothly. I even got to work closely with one of the pencilers, Dennis Calero and that was great. I’m really looking forward to the finished product!”

Rumor has it that Jerry is revving up a few pitches for a future Sliders Special story. What do you say, gang? Up for a second round with O’Connell? Write and let us know! In the meantime, watch for the Sliders: Darkest Hour, now on sale, as well as Sliders: The Lost Episode, due to hit the stands this September. Both are dynamite!