Jerry O’Connell: Easy Slider

Playgirl interview by Jenny Higgons, February 1996 —  It’s sometimes hard to believe that the timid, cherub-faced kid from the 1986 film Stand By Me is now an action-adventure hero — and a tall, pretty-damn-cute one at that.

As genius physics student Quinn Mallory on Sliders, Jerry O’Connell leads three co-stars on a cosmic roller coaster ride from one parallel universe to another. In each week’s quest to get back home, the cast finds itself on a different version of Earth — one where, for example, Elvis never died, or women are the dominant sex.

Though Sliders is Fox’s hottest weird-science show since The X-Files, Jerry’s upcoming film, Joe’s Apartment, a romantic comedy based on the Ace Award-winning MTV short and featuring a cast of thousands — of cockroaches, that is — is also creating a buzz.

You may also recognize Jerry from his appearances on the big screen alongside Jason Priestley in Calendar Girl, or as a teenager with supernatural abilities in TV’s syndicated My Secret Identity. He also co-starred in ABC’s Camp Wilder.

We chatted with Jerry as he rested up at the beach before resuming production on Sliders. The almost-22-year-old turned outto be just as fun, open and engaging as we’d expected.

I bet the cool powers your character had on My Secret Identity would be real chick magnets.

I suppose, but they didn’t help me at the time.

Is that when you discovered girls?

I guess so. I went to The Professional Children’s School in Manhattan. A lot of musicians, ballet dancers, models and athletes go there. I went to school with, like, Uma Thurman and Rebecca Gayheart (Beverly Hills, 90210), all these hot models and everything.

So it was fun in some ways, but it was also kind of frustrating because there was no way I was going to get a date with any of those girls.

Why not? You’re a cute guy.

But they were older, they were supermodels. Uma was a senior and I was a freshman, so she really didn’t talk to me.

Do beautiful women intimidate you?

I wouldn’t say they intimidate me. Of all my friends, I’m the one who’s not afraid to go up and talk to the hottest girl in a bar. They always send me over to talk to somebody: “Jerry, go start up a conversation with her and we’ll all come over.”

Have you had any major rejections?

All the time! Nine times out of 10. I’m an actor. You have to learn to deal with that stuff. You can’t take it personally.

But in some ways, you have to take it personally.

No, you don’t. In my business, if you’re rejected 90 per cent of the time, then you’re a working actor. I figure it’s the same for me on the date scene: If I’m hitting one out of 10, that’s pretty good.

Got any good pick-up lines?

It’s always good to mention their teeth. I’m not looking for the Crest girl, but good teeth help.

Do you have a girlfriend?

Yes. We’ve been going out about four months.

Where did you meet her?

At a bar in the Hamptons (on Long Island). I asked a mutual friend to introduce us.

So you didn’t use a pick-up line?

I chickened out.

Were you really naked when you bared your butt on the beach in Calendar Girl?

I was wearing this little flesh-colored, G-string-like patch. So it really wasn’t as exciting as you would think. They were actually pretty uncomfortable.

On Sliders, what’s the draw between Quinn and Wade (actress Sabrina Lloyd)?

They have a natural attraction that two young people would develop after having to hang out with each other as long as they have on this adventure.

But they were friends before they “slid.”

They were, but not as close. This has really brought them together. I hope there’s more sexual tension between the two characters in the future. I love those kissing scenes with Sabrina.


They’re just fun.

You like to kiss?

Yeah. It’s like you go to work and you have to make out with somebody all day. But the cameras are rolling and 50 people are watching. It’s something that you’ll never do, ever again.

Have you two had any tongue action?

I don’t know….

How can you not know?

‘Cause you have to get approval from Fox when you’re talking about tongue.

OK, so does that mean you did?

Uh, there was no tongue involved.

I wonder what one of you would do if…

If a tongue were slipped in? I don’t know. I’ve thought about that, but I didn’t want to risk getting slapped.

What kind of parallel dimension would you like to slide into?

One where the Knicks win the NBA Championship, the Yankees win the World Series, the Rangers get the Stanley Cup, and the Jets win the Super Bowl.

What’s the gist of Joe’s Apartment?

It’s basically a Lower East Side fairy tale about a guy who moves to the city from Iowa.

He can’t make any friends or get along in the mean city and the only people who really help him out are the roaches who live in his tenement apartment. Megan Ward (Party of Five) is also in it.

I read that you put roaches in your mouth. Didn’t it gross you out?

No, surprisingly enough — but it grossed my girlfriend out.

Because she had to kiss you?

Yeah. There was, like, a vow of silence for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t get past the answering machine — it was like I had roach cooties.

Well, they are vile.

They’re pretty gross, but these were clean roaches — Hollywood roaches. They’re straight out of L.A. They started out with about 2,000 roaches and ended up with about 8,000.

You mean more were shipped in?

They reproduced.

Don’t make me ill…

I’m not kidding. Those little buggers are like rabbits. But some of the ones in this film are animated. They talk, sing, dance and really help him cope and get the girl at the end. They help him in the big, bad city, because they’re so familiar with New York. Roaches are urban masters. They know what’s going on.

Are you a romantic guy?

I’d like to think that I am, but this girl who I’m dating right now says I’m not very good at it and that I need some coaching. I’ve been told I need help.

I don’t think I need any help. So I’ve been going through the boot camp of romance. We went to a Yankee game a couple of weeks ago, and I thought it was a nice date, a good time. And she said it really wasn’t that romantic.

What did she want?

I don’t know…like a buggy ride around the park, I guess. But that’s not my idea of romance. My idea of romance was going to a Yankee game.

But sometimes a girl wants a bit more than that, like a nice dinner before or afterward.

Hot dogs.

You really do need some coaching.

I don’t believe that. At a Yankee game you’re outside on a nice summer night….What more could you ask for? Don’t get me wrong — she had a great time. It just wasn’t her idea of a romantic night.

Flowers can be nice.

Yes, but they’re kind of conventional. You should do something a little more original. Like what?

Something practical…a gift that someone can really use.

Like a blender?

No! It’s not a wedding present. Something useful, that won’t die in a couple of days. A VCR… a cordless telephone.

I’ve bought flowers for her, done the roses thing. I just think it’s time for something new.

You should read a book about how to be romantic.

C’mon, you can’t go around reading a book about how to be romantic. Do you really think that’s a romantic thing to do-to buy a book to tell you how to be romantic, that tells you how to love someone?

It’s really pathetic if you’re buying a book on how to love someone or emote love. If you can’t figure it out yourself, it’s bad news.

Men should read women’s magazines to find out what we’re looking for.

They secretly do. When guys are at the doctor or dentist and it looks like they’re reading Sports Illustrated, they’ve actually got Cosmo tucked in there, and they’re taking the tests. I love those tests. I do ’em all the time.

They’re fun to do, and there’s no way you can fail the test, so there’s no pressure. It doesn’t go on your grade point average.

How do you know when you’re really smitten with a girl?

When I’m with her I start to stutter.

Some people found Jimmy Stewart’s stutter somewhat endearing.

It’s not something I can really control. I guess I could go to speech classes and have it taken care of.

How many serious girlfriends have you had?

About six.

Did each girl teach you something new about love?

I would hope so. I think that’s why you go out with people, because they teach you something, you take something away with you.

What have you learned?

Women like attention. That’s a given, and they don’t like to be rushed. As I’m getting more mature, I’m pacing myself more.

What’s your favorite kind of foreplay?

The ears are a lot of fun. You get the heavy breathing in them, the chills go up your spine….

When did you lose your virginity?

High school. It was at her family’s place, when no one was home.

Were you nervous?

You’re always nervous. You have visions of her dad coming home with a shotgun. Some people get off on that fear. Some people do. I don’t.

How long did the whole thing take?

I don’t know, but I do remember it as being a good experience.

Who was the seducer?

It was pretty much mutual, youthful fumbling around.

Got any bad-date stories?

I went skiing with this girl at Great Gorge, just a day-trip thing. She ran into her ex-boyfriend on the slopes and introduced us. I said, “Hi, how are you?” And they seemed to be pretty friendly.

They ended up getting into a huge argument on the slopes, and I was kind of pushed out of the way. I didn’t know what to do. Should I be fighting on her side? Should I try to break it up? Should I just go for a hot chocolate and see what happens?

So I just sort of waited in the wings for about a half hour. And then before I knew it, they were kissing. And then she went off skiing with him the rest of the day. So I drove home alone.

Did you feel bad?

Yeah, and I felt even worse because I’d paid for her lift ticket. It was tough driving back. You’ve got a two-hour drive, and it’s always nice to have a passenger to keep you awake. The worst part was being left in the snow, in the cold. And not even a good-bye. I saw her going up the chair lift with him, and she’s, like, “Oh, I’ll just call you tomorrow.”

And you never heard from her again?

No. And I thought, why should I call her?

You should have sent her a bill.

I should have. I didn’t. I don’t have that kind of nerve. I’ve gotta get some balls. That would be terrific if I could do that.

What will the girl you end up marrying be like?

I don’t know, and that’s the intriguing part about it.

Do you want to experience a lot more relationships before then?

Oh, yeah. C’mon. I’m 21. Do you think anyone else was in love at this point?

People used to get married a lot younger than that.

Yeah, but that was back in the days of Quest For Fire. Also, my father was divorced twice before he met my mother, so there’s always sort of been a sense of being very careful about marriage in our house.

Are you a good boyfriend?

I am a good boyfriend.

How so?

I keep the entertainment factor up. I think I’m a pretty funny guy. I’m not cheap. I always go out to dinner. I’ve never had one of these relationships where we just went to the movies every night and then sat on the couch. With me, you’re always doing something.

When do you decide that it’s time to break up?

When I’m not challenged anymore, bored. But I’m usually the one who gets dumped. You just have to dust yourself off and get right back on the horse.

Would you ever be tempted to dial a phone-sex number?

I’m proud to say that I’ve never dialed one.

I know a lot of people who have. They say it’s a pretty frightening experience, that there’s nothing really very arousing about it If I ever were to call up, it would be purely as entertainment. Also, I’m way too cheap.

But you said you’re not cheap.

Phone-sex isn’t worth it. You’re not getting your money’s worth.

What’s your ultimate sexual fantasy?

Great sex with the woman I love when I’m mature enough to love her. See? I don’t ask for much!

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