I am not sure if this is the fifth or sixth time that we have interviewed Jerry O’ in the last couple of years, through every method possible (Family Fan Day, phone interview, seated interview, getting a shoutout at a private screening, perhaps a red carpet or two). That’s a lot of interviews for one person. But listen, it’s Jerry O’Connell. Instead of being a drag, it gets better every single time.
This instance was walking down the street in New York City (him, not me, he was heading to his matinee performance of A Soldier’s Play on Broadway), promoting his nomination for Best Actor in a Drama for Carter at the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards. The following is a condensed and edited version of our chat with the one and only Jerry O’Connell.
Jerry O’Connell: You are talking to CSA-nominated Jerry O’Connell.
Brief Take: [Getting right into it] You’re up against Billy Campbell and you’ve been on his boat previously.
Jerry O’Connell: This whole last season of Carter, we had one goal and one goal only: to beat Billy Campbell. I said that to our writers, our directors, our producers, I said it to our background artists. I said it to the people who do our craft service, who put our food out, I said: “What’s our mission?”, and they said: “Beat Billy”. That’s it. We had shirts made up, we had banners—”beat Billy, beat Billy, you can do it”. Everyone, everyone in North Bay is pulling for me.
I’m kidding. Actually, you know what’s so funny, there’s this great vegan restaurant called North Star Diner in North Bay, [chuckling] and a lot of times they put tip jars out, a picture of me and then another tip jar, a picture of Billy Campbell, because we both shoot there in North Bay, and I do have to say, I’m even upset to say, that even though I do have hundreds in there (in my tip jar), he is a fan favourite.
BT: This is the last season for Cardinal.
JO: Cardinal, it’s a good show, it’s a good show. Here’s the thing: Cardinal: this is it. This is its last season, there’s no more books, right? Oh man, I read those books, they’re super scary, by the way. They’re super scary too, when you’re in North Bay, because they basically take place in North Bay, but it’s called Algonquin Bay. And it’s really scary stuff, but that’s it, there’s no more shows. Carter, on the other hand, can go for forever and ever and ever. Twenty years from now, I could be talking to you about Carter. You could do twenty seasons of that thing, there’s no reason why we can’t Murder, She Wrote as the Carter show.
BT: How much fun did you have at the CSA’s doing bits with Baroness von Sketch Show (and Andrew Phung)?
JO: Those ladies are so funny. It’s just fun, it’s fun to celebrate Canadian television and it was such an honour to be there as well because The Kids in the Hall got their lifetime career achievement award and it was super fun. I am a little upset that my friend Catherine Reitman isn’t nominated this year and I’m going to go on the record saying that. While the Academy did get it right in making sure that I was nominated, I think that they got it wrong with Catherine Reitman’s not getting a nomination. I don’t want to appear to troll The Academy, though, because I am angling to win an award here. I am not trying to upset any of the voters or the higher-ups there. They do great work…except for the fact that Catherine Reitman wasn’t nominated.
BT: So you’re going on the record and saying this publicly?
JO: I will go on the record, but “he said with a laugh, hahaha”.
BT: Jerry, perhaps you can angle to make an appearance on Workin’ Moms?
JO: I’m a huge fan of Workin’ Moms, it’s doing great everywhere. We should be so lucky to have the success that Workin’ Moms has. Full disclosh’, Catherine Reitman is a friend of mine…but listen, this isn’t a newsflash, but [chuckles], the fun thing about workin’ on Carter, and also, I know that I’ve been kind of joking in this interview, but like all joking aside, these days some of the best television in the world comes out of Canada. It’s a honour to be a part of that.
BT: You had mentioned previously that being on Carpoolers created by Bruce McCulloch was what you get on this show. It’s time for you to pick a favourite Kid.
JO: You know what, listen, our creator is a guy named Garry Campbell, he wrote on Kids in the Hall. He’s very affiliated with them and he makes it easy to book them, because he can text them, rather than going through representation. But we were fortunate enough to have Dave Foley in our finale and I gotta tell you…if I do win the CSA—which it will be a cold day in Hell and who knows what, I could do it, what with climate change happening and everything, I will have to thank Dave Foley. He, man, in our finale, I mean, my gosh! I was staring at brilliant, I mean, they’re all immensely talented, but man, that Dave Foley is something special. It was like with LeBron or Michael Jordan, it was just crazy! Oh, I should make a more Canadian reference, it was like playing with Kawhi.
BT: I’ve been checking your award history and winning Favourite Fart in a Movie at the Kid’s Choice Awards for Kangaroo Jack is pretty great, but is this a chance to level up a bit?
JO: [chuckles] That is the only award that I’ve really won. I gotta say [sighs] while I really appreciate all of the love that I get in my career and stuff, I don’t really lead with that one. Because awards are supposed to help your cachet as an artist, help you get the next job, you know, it’s all about the next job if you’re an actor. And [sighs] it doesn’t…it hasn’t helped me get that next job, of being recognized for Favourite Fart in a Movie at the Kid’s Choice Awards, but this CSA, this CSA could help to change all of that.
BT: You also won Award Winning Listener two years in a row on Pardon My Take, a podcast from Barstool Sports, did you know this?
JO: I didn’t know that. Sometimes I don’t go on social media, I must have missed that. I should go collect, was there like a plate or something that I got? The only things that I thought I won was Favourite Fart from the Kid’s Choice Awards and last week, I won a raffle at my kid’s school.
JO: But [pauses] Wow…you know, I’m, I am a highly decorated actor, that’s crazy, This is crazy. Billy Campbell should be scared!
BT: He’s pretty rugged and he’s 6’4′, Jerry, maybe you should be scared.
JO: Big man, handsome, very handsome, terrific actor…things are going too well for him. He’s got a beautiful family, all that stuff, that’s why I need the CSA, I will cherish it. I will really appreciate this, to him it’s just another award and things are going so well for him, it’s like another thing. But for me, I would never put this CSA in a storage facility in Sudbury. I’m going to not only prominently display it, I’m probably going to bring it with me everywhere.
BT: You’re planning to be in Toronto for the Canadian Screen Awards?
JO: Of course I’m going to be there, please. I don’t know if I’m going to get my wife to come up, she was a little upset at what a sour mood I was in after I lost last year. It’s unhealthy for me to go. I will tell you this, a fun little Canadian tidbit of information. You know who consoled me a lot? Yannick Bisson, star of Murdoch Mysteries and his wife Chantal. We went to Drake’s restaurant right after my epic loss to Kim Coates last year and he really cheered me up.
BT: He’s good-looking too. Being around him must have improved the mood, I imagine?
JO: I do have to tell you, I don’t judge people physically, but if I did, I would find him and his wife to be very attractive people. But more importantly than that I really [chuckles] I was really into them, we’re actually really good friends with them. I love him, I love his family, he’s a great Dad. I mean a lot of this article is jokes, but on a serious note, I love that guy and his show is super great and super popular. Man, if Carter had half the success that his show had, we would be golden.
BT: Tell me about A Soldier’s Play.
JO: Oh man! So good, only got two more weeks left. Man, our director, Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Kenny Leon said to us: “This is going to be the most important thing on which you ever work” and we’re three months into our run and he’s absolutely right. You know, it’s a play that won the Pulitzer Prize in ’82, it was not on Broadway, it starred a couple of no-name actors named Sam Jackson and Denzel Washington and playing one of the younger actors was David Alan Grier. Here we are, close to 40 years later, and David Alan Grier is one of the stars and we have Blair Underwood, and Mr. Leon was right, it’s the most important thing on which I have ever worked and it’s a joy to do it every night. Audiences have been awesome. It’s so funny, I worked on a voiceover last week and I said to some of the people in the office: “Hey, if you want to come see this play, then let me know, I can get you tickets”, and so we have two weeks left and they texted me and said: “Yeah, we want to come”, so I went to the box office, which I have been going to in order to get tickets for friends of the family and stuff, and I said: “Hey, I need four tickets for any on these days”, and they said: “Sorry, man, we’re all sold out until the end”. I was like: “Wow! it’s sold out until the end”. I will say this: As an actor, doing Broadway to sold-out houses, that’s…I mean, now I know why…this is really what it’s all about. I’m really anxious about this CSA stuff and going up against Billy Campbell again, but I gotta say, every time we finish our show A Soldier’s Play every night, I’m in such a good mood, just hearing those crowds and those reactions, you can’t [chuckles] you can’t be in a bad mood, it’s just a great feeling.
BT: Tell me about working with Nnamdi Asomugha, a shutdown cornerback in the NFL to becoming an actor?
JO: He’s great. He’s awesome. You know what’s funny? You’re talking about Nnamdi who was a very successful defensive player in the NFL. You know, really good players are really good at being coached and really good actors are really good at listening to directors. And he’s great, I mean, there’s a lot of young guys in this play, and it’s such an important play and it’s about race relations on this army base in Louisiana and there’s a murder and you don’t know who committed it and there are a lot of younger guys who are privates and a couple of us older folks, who are captains, sergeants, and it’s so much fun all of us working together. I’m going to really miss them when it’s over—two more weeks.
BT: Right in time for the CSAs?
JO: I’m hanging up my army uniform and puttin’ on my tux. Puttin’ on my Indochino tux!
BT: Speaking of Nnamdi, what is your best memory from Jerry Maguire?
JO: Best memory from Jerry Maguire? I guess the premiere. The premiere was a huge Hollywood event on a cruise ship and it was the biggest thing I had ever seen. You know, when Stand By Me came out, I think that they had a premiere in L.A., but I didn’t go to it, because I was in New York and I think that I was in a movie called Joe’s Apartment for MTV, but we did not have a premiere for that. It was the first premiere I ever attended and it was the biggest party to which I had ever been.
BT: You discussed recently how The Karate Kid influenced My Secret Identity. Must have been a great experience.
JO: You know, it really was. I was a teenager when I did My Secret Identity, for those who don’t remember, it was a kid’s show I did for CTV in the late 80’s, early 90’s and a lot of how I behave on sets is what I learned from another Canadian treasure, Derek McGrath, Little Mosque on the Prairie, look him up, he’s a legend. And every time I step onto a set, I really think about him and everything he sort of…you know, I was 15, 16, 17 when I worked with him and he really shaped me, he’s a paternal figure in my life and I not only owe a debt of gratitude to him, but I guess that we’ll call it the Canadian way: treat people with respect and try and make it funny.
BT: The first time that we chatted on the phone, I didn’t know that you were planning your return to Broadway.
JO: Listen, I didn’t know either. I mean [pauses and laughs] I didn’t know I was either. And by the way, I wish I could tell you this with some grand plan and they haven’t told me, but I’m sure somebody dropped out and I snuck in somehow.
BT: You have said previously that you tried to get it and it has been an amazing time for you.
JO: Next time I talk to you, I will be referred to as CSA-winner Jerry O’Connell.
BT: What’s the latest on Star Trek: Lower Decks in terms of a release?
JO: Listen, the last time that I saw everybody I was at Comic-Con. That was the last update that I got, my last time seeing the rest of everybody. It’s super secret stuff, so they don’t give any info on that, especially me, because they know I have a big mouth. I have it on Google Alert, whatever they said it, I’ve got.
BT: You do have a movie upcoming and that is official?
JO: Oh yeah! The Secret: Dare to Dream. Katie Holmes! Josh Lucas. Super fun! It’s going to be great. Based on that The Secret book, it’s sort of a scripted version of that and it’s going to be cute, love that Katie Holmes. That Josh Lucas is super dreamy as well, it’s going to be a good one. Oh my gosh, I was in a show called Sliders and the guy who directed the pilot, Andy Tennant, is the guy who directed this movie, so it’s going to be good.
BT: What would it be like for you to win the Canadian Screen Award?
JO: I think that it would be nice to bring it back to North Bay. It would be fun. [laughs] We just have a fun time on that show and it will just be a lark. I mean listen, I know this is not adhering to the Laws of Attraction, shoutout to The Secret movie, Dare to Dream, but I’m not sure that I entirely deserve this award, but we’re going to have a lot of fun while we’re here.