Not so long ago, Jerry O’Connell was best known as an actor. The affable New York–born performer began his career as a child in commercials before starring in the celebrated coming-of-age film Stand by Me in 1987. He’s continued to work since then in films and television — and earned a degree from New York University along the way — but Jerry’s recently turned his talents to hosting.

In the summer of 2021, he replaced Sharon Osbourne as one of the cohosts of The Talk. This season, he and his wife, actress Rebecca Romijn have teamed up to cohost The Real Love Boat, a reality dating series on Paramount+. And that’s not all! Jerry is also the host of the syndicated game show Pictionary.

“It’s just a complete career change for me,” says Jerry, 48, who admits that hosting is a lot harder than it looks. “For The Real Love Boat, I thought I’d be sitting on the deck sunning myself the whole time and maybe shooting an elimination ceremony for an hour a day. It’s more than that. It’s exhausting!”

Joining The Talk must have been a huge change for you.

Yes, I was acting a lot, and then there was a cast change at The Talk. They called me up and asked me to come in. I’m still very new at hosting. There are still way better hosts than me out there. But I don’t want to tell my employers they’re making a mistake giving me these jobs! When I walk on a set to host, I have no idea what I am doing! [Laughs]

Did you do anything to prepare for The Real Love Boat?

I’d never hosted a reality show, so I asked my boss if there was any homework that he wanted me to do. He said, “Just watch as many episodes of the original Love Boat as you can, because that’s what we’re trying to capture.” My wife and I really took that to heart.

What were your favorite episodes?

Anything with Charo, of course! She is so entertaining. And the episode where Gopher and Doc vie for a starlet’s affection — they both lose out when she finds another love on The Love Boat, which is what the show is all about!

It must have been so fun to actually sail around the Mediterranean to film the show.

Yes! It was my first time in Italy, my first time in Greece, and my first time in Turkey. I swam in the Mediterranean every time we went to port. It was incredible. It was a trip I will never forget.

You and Rebecca have 13-year-old twin daughters, Dolly and Charlie. Were you able to bring the family along while you shot?

They are not on camera, but they were with us. It was really fun. Listen, if you have teenage girls, a cruise is great. They can only get into trouble on the ship!

Your daughters are around the age you were when you started acting.

Yes, it’s pretty trippy to have kids. My kids aren’t professional actors, but they do drama at school. I have one daughter who really reminds me of myself. It’s been so cathartic to have children and to run school plays with one of my kids and just see her naturally enjoy doing it. It’s very full circle.

Is it hard to juggle your busy career with the demands of raising a family?

The thing that takes the most time is that my daughters need to be driven everywhere. I’ve got to drive them to school today. And then, later, there is the tutor and then swim lessons. We try to keep them busy. Otherwise they will just look at their phones all day long. Of course, a lot of people remember you as Vern in Stand by Me.

Courtesy Rebecca Romijn/Instagram

What do you remember about making that film?

Just how much fun it was to be with River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman and [director] Rob Reiner. It was an incredible experience. I always felt like I was sort of a crazy kid that didn’t really belong to any group, and then once I got on a set, people went, “Oh, man, you’re really funny. Keep doing that. Be yourself more.” The set was the first place I really felt comfortable more than anywhere else. I felt very grateful for the opportunities I had as a kid.

Do you keep in touch with Wil and Corey?

Of course! I talk to them all the time. Any time Corey Feldman has new music, I always post it. Wil hosts a great show for Paramount + called The Ready Room. I go to lunch with him a couple times a year and just catch up. Sadly, River died when he was young.

What was he like?

I can honestly say I’ve never really seen or known someone who was as special. He is in my prayers on a nightly basis.

Were your parents supportive of your acting dreams?

I had a family that was very supportive. With young kids, you want to encourage them to do whatever they like. We try to be as supportive as possible with our kids. It’s so funny. We have one kid who’s really into the arts and acting in school, and the other who is into sports. Kids find their own path. You can’t make kids do anything. You just hope they find something that they enjoy doing.

Have your daughters seen a lot of your work?

They’ve seen Stand by Me. They love my wife’s show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. They love the animated show I do, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and, of course, The Real Love Boat.

What have been some of your other favorite acting jobs?

I guess the highlight of my career was getting to star with Mariah Carey in [the music video] “Heartbreaker!” If that doesn’t get me a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, I don’t know what will!

What’s on your bucket list?

I just got to Italy and Greece on The Real Love Boat. But I haven’t been to a lot of those islands in the Caribbean. Hopefully there is a season 2. I want to be Captain Jack Sparrow.

What are you proudest of?

I’m super proud that I tricked my wife into marrying me. I’m also super proud that I’ve tricked her into staying with me. [Laughs] I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud that I’ve had a pretty long career.