Jerry O'Connell on Guest-Hosting The Wendy Williams Show: 'I Get Passionate About Zayn & Gigi'
The actor's time as the show's first-ever guest-host came to an end on Friday
Jerry O’Connell’s time guest-hosting The Wendy Williams Show may have come to an end, but he’s taking what he learned from the experience with him — including what it means to be called “extra.”
“[It] means hyperactive, I think,” O’Connell, 44, tells PEOPLE. “So a lot of people were calling me ‘extra’ in a lot of the comments, but listen, I get pretty passionate about Zayn [Malik] and Gigi [Hadid] breaking up. I’m sorry if my passion becomes a little too intense for some people.”
The actor is referring to the show’s opening Hot Topics segment, during which he took over eponymous host Wendy Williams’ duties giving an opinion on celebrity news and gossip.
“It’s really a little scary because it’s you out there for 20 minutes,” he says. “My wife and I talk about these stories every day. The only difference is I’m putting a little makeup on and sitting in a chair on the Wendy set and talking about them.”
O’Connell found himself in a little trouble with Beyoncé fans after addressing Queen Bey and JAY-Z’s upcoming tour during the segment, and he was even given a funny themed cake about it to celebrate his last show Friday after his week-long run.
“It was so funny — there was a little cake with a lot of bees on it because the Beyhive sort of came after me a little bit even though I didn’t say anything disparaging about Beyoncé, I never would,” he says. “Man, that Beyhive is tricky.”
He adds: “It was just the mere mention of them and you’re going to get a few bees in your Instagram. It’s to be expected.”
During the segment on Tuesday, O’Connell hilariously talked about the possibility that his wife of nearly 11 years, Rebecca Romijn, could be the infamous “Becky with the good hair” that Beyoncé was referring to in her song “Sorry.”
“We laughed so hard about it,” he says. “My wife met JAY-Z a couple times in her MTV VJ days so there are, of course, pictures of my wife and JAY-Z together, so my wife could have been ‘Becky with the good hair.’ It was just such a funny bit to do.”
“My wife loves me on Wendy and you know who really likes me on Wendy? My kids,” he says of his 9-year-old twin daughters, Dolly and Rebecca. “They like me a lot more on Wendy than they do in person.”
O’Connell stepped in as guest-host after Williams announced she’d be taking some time off to focus on her hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease,per her doctor’s orders, but is set to return on Monday. He says his favorite part of the experience was getting a call from Williams herself.
“I was so excited,” he says. “I would never call her up, and obviously she took a few weeks off to get well, so I didn’t want to bug her with anything. But she called me yesterday and was so encouraging and so fun. I’ve been a fan of hers for so long.”
Of his gig as the show’s first-ever guest-host, O’Connell says it was “flattering.”
“I realized this was completely uncharted territory and also Wendy does something that really no other person in daytime has done,” he says. “I mean, she sits up there by herself and for 20 minutes gives us the Hot Topics, and it’s truly remarkable. I’ll tell you after doing four episodes, I don’t know how Wendy does it every day. It’s a testament to how hard-working Wendy is.”
To get him through the week and keep up his energy, O’Connell says he hit the espresso machine backstage “hard.”
“I’ve never had so much caffeine,” he says. “But it was pretty funny.”
“She’s catching a lot of flack right now, especially on the show, with some of the stuff she’s stirring up with all the other Housewives,” he says. “So it was fun to sit across from her and hear it directly. Look, it’s not something that I take lightly. I realize that people want me to grill her a little bit, and it’s a different position to be in because you got to sort of ask questions that I probably would never ask for fear of being considered rude, but I have to ask, otherwise people are going to go right in the comments section and say I was a chicken for not asking.”
“She was so nice to come on,” he says. “Kelly didn’t have to do that. Literally, we’re talking about one of the most talented people in television, but we’re talking about one of the nicest. This is true friendship. Really, true friendship. On top of that, she looked great.”
He added of her moments dancing during the show, “That girl can move!”
Though fans have flooded O’Connell’s social media pages asking when he’ll get his own show, he says that’s not his focus at the moment.
“I had fun in this world but for right now, however I can help out Wendy is really my goal,” he says.
The Wendy Williams Show airs weekdays (check local listings), and Williams returns on March 19.