"I would ask her, 'How did you do it? Tell us. I'm the father of two daughters. How do I get them on the path?'" he jokes
Jerry O’Connell has been a Hollywood star since 1986’s Stand by Me. But the actor has also become a talk show fixture, from his critically acclaimed fill-ins on The Wendy Williams Show to his hilarious Real Housewives commentary on pal Andy Cohen‘s late-night hit, Watch What Happen Live.
Now, the 45-year-old is testing his own, eponymous daytime show, Jerry O, for three weeks while daytime diva Williams takes her summer hiatus. (She’s also an executive producer.)
PEOPLE caught up with O’Connell to learn more about the show, including how his family —— his wife, actress, Rebecca Romijn, and their twin daughters, Dolly and Charlie — are getting involved. Plus, he reveals that his dream guest is a certain Suits star turned Duchess of Sussex.
You’ve called Wendy your Oprah. Is there any specific advice she’s given you?
We had a big meeting yesterday. A lot of great people make The Wendy Williams Show, and they’re very capable producers who’ve been doing it a long time, and they’ve worked on everything from The Rosie O’Donnell Show, to Family Feud, to like big-time television shows. And I had a meeting and a lot of it was like, what I can do to make myself better, increase my chances of success, and all this sort of stuff. After the meeting, Wendy grabbed my arm, and she said, “All right, you got all those notes, now you have to be you, you’ve got to take all those things, because if you’re not you, then there won’t be a show.”
She said, “A lot of people gave me notes over the years, and at the end of the day I took them all, but I had to be me. And that’s the most important thing.” And it really affected me because you get nervous, man. I’m by myself up there. It’s just me.
Why is hosting a talk show such a dream come true for you?
I think it was my wife, about a decade ago, making me watch a little show called Real Housewives of Orange County. We have a a television in our bedroom, and her saying, “We’ve got to watch this show together. This has got to be us.” And me immediately getting into it. And then that started a relationship, a marriage based on reality television. And then what happened is I started to do Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live, and I started to do Kelly Ripa‘s Live! with Kelly and Ryan. And Wendy and I started to talk about all these shows that I now watch, and I mean, here I am getting a shot at the Jerry O show.
What have you learned over the years from these guest-hosting gigs or from Play by Play on Bravo that you’re going to take with you when you launch Jerry O?
I don’t know if there’s anything specific that I’ve learned. I do have to say, I sat next to Kelly Ripa a lot … I sat next to her over a hundred times, I’m guessing. She’s just the most natural at it. She she does it with such ease. People like Kelly, people like Wendy, they’re like the Michael Jordans of daytime. They just do it effortlessly, and it’s just amazing to watch.
I think a lot of people who love every time you come by the Bravo Clubhouse are curious as to just how much Housewives is going to be included on Jerry O?
It’s going to be a lot of Housewives. It’s not going to be all Housewives. Obviously we have to differentiate ourself from what Andy Cohen does amazingly every night. But it’s going to be a lot of Housewives. It’s going to be a lot of 90 Day Fiancé, it’s going to be a lot of Love & Hip Hop. It’s going to be a lot of Bachelor in Paradise. That’s almost like the gift that keeps on giving.
Can you explain the collaboration with Funny or Die more, and how they are going to work with you on different segments?
We are going to be doing these little like sketches, and these little like funny bits. And I’ve done a lot of videos for Funny or Die, that website that Will Ferrell runs. And they’re going to be producing all the comedy content. It’s been really fun working with them, because we pre-taped some stuff, and it’s been great. I mean, our ultimate goal is to get people to really smile when they’re watching the Jerry O show, and the fact that Funny or Die is producing all these segments, it’s really helping us reach that goal.
Who is like your dream guest?
What would you ask her?
I would ask her, “How did you do it? Tell us. I’m the father of two daughters. How do I get them on the path?”
The path to princess!
The path to princess. No, honestly, I would love to get … a little random. there’s a show called The Family Chantel, and it is a spin-off of 90 Day Fiancé, and I would love to get Pedro, I’d love to get the whole family on there.
Kelly Ripa is your first guest, though. Is that intimidating at all?
It’s not intimidating. You know what it, it fills my heart with warmth. It just goes to show you the Kelly Ripa is literally the nicest person in the world. Because she’s a very busy woman, and has a lot going on, and has a lot with her family, and kids going to college and everything. And for her to take time off, for her to take time out of her busy life to come do the first episode of Jerry O is a major deal.
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Your wife Rebecca is going to be on, too.
Rebecca is going to be on, but that was an easy booking. I just had to lean over and ask her.
Is that going to be exciting, weird — ?
No, I love, I love it. My wife and I love being with each other, especially I mean as cheesy as this sounds, we love being on camera with each other. We really make each other laugh. My wife really makes me laugh hard. We’re going to have a good old time.
Have your girls hit any fun milestones lately?
They’re 10. It’s so fun to have them in the city for the summer while I do the Jerry O show. I have them in improv camp, so we’ll see. I’m going to pick them up right now. We’ll see how their improv skills are. It’s just a really fun age because it’s sort of pre-teenager, so I’m not dealing with boys yet, and it’s just such a fun time.
How do they feel about Dad becoming a talk show host?
I’m forcing them to be on a segment. We’re going to have like a toy segment, and I’m like, “You’re going to be the girls who are trying out the toys.”
Jerry O begins its three-week preview Monday on Fox television stations (check local listings).