Born in New York City on February 17, 1974, Jerry O'Connell has been acting for much of his life. He did commercials as a child before snagging his breakout role at age 12 as sidekick Vern Tessio in the coming-of-age flick Stand by Me. Unlike many of his '80s contemporaries, O'Connell has successfully transitioned into adulthood, and continues to land parts on television and in film.
Born Jeremiah O'Connell on February 17, 1974, in New York City, actor Jerry O'Connell was raised in a creative household. His mother worked as an art teacher, while his father held a position as an art director at an advertising agency. They enrolled O'Connell in both acting and fencing lessons when he was a child, with success in both disciplines eventually earning him national acclaim.
While O'Connell's fencing prowess landed him at the Junior Olympic Games, his acting chops nabbed him a role in the 1986 movie Stand by Me. Based on a short story by Stephen King, the film was nominated for both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award. A 12-year-old O'Connell played the part of Vern Tessio, the husky sidekick who provided comic relief in this coming-of-age drama, also starring River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss and Wil Wheaton.
Taking on Television
Despite the success of Stand by Me, Jerry O'Connell maintained a fairly low profile. Unlike other child actors of the 1980s, including his Stand by Me co-star Corey Feldman, O'Connell did not descend into a world of partying and drugs. Instead, he continued his education at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan and secured steady work in film and on television, allowing audiences to watch his transformation from chubby adolescent to chiseled hunk unfold over the course of his budding career.
From 1988 to '91, O'Connell played young superhero Andrew Clements on the science-fiction TV show My Secret Identity. When that series wrapped, the actor headed off to New York University, where he pursued a degree in film studies and led the school's sabre fencing team. Even during college, however, O'Connell's professional career continued. His next regular TV role was as teen orphan Brody Wilder on the short-lived sitcom Camp Wilder, where he acted alongside Jay Mohr and Hilary Swank for one season (1992-93).
'Sliders' and Other Successes
Jerry O'Connell achieved further fame for his turn as genius grad student Quinn Mallory on the sci-fi adventure series Sliders; he starred on the show for four seasons, beginning in 1995. He also served in a producing, writing and directing capacity on some episodes of the hit show, which attracted a cult-like following and included appearances by O'Connell's brother, Charlie.
During this time, O'Connell's popularity reached new heights. He appeared opposite Tom Cruise in the Academy Award-nominated film Jerry Maguire (1996), the first MTV Films production Joe's Apartment (1996), and alongside Neve Campbell in the Wes Craven-directed slasher flick Scream 2 (1997). After leaving Sliders in 1999, O'Connell focused on movies for a couple of years, but soon returned to the small screen as a regular on Crossing Jordan; he played the role of Detective Woody Hoyt from 2002 to 2007 on this crime drama centered on a Boston medical examiner, portrayed by actress Jill Hennessy.
O'Connell was next cast in a string of unsuccessful sitcoms, including We Are Men, before turning his attention to film once again. In 2013, he secured the part of Sheriff Dan Lamb in the film Veronica Mars, financed by fans of the canceled TV show of the same name, and slated to be released in 2014.
Though O'Connell enjoyed his heartthrob status to the fullest in his younger years, he quit being a Hollywood playboy to court actress Rebecca Romijn, whom he'd met at a party in 2004. The couple announced their engagement a year later and tied the knot in 2007. "I can't believe she said 'yes' when I asked her to marry me. I keep waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and tell me I'm being 'Punk'd,'" O'Connell told .
In 2009, O'Connell and Romijn became the parents of twin girls, who they named after country singer Dolly Parton and O'Connell's brother, Charlie.
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