Hollywood star Jerry O’Connell stripped down to his undies for his South African fans
Jerry O’Connell tells Channel24's Herman Eloff that he got ripped and stripped down to his undies in his funny new TV show just for his South African fans.
Cape Town - Jerry O’Connell is fun! Like really fun. He’s just a great guy.
Sometimes when interviewing international stars it’s difficult to get a good conversation going - especially over the phone when there’s a slight delay or reverb on the line between SA and the States. But not with Jerry O’Connell. He comes out guns blazing and comfortably lands right at the top of my list of the most fun phoners ever.
I mention I’m from Cape Town and immediately he lets me know he’s a massive fan of Mzansi: “Ah man, I’m so jealous. It’s freezing here. I’ve got to come to Cape Town. I’ve got to come to Joburg. I’ve never been.
He quickly adds: "When I moved to L.A. in the 90s a lot of my friends…like…I fell into this South African social circle. A lot of South Africans live here in L.A. They’re just so funny and giving. Just a fun, fun, fun group of people."
Born in Manhattan, Jerry once in an interview described himself as "half Irish, a quarter Italian, and a quarter Polish". He’s been in the business for years and landed his first big screen role in 1986 at age 11 in the coming-of-age film, Stand by Me.
Since then he’s done an array of other entertaining work including roles in films like Jerry Maguire (Frank "Cush" Cushman) and Scream2 (Derek Feldman). He’s TV roles include appearing in classics like Sliders (Quinn Mallory), Veronica Mars (Sheriff Dan Lamb), and Crossing Jordan (Detective Woody Hoyt).
A FUN NEW SHOW
Now he’s back on our screens in a hilarious new comedic crime-drama that takes the whole procedural TV format and has a lot of fun with it. Carter, which first aired on Canadian TV last year, comes to South African television screens from Tuesday, 12 February at 20:00 on Universal TV (DStv 117) and will also be available on DStv Catch Up.
The show follows the adventures of Harley Carter (Jerry), a Hollywood star and the face behind the number-one detective show in America, who escapes Tinseltown after a humiliating red-carpet fistfight.
Back in his hometown of Bishop it’s difficult for Harley to get people to see past his TV character and take him seriously, including his two best friends Sam Shaw (Sydney Poitier Heartsong) and Dave Leigh (Kristian Bruun) who think he might be having a midlife crisis.
The mayor sees the famous TV detective as a potential tourist attraction for the town while the police chief wants him nowhere near a crime scene.
(TRULY A DETECTIVE? Jerry O'Connell as Harley Carter. Photo: Supplied)
Jerry takes a few minutes and then gives it his best shot to explain exactly what the show is all about. "I’ve got to get this right," he says. I hear faint mumbling…he takes a deep breath then says: "It’s like if David Caruso from CSI Miami…came to…hold on a second…I want to answer this the right way…it would be like if David Caruso from CSI Miami moved to Clarens [South Africa] to help solve crimes."
He laughs before adding: "You know what, David Caruso has a skill that would help the local police department solve crimes. He’s been solving crimes on TV for 10 seasons. He has knowledge of what happens."
And he totally nails it. That’s exactly what Carter is all about. Imagine that guy from CSI moving to a small town and then helping the police solve crimes using his TV background. Also, just like Jerry, the show is packed with humour and loads of fun.
'EVERYONE IS IN ON THE JOKE'
It’s smart and pokes fun at its very own genre without going too far. Jerry explains: "I had done a couple of what they call procedural television shows. So, I did one before where I played a cop. I did one for one season called The Defenders – which was legal procedural. What happens in a procedural is there’s usually a murder in the opening act. The ‘cold open’ is what they call it. There’s a murder. Then you spend the entire episode interrogating suspects. Narrowing it down. There’s usually a twist in act three. Then there’s a twist in act four and then you figure out who did it. And that’s it.
"Carter is a show that makes fun of all those tropes, but in actuality it is a procedural drama. It really just made me laugh. It really did. I thought it really put everyone in on the joke. As a fan of procedural dramas, I thought it really paid homage to them as well. I thought it was really cool and also, I thought I’d be really good at the role. Because also, as an actor, I’m almost a little bit cheesy…and it’s fun to lean into that a little bit, you know?"
The show is an easy watch and is packed with light-hearted moments and real laugh-out-loud ones too. Jerry concurs: "Let me tell you it was a fun thing to read and being there it was even more fun to make, because look…and this is where the funny trick comes in and I have to tip my hat to the show’s creator Garry Campbell…it’s making fun of procedural dramas but we’re still doing a procedural. So, I still have lines where I’m looking at blood splatter on a wall and explaining it. It was even more fun when we brought my actual wife, Rebecca Romijn, and she played the wife on our show. She did an episode about a serial killer. So, we’d use her expertise about television knowledge for serial killers to try to find a serial killer. It really makes me laugh.”
(TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: Kristian Bruun, Jerry O'Connell and Sydney Poitier Heartsong. Photo: Supplied)
But the one thing that pulls it all together is Jerry’s unlikeable-but-also-kind-of-likeable character, Harley. It’s tricky to make the audience fall in love with a character that has such blatant flaws. But Jerry knows just how to make the magic happen: "All I have to do as an actor is have people sympathise with Harley and it’s a little difficult because he’s rich, he’s vain, he’s rude, he’s just…he’s just everything you hate about people. But if I can make him vulnerable. I just look for vulnerable moments. The more I find the more fun he is to play. And that’s it."
STRIPPING FOR HIS SA FANS
What also helps is that Harley looks great in his undies and is soft on the eye. The third episode opens with a treat as Harley is seen walking around in his underwear. I simply had to ask Jerry about the scene and if any prep was necessary for him to strip down. His answer was rather unexpected: "I knew I was doing an underwear scene, so I was definitely going to the gym. I got to tell you," he pauses before adding: "I really had South Africa in my mind when I was doing that scene. Because I know how physically fit, as per all my friends here in Los Angeles, South Africans are. One is more muscular than the next.
"I wanted to make sure the South African audience was okay with my muscular nature and I really hit the gym kind of hard. Look, I know I’m probably not as big as all the rest of those South African blokes out there. But I tried my hardest and I used a lot of shading under my pectorals," he laughs.
Before I know it my time with Jerry had ran out and I hadn’t even gotten to half my questions, because he’s just such an easy, cool, and laid-back guy to chat to.
As we say our goodbyes and I get ready to put the phone down, I hear Jerry shouting in the back: "Oh, and I love your wine!"
Do yourself a favour and check out Carter from 12 February at 20:00 on Universal TV (DStv 117) – even if it’s just to see Jerry in his undies, I mean he did after-all get ripped just for his SA fans.