The actor looks back at his roles in 'Stand By Me', 'Jerry Maguire', and more

By Tim Stack
March 11, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

Twenty-five years ago, Jerry O’Connell made his film debut in Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age classic Stand by Me. Now the 37-year-old actor (and father of twins with actress Rebecca Romijn) is starring as a slick lawyer on CBS’ The Defenders. EW asked O’Connell to chat about some of his best-known roles.

Stand By Me (1986)
The 12-year-old O’Connell charmed audiences as the chubby misfit Vern. ”Up to that point, my only real summer experiences had been camp. I had a lot of counselors that I liked, but in all honesty my favorite was Rob Reiner. My mother and River Phoenix’s mother kept in touch. She was very helpful to my mom at that time.”

Jerry Maguire (1996)
O’Connell, who played Frank Cushman, first read for the role of Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr). ”Everyone laughed, but they felt that I looked more like the football player. I had physical attributes that meant I could not play the agent. Am I making sense here? [O’Connell’s wife, Rebecca Romijn, yells into the phone: ”Too tall!”] Shut up! Why do you say things like that? [To EW] I left the audition knowing I didn’t get it.”

Scream 2 (1997)
O’Connell played Derek, who met his fate tied to a cross. ”So fun. Courteney Cox made everyone go out [together]. I didn’t get the whole script [for] the ending until we shot it. I didn’t know I was gonna be up on that crucifix for a couple of weeks!”

The Defenders (2010-Present)
This Las Vegas-set dramedy stars O’Connell and Jim Belushi. ”Loving Jim; he’s a fun guy to work with. We have a really strong rapport. It’s a really stylized show — I got to Pauly D my hair up and I got to wear really cool suits. I wanted to be sort of introduced into that CBS procedural world and I’m glad I got there.”

Get Jerry’s take on his roles in Mariah Carey’s ”Heartbreaker” video and the goofy 2003 comedy Kangaroo Jack here.