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Jerry O’Connell’s key to happiness: ‘No expectations’

Updated January 6, 2023 - 1:07 pm

“I think it’s best in life to have absolutely no expectations,” says Jerry O’Connell, who learned that lesson at age 12 when “Stand by Me” hit the big screen.

He famously co-starred alongside Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman and the late River Phoenix in the classic coming-of-age tale about four best friends. For O’Connell, the only thing missing was the fame part.

“Nothing was different after the movie came out. I was still riding the subway to school in New York City. I was stuck doing my homework. My seventh grade friends didn’t even see the film,” says O’Connell, 48. “My friends went to ‘Krush Groove’ and ‘Rambo.’ I wasn’t in either one.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Years later, while O’Connell was attending New York University, a film professor stopped him in the hallway. “It was Spike Lee, who said, ‘You were one of the kids in that film. I love that film,’ ” O’Connell recalls over the phone from his Los Angeles home. “If you don’t expect, you’re not disappointed and life is full of sweet surprises.”

Of late, O’Connell’s life is also full of projects. He hosts Fox’s new game show “Pictionary” based on Mattel’s classic sketching, guessing game. O’Connell and wife Rebecca Romijn host “The Real Love Boat” on CBS, plus he appears on CBS’ “The Talk” as the first man on the panel.

“I went out to dinner with my wife and she said, ‘You know you being on “The Talk” as the first guy is kind of a big deal. Life moves fast. We should take a minute and really enjoy the wins,’ ” O’Connell says. “It was good advice.”

Some more good tips from O’Connell:

Get your doodle on

The “Pictionary” host turns to his sketch pad to relax. “We used to have notebooks and we were always doodling when I was a kid,” O’Connell says. “With cellphones, kids don’t doodle anymore, which is a shame. It’s so relaxing. I’m doing it again and find it gives me a break and helps me focus.”

Realize how lucky you are

After hosting the unscripted “Love Boat,” where singles look for romance, O’Connell feels truly fortunate for his 15-year marriage with fellow actor Romijn. “I’m so lucky that I never had to deal with online dating, which seems so frightening,” he says. “Being on social media as an adult is enough pressure. The added pressure of trying to meet a soul mate online seems horrible to me!”

When you know, you know

O’Connell declares it was love at first sight with Romijn: “I met her and immediately fell. We have a relationship based on laughter. That girl makes me laugh, which is so healthy and wonderful.”

‘Take that chance’

The couple’s 14-year-old twins, Dolly and Charlie, “are going on 40 — they’re characters,” O’Connell says. Raising teens in L.A. isn’t easy. “We’ll be out at a restaurant and they’ll see someone who just looks like another child to me,” he says. “My kids will sit there all flustered, and it will turn out to be a famous TikTokker.’ I’ll say, ‘Go up and say hi,’ and I hear, ‘Dad, we can’t. We just can’t!’ I’m like, ‘Take that chance — or you will never know.’ ’’

Be embarrassing

His teenagers have strong feelings about O’Connell’s fame. “My kids read my Instagram posts and go, ‘Daaadddd, why did you say that?’ It’s amazing how Dad can have 12 syllables in it.”

Pet project: Staying healthy

O’Connell is serious about his fitness, and his furry friends. “We have a couple of dogs in our house. I take them on hikes and run with them,” he says. “If you have a pet who always wants to be out and active, it’s not only fun, but it’s also motivational. You’re bringing joy to that pet and it doesn’t make working out into a job. … If the pandemic taught us anything about staying healthy, it’s to just get outside and get the blood flowing.”

Learn to de-stress

Meditating daily helps O’Connell alleviate stress. “I try to meditate before I do ‘The Talk.’ You don’t need a lot of time. Just a few moments will change your life,” he says. Another way he unwinds: “My wife and I watch Bravo every night. We freak out anytime we meet any of the ‘Real Housewives.’ But mostly, we’re just in bed, watching, plus I bring my heating pad. I’m a man of a particular age. You put that heating pad on top of your back by your neck and it’s amazing. I don’t need pain meds because of my heating pad.”

Be proud of your past

Released 37 years ago, “Stand by Me” stands the test of time in O’Connell’s eyes. “It really holds up. I just watched it again and it’s great. It’s just great,” he says. “No expectations and I loved it.”

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