NEW YORK — If former child stars rarely turn out OK, how do you explain Anna Chlumsky and Jerry O'Connell?
The pair, currently starring on Broadway in "Living On Love," are enjoying their acting careers. They're each happily married with kids. They are still frighteningly attractive.
O'Connell, you may recall, was in the 1986 coming-of-age gem "Stand By Me," about a group of boys on an overnight trek to find a dead body. Chlumsky was in the surprise hit of 1991, "My Girl," another coming-of-age movie. Both films are named for Motown songs.
After a long day of rehearsals, Chlumsky and O'Connell discussed their pasts over coffee at a Times Square restaurant. It was the first time their common history had been raised.
"You know what? We really haven't talked about this," Chlumsky said.
"We have not. This is amazing," O'Connell replied with a laugh. "There's no secret handshake that we, as child actors, have. We may start crying."
Both admit they still get stopped by people who recognize them from films made when they were both 11, especially O'Connell, who was a husky preteen.
"It is something that defines me," O'Connell said. "A lot of people say to me every day, 'Hey, fat kid from 'Stand By Me'! They still say it."
"That sucks," said Chlumsky.
"It's OK. I've learned you can't fight it," he replied. "It's what I'm identified as and you know what? I'm OK with that. I understand that. It doesn't define me on the inside."
O'Connell, 41, and Chlumsky, 34, somehow stayed grounded. They avoided public meltdowns — no tabloid photos of either abusing alcohol or drugs — and went on to graduate from college, she at the University of Chicago and he at New York University.
He had roles in the film "Jerry Maguire," TV's "Crossing Jordan" and "Seminar" on Broadway. She has lately starred on "Veep," earning two Emmy nominations, and on Broadway in "You Can't Take It With You."
He married model Rebecca Romijn and they live in Los Angeles with twin 6-year-old daughters. She married an entrepreneur and has an 18-month old daughter in Brooklyn.
"It's nice that we can be here as adults and sharing our work now and be proud about it," Chlumsky said. "We're not meeting because of our childhood. We're meeting because we're both working."
In the screwball comedy "Living On Love," Chlumsky and O'Connell play rival writers who are hired to ghost write autobiographies of two classical musicians at a crossroads in their marriage and careers. Reneé Flemming and Douglas Sills play the couple at the center.
The comedy was written by two-time Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro ("Memphis"), adapted from "Peccadillo" by Garson Kanin and directed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.
O'Connell and Chlumsky had never met until rehearsals for the play brought them together. Both knew about their common bond, but neither wanted to bring it up first.
"I was never going to mention 'My Girl' to you," said O'Connell. "I just didn't want to be the first to be like, 'So, when are we going to talk about it? I was in 'Stand By Me.' You were in 'My Girl' — let's get it out there!'"
Their enthusiasm for theater work is palpable. Chlumsky, a stage veteran, says it's what got her back into show business after leaving as a youngster. "It's the art of being present. And it's the art of the surprise. And the art of impulse," she said.
O'Connell notes that an actor's life is filled with chronic unemployment and so he loves it that these days he's needed almost every day at the theater.
"It's such a fulfilling feeling to not be able to not go more than 15 miles away from midtown Manhattan because you're not only wanted there, you're needed there. You have to be there," he said.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits