“Who Do You Think You Are” Executive Producer Loves Her History Homework

By Alyssa Altman 9-23-2012
Executive Producer Jennifer O’Connell connects celebrities with their past. 
NBC’s reality show “Who Do You Think You Are” follows featured celebrities and traces their ancestry. “We take them on this amazing treasure hunt, and show them things they didn’t even know existed,” O’Connell told WEBN in Los Angeles. This year, “Who Do You Think You Are” received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Program. The show teamed up with Ancestry.com to uncover one celebrity’s genealogy per episode. The pre-production is a lengthy process. O’Connell explained, “The research is the key part of it. It can take anywhere from three months to years.” The premise of the show is simple. Celebrities approach the producers. They express interest in finding out their history. The researchers look into their past, and determine whether or not it makes for an interesting story. The show travels with the celebrity to visit family members. Together, they discuss what has happened over the course of the family’s history. The Emmy-nominated show originated in England. Former “Friends” cast member Lisa Kudrow initiated the show’s move to America. “Lisa Kudrow was actually the US Angel of the project. She was shooting on location in Ireland, saw the project, fell in love, and decided she wanted to see it here. So she and the original creator…talked about it, and brought it here,” O’Connell told WEBN.

The reality producer is extremely passionate about her industry.

“I love what I do, thankfully, and I told my kids that when you figure out what you want to be when you grow up, make sure it’s a work that you want to do, because the homework never ends,” said O’Connell. O’Connell’s next projects are VH1’s “Hollywood Exes” and Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City.”