"I totally do think about that--and when I do, I realize, oh my God, it would have been horrible for me to win!" he confesses. "Because it was so right that Kelly won. It just worked out right. That whole season, she was flawless, and they were looking for the best VOICE on there. And she was, hands-down, the best voice."
It's a humble answer from a man that some might expect to be bitter, especially since he was rumored to be romantically linked to Kelly back in Season 1. (Of that, he sheepishly and simply says, "Yeah, there was a rumor, definitely. We've just always been such good friends. Um, man, it was weird; she was like my sister on the show, and then you know, we made a movie together...I'd say, we had a good time. Yeah.")
But it's not like Justin has been hurting for work in the decade since he left "Idol." In addition to his TV correspondent duties, he's built up an impressive theater résumé, starring in Rent, Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, American Idiot...and now the forthcoming and much-anticipated Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a new musical penned by Stephen King featuring the original music of John Mellencamp and musical direction by T-Bone Burnett, opening next week at Atlanta's Alliance Theater. "It is a Southern gothic musical that is out of this world," raves Justin. "I mean blood, gunplay, fights, beautiful music, romance, intrigue. It is awesome."
Justin is one of many "Idol" alums to make a name for himself in the theater world, but considering his background, it seemed an almost inevitable career path for the song-and-dance man. "I came from this world. Before I was on 'Idol,' I had the choice to either make my Broadway debut in The Lion King, or do 'American Idol,'" he reveals. "And I made the choice to go with 'Idol.' It was a crazy choice, because nobody knew what 'Idol' was. But there was just something that felt really good about that show. It ended up being just ridiculous. I don't think I even understood how big it was becoming until the second or third week of the top 10!"
And what about that OTHER musical he did, with Kelly Clarkson, the notorious box-office bomb From Justin To Kelly, a beachy romp that seems about as far removed from Ghost Brothers' dark Mississippi swamplands as imaginable? Is Justin proud of that, too? "Every time it crosses my mind to regret doing that film, it usually coincides with when I get a paycheck from the royalties," he laughs. "But people come up to me talk about it all the time. Especially the kids, they love it. It's a cult classic, you know? It was what it was. It wasn't designed to win an Oscar. Either you love or you don't, but I am proud of it."
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County premieres April 4th at the Alliance Theater at the Woodruff in Atlanta. Click here for tickets and info.
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