American Idol’s Justin Guarini talks Broadway, working with Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson friendship and his kids

Justin Guarini isn’t just an exceptionally gifted multi-hyphenate. The singer, dancer, and actor (plus dad, husband and American Idol alum) is also an adept multi-tasker. When HELLO! rang him up for an interview, he was less than two hours away from a performance of new Broadway musical Once Upon a More One Time, waiting for his food, and getting fitted for an upcoming appearance on Good Morning America. “I’ve never hired a stylist before,” Justin, 44, tells HELLO! But his leading role as Prince Charming in Once Upon… — a thrilling production featuring the canonized songs of Britney Spears and fairy-tale princesses suffering a collective existential crisis — inspired the Broadway veteran to “up my game” in the sartorial department. (He called upon NYC-based celeb stylist Greg Dassonville of DassonVogue to do the job.)

© Photo by Tyler GustinFor opening night red carpet of ‘Once Upon a More Time,’ Justin Guarini gets styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue. Suit by Atelier Cillian, shoes by Taft, and jewels by Versani NY.

Justin, famously the runner-up to Kelly Clarkson (they’re still pals) in the inaugural, massively popular season of Idol back in 2002, threatens to steal the show as the most-wanted (and most rascally) royal in town in the crowd-pleasing, often hilarious Once; the incandescent talent and charisma that captivated millions two decades ago haven’t dimmed. “This show has been the most challenging by far of any show,” he says. “It’s also my favorite.”

Here, in a HELLO! exclusive (photo diary included), he invited us along as he got dressed to the nines for the show’s official opening night festivities, including a pre-show red carpet and afterparty, and opened up about his Idol memories with Kelly, meeting and working with Britney Spears, his family…and a not-actually-forgotten movie called From Justin to Kelly. 

For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time' at the Marquis Theater, Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue© Photo by Tyler Gustin.Justin is now a seasoned Broadway veteran who’s performed in shows like ‘Wicked,’ ‘American Idiot,’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

What are your daily pre-show rituals?

My rituals usually involve coffee for sure; I eat about two hours before the show. And then it’s all about getting my body and voice warmed up and ready to go. I have a whole thing: I go out to the stage, plop myself down at zero, and start my routine. There’s something really comforting about it that helps to stave off any nerves, the consistency of doing it. It gets me into such a great place.

Do you have a specific opening night ritual? 

We, as a theater community, have an opening night ritual called the legacy robe ceremony: all the cast and crew gets together in a big circle, and this robe that gets passed from opening show to opening show that season gets put on our ensemble member who has the most credits, and then they run around the circle. They run around the circle counter clockwise. We wish them luck and then they visit every single dressing room for luck. That’s the ritual that I really love.

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For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time,' Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue© Tyler Gustin”I’m not shy about saying that here’s things about style that I just don’t understand,” says Justin, who wore jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue

Are you someone that enjoys getting dressed up for red carpet events? Would you consider yourself a fashion literate guy?

You know what? I would not. (laughs) Yeah, there’s a reason why I hired a stylist, right? I know what I’m good at, and I wanna bring people into my orbit that know more than I do about looking good.

For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time' at the Marquis Theater, Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue© Tyler GustinJustin met Britney Spears in the early aughts, and he describes her as “the picture of sweetness, kindness, fun and light.” The pop superstar has been involved with ‘Once Upon a One More Time’ from the beginning, and has attended workshops and been in contact with producers, he says.

How would you describe your everyday style? 

Because I’ve been working so much lately, my style is comfort. Give me that. Sometimes I can just put on a simple pair of Hugo Boss slacks and a white shirt, and that’s really cool. I’m not shy about saying that here’s things about style that I just don’t understand.

For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time,' Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue© Tyler GustinStylist Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue adjusts Justin’s Versani NY jewels for opening night.

Do you remember your first red carpet?

It was early 2000s. So cringeworthy. I’m pretty sure I might have had some black bell bottoms, or a long sleeve white shirt with something ridiculous on it. And a massive pile of hair on top of my head. The interesting thing about American Idol was that they wanted us to be our natural selves, and then they showed the process of us glamming up —  it was a great journey.

Kelly and Justin at a 2003 FOX event. He's described his early red carpet looks as "cringeworthy"© Jim SpellmanKelly and Justin at a 2003 FOX event. He’s described his early red carpet looks as “cringeworthy”

I recall that first massive season of Idol, as everyone does.  You guys were at the center of the universe. 

It was wild. I remember going back to the big mansion that we stayed at in L.A. and finding out that 30 million people were watching our show. 30 million! How do you wrap your head around that? 

For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time,' Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian, shoes by Taft, and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue© Tyler Gustin”I know in the back of my mind, having been through the Hollywood ringer myself, having had so many highs and so many lows…We’re doing more than going out and singing a musical,” Justin says. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue.

Are you and Kelly Clarkson still in touch? How would you describe your dynamic these days, 20 years on?

Oh, my goodness. We operate in completely different worlds, yet always, when we come together, it’s a fun time. I’m so happy for her, and I’ll tell her, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell everybody: I will always be one of her biggest fans. I was there from the beginning, and I got to watch her grow into an absolute global presence. Everything that she is doing and has done, she deserves, and has worked very hard for. I’m excited that she’s gonna be moving here to New York. I hope that she’ll come to see the show, and I hope we’ll have some time to hang out and catch up. She’s a real homebody, so if she came out to the show, it would be something really special.

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Justin reunited with Kelly on her eponymous talk show in late 2022. "I will always be one of her biggest fans," he says.© NBCJustin reunited with Kelly on her eponymous talk show in late 2022. “I will always be one of her biggest fans,” he says.

And you’re both parents now with kids!  

Yes. My wife and I have three kids. My stepdaughter Lola is 18. Just graduated high school. My, middle son, William, just turned 12, and graduated elementary school. My youngest, Asher, is 10, and then we have two dogs, as if the children weren’t enough. We live in the tristate area. We just moved into this three acre, beautiful compound right before I got this show, and it’s a bit of a hike away from New York. But I’m excited that this show is opening in the summer, because I’m getting a place [in NYC] and we’re gonna be up here. When the school year comes back around, then I’ll start making the commute back and forth. I’ve made a two hour commute for all of my shows that I’ve done over the past 12 years. But my kids and my family are absolutely, 100% worth it.

For opening night of 'Once Upon a More Time' at the Maquis  Justin Guarini wore a suit by Atelier Cillian and jewels by Versani NY. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogueJustin and wife Reina have been married since 2009 and share kids Lola, William, and Asher.

Are any of your kids budding performers?

100%! All of them can sing and enjoy entertainment, but my daughter and my middle son are a little shy or more into sports. My youngest Asher is so perfect for the stage. He is completely creative. He’s a dancer, he loves to sing, he loves to watch funny videos on YouTube and then recreate them. He is so primed and ready, and when he came to the show during a rehearsal, I got him up on stage and I showed him what I see. It was a real watershed moment for me.

You became famous in 2002, at the peak of Britney’s fame. What has been your interaction with both her music and the woman herself?

I was doing a project down in Miami and doing a press junket, and her hotel room was right across the way. And that was the first time that I had ever met her. She was the picture of sweetness, kindness, fun and light — for someone to be that famous, and also that kind and normal and grounded, that was so astonishing to me. Just a lovely, lovely person. We’d see each other once every six or seven years on red carpets for brief interactions. I’ve been with this show for about six years, and she came to a workshop. I remember her being out in the audience and laughing and having a great time. Not a lot of people know that this show is based on an idea that she had. She has been with this show from its very beginning. And so I’m excited for her to possibly come and see our show. She’s seen a lot of the rehearsals [virtually]; our producers have kept her in the loop about everything that’s going on. She is all over this show. 

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And then in terms of her music, I mean, everybody has memories. I will never forget the first time I saw the “Oops!” video. Iconic right from the start.. And now, I get to sing  “Oops!” and “Circus” and “Sometimes” and “Cinderella” — mind boggling to think 20 years later, not only do I get to sing this iconic music, but I’ve had the opportunity to interact with this global icon.

Justin Guarini and costar Briga Heelan on the red carpet for opening night of 'Once Upon a One More Time' at the Marquis Theater. © Carrington SpiresJustin and costar Briga Heelan (Cinderella to his Prince Charming) on the red carpet for opening night of ‘Once Upon a One More Time’ at NYC’s Marquis Theater.

Of course, over the past several years, Britney has had a lot of difficulty, and came out on the other side, with the conservatorship and the Free Britney movement. Knowing what she’s been through, and considering this cultural conversation around her, how does that shape the production?

Our number one focus is going out every single night and delivering what is essentially a love letter to everything that Britney has given us over the 20 plus years, and everything that fairy tales have given us. I know in the back of my mind, having been through the Hollywood ringer myself, having had so many highs and so many lows…We’re doing more than going out and singing a musical. 

Justin Guarini hits the red carpet for opening night. Styled by Greg Dassonville for DassonVogue. Suit by Atelier Cillian, shoes by Taft, jewels by Versani NY.© Carrington Spires”This show has been the most challenging by far of any show,” Justin tells HELLO! “It’s also my favorite.”

Going back to Idol nostalgia: Do you have any weird fan moments related specifically to from Justin to Kelly? 

(Laughs) Twenty years later, more than one person has bought the actual DVD case to the stage door, and I’ve signed a bunch of them. It’s so funny, because while it wasn’t commercially successful, people enjoyed it and have so many wonderful memories around that movie. There are dear friends of mine who are so wonderfully famous, but know every single song. We were able to make an impact in a way that is very, very hard to make these days. And so that’s why I’ll forever be grateful for everything, whether it was successful or not, that came out of American Idol.

Categories: Entertaintment
Source: HIS Education

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