What ‘American Idol’ Alum Justin Guarini Really Thinks of ‘From Justin to Kelly’ Almost 14 Years Later

Justin Guarini attends the Broadway Opening Night Performance Press Reception for 'In Transit' at Circle in the Square Theatre on December 11, 2016 in New York City.
Justin Guarini attends the Broadway Opening Night Performance Press Reception for 'In Transit' at Circle in the Square Theatre on December 11, 2016 in New York City.  Walter McBride/WireImage

Justin Guarini might be starring in Broadway’s In Transit, but he’s completely settled when it comes to his career.

“I don’t ever want to leave Broadway,” the American Idol alum, 38, tells Us Weekly. “I love this community. I have never felt more welcomed, more a part of anything than I have with the lovely people here.”

Almost 15 years after appearing on Idol, Guarini has certainly found his niche, though he reveals it could’ve happened much sooner. “I was gonna make my Broadway debut in 2002,” the Pennsylvania native says. “Before I left for Hollywood I got a call from Jay Binder, who cast In Transit, saying, ‘Hey, we got a role for you in The Lion King.’ Because since I was in college I’d been auditioning for it.”

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini during
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini during "American Idol" Season 1 Finale in 2002. Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Idol fans know that Guarini ended up taking a risk on what was then an unknown singing competition and finishing as the runner-up to winner Kelly Clarkson in season 1. “I was like the OG!” the father of three remarks.

He still keeps in regular contact with fellow contestants Kimberly Caldwell and Gina Glockson, though now Guarini splits most of his time between the NYC stage and his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with wife Reina and kids Lola, 12, William, 5, and Asher, 3. 

Guarini — whose additional Broadway credits include Wicked, American Idiot and 2013’s Romeo and Juliet alongside Orlando Bloom — commutes five hours total on performance days, which gives him lots of source material for a musical set on the NYC subway. “I have lived the experience of ‘Oh, there’s an empty car, sweet!’ And you get on and it’s super hot and there has definitely been some sort of bodily function done in the car,” he recalls.

But the actor happily embraces the less glamorous aspects of public transportation. “The reason why I do it is, I absolutely adore my family,” he explains. “My wife and my kids mean the world to me, enough that I want them to be where we grew up. Our parents are very close in proximity to us, too, so it’s worth it to me.”

Though In Transit’s language and themes may not be age appropriate for his kids, Guariani’s oldest has watched one of his most infamous performances: 2003’s From Justin to Kelly. “My daughter saw it a long time ago and she got very angry at Kelly when Kelly kissed me,” he admits. “She was really defensive.”

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini in 2003's From Justin to Kelly.
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini in 2003's 'From Justin to Kelly.' 20th Century Fox Film

When it comes time to show his sons his first acting gig, Guarini says, “I’ll laugh at it with them. It’s certainly not something to be taken seriously, but it’s something I had a lot of fun doing.”

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