Joey Fatone Reminisces on His Boy Band Days, Calls Out the New Wave: 'What F---ing Names Are Those?'
The former *NSYNC-er voices Muggs the Rat in Discovery Family Channel's Halloween movie 'A Witches Ball.'
*NSYNC may be no more, but Joey Fatone has surely kept busy. In the last year and a half alone, the 40-year-old has brought back his lovable My Big Fat Greek Wedding character Angelo (in the sequel, which released March 2016), opened a namesake hot dog stand in his hometown of Orlando, and served as host for Impractical Jokers: After Party.
This Halloween, you can also hear Fatone’s voice in the new Discovery Family Channel flick A Witches Ball. The TV movie follows story of a young girl named Beatrix who passed her Witches’ exam, but has to fix a broken crystal ball and solve three magical riddles in time for her big night at the ball — with the help of a trusty sidekick, Muggs the Rat, voiced by the singer/actor.
For Fatone, being part of a Halloween movie is special, as it’s a holiday very close to his heart. "I probably have more Halloween decorations than I do Christmas,” he laughs, discussing the 20 to 30 plastic pumpkins he has around his house and recalling a time he turned his daughter Briahna into Regan, Linda Blair’s character from The Exorcist.
Although Briahna, now 16, may not enjoy A Witches Ball the way his 7-year-old, Kloey, might, Fatone asserts that she sometimes reaps the benefits of her dad’s status.
“Usually, it’s like, ‘Uh yeah, whatever dad' -- and then all of the sudden, because I can go see Twenty One Pilots and have a meet and greet with them, then I’m cool,” he says. "One time I brought her to an Ed Sheeran concert, and we went backstage and started talking to him when the opening act was performing. It was so funny, I was like, 'You want to go out and see the opening act?' and she’s like, 'No I’m good, I’ll stay here.' And I’m like, 'Oh why, you want to talk to Ed Sheeran? Is that why? You want to be cool? Now I’m cool.’”
There was a time when Briahna would recognize her dad isn’t like most dads, though. “When she was younger, she always said that kind of jokingly, like, 'You’re a rock star.' And I’m like, 'No, I’m not.’ Just say pop star... I’m not really in the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It’s more like, soda pop, chicken fingers and pixie sticks."
Pop star he was, as one-fifth of beloved boy band *NSYNC, until the group went on hiatus in 2002. While he’s focusing on acting nowadays, Fatone has found ways to pay homage to his musical beginnings through his new route -- particularly so in last year’s goofy post-apocalyptic Syfy flick Dead 7, in which he starred alongside fellow *NSYNC-er Chris Kirkpatrick, the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, AJ McLean and Howie Dorough, 98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons, and O-Town’s Erik Estrada. Though they all knew each other back in the day, the movie allowed them to not only bond, but also reminisce on the good old days.
“There were times when we’d all hang out in my room and play video games. And we started talking about stuff, and Howie said, 'I’ve never asked you this -- how the hell did you guys really get together?' He never knew the story. And then we started talking all this stuff about Lou Pearlman and Johnny Wright. Me and AJ were sittin' in a room [another night] talking about music, and I said, 'Listen to this,' and I played him one of the a cappella things [*NSYNC] did a while back. And then he’s like 'Oh yeah, well listen to this.' And I’m like, ‘Dude, your bullshit’s like three- or four-part harmony – you don’t do five part harmony, we do.’ Literally, we were going back and forth listening to old a cappella stuff, saying who was basically better,” he recalls with a laugh.
All of their groups may have been pitted against each other at the height of their fame, but Fatone insists that -- aside from a short beef between McLean and Kirkpatrick, over a girl -- there’s never been a rivalry between any of them. “There’s nothing wrong with friendly competition, even though we’re, of course, better than any of those boy bands,” he jokes. "Maybe not right now, a little rusty.”
As much as fans would love to hear a 2017 *NSYNC track, for now they'll have to do with a new wave of boy bands emerging, who can fill the void of bubblegum pop and impressively choreographed dance numbers: Why Don’t We, PrettyMuch, CNCO, Citizen Four and the Boy Band-created In Real Life. But while Fatone admits he has yet to check out any of the music, he's already less than enthused by the new groups.
"Pardon my French, but what fucking names are those? Why Don’t We what? And Pretty Much, it’s just, 'Yeah, Pretty Much.' I said, 'Just call them PM. Let’s go to bed. Call it nighttime,'" he jokes. "Back in the day, I came up with LOV, which is League Of Voices. Simple. Sounds cheesy when you say ‘love,' but with League Of Voices, that is a band that could be a group – that would be an actual group name. Not 'Pretty Much.'"
Fatone clarifies that he’s not denouncing the groups’ talents (especially because he hasn’t heard them yet), but suggests there could’ve been more meaning to the names -- like *NSYNC’s moniker, perhaps. "Justin [Timberlake]’s mom was like 'You guys are synchronized. Your dancing -- you guys are so in sync, that should be the name of it.' Last letter of our first names -- we’d call Lance 'Lancen' as a joke, and then we realized the ’N' worked. It was weird.”
Fatone will once again get to honor his boy band days in a few episodes of an animated Netflix original series starring other boy band members, which he can’t say much about just yet but promises is “really cool.” For now, he’s relishing in Halloween and watching Muggs the Rat steal the show in A Witches Ball. "You’ll learn to love him, trust me."
A Wtiches Ball airs tonight (Oct. 31) at 5 pm EST on Discovery Family Channel.