The turn of the 21st century was a peak time for boy bands, as well as the niche film trope of identity swapping (1998’s The Parent Trap remake, anyone?) These two concepts collided when Justin Timberlake co-starred in the 2000 film Model Behavior, filmed at the height of his *NSYNC days. The television movie originally aired on ABC, but anyone who came of age at the time may recall its frequent showings on Disney Channel.
Model Behavior stars Maggie Lawson in dual roles as Alex Burroughs and Janine Adams. Alex is the bookish student with fashion aspirations, while Janine is a rising model with an overbearing momager (played by Kathie Lee Gifford) — and each person has the life that the other wants. As fate would have it, the pair meet and discover that they look nearly identical. They decide to pull a switcheroo and try out each other’s respective lifestyles.
Enter JT, then just 19 years old, as the teen heartthrob and model, Jason Sharpe. He is Janine’s love interest — as a stunt orchestrated by his publicist, of course. Although Jason is supposed to be a bad boy in the headlines, a curly haired Timberlake is as sweet as can be when he takes Alex-as-Janine on a date to a fancy restaurant.
Jason is so rich that he has two limos and doesn’t even take modeling seriously — he’s supposedly saving up for grad school to study astronomy. “You know, from the superficial stars to the real ones?” he says, before taking her to a rooftop for a romantic view of a meteor shower.
While the date is a success, the identity swap itself is not. For Alex, fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and Janine misses the comforts of her famous life. The girls eventually reveal their ruse and while Jason is initially hurt, he decides to be with Alex in the end.
The TV movie is as cheesy as any Disney Channel film from that era and it’s not very surprising that the network tapped the All-New Mickey Mouse Club alum JT for the heartthrob role. While the triple-threat performer doesn’t break any major on-screen rules in his TV-film debut, his frequent smiling is a clear tell that makes it hard to take him seriously. Nevertheless, Model Behavior is endearing, and showed that Timberlake had acting potential that was worth honing in the future.
Model Behavior may have been one of the first (and not necessarily one of the finest) moments of Timberlake’s acting career, but he went on to co-star in The Social Network and Friends With Benefits, among many other more successful features. The early aughties film was also accompanied by a pop-infused soundtrack — including the upbeat jam “Here We Go” from *NSYNC’s self-titled debut album.
Check out one of JT’s early acting roles in the clip below.