In 13 years of American Idol and almost as many changes in judges, the current panel just might be the best yet — thanks in great part to the addition of Harry Connick, Jr.
Not only does he bring impeccable music pedigree to the table, he's cute, funny and has great chemistry with Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. He's also been married to his wife, former model Jill Goodacre, for 20 years, and says, "I married the girl of my dreams, and I'm so happy."
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Gotta love that, right? Here, get to know Mr. Blue Eyes and the father of three daughters better:
YourTango: Why did you want to be an American Idol judge?
Harry Connick, Jr.: I went to the finale the first year, when Kelly Clarkson won, and I've watched religiously since. I really do love it. I think it was Season 9 that they asked me to come and do some mentoring. I grew up in that environment. I grew up with teachers watching you and critiquing you a lot tougher than anything you'll see on this show, by the way. And I love that. I did it again last year, and I had a blast. I love the idea of fostering talent. I just was so happy it worked out because we are really having a good time, and there's some great talent this year.
YourTango: Did you click with the other judges right away?
Harry Connick, Jr.: Yeah, Jennifer is a great woman and fun to be around. Keith is as laid back as they get. It really is how it seems when you see us together. They're really nice people and we all take the job seriously. We all have kids, we've all been around for a minute. They're great.
YourTango: What's your philosophy on handling the contestants, especially rejecting the bad ones?
Harry Connick, Jr.: I think it's about being honest and giving everybody a fair shot and telling them what you think. Sometimes it's good and sometimes it isn't. I think it's more important to be honest than say things to make people feel better. I don't think you have to be rude, but I think you have to be honest. But I think it's really important to be specific: Here's what you did that was great and why. And here's what you did that wasn't great and why.
YourTango: Have you put your own music plans on hold for now? And acting?
Harry Connick, Jr.: We released two this year and we toured. We're done recording for a while. It's a little bit busy right now because I've been shooting a movie, Dolphin Tale 2. It's an amazing story about another dolphin they found, actually on the night we wrapped the first movie.
YourTango: Does it bother you when some of the younger contestants don't know you?
Harry Connick, Jr.: My three daughters have tons of friends who, only by virtue of my being my daughters' father, know who I am. I could care less who knows me and who doesn't know me.
YourTango: You're surrounded by women at home. How do you like it?
Harry Connick, Jr.: I wouldn't have it any other way. I just sit back and listen. I can listen to anybody now!
YourTango: You and Jill have been married a long time. What's the secret to a happy marriage?
Harry Connick, Jr.: I married my best friend. And I listen! Ultimately I've been very fortunate — I understand that that doesn't happen for everybody but it happened for us and we take it very seriously.
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Photo: Matthias Vriens-McGrath / FOX