Justin Timberlake's new movie Palmer is finally here, and fans on social media have not yet forgotten the scandal with his co-star Alisha Wainwright that surfaced in 2019 during the movie's filming. Near the end of November 2019, Timberlake was spotted holding hands with Wainwright in a scandal that rocked headlines for weeks. The scandal intensified months later when Timberlake and wife Jessica Biel welcomed their second child, which they only recently confirmed this year.
While the drama has appeared to come to a close after Timberlake issued a public apology to Biel — with whom he shares 5-year-old son, Silas as well as newborn Phineas — it's certainly been a whirlwind with fans not forgetting the moment of the singer and songwriter's shortcoming. Here's everything you need to know about his apology, what's happened behind the scenes, and of course, the seeds of that scandal.
Timberlake spotted cozying up to Wainwright
The drama started Friday, Nov. 22 when The Sun published photos of Timberlake and Wainwright holding hands underneath a table while sitting on an outdoor balcony at a bar in New Orleans, where they were spending a night out on the town with some cast and crew members amid a break from filming their upcoming movie, Palmer. One photo showed Wainwright's hand resting on Timberlake's thigh, and video published by the news outlet appeared to show Timberlake quite intoxicated, as he was leaning against a wall for support.
The photos immediately made headlines, with fans shocked to see such a public display of affection amid Timberlake's oft-praised marriage to Biel. The two married in a romantic ceremony in Italy in 2012.prevnext
Wainwright denied romance rumors
Amid the wave of shock going through fans, Wainwright's representative issued a flat denial of any validity to speculation about Timberlake and Wainwright, telling Entertainment Tonight the next day that "There is no validity to the speculation." In a longer statement to PEOPLE, the rep ensured that the night out was part of a celebration for the Palmer team.
"They are currently working on a project together. Members of the cast and crew were all together," the rep said.
The denial fell in line with what anonymous sources were telling news outlets about the incident. One source told E! News that "there is nothing going on between them" and that "they're filming a movie together and it was a group of people hanging out.
"There is absolutely nothing going on between them," a second source told the outlet. "They were out with all the cast, crew, makeup artists, and everyone was just hanging out in a social setting. They are just working together. No validity to any other rumor other than that they are filming together."prevnext
Back to work as usual
The Monday after the photos were published, Timberlake and Wainwright returned to work and reportedly carried on as usual. He was seen dressed as his character in a blue work shirt and matching pants emerging from his trailer and talking on his cellphone. Wainwright was also photographed on set.
In the meantime, a source told Entertainment Tonight that the balcony hangout was "harmless" with another source saying that Timberlake and Biel "love each other dearly."
"They want nothing more than to stay together," the source said. "Even though Justin works and travels a great deal and he is so much in the public eye, both [Jessica and Justin] are wonderfully dedicated parents who both have careers, which can present some challenges."prevnext
Can't stop the guilty feeling
No matter how many sources denied any romantic rumors about Timberlake and Wainwright, that couldn't stop Timberlake for feeling guilty about what went down. "They are downplaying everything and trying to laugh it off as nothing," a source told E! News of the former *NSYNC member and Biel. "But it was definitely inappropriate and something that would make any wife uncomfortable."
The insider added that the singer had "too much to drink and got carried away," but that he and Biel's "marriage will survive. He feels guilty and will make it up to her." The source continued, saying that Timberlake "knows how lucky he is" and said that the PDA was "not a big deal" because they were with other people and not alone.prevnext
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On Wednesday, Dec. 5 — nearly two weeks after the incident — Timberlake published a statement via Instagram apologizing to Biel but still insisting that no infidelity occurred that night.
"I stay away from gossip as much as I can, but for my family I feel it is important to address recent rumors that are hurting the people I love," he began. "A few weeks ago I displayed a strong lapse in judgement — but let me be clear — nothing happened between me and my costar.
"I drank way too much that night and I regret my behavior. I should have known better. This is not the example I want to set for my son. I apologize to my amazing wife and family for putting them through such an embarrassing situation, and I am focused on being the best husband and father I can be.
"This was not that. I am incredibly proud to be working on Palmer. Looking forward to continuing to make this movie and excited for people to see it," he ended his post.prevnext
Public reaction to the apology
Public reaction to the apology was mixed, with some of his fans showing him support for owning up to his mistakes and others disappointed in the statement itself. Some were put off by his mention that "nothing happened," arguing that holding the hand of a woman who was not his wife constitutes as something to worry about.
Others slammed him for appearing to plug the movie, cheapening the sincerity of the apology and likening the incident to a publicity stunt. Still others — Britney Spears fans, specifically — reveled in the irony of his apology after offering little forgiveness to Spears following their breakup nearly 20 years ago.
Others disregarded Timberlake completely and immediately flocked to Biel's Instagram, commenting on her most recent posts (which were weeks old by that point) to offer support. "Don't forget that you are a QUEEN!" one well meaning follower commented on one of the posts. "Stay strong for your family," another said.prevnext
Picking up the pieces
Following Timberlake's apology, it appeared he started to pick up the pieces of any damage he's done in his marriage, with a source telling In Touch Weekly that he was calling Biel from the set of Palmer nearly every hour with updates. That same source also alleged that Timberlake has been avoiding Wainwright on set except for when they film scenes together.
As for Biel, a source said that she has "no plans" to visit her husband on the set of the film despite the drama that went down. "As far as I know, Jessica has no plans to visit the New Orleans set," the source said. "Justin is a mess. He's trying to take it one day at a time. It's very intense between them right now. Everything is up in the air."
Only time will tell what will happen between Timberlake and Biel, although the two seemed very committed to each other before the scandal, with Biel saying that her marriage was her top priority and Timberlake frequently sharing social media posts with her.prevnext
Baby Phineas arrives0comments
Reports surfaced that Timberlake and Biel welcomed a second child, although they never publicly announced she was expecting — and waited over a year to confirm Phineas' birth. Timberlake told Ellen DeGeneres in January 2021 on her talk show that he and Biel were "thrilled" to welcome Phineas.
"He's awesome and so cute. Nobody's sleeping," Timberlake said in a clip DeGeneres' team shared. "But we're thrilled. We're thrilled and couldn't be happier. Very grateful." DeGeneres was one of the few people outside of Biel and Timberlake's family who knew Biel was pregnant again, reports PEOPLE. "I think we were FaceTiming and you said, 'Hey, you want to know a secret?' and then Jessica walked in and you put your hand on her stomach," DeGeneres told Timberlake. "You were like, 'I'm having another baby!'"prev