In just a few short weeks, the final episode of American Idol will be taped, the final winner will be announced, and everyone will pack up their bags and head home. Fox’s long-running singing competition has made a lot of people—host Ryan Seacrest included—a lot of money over the years, but we don’t often get to hear from Brian Dunkleman, Seacrest’s co-host in Season 1, who ultimately opted to walk away. Dunkleman’s career hasn’t really picked up in the time since, so obviously the man missed out on a lot of fame, fortune and prominence in the Hollywood community. Here’s how he feels about missing out:
I was very upset about it for a long, long time. You got to make up your mind that either you are going to be that angry guy for the rest of your life, or you gotta move on. It's taken me a long time to get there.

The story goes like this. A slew of people tried out for the American Idol hosting gig. Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest were both unknowns at the time and the Fox production found them to be the best fit. But Dunkleman ultimately wanted to be an actor, so after American Idol’s first season airing in 2002, he walked away. He tells CNN that’s it is hard to know who he would be if he had Ryan Seacrest’s life at this point. However, he certainly could use the money the present Idol has made producing episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians and more.

It’s not as if Dunkleman is totally out of the acting game. The man has done voicework on a few shows and starred in a season of Celebrity Fit Club on VH1. Other TV credits include The Fairly OddParents, Las Vegas and Ghost Whisperer. Obviously, however, guest stints on shows aren’t nearly as lucrative as the cash American Idol has paid out over the years. Seacrest himself has been wildly successful outside of American Idol, hosting red carpet events, doing producer work and even using his awesome voice to host his own radio show. A lot of opportunities have opened up for the man after he embraced American Idol fame, a process that was harder for Dunkleman to accomplish.
It was great, but it's very jarring to go to the store and have people want to take pictures with You can't really understand until it happens to you.

There are pros and cons to everything, including being famous. You gain a lot in connections and money, but as a famous person, you do occasionally have to deal with crazy people sneaking into your home, not to mention dealing with photographers who follow you around and snap pictures, even if you're a host and not a singer or actor, like Seacrest is. Despite the cons, it's the dream that American Idol promises and the dream that Brian Dunkleman walked out on, hoping to start an acting career. And it’s the dream that American Idol will give to one lucky winner one more time in Season 15.

American Idol’s final season premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET, only on Fox. Here’s when the rest of your favorites are coming back.

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