"We thought we were getting back together," Fatone told the Huffington Post in a wide ranging interview ahead of the boy band getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Monday. "It was, 'OK, after [Justin] does his thing, blah, blah, blah, we'll get back together and move forward and do what we got to do. And then it was like, nope."
"It took us a while to naturally say, 'You know what? I think ... we might be done,'" Bass added. "And that's how it was. It wasn't anything crazy -- no big, crazy fight to break us up. We're all still close and we talk daily, but I guess it just had run its time, which was sad because I was really excited for the next album."
During the hiatus-turned-break-up sparked by Justin Timberlake, Chasez produced and wrote multiple *NSYNC songs and Bass wrote lyrics that he thought would be good for the next album. It seemed that all of the guys were interested in the music -- except JT, who told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he was "growing out of it."
"I felt like I cared more about the music than some of the other people in the group," he added.
Timberlake did not participate in the Huffington Post interview, in which the rest of the boy band members identified the beginning of the end, JT's Super Bowl performance and the rumors of a possible reunion.
The group's fourth and final album was the beginning of the end, despite having two Grammy-nominated songs on it ("Gone" and "Girlfriend"), selling millions of copies and sprouting two successful tours. But the band was out of ideas after that.
"You're thinking, 'OK, we've done this, we've done this, we've done this. I don't know what else we can do,'" Chasez explained. "'I think I have an idea, but it's not for this, so I'm going to change gears.'"
And change gears they did.
Fitzpatrick was interested in clothing, Bass wanted to be an astronaut, Fatone aspired to make movies, Chasez was interested in being in the studio and Timberlake went after that solo career.
"As long as I've known the guys, I've known that there's not one bigoted bone in their bodies, so I knew they would be fine with it, but I also knew that they wouldn't be able to keep their mouths shut," he said. "That's why I just told no one. I just thought if I even told just one single person it would get out, which it would have. So that secret stayed with me and me only."
The secret, though, made him feel like a character on and off stage.
"Being onstage and singing those songs that you don't really relate to since you're talking about girls, it all, to me, wasn't real," Bass said. "Onstage, I just felt like I was playing a character the whole time, but offstage, unfortunately, I didn't get to have my real life, because I felt like I just had to hide this secret."
Being Left Out of Justin Timberlake's Super Bowl Performance
Sounds like *NSYNC wanted to reunite with Timberlake this past February on the Super Bowf halftime show stage just as much as the fans did.
"Everybody wanted it, everybody was waiting for it, but it's his show and his thing, so whatever he wants to do," Fatone said. "The guy was doing his job. You do you. If you're in a position, go for it! People ask if I'm upset and I'm like, 'Nah, I can't be. No way.'"
"We already did the MTV VMAs, so what are we going to do -- the same thing again?" Chasez said, while Kirkpatrick added, "Every show's different, every circumstance is different."
Reunion or not, they're happy for their former bandmate.
"I say the name Justin Timberlake and it's almost like saying the name Madonna ― a name where everybody's like, 'Yeah, of course,'" Kirkpatrick said about "The Man Of The Woods" singer. "I'm sitting there at the Super Bowl watching him do the halftime show like, 'Man, this is a big deal.' He's really done amazing, and I'm not a jealous person, so it's awesome to watch because I feel like that's part of me out there."
"For me, it's just a matter of time," Fatone explained. "If the stars align, then we get back together."
"You never know what's going to happen," Bass said. "But maybe it is good that we ended early. It's almost kind of like when a big celebrity dies early, like Marilyn Monroe. Once you end young, you last forever."
For now, though, they were excited to get back together for the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony.
"It's a chance for us, even though we're not singing or dancing, to still look at it as a bit of a performance, because whenever we're together in public, people seem to want to comment on it, so it will be fun," Chasez said, with Fatone adding, "You always wish you had something like that or some sort of legacy. It's going to be exciting when we're there to see all our fans again if they come out or watch it live, and see people we worked with, wrote with ― I think a lot of them are coming out, as well. It's going to be a great reunion."