"We started dating, went on a few dates and it slowly turned into a beautiful thing," Duhamel said of Mari
Josh Duhamel has a lot to celebrate.
Days after his first wedding anniversary with his wife Audra Mari on Sept. 10 — and on the heels that the two are expecting their first child together — the actor, 50, appeared on Live with Kelly and Mark and opened up about how their romance, which they've kept largely private, began.
“I slid into her DMs,” Duhamel on Wednesday revealed of the pageant queen, who is also from his home state of North Dakota.
The Shotgun Wedding star said he known of Mari, 29, before writing her. “She’d won some pageants and stuff," he said. "I root for people who do really well for North Dakota, because there’s not really many of us and I really root for them."
Duhamel admitted he “didn’t think” that romance would necessarily be in the cards when he first started talking to Mari because he’s “a fair amount older than she is." But that changed when he met her in person.
"I invited her over to a BBQ one weekend and she came and I was like, ‘Wow, you’re beautiful,' " Duhamel recalls.
The former Miss World America also “really loved kids,” which was a bonus to the Win a Date with Tad Hamilton star, who shares 10-year-old Axl with ex-wife Fergie, "We started dating and you know, here we are, 5 years later, with a baby on the way," he said. "She’s a pretty amazing girl, she really is."
Ripa told him that it sounded like he was “maybe potentially…looking for a wife” without knowing it, prompting the actor to reflect on finding love after his separation from the singer, 48, in 2017.
“I think sometimes when you’re looking for it, you don’t find it. But it happens when you least expect it. And that was the case for us,” Duhamel said. “She just sorta smacked me upside the head when she walked in the room. I was like, ‘Whoa. I can’t… No… Well maybe, I can?’ "
He added of their romance, which they didn't officially confirm until 2020: “But it was a really slow sort of a burn. We started dating, went on a few dates, and it slowly got, it turned into a beautiful thing.”
Duhamel and Mari announced they were expecting their first child on Monday. In the wake of the news, Fergie expressed nothing but support in a comment on the couple’s joint Instagram post.
“I am truly happy for you guys 🥰🥰,” the singer wrote on the post. "Axl can’t wait to be a big brother,"
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Duhamel and Mari’s pregnancy news didn’t come as much of a surprise, as a source previously told PEOPLE that both of them are interested in expanding their family.
In 2022, an insider close to Mari told PEOPLE that she would "love to have kids with Josh," and said that she’s “very sweet, caring and close with her family.”
At the time, she was “getting to know” Axl, who Duhamel is “very protective” of, the source added.
Around the same time, a source said the actor has “always” wanted more kids, and “loved being a father.”
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