Meet the handsome Gaston of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ live on ABC

Among the many familiar faces on “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration”, including Josh Groban, Martin Short, Shania Twain, David Alan Grier and Rita Moreno, there’s something TV viewers don’t know yet: Joshua Henry as the handsome Gaston Belle’ himbo chasing after (HER). With a powerful baritenor voice and a striking facial resemblance to the late Sidney Poitier, Henry steals the show by singing, dancing and laughing at a makeshift bar with long sleeves, slender prostheses, and “loose biceps” as Gaston himself calls it. (Chest hair and cleft chin are fake; bulging muscles are real.)

It’s really rare for a male actor this strong to take center stage, singing, dancing, and landing on stage with punchy words, as Henry does here. But thirsty for this story, Google “Who is it??” During Thursday’s broadcast, know that the 38-year-old artist has built an impressive resume.

While ABC’s two-hour anniversary special, which will air on Disney+ starting Friday, is arguably Henry’s most high-profile screen project to date, he was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Miami and lives in New York City with his wife and three sons. Henry is a three-time Tony Award nominee, formerly of Netflix’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” built a career in film and stage He has appeared in the movies “Hamilton”, “Carousel”, “American Idiot”, “In the Heights” and “The Scottsboro Boys”.

Hours before the Broadway performance of “Into the Woods,” Henry spoke to The Times about getting heavier and hairier to play the beloved character, releasing a new single, and hoping where his new physique will go next.

Singing, dancing, lifting barrels and rocking around Lefou — you seem to be having a lot of fun as Gaston.

Yeah! This number is huge and iconic and loud and I can use all my chest voice and have a lot of fun singing and dancing with Rizwan with all that bravado and delight [Manji] Who plays Lefou and finds many different comedic beats. Of course people have seen this number before but not with the unexpected choreography of Jamal Sims. The first time I saw him do this during rehearsals, I said, “Okay, I have to experience what they did to fit it into this great puzzle.”

How did you physically prepare for this role, given that Gaston has “loose biceps”?

I love the gym and this was a great excuse to lift some really heavy weights and gain some weight. when i got this [role] At the end of June, I started gradually increasing my calories, stopped doing crazy cardio, and started lifting as much as I could each week. I actually used to talk to myself like her in the gym and say, “One more for the ladies” to get into character.

I haven’t pre-measured my biceps but I have to think we’re at least two inches bigger which was great because it works for Gaston. But our costume designer is Marina [Toybina] I was a little disgusted – I mean, things suit me, but at the same time, while I was choreographing, I ripped my pants twice where the sun wasn’t shining. So we had to adjust the costume to accommodate the action.

It’s fun to transform a bit for this character, who obviously stars with her body. Since filming, I have continued to do the heavy lifting. It feels good to be really strong. I hope the world sees me like this and that leads to action projects or other things where I can use my physicality to tell the story. Plus, I have three sons too, so I have to be ready to have them asap.

How old are your sons? Have they ever watched any version of “Beauty and the Beast”?

My oldest is 4 1/2 and the twins are 22 months old. they don’t have [watched] but while my oldest was rehearsing, she came on set and met HER and Martin Short. I showed him a photo of me in a costume with a bow and arrow and said, “Daddy, you’re like a superhero!” It’s really special that my sons and so many other little chocolate Joshua out there can see me play this iconic role because it suits me and I’m really good at it. I hope their eyes are opened and they find the place they deserve to see this.

Joshua Henry stars as Gaston in ABC’s “Beauty and the Beast: Celebrating the 30th”.

(Christopher Willard/ABC)

When playing this role, you have a little more hair on your head and chest than usual…

They go down to the middle of my back. It took 4 1/2 hours to get them and then I held them for three weeks while rehearsing and filming. I’ve never had any kind of knitting or place. I loved the look, my wife loved it and even my manager was like “This is the weather”. But there’s a lot of maintenance involved – guys, I can’t shower, drive, sleep, so I was happy to take them off when we were done.

And chest hair, let’s call it a chest ‘fro or chest Chia Pet. We went through different phases; the first one was just too much, you would think it was like Don Cornelius on my chest, as if you could lose your hand in it. So we had to find a good balance.

There’s also a line in the song, “Nobody has a bulging cleft in their chin like Gaston”, and while I have many other physical traits that fit that character, the chin wasn’t one of them, so I have a small chin prosthesis. It’s super thin, but it’s all about the details.

Although you are very well known for your stage work, many viewers of this event may be watching your performance for the first time. What do you want them to know about you?

I come primarily from the stage, I am an acting, a singing dancer. This is where I live and I just do what I love. I was talking to Lin-Manuel [Miranda] the other day, “Listen, I’m so glad people are doing what you’re doing. Nothing has changed here except the venue.”

I am a man with a very full life. I’ve lived a life dedicated to my family, my art, and growth. I’m excited that a lot of eyes will be on me and audiences will see me and what I do, but it’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been doing this for 16 years, making steady progress in my profession, and I want everyone who looks at me to understand that it’s possible. It’s possible to graduate academically at the bottom of your class and not know what your place is for a while, then find it and excel to one day be on the Broadway stage and in this Disney classic. Good things can happen if you dedicate yourself to your art and thrive in it.

I’m guessing some people will be surprised to see how much you look like the late Sidney Poitier. How many times has this been told to you?

Many, countless over the years! I got it when I was a kid, in high school, in college. We may be of West Indian descent; he’s from the Bahamas, I’m from Jamaica, we have the same complexion. I loved your book and would love to play it one day.

You released a new single after your first album last year. How does your voice develop as a musician?

I am inspired by where I am as a songwriter. The name of the song I just released “No One Can Tell Us Anything” You may nod your head, but there is an emotional contention as well. It’s all about being in that fiery, undeniable place of love with all its fireworks and privacy. I’m all about love – for your partner, for your art – and it’s about the feeling of being right in the middle of that hug.

What’s next?

I’m doing a show this Saturday at Kennedy CenterI’m performing in February after “Into the Woods” ends on January 8th. with Philly POPS it’s all about the history of soul music. Then I’ll take a month off to do nothing and be with my family because I’m really struggling. Folks will have to wait and see what I do next.

Joshua Henry as Gaston and Rizwan Manji as Lefou on ABC

Joshua Henry as Gaston and Rizwan Manji as Lefou in ABC’s “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration”.

(Christopher Willard/ABC)

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