Meet the hunky Gaston of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ dwell on ABC

Amid the various acquainted faces of “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration” — together with Josh Groban, Martin Quick, Shania Twain, David Alan Grier and Rita Moreno — is one TV viewers could not know but: Joshua Henry as Gaston, the hunky himbo in pursuit of Belle (H.E.R.). Together with his highly effective baritenor voice and a hanging facial resemblance to the late Sidney Poitier, Henry steals the present by performing with prolonged locs, delicate prosthetics and, as Gaston himself says, “biceps to spare.” (The chest hair and cleft chin are pretend; the bulging muscle tissues are actual.)

It’s genuinely uncommon for a male actor this — strapping — to take heart stage as Henry does right here, singing, dancing and touchdown punchlines. However in case you’ve arrived at this story after thirstily Googling “Who is that??” throughout Thursday’s telecast, know that the 38-year-old performer has constructed a powerful resume.

Although ABC’s two-hour anniversary particular, streaming on Disney+ beginning Friday, is arguably Henry’s most high-profile display screen venture to this point, Henry — who was born in Winnipeg, raised in Miami and lives in New York Metropolis along with his spouse and three sons — is a three-time Tony Award nominee, beforehand appeared in Netflix’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” film and has established a profession on the stage with roles in “Hamilton,” “Carousel,” “American Idiot,” “In the Heights” and “The Scottsboro Boys.”

Hours earlier than a Broadway efficiency of “Into the Woods,” Henry spoke with The Instances about getting heavier — and hairier — to play the beloved character, releasing a brand new single and the place he hopes his new physique would possibly lead subsequent.

Singing, dancing, lifting barrels and swinging round Lefou — as Gaston, you appear to be you’re having a blast.

Sure! This quantity is simply big and iconic and boisterous, and I get to make use of my full chest voice and sing with all that bravado and gusto, and dance and have a lot enjoyable with Rizwan [Manji] who performs Lefou, and discover so many various comedic beats. In fact, folks have seen this quantity earlier than, however they haven’t seen it with Jamal Sims’ surprising choreography. Once I noticed him do it for the primary time throughout rehearsals, I used to be like, “OK, I gotta live up to what they’re doing to fit into this amazing puzzle.”

Since Gaston has “biceps to spare,” how did you bodily put together for this position?

I like the fitness center, and this was an important excuse to actually raise heavy and to placed on some kilos. Once I acquired this [role] in late June, I slowly began rising my energy, stopped doing loopy cardio and began lifting as heavy as I might, week after week after week. I really would speak to myself like him within the fitness center and simply be like, “One more for the ladies,” to get into the character.

I didn’t measure my biceps beforehand, however I’ve to assume that we’re at the very least two inches larger, which was nice as a result of that works for Gaston. However our costume designer Marina [Toybina] acquired just a little ticked off — I imply, stuff match me, however when additionally doing the choreography, I break up my pants two instances, proper up the place the solar don’t shine. So we needed to regulate the costume to accommodate the motion.

It’s enjoyable to remodel just a little bit for this character, who clearly leads along with his physique. Since filming, I’ve stored up the heavy lifting. It feels good to be actually robust. I’m hoping the world sees me like this and this results in motion tasks or different issues the place I can use my physicality to inform the story. Plus, I even have three sons, so I’ve to be prepared to choose them up at a second’s discover.

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

My oldest is 4 1/2, and the twins are 22 months outdated. They haven’t [watched] however my oldest got here to set after we had been rehearsing and met H.E.R. and Martin Quick. I confirmed him an image of me in costume with a bow and arrow, and he was like, “Daddy, you’re like a superhero!” It’s actually particular that my sons and so many different little chocolate Joshuas on the market will be capable to see me doing this iconic position as a result of it suits me and I’m actually good at it. I hope their eyes are going to be opened and that they’ll discover their place in seeing that.

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

(Christopher Willard/ABC)

Enjoying this position, you have got fairly a bit extra hair in your head and chest than you often do…

They go right down to the center of my again. It took 4 1/2 hours to get them in, after which I had them in for 3 weeks whereas we had been rehearsing and filming. I’ve by no means had any type of braids or locs. I cherished the look, my spouse cherished it, and even my supervisor was like, “That’s the vibe.” However it’s a number of repairs — I used to be like, y’all, I can’t bathe, I can’t drive, I can’t sleep, so I used to be glad to take them out as soon as we had been completed.

And the chest hair, properly, let’s name it the chest ‘fro, or the chest Chia Pet. We went through different gradations; the first one was way too much, you would have thought it was like Don Cornelius on my chest, like you could get your hand lost in it. So we had to find a good balance.

There’s additionally a lyric within the tune that goes, “No one’s got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston,” and whereas I’ve plenty of different bodily attributes that match this character, the chin was not considered one of them, so I even have a tiny chin prosthetic. It’s tremendous delicate, nevertheless it’s all in regards to the particulars.

Although you’re very well-known to your stage work, many audiences of this particular is likely to be watching you carry out for the primary time. What would you like them to find out about you?

Coming from the stage primarily, I’m an appearing, singing dancer. That is the place I dwell, and I’m simply doing what I like. I used to be speaking to Lin-Manuel [Miranda] the opposite day, and he was like, “Listen, I’m so glad folks get to see you do what you do. Nothing’s changed here but the venue.”

I’m a man who has a really full life. I’ve lived a life devoted to my household, to my artwork and to progress. I’m excited that there will probably be a number of eyes on me and that audiences are gonna get to see me and what I do, however that is one thing that didn’t come in a single day. I’ve been doing this for 16 years, steadily progressing in my craft, and I need anybody who’s taking a look at me to know that that is attainable. It’s attainable to graduate on the backside of your class academically and never know what your house is for some time, after which discover it and excel to in the future be within the Broadway scene and on this Disney traditional. When you’re devoted to your artwork and rising in it, good issues can occur.

I think about some folks will probably be stunned by how intently you resemble the late Sidney Poitier? What number of instances have you ever been instructed that?

So many, numerous over time! I acquired it as a toddler, in highschool, in faculty. It is likely to be our West Indian descent; he’s Bahamian, I’m Jamaican, our complexion is identical. I cherished his guide and I might like to play him sometime.

You simply launched a brand new single, following your debut album final yr. How is your sound as a musician rising?

I’m feeling impressed about the place I’m as a songwriter. The tune I simply launched is named “Can’t Nobody Tell Us Nothin’,” you’ll be able to nod your head to it nevertheless it’s acquired an emotional tug as properly. It’s all about being in that fiery, plain place of affection, with all of its fireworks and its intimacy. I’m all about love — to your associate, to your artwork — and that is about that feeling of being proper in the midst of that embrace.

What’s subsequent for you?

I’m doing a present this Saturday on the Kennedy Middle, and after “Into the Woods” ends on Jan. 8, I’m performing exhibits in February with the Philly POPS that’s all in regards to the historical past of soul music. After which I’m going to take a month off to do nothing and simply be with my household, as a result of I’ve been hitting it actually laborious. People must wait and see what I do subsequent.

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

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

(Christopher Willard/ABC)