The Handsome Gaston From ABS’s “Beauty and The Beast” Special is Joshua Henry

TV viewers might not be aware of one of the many well-known performers in “Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration,” which also features Josh Groban, Martin Short, Shania Twain, David Alan Grier, and Rita Moreno: Gaston, played by Joshua Henry, is a hot guy after Belle (H.E.R.).

Henry steals the stage with his strong baritone voice, facial resemblance to the late Sidney Poitier, long locs, clever prosthetics, and, as Gaston puts it, “biceps to spare.”

A male actor with Henry’s physique taking center stage while doing songs, dances, and funny lines is incredibly uncommon. However, if you found this item after hungrily Googling “Who is that?” during Thursday’s broadcast, know that the 38-year-old singer has amassed a noteworthy résumé.

Henry, who was born in Winnipeg, raised in Miami, and now resides in New York City with his wife and three sons, is a three-time Tony Award nominee. He has also previously appeared in Netflix’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” movie and built a career on stage with roles in “Hamilton,” “Carousel,” “American Idiot,” “In the Heights,” and “The Scorsese.” ABC’s two-hour anniversary special will begin streaming on Disney+

Henry talked to The Times a few hours before a Broadway performance of “Into the Woods” about growing bigger and hairier to portray the adored character, recording a new song, and where he hopes his new physique might take him next.

Your Performance as Gaston as You Sing, Dance, Hoist Barrels and Swing Around Lefou Seems Like Fun

Yes! I get to use my full chest voice, sing with all that boldness and vigor, dance and have a blast with Rizwan [Manji], who portrays Lefou and discover so many different comedy beats in this massive, legendary, and raucous performance.

Of course, this song has been performed before, but Jamal Sims’ surprising choreography has never been seen before. I had to live up to what they were doing to fit into this incredible piece when I first saw him do it during practice.

How Did You Physically Prepare for This Part Considering That Gaston Has “Biceps to Spare”?

I enjoy working out, so having an excuse to lift a lot of weight and gain some weight was fantastic. I gradually increased my calorie intake, stopped doing crazy aerobics, and began lifting as much weight as I could week after week once I started this [job] in late June. To get into character, I would speak to myself like him in the gym and say, “One more for the ladies.”

Who is Gaston in Beauty and the Beast
Who is Gaston in Beauty and the Beast

Although I didn’t measure my biceps in advance, I have to assume that they are at least two inches larger, which was wonderful because Gaston can use them. However, our costume designer Marina [Toybina] became a little irritated when I split my pants twice while performing the choreography even though everything fits me. As a result, we had to modify the suit to allow for movement.

For this character, who leads with his body, it’s nice to change a little bit. I’ve been doing the heavy lifting since the filming. Being extremely powerful is satisfying. I’m hopeful that the way the world perceives me will lead to projects where I can use action or another type of physicality to tell the tale. In addition, I have three sons, so I need to be prepared to pick them up at any time.

What Age Are Your Sons Now? Has Anyone Seen a Production of “Beauty and the Beast”?

The twins are 22 months old, and my oldest is 4 1/2 years old. They haven’t [seen], but when we were rehearsing, my oldest came to set and met Martin Short and H.E.R. He exclaimed, “Daddy, you’re like a superhero!” when I showed him a picture of me in costume shooting a bow and arrow.

This legendary character fits me, and I’m extremely good at it, so it’s great that my sons and all the other little chocolate Joshuas out there will get to see me in it. I hope that viewing that will open their eyes and help them find their position in the world.

You Have a Lot More Hair Than Usual on Your Head and Chest While Playing This Character

They extend to my back center. It took four and a half hours to get them in, and I kept them there for three weeks while we shot and rehearsed. I’ve never worn locs or any form of braiding. My wife and I both thought it looked great, and even my manager said, “That’s the feeling.”

However, it requires a lot of maintenance; I was glad to pull them out after we were through because I was like, “Y’all, I can’t shower, I can’t drive, I can’t sleep.”

Let’s call the chest hair the chest ‘fro or the chest Chia Pet. We worked our way up; the first step was way too much; you would have believed Don Cornelius was sitting on my chest and you might get lost with your hand in it. Therefore, we needed to strike a balance.

The song also contains the line, “No one’s got a swell cleft in his chin like Gaston,” and while I share many other physical characteristics with the character, my chin was not one of them. As a result, I too wear a little chin prosthetic. Although quite subtle, it’s all in the details.

Many Spectators May Be Witnessing You Perform for the First Time, but You’re a Known Actor. What Do You Wish Others Knew?

I am an actor, singer, and dancer who has largely performed on stage. I’m just doing what I love here, where I live. The other day while we were speaking, Lin-Manuel [Miranda] said, Listen, I’m so thrilled people get to see you perform what you do. Just the location has changed around here.

I lead a pretty active life for a guy. I’ve lived a life devoted to my family, my art, and my personal development. Although I’m thrilled that audiences will be able to see me perform and that many people will be paying attention to me, this isn’t something that happened suddenly.

I want everybody who is looking at me to realize that this is achievable since I have been doing this for 16 years and have been gradually improving my art. It is conceivable to finish academically last in your class, struggle for a while to find your place, then excel to one day be on Broadway and in this Disney classic. Positive things can happen if you are committed to developing your artistic abilities.

You Resemble the Late Sidney Poitier, Don’t You Think? What’s the Frequency?

Over the years, countless numbers, too! In high school, college, and as a child, I acquired it. We both share a West Indian complexion and are of Bahamian and Jamaican ancestry, respectively. I adored his novel, and I would swoon to portray him in the future.

You Released a Single After Your Debut Album Last Year. How’s Your Music’s Quality?

Regarding where I am as a songwriter, I’m feeling inspired. “Can’t Nobody Tell Us Nothing,” a song I recently released, has a head-nodding quality as well as an emotional pull? Being in that passionate, irrefutable state of love, with all of its fireworks and intimacy, is what it’s all about. I’m all about love, whether it’s love for your relationship or love of your work, and this is about what it’s like to be in the center of an embrace.

What’s Next for You?

I have a performance on Saturday at the Kennedy Center, and after “Into the Woods” closes on January 8, I have performances with the Philly POPS in February that are entirely devoted to the development of soul music. Then, because I’ve been working so hard, I’m going to take a month off to do nothing except spend time with my family. People must wait to see what I do next.

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