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Joshua Henry in Beauty and the Beast

Joshua Henry Takes on Gaston in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

A tale as old as…30 years. In honor of the milestone, Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration will be presented as a two-hour blended animated and live-action special. It pays tribute to the original Oscar-winning film by airing the classic movie and adding new memorable musical performances previously recorded in front of an audience. It’s similar to when ABC aired The Little Mermaid Live! starring Auli’i Cravalho (Moana).

H.E.R. stars as Belle, alongside Josh Groban (starring in Sweeney Todd on Broadway next spring) as The Beast. Rounding out the cast is Rita Moreno as the narrator, Martin Short as Lumière, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Rizwan Manji as LeFou, Jon Jon Briones as Maurice, Leo Abelo Perry as Chip, and Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts.

Joshua Henry in in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.
Joshua Henry in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.

Broadway Direct spoke with Joshua Henry — who plays Gaston, and is Rapunzel’s Prince in the current Broadway production of Into the Woods — all about the special that airs on ABC on December 15 at 8 p.m., before premiering on Disney+ the following day.


What can we expect from this extraordinary 30th anniversary showing of Beauty and the Beast?

Audiences are not going to be ready for this, honestly. The costumes are ridiculous. The choreography is something that they’ve never seen. Vocally, you’ve never heard a Belle like this. You’ve never heard a Beast like this. You’ve never heard a Gaston like this. You also get to relive this iconic film. Rita Moreno will be talking and giving honor to the original artistry, the drawings that inspired these characters and the animators. There’s a lot for audiences to be wowed by and to get lost in the magic.

Was Angela Lansbury [the animated film’s Mrs. Potts] involved before she passed away?

Not as far as I knew. It was really a hard moment, hearing that she passed. This is going to be in tribute to her.

You’re surrounded by a cast of Hollywood names, how did you get involved in the project?

They asked me to do it. So it’s an honor to be selected based on work that I have done. When it comes to Gaston — I’m a bigger guy. I’ve done roles like Aaron Burr [in Hamilton] or Billy Bigelow [in Carousel], guys who have a darkness to them. The combination of those things made a lot of sense.

H.E.R. in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.
H.E.R. in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.

What was your favorite moment on set with H.E.R.?

There’s a serious line right before “The Mob Song” that I delivered to H.E.R. When I looked at her face, she was packed with emotion and ferocity because she’s trying to protect her dad. I remember during one of those takes she really, really brought it. I didn’t know her as an actress. I just know her from music. But in that moment, I thought, “She’s fully giving herself to this role.” So I think audiences will be really delighted by what they see from her.

Who is Gaston to you when you take him out of animation?

He’s got this fullness, charm, and arrogance about him. He represents a culture that says if you look a certain way and you work hard enough, you get anything you want. First of all, I think those are not true. But that is something that’s popular culture right now. So I tried to embody that idea. As much as he is charming, he’s also overly aggressive and doesn’t know what it means to hear the word no. The aggression is something that I really leaned into. I got to find some incredible comedic moments with my scene partner, Rizwan Manji [Schitt’s Creek], who plays Le Fou. He’s a comedian — just a genius. Being on set with him and Martin Short, you understand this is what comedy is. Coming from Into the Woods, where I’ve been doing comedic work, it’s nice to continue that trend and just lean into the funny chops for a little while.

Joshua Henry and Rizwan Manji in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.
Joshua Henry and Rizwan Manji in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration. Photo by ABC/Christopher Willard.

How did you prepare?

Coming from the theater, you try to make things as real as possible. I got a little extra-beefy to do this role. I definitely hit the weights harder than I usually do. He’s literally got lines about his biceps and how thick his neck is.

Did you eat four dozen eggs?​​

I didn’t eat four dozen eggs. But I did eat a lot more. I don’t know how much weight I gained. But I think my body proportions definitely changed. You have to eat a lot more protein to gain size. I like changing my body. I like the challenge of it. It’s fun to have that as a challenge because it’s part of the role you’re going to play. One really cool thing that happened was when we were filming promos for the show. They wanted to CGI in this bulging bicep. Once I got on set and flexed, they were like, “We’re not going to need the CGI effects. You actually have huge arms.”

Did your costumes then not fit for Into the Woods?

I was so scared that they were not going to, but they actually did fit, just a little snugger.

Joshua Henry and Gavin Creel in Into the Woods. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.
Joshua Henry and Gavin Creel in Into the Woods. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Speaking of fairy tales, you are making audiences roar on Broadway right now as Rapunzel’s Prince.

[Cinderella’s Prince] Gavin [Creel] and I worked so hard and meticulously on all these little minor moments, whether it was just a lift of a pinkie, the swish of a wrist, or a double take to each other. We wanted everything to be super-crisp. We also talked about our relationship: What’s the backstory of us as brothers? Is there any jealousy there? Why do they keep trying to outdo each other? It was also a good amount of work to make sure our breaths were in sync. [Composer Stephen] Sondheim is pretty wordy sometimes, so you don’t want to lose any of the words. You want it to be precise. We spent a lot of time when the director or choreographer wasn’t around doing it ourselves.

What is the story of you both as brothers and princes?

[Creel] is Cinderella’s Prince and heir to the throne. [My character is] not really cool with that. Even though I feel like I am much more suited — in stature, poise, and capability to rule the kingdom — the lineage is what it is. That’s a big part of our feud.

Did you think when you signed on for Into the Woods that it would keep getting extended?

It was supposed to be eight weeks and is now seven months. What’s resonating about this moment — aside from the incredible performers; they’re a really big part of what has made this happen — is the message of “no one is alone.” I think it’s constantly relevant and resonant.

Lastly, what’s your favorite line that Gaston says in Beauty and the Beast?

It probably has to be “As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating” because of the rhyme scheme. It also fully embodies exactly who he is.


Make sure to tune in to Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration on ABC on December 15 at 8 p.m. and Disney+ on December 16.