Show People with Paul Wontorek: Joshua Henry of CAROUSEL
Joshua. Henry received Tony nominations, for his work in the musicals the Scottsboro, Boys and violet, both times playing african-american. Men confronting, racism in the deep south, now the talented, charmer is breaking boundaries by taking on one of the most iconic roles, in the musical theatre Canon Billy Bigelow and Rodgers and Hammerstein's, carousel, here Henry talks about the challenges, of playing Billy in 2018, his, journey of ups and downs to Broadway Fame and what it's like to sing soliloquy, every night as a father of a newborn son on this week's show people. How's. It going Josh it's. Going great, yeah you're on Broadway you're back on Broadway back, on Broadway I missed it, yeah we missed it yeah oh yeah so you were you were on the road right, and you're doing, Hamilton. I've been doing sterber yes, you. Can do it you've been doing that now you're back and you're Billy Bigelow not you. I have to tell you you're sitting with a carousel, freak like, my man this is my favorite show and Billy, Bigelow is my favorite, character, of all time yeah so you're here hi yeah yeah Bigelow right well, I love this raw it's a fantastic, role do, you know how many other men would. Knock, you down a staircase to play this frog. Many. Of them have sat in that chair some of them visit, me in the stage-door. Ball, town like security. Back, them up yeah, and there's a lot of people who want to do throw this is this is like one of the biggest roles yeah so I feel really afraid to be, playing this right now this was something a lot of guys love, to sink their teeth into I knew this was like a huge. Iconic. Role one of the biggest in musical. Theater and that's, what really excited me about it I love playing characters that you know they're arc is tremendous. And they have incredible, songs and, soliloquy. Being one of the, best. Songs best songs one of the biggest and longest, maybe, the longest how many minutes is it Wow I think it's like seven at least yeah yeah, is there a lot of song longer than soliloquy, in, the musical theater Canada I don't know any um, so I love. Big. Juicy, rolls like this and having. A great time every night with this. Cast that's, a little queer let's talk about that I remember when I first heard that song when I was a kid I don't think I knew what a soliloquy was, about at that time you know what I mean but it's such a really, big laugh lines always gonna be a dad right and, of course you've been performing it as you were waiting to be a dad we're gonna we're gonna talk about little, samson at home but. But. This. Guy who's sort of a mystery suddenly, finds out that he's, going to be a father and everything, just sort of breaks open everything changes, right there it's kind of like a hint. Urand Saved by the Bell has a cue so like pause things yeah he, it's like Billy's like pause world I got to think about this whole thing and then, he goes through this little journey if that's what it is I'm.
Like I'm gonna be a dad oh my gosh yes wait, that's hard. And could. It be a girl right I love that you compared it to Saved by the Bell did you actually just do that I've literally just never. Thought about that before but pause. Hmm. Resume. No this is not a role that many black actors have taken on I I don't know any. Do. I, I mean not on Broadway certainly, not on bro I don't Broadway and that feels really, I'm. Very honored, yeah, super grateful to have. Been chosen to do this role at this time and it's. Huge. It's, huge it's a huge moment for, for. Me and for. Broadway. And our actors of color and I. Think. It's you, know some people come to me at the stage door and they're. Like thank, you for opening. These, doors and. I'm like well I didn't actually I mean I'm thankful, for the moment, so that I can sort, of show people what. I can do right but, I think about Apple. Idol and by the way show people. Off. The top the dome right now look. At that the doors were open for me by, Stokes, and norm, and Billy Porter and you know so I'm grateful to walk through these, doors and sort of make a little bit of room and I'm hopeful, for for, what the future holds for actors, of color and for everyone. And I think Broadway, is huge in that way in that they do. Things that have never been done before and take chances so I'm you. Know not to go back to my last show the famous one but I'm not throwing away my shot on this one that's uh yeah yeah and it's what I was thinking is really interesting is that so many the opportunities, you've had on Broadway, by, the way to Tony nominations, and and you've been phenomenal. And every show I've ever seen you in but so many times you're actually, your. Characters, are commenting, on the african-american experience is. It's sort of a part of one of your story it's. So many of these roles and it's, interesting that that's not at all what. You're dealing with here and is that different for you or is. Every, character just have their own journey and that's sort, of incidental, to it well I think with. This character, with, with, Billy Bigelow you. Bring yourself to the, character and in rehearsal, we would have these moments and. Everyone. Would some around the room were like well that's not the way that it was that's, the way that it was rigged but, just because I'm I bring, what I bring it. Brings. Out a moment a little bit more and I, actually, didn't think about that in terms of you know that's, my first thing being, scottsboro boys and right which was a real life case which is a real surreal guy, yes. Ted, and absolutely. But, that this character, you, know at 19 around, the 1900. Billy Bigelow yeah he didn't have much education you, know he. Got, by on his charisma and. One. Of the people in history that I thought about for this character was blackjack. Blackjack Johnson. Cuz he's in famous boxer, I mean, heavyweight champion he, just kind, of did whatever he wanted to do and he got by on his charm. And his talent, and, you. Know he, dated white women which at the time was not a was. Not accepted. So I sort of thought thought about him, when, I was thinking, about Billy Bigelow but yeah he's certainly ahead. Of his time. And it's interesting to bring that, energy into, a piece like this without. Changing a lot. You know without changing words and lyrics and things like that there's, been a lot of talk about doing this show today than me to movement the time's up move men Billy Bigelow is, abusive. Character, in the plot it kind of is a guy who lashes. Out right and maybe, he just I, mean you don't see much of it on stage but you hear about it what is it like for you to explore, that today, and what's it been like for the production, well, it's. Hard. I mean it's it's hard for me to you. Know to, reckon with I think when you're playing this character the fact that he is abusive. And violent, I'm not, those things so. At. But along, with that violence, which we don't shy away from you, know he, loves his, wife, and his child so much and I think that's the.
What's. The biggest challenge with this role is there's things are so intertwined. And. Rodgers. And Hammerstein I think did a great job of creating, such a complex. Character. That, has to reckon with those two things, and. I think that's why it's such a beautiful. Journey to take on it's I love, playing roles that they're not just the good guy or the bad guy how, do we ride that wave you know throughout the night and that's my that's my challenge in this role critiques of the show have. Been difficult for me to listen to sometimes the man of the show because the, show is deals. With these things, right is there, a second chance right, can, you bounce back from something, so, heinous, you, know can you be, redeemed, that's. A really big question that I think you, know in, 1945. We were asking, and, you. Know maybe people a little uncomfortable and now we're asking and it's okay to be I think it's a good thing to be a little uncomfortable and, to ask these really hard questions, on the theater and that's, why Roger and Hammerstein were ahead, of their time okay. We're gonna take a quick break we're gonna be back we're going to talk more about my favorite musical ever written carousel. And. We. Are back with Josh Henry, so how's, that Jessie Mueller how's, she doing dope a is, your Julie Jordan she's, a queer lunch at the Jersey Shore is she's incredible, like I can't even when. We just started working together I, had to talk talk about beautiful and waitress and the house you had to have your fanboy I had to yes I look, you're gonna stay here you gonna take this she's so humble and it's just so like I was like strap you this chair you're just gonna take this I, gotta get this out of my shake. Absolutely. Incredible to work with yeah, amazing. Actress, and singer. And just a chameleon, she, can do anything. She's, so sweet and so generous, and you know really, a solid, woman. And. I think she's got this really spiritual, thing about her which I really, dig and I think you, know talking about carousel, before, we went and did this we, were very excited about not backing away from the spiritual aspect of this and bringing it out even more so I'm loving loving. Her loving, having her as my Julie speaking, of spiritual, sounds like you had a pretty spiritual. Upbringing right. Yeah. You, actually were what born in Winnipeg yes. So. White why were your parents in Winnipeg so my parents read to me, that like I'm gonna give you the full look before behind, the musical so after my. Parents left Jamaica they went straight to Canada okay, had my sister my brother and I I was the youngest and I. Stayed. There till I was three and then we moved down to their larger makers in Canada yes okay, yeah man. Yeah. Well I could see that's like someone that, I. Love, it do the rest of the interview like that. She. Is old and I went down to Miami Florida and we, wanted to be they wanted to be closer to home and yes.
But My parents were very spiritual. Folks you know right what's your name, Zadok, right, so cool you ever heard that name before Oh what school neither, has I've, never heard anyone say that right. Yeah. It, sounds, like a character, from like Star Wars or something right exactly a dog. But. Apparently he was like some high priest in the Bible um so. I grew up you know studying. The Bible and you know that's a big. Teacher. Yeah, Christian Academy teacher, yes and still is okay so I, grew up with, a big spiritual, influence and you know I continued to, you. Know that's a big part of my life okay and that's, what really attracted me to care so as well it's you know this this this spiritual aspect of what happens in the afterlife and, just asking all those questions that, is a big part of the plot yeah yeah, ghost. Carousel, yeah. I. Mean like it's kind of similar okay so then you ended up down in Miami, I went to the University of Miami right and that really opened my mind to, just different. People different religions all types of stuff and musical, theater it's kind of a party school isn't it did you avoid all that you. Know I did. And the, reason why is because I came. In studying, musical theater and I was so behind I literally. Knew, nothing. I mean, I got into shows. When I was a junior in high school which is really late and people, are getting into when they're like five years old so Asher was at the, Music Man oh that was in high school that was the first show I did your hair okay Harold hell yeah, yeah yeah I did it in college too, I did it at the infirmary I was like the last musical that I did I played Harold Hill as well so it's not okay. Broadway. If like Scott Rudin was like let's do the music man play. Harold Hill you're into it I, look. You got trouble you know I love that look but I love it I do love that musical, if we interested in high school college and then do professionally, let me come on down. Yeah. Okay, so you really started studying and learning musicals, and listening to cast yeah yes, and catching up it's literally, just living, in the music library. Studying. The shows and, learning. What music theory was when, everyone around me knew it so that's, what kept me out of that's. One reason I wasn't into. The Miami party scene because I had, eight o'clock music, theory and then I would stay up till two, o'clock we, were to cast. Albums, I was. Let's. Call a spade a spade I started, like getting roles and, got, very confident, and Michael, McElroy came to our school direct. Me and violet yeah and I, was like okay then I had like the template of what I wanted to be so, like all the things came together you. Know Rahmani Mike McElroy that's pretty much he's a charming guy I could see how he could sing he sang, come. On yeah sang with a capital anger, yeah yeah. And then you got, out of school and you had a gig which, was Godspell, yes, still, with this virtual, right everything's. Like your whole life you've been training for Godspell. Mom. Dad god Godspell. They're like hallelujah. That's, when I met Robin. DeJesus, who. Was yeah a little offer always show called in the high supreme, and he. Hammered up together Burrell Godspell, yes yeah, and they're supposed to come to Broadway and it didn't right. But Robin, was. Doing this in the heist thing and he said he, was like you should come, in and audition for the understudy, of Benny and I did and that's how I got into the in, the high stream team I'm, good team to be in which, is a team that I've and haven't stopped with them and I'm literally gonna be working with them yeah all, right let's talk we're gonna talk more with, Josh Henry after this break. And. We're. Back with Joshua. Henry. Somewhere. Like a two-time Tony nominee if I say Joshua Oh Josh. You know Josh is Allah to cash, so you're any ensemble in the heights and then you eventually, took over as Benny I remembered, specifically. Hearing, a buzz like Gracia, the new Benny yes, yeah. I'm sick okay, and then, I saw, you. In the Wiz that. Was kind of first time you had a nice juicy, you. Know that was like a nice big moment, yeah of course and that production it was directed by Tom McHale it, was choreographed by, Andy blank and Bueller out slacker more did the music right it was, that team and you. Were the Tin Man and I still remember you, singing, if I could you. If I could oh man that's did you sing have you sang that song sense, oh yeah, that's the song. I love anyway you and I was like there he is that's that guy that's that guy everyone's talking about and now you're like a big fancy Broadway star so. Yeah, that's how happens that that production of The Wiz I just want to put I always like to always say on record that's a great production he was British should have moved that was a great production is it too late I got, my ten-man shoes on right now oh yeah, you tried that already Sean, I was like that.
Guy Has, an amazing voice and the Tin Man is jacked. That. Was part of it right I'm just muscle-bound, that's what the thing man was stuck but gets hat though a little, yeah, that's right that's right right but. Yeah you know it's interesting like there's the Broadway, careers are shaped, very, strangely, because like you thought Godspell go to Broadway maybe the wisdom of the Broadway and then and then, actually, you know the Scottsboro Boys was, sort of your first big moment, for up for a lot of people to see you in a new role Tony nomination, and, that and that one you, got because Brandon, Victor Dixon you, know couldn't do it from a broad way right that's the great thing and, whenever people are like because any advice I'm like just, follow, your, path you never know where it's gonna lead like literally, I didn't know from. In the heights how I got that with Robin and then it was incredible, and was supposed to be as gospel was supposed to do this like the marquee was up it just didn't happen and happened. In a great marquee up honey, was all the way up but. At that time like so the Godspell thing happened and then I went back into in the heights right, as a swing, and I was able to I had like five rolls that I was you know like covering, that's, where I really learned my, chops so I really learned how to really, be. A better performer because I had to be in charge of four or five different roles and I needed that if. I didn't have that then I wouldn't be prepared for the Wiz and then I want to be prepared to like take my first role in Scottsboro Boys so yeah, you know I think all these things I mean I happened. For reasons that you don't know at the time but. You take the detour and you, don't you value the detour you see all the, bits and pieces you can pick up from it and then. You take that into your next thing alright how's. Your wife Katherine, Katherine, is amazing, you guys met at University, of Miami yes, we were across, hall from each other and that's how we met and, you, met in the hall we met at the elevator the, elevator and. I remember I stubborn when she walked off the elevator she's got this beautiful red hair and like. She smiled at me and I was like oh snap. But. I just remember it's like she reminded me of Wendy's, they like the Wendy's girl you know the, Wendy's Brenda yeah which I was still. I'm in tune you know I mean but like I was like okay and you had a crush on the Wendy's girl.
Frost. Wendy, so. That's how we met and. 15. Years later you. Know we're here and now, we have Sampson he's incredible, and, Katherine. Has been a trouper you know taking. Care of him. You know while, I'm in previews, you, know rehearsing for all day and they're doing the shows at night and she's, an unbelievable, woman, Sampson, was born midway through previews, as. Previous started thankfully, you know he's he. Came when he came and it's. Nice to have a spring baby I always thought that's that was a really good thing like we wanted to have baby. In spring so that we could go for walks and stuff but it, could've been a better time doing. A roll like this I mean singing. A song like the soliloquy, crazy. Before, was born was was one thing now, that he's born like I'm still asking those questions you, know I got wonder what he think of me like what's he write you know what does he see when he looks at me what am I gonna be for him huh I don't do anything for him and yes, and. I it's different from night tonight and sometimes the emotion is really getting in and then you have to remind, yourself what you still got to sing this thing man so yeah, you're. Riding that wave of having. Emotion the real emotions, when your real life come into the song it's. Pretty wild so when you're when your home wasn't maybe just like staring at him going like I made look who's me made yeah, I mean I look at him like this and I'm like, you. You are you real like seriously, like that's bug I'm. Like so. People with Paul real like, is it or is it, yes. That is a real mug yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Hold them up like I get the football hole going and you know it would just be like just. Jogging, around the house I, will. Simply wet it we're silly with it it's fun that's, amazing, congratulations. Thank you it's so so, cool making, families, make, it families, yeah, I mean having this moment is I never. Thought I'd be I'd have a have. A baby while doing a show about being, a father right the. Marrying of those two things is really special, I'm excited you're in it what I heard that I was like that's gonna be good with. That voice and soliloquy, that's gonna be good because you know you have a lot of like young, fans who don't know that maybe some of the classic musicals it's the first time they've had the opportunity to see it so right so that's a cool thing yeah. Yeah come on out y'all come on out Carroll. Theater we've riding this thing all the way out all, the way around this carousel thank. You so much for being here thank you for wearing your Tin Man shoes I didn't even realise, - you said it damn. Everyone. Go check out carousel, at the Imperial, theater thank, you for watching we'll see you next time.