Interview with Carousel star Joshua Henry

Joshua Henry

Joshua Henry is a three-time Tony Award nominee, who earned rave reviews and is currently wowing audiences at the Imperial Theatre eight shows a week as Billy Bigelow in the Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel. Having started his Broadway career in the ensemble of In the Heights in 2008, over the last ten years, Mr. Henry has steadily established himself as a bona fide leading man and Broadway star.

After a stint in Green Day's American Idiot, his big break came as he assumed the leading role of Haywood Patterson in the Broadway premiere of The Scottsboro Boys in the fall of 2010, leading to his first Tony Award nomination in 2011. Afterwards, he returned to the company of American Idiot a star, assuming the role of 'Favorite Son'. After two Broadway outings in 2012 - in The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess and Bring It On The Musical - he once again gained critical acclaim for originating the role of Flick in the Broadway premiere of Violet in 2014, culminating in a second Tony Award nomination. In 2016, he returned to the Great White Way as Noble Sissle in the Broadway premiere of Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed and prior to his current role, he entertained audiences both in Chicago and across America as Aaron Burr in Hamilton.

Taking on the iconic and controversial role of Billy Bigelow is arguably the young actor's toughest challenge to date, but one that has been justly rewarded with his third Tony Award nomination. We recently caught up with Mr. Henry to talk success and redemption on the great carousel that is Broadway - a non-stop, rotating ride you can jump on and off, but never gets tired...

Joshua Henry in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

Congratulations on yet another successful outing on Broadway, Joshua. What are the secrets to your success?

Oh so many things! My family. My wife Cathryn, who agreed to join me on this crazy ride. My parents, who instilled in me the value of hard work. My cast mates. I thank God for putting me in a position where I could thrive in something that I’m really good at. I can’t really owe it all to one thing, but it lies somewhere in all those four things.

And a bucket-load of talent is in the mix too, sir. But you’re way to modest to say so…

(Laughs) Well, thank you.

So, Billy Bigelow is such a complex, multi-layered character. What was your honest, first impression when you heard you might get the opportunity to play him?

Well, my first impression was… Wow! I mean, what he gets to do and the journey he goes on… From being a rockstar carousel barker to doing some really horrible things and then trying to fix those things. My first impression was: “This is a great arc!” I love characters that have a really great arc and that aren’t just clear-cut and simple. Then I started to connect with him in the way that he makes a decision to do something great for his family, eventually. I’m a new father of a newborn who is seven weeks old and I really connected with that. That was my first impression.

Joshua Henry in Carousel
(Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

I guess when playing Billy you also start to think about the themes of redemption and second chances a great deal?

I think about that a lot as we tell this story. What I love about the way that we’re telling it is that we’re wondering and we’re asking the question: “Do we all deserve a second chance?” I know I’ve needed a second chance. People have given me second chances as a performer. For someone who’s been in this business for a while, sometimes you get in front of a casting director and you blow it. I mean, I think we all need a second chance here and there. That’s what this piece means. It’s a second chance at redeeming yourself and trying to get it right the second time around. What do you do with that opportunity?

I think I’ve needed more second chances than hot dinners in my lifetime, Joshua. But you didn’t seem like you needed a second chance when it came to your big number in Carousel. What is going through your head as you’re coming up to “Soliloguy” in the show?

You know, you would think that my heartrate would go up, but I do my best to just slow everything down. I take really deep breaths and it’s a bit like slow motion in film. Everything moves slowly because you don’t want to psyche yourself up. And because I’m a new father, I’m actually thinking the same first couple of questions that I sing, which are: “I wonder what he’ll think of me?” I’m really living in the moment because that’s what’s going on in my own life right now.

(Photo by Austin Yang)

Carousel Tickets are available now for performances through to January 6, 2019.