H.E.R. as Belle in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

H.E.R. as Belle in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Courtesy of ABC
H.E.R. as Belle in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

H.E.R. as Belle in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Christopher Willard/ABC
H.E.R. as Belle and Jon Jon Briones as Maurice in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

H.E.R. as Belle and Jon Jon Briones as Maurice in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

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

H.E.R. as Belle in Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Art Streiber
Fill 1
Fill 1
December 09, 2022
Online Originals

Leave It to H.E.R.

The musician and singer takes on the role of Belle in the live-action ABC musical Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration.

After you've won an Oscar and five Grammys, performed at the Super Bowl and the Emmy Awards and toured the world several times over by the age of twenty-five, nerves aren't really a thing anymore. And yet, the platinum-selling rock-and-R&B artist known as H.E.R. admits that she has some jitters about playing Belle in ABC's Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration.

Just not the obvious ones.

"It's a big moment for me because this is not a H.E.R. performance," she says a week before the event. "This is me as Gabriella Wilson. It's a departure, and it's a new chapter for me. So, that's what I'm most nervous about. People will see a new side of me."

Indeed, H.E.R. — an acronym for "Having Everything Revealed" — will ditch her blazing electric guitar and trademark sunglasses for the headstrong Disney princess's iconic yellow gown in what she describes as a "unique and collaborative" two-hour special, airing December 15. This year marks the 30th anniversary of when Beauty and the Beast — released in 1991 — became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. (It went on to win two Oscars — for Best Original Song and Original Score.)

"It's a combination of the animated movie and our own live version," she says. "We're doing the music, of course, and a bit of acting and dancing on new sets. There are a lot of creative aspects to it because it's not your typical stage setting." She'll be joined by Josh Groban as The Beast, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts, Martin Short as Lumiere, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Joshua Henry as Gaston, Rizwan Manji as LeFou and Rita Moreno as the narrator.

And while Beauty and the Beast is, ahem, a tale as old as time, H.E.R. — also a producer — says audiences will notice a few updates: "We're staying true to the original version but there will be some twists."

Why did you sign on to this project? It's a little unexpected, no?
I think it is. People who know me personally were like, "Oh yeah, totally, this is so fitting for you!" I can be very animated and off-the-wall. It's like I'm either a five-year-old kid or a fifty-year-old woman. That's my vibe. But for people who don't know me well, this is the perfect opportunity to feel connected to the person behind H.E.R. I've also never seen a Black and Filipina princess, and I wanted to represent myself that way. So when I got the call, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe this."

The movie was already considered an Oscar-winning classic by the time you were born. Are you too young to have even seen it on VHS?
No! I would go to my cousin's house, and she had all the Disney VHS tapes. We always watched Beauty and the Beast. I had to be, like, five years old. She actually had a collector's edition of Belle in the yellow dress — we couldn't open the box and play with it, so we'd just stare at the doll sitting on the shelf! It's so crazy that I get to wear that dress now.

How did you feel putting it on for the first time?
Oh, my gosh, like a Disney princess. I've been telling everybody that Belle has really brought a different type of confidence and femininity and comfort from within my body. I'm automatically poised — moving differently and smiling differently. It's a glow, you know?

Has the role required a lot of prep work?
Oh, man, so much. I've been on tour the whole year, so I've been in and out of the creative process. I started over the summer, went back on the road and then went full throttle on the choreography, vocals, costumes. Then came all the rehearsal shooting. Now it's almost here!

Are you a big musical fan in general? Or did you research anything to prepare?
Honestly, I didn't watch that many musicals growing up. I'm a big animation girl. I adored The Lion King and Fantasia and Hercules and Tarzan. But in terms of live-action musicals, my thing was more like Purple Rain. I absolutely loved that movie. But now I have a newfound respect and love for the genre.

A lot of those animated films have been reworked in recent years. Do you think that's because they're dated or is there something comforting about revisiting the brand?
I'm a fan of this trend. I think it's great to reintroduce these films to a newer generation who have probably never seen them. My sister is sixteen and there are certain things I loved growing up that she had no idea even existed until the newer version came out. You just don't want to try to repeat what you've already done. You have to put that modern twist on it.

How are you giving Belle a 2022 spin?
There are subtle changes. There are small details on the yellow dress, like all the extra rhinestones. The choreography is a little more modern and cooler. And I've been working with [composer] Alan Menken on some of the arrangements for the music. Like, I sang over some of the string sections to give the songs a different feeling. I'm excited for people to hear it.

Have you and Josh already established that romantic fairy-tale chemistry?
Honestly, he's just so sweet and kind and patient and just great at what he does. We have a friendship now so it was easy to connect in those songs, you know? And we've already done the songs a million times over by now! We're also just both happy to be here.

You also recently completed the movie-musical version of The Color Purple. How do you feel about being a triple threat?
It's definitely different, but not that different. I think it's really challenging because I'm singing as a character and not as myself. And then to act at the same time is a lot. But I have so much fun doing it and don't have time to think about all the work. I don't know what I'll do in the future — but I do know I want to do it again.

Maybe you should lobby for a Purple Rain TV musical.
You never know!

Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration is produced by Done+Dusted in association with Walt Disney Television Alternative and Electric Somewhere. Executive producers are Jon M. Chu, Caitlin Foito, Hamish Hamilton, Raj Kapoor, Richard Kraft and Katy Mullan. Hamish Hamilton will serve as director. H.E.R. serves as a producer.

Browser Requirements
The TelevisionAcademy.com sites look and perform best when using a modern browser.

We suggest you use the latest version of any of these browsers:


Visiting the site with Internet Explorer or other browsers may not provide the best viewing experience.

Close Window