premieres on ABC on Jan. 4, don’t expect it to be a live action version of all of your favorite Disney animated musicals.
“You expect it to be a ‘Tangled’ sort of thing or a ‘Frozen’ kind of epic. I think it’s great that it’s not,” leading man Joshua Sasse admits to Zap2it. “It means we can be a lot more slapstick with it. There are some great moments that you can catch that aren’t possible with another medium.”
Thanks to composer Alan Menken — the man who wrote “Beauty and the Beast’s” title track and Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” — working on the new fairytale comedy musical TV series, “Galavant” does have the DNA of a Disney classic. But the intent was always for it to hew closer to the genre twists of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “The Princess Bride” than to recapture animated Disney movies’ sincerity.
For Sasse, that meant a lot of going back to basics with his character. Galavant might be the “Prince Charming”-type of the series, but he’s not a great hero when audiences first meet him. He has to earn his dues over the course of his arc.
“I’d done a lot of musicals before and I said, ‘Listen, if I do this, what I want to do is create something really different and new, and I want this guy to not be some shining perfect hero. I want him to be the complete polar opposite and strip him down,'” Sasse recalls. “I really wanted to do something different with this character, and I went back and looked at Disney princes and I went back and looked at Errol Flynn’s work in the ’30s. I just wanted to see what else was out there and what hadn’t been done.”
Sasse examined every Disney prince, every depiction of Robin Hood and Lancelot, and found himself going back “further and further.” “I looked at the arrogance in some characters and the confidence and where that came from in those characters, whether it was just from them being a knight or whether there were little bits and pieces that I as an external viewer liked, and how that made me feel,” he says.
What Sasse found is that the moments he most enjoyed exploring were the behind-the-scenes segments of the story. So often these heroes would always get it right, but Sasse liked seeing when they got it wrong, for example when they put their armor on the wrong way. “I constantly tried to write that in every day when we were working,” he says, and it’s clear from the opening minutes of “Galavant’s” first episode when the title character get his hero status stripped away that Sasse succeeded.
“It’s important to have that rebuild — and much more interesting to see someone try to build up again and get it wrong and work out what’s really going on,” he notes.
Though taking on any leading role is daunting, Sasse found “Galavant” less so because he knew it will bring people joy and make them laugh. That’s the response he had to the Disney classics of his childhood, like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “Hercules.”
“I actually just said to Alan the other day it was wild working in the studio with him and creating these songs for Disney after a childhood of listening to his music. It is really, really surreal, and it’s not something you expect to be doing,” Sasse says, recalling a time Menken played him a song that was cut from “Beauty and the Beast.” “This guy, magic sort of pours out of his fingertips.”
Looking forward, Sasse has bright hopes for what “Galavant” can accomplish, especially since it’s doing something so different and subversive compared to other Disney musicals. “There’s no horizon that we can’t go to, which is what’s so exciting about this show,” he says. “We can do anything and go anywhere.”