ABOVE: Josh Segarra and RuPaul in ‘AJ and the Queen.’ (Photo by Beth Dubber; courtesy Netflix)
Actor and ally Josh Segarra has been very busy lately. His new show “AJ and the Queen” started streaming on Netflix and Segarra and his wife Brace Rice brought their second son Hank home from the hospital on Jan. 10, the same day this interview took place.
Segarra says the show’s audience will have a fun ride with star RuPaul and a beautiful bevy of queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (including guest appearances by Pork Chop, Vanessa Vanjie, Chad Michaels, Trixie Mattel, Valentina and Trinity the Tuck) as well as delicious cameos from Adrienne Barbeau, Marc Singer, Lorraine Bracco, Laura Bell Bundy, Mary Kay Place, Mario Cantone and Bridget Everett.
As for the plot, Segarra says, “You’re going to meet Robert Lee, played by RuPaul, who performs as Ruby Red and you’re going to meet AJ who’s played by this awesome young actress named Izzy G. Ruby Red is going to open up a club but finds out pretty early on that all of his money was stolen by his boyfriend Hector Ramirez (played by me) who is really a con man named Damien Sanchez. You meet Lady Danger, Damien’s partner in crime, played by Tia Carrere in an eyepatch.”
He continues, “You travel across the country with Robert and AJ in their RV and you get to watch RuPaul and the queens do some great numbers. It’s a lot of fun.”
Segarra had fun hanging out with the drag queens on the set.
“There were days where it didn’t feel like I was going to work,” he says. “There were days when I came in for just one little scene, but I’d stay for a couple of hours and watch the queens come and do their thing. I could see how happy they were to come play. I could see their eyes light up when they came on the soundstage. They are larger than life.”
Segarra says there’s a line in the script that sums up his attitude toward acting and life: “Nobody is just one thing.” He applied that to his portrayal of Hector/Damien who is more than just a comic villain (although he is funny). Segarra weaves strands of guilt into the con man’s character and also explores the character’s complicated sexual identity and complex feelings for Ruby Red.
Segarra even says the show may have inspired him to do drag.
“I told MPK (Michael Patrick King, co-creator of “AJ” and writer for “Sex and the City”) to get me some heels,” he says. “I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve — maybe I’ll pop a little Gloria Estefan number out.”
The actor has a strong connection to the Estefan family. In 2015, he originated the role of Emilio Estefan in the award-winning Broadway show “On Your Toes.”
“It was an honor and a privilege to play Emilio,” Segarra says. “Just getting to know Gloria and Emilio was amazing; I grew up listening to their music. When I was a kid, my parents took a dance class and I still have a vivid memory of them dancing to one of Gloria’s songs, so this was a full circle experience for me.”
“I was so proud to represent the immigrant community,” he says. “My parents moved from Puerto Rico the year before I was born. They spoiled my brother and sister and I; they worked their asses off to give us the life that we had. And I grew to respect the work the Estefans have put into their lives; they gave up everything to start their life anew. I tried so hard to tell the story of their life the best I could; I am so grateful to them.”
He’s also proud to be an LGBT ally, he says.
“When I came to New York City I felt like a lost boy. I was trying to find my footing and you learn that everyone is just trying to find a place to fit in. A lot of the people I hold nearest and dearest to me are in the LGBT community and I’ve seen how hard they had to struggle and I’ve heard their stories about growing up and not fitting in and I realize our stories are similar and different. We all just want to find someone who’ll tell us we’re doing OK.”
“I’m there to stand up for the LGBT community,” he says. “I’m so proud that we created this show about love and acceptance.”
Besides watching his scene-stealing turn as the well-endowed Staten Island Oli in Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck,” Segarra’s LGBT fans can catch him in two upcoming TV shows. He’ll be appearing in “Katy Keene,” the “Riverdale” spin-off on the CW, and he’ll be reprising his role as aspiring shoe designer Lance on the second season of “The Other Two.”
In the meantime, the proud new father is building a swing set and preparing to face the challenges of raising two sons. Segarra says that older brother Gus was fine meeting baby Hank until his wife Brace picked up the baby and Gus started screaming, “No, Mama, no! Put him down.”
The boys may be squabbling already, but the well-grounded actor and ally just says, “I am at such peace.”