Josh Segarra Has Superstar Potential

My Zoom call with Josh Segarra started out just as I’d hoped: with a dab.

Less than two minutes into our conversation, the 36-year-old actor chants “Come on! Let’s go! Absolutely!” before angling his arms up to the left, lowering his smiling face into his right forearm, and releasing — not once, but twice. The familiar gesture — a nod to Lance Arroyo, Segarra’s playful character on HBO Max’s The Other Two — is one I’ve seen him perform dozens of times on screen. Yet his sincere, enthusiastic commitment to the bit makes each dab as delightful to behold as his first. 

“I wish they asked me more,” Segarra says with a smile when I question if fans of the comedy from former Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider frequently request the move. “I would dab all the time if people asked me to. We’re the ones who are keeping it alive.”

Since dabbing his way into hearts in The Other Two’s 2019 pilot, Segarra has appeared in everything from RuPaul’s AJ and the Queen to Dolly Parton’s holiday musical Christmas on the Square. Fresh off his role as attorney Augustus “Pug” Pugliese in Marvel’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and ahead of The Other Two’s highly-anticipated Season 3, he currently stars in Scream VI as Danny Brackett and Giorgio in Apple TV+’s The Big Door Prize. The scintillating scene-stealer is having an undeniable moment in Hollywood, but his momentum is nothing new. From acting in church Christmas plays to reciting wrestling monologues as a kid, Josh Segarra has long possessed superstar potential.

Josh Segarra dabbing in 'The Other Two'
Photo: HBO MAX

“I always wanted to be the devil. I thought Lucifer was so fascinating. I was like, ‘OK. Well, this guy has layers to him, you know? Nobody wants to play Jesus. That guy’s boring,” he laughs, thinking back on the aforementioned plays. “I wanted to make it funny! I wanted to do something crazy! Paint my face! It was that, and then pro wrestling. I was always having matches on my trampoline in the backyard, carrying around a title. I was trying to mimic every wrestler that I loved — doing Stone Cold or Macho Man or the Hulkster in the mirror. I feel like those are the first monologues I knew, wrestling monologues.”

Segarra, who also credits Saturday Night Live and films like Tommy Boy and Billy Madison as inspirations growing up, calls himself a product of Nickelodeon, praising shows like All That and Kenan & Kel, which gave him his first inkling that acting could be a viable career. “Having Nickelodeon down the street — it was 30 minutes away from me — I was like, ‘Man. So there are kids that are my age that are doing this? OK, cool,’” he recalls. 

Prior to pursuing a career on screen, the actor took the stage and fell in love with theater. After an eighth-grade production of The Wizard of Oz, he spent summers doing community theater and performed in high school musicals and plays. “When I got to NYU, that’s where it really kind of became like, ‘Oh, OK. You get a manager, you get an agent, you audition. And that’s where I really started to sharpen my teeth [and] figure out the actor I’m going to be,” he explains. That love of theater bloomed into roles starring in Lysistrata Jones and Dogfight, and Segarra is well-known to aficionados of Broadway for originating the role of Emilio Estefan in On Your Feet!

Josh Segarra and Ana Villafane perform "On Your Feet" Broadway Opening Night at Marquis Theatre on November 5, 2015 in New York City
Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage via Getty Images

“There’s no thrill like being on a stage when that curtain rises… I love the craft of it. You’re getting up for a show every night. Hopping on the train. Getting off in Times Square. I love Times Square,” he says with overwhelming sincerity. “It’s always dreams to me, coming out and seeing those bright lights. I’ll still get a Nuts 4 Nuts every once in a while. My favorite Latino restaurant, this place called Margon, I still hit in Times Square. So it just holds a very special place in my heart.”

Moving from theater to TV, Segarra has appeared in everything from Homeland, Blue Bloods, and Chicago P.D. to Overboard, Orange Is the New Black, and Arrow. But his big on-screen break came in 2009 when he landed the role of Hector Ruiz in The Electric Company, a remake of the 1971 educational PBS kids show from Children’s Television Workshop (now called Sesame Workshop). With music from Chris Jackson (Hamilton, In The Heights, Moana) and Bill Sherman (Sesame’s head of music and orchestrator for In The Heights), Segarra and his co-stars  — including William Jackson Harper, Reggie Watts, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and other big guests — used sketch comedy, rapping, beatboxing, and dancing to teach grammar and reading to kids beyond their Sesame Street days. If you missed the fun, fear not. YouTube’s got the goods. (This one is a must-watch.)

When I bring up the quirky series that taught Segarra how to hit his mark and grind from Monday to Friday for an extended period of time, he seamlessly drops bars from “Silent ‘E’”, which he still considers one of the greatest raps of all time. “Electric Company was really special for me. I learned so much from that. The fact that I got to explore all these different facets of the medium and use all these different tools…I’m really thankful for that time in my life,” he says. A father of three, Segarra admits he’s shown his boys (ages six, three, and four months) the series, and despite a bit of confusion when a younger version of “dada” appears on screen, Segarra proudly proclaims “it’s a trip when they’re bopping their heads to it.”

Nearly 15 years after the remake premiered, Segarra is funneling Hector’s creative energy into Giorgio — a retired New York Ranger turned Italian restaurant/arcade owner who isn’t even Italian — in David West Read’s adaptation of M.O. Walsh’s 2020 novel, The Big Door Prize. In the sci-fi dramedy, a seemingly clairvoyant “MORPHO” machine mysteriously appears in a local general store, rattling Deerfield residents by spitting out cards that claim to contain their life potentials. Giorgio’s card bears the word “SUPERSTAR,” which leaves him “legitimately spooked” and inspires the pursuit of his unfulfilled ambitions; mainly wooing his dream girl Cass (Gabrielle Dennis), who happens to be his best friend Dusty’s (Chris O’Dowd) wife. “Signing on to this [project] was a really special thing because I’m just such a big fan of Chris’s,” Segarra says. “I’ve always wanted to play an athlete. I used to bus tables at Olive Garden. I love arcades. So right there, that’s up my alley.”

Josh Segarra, Chris O’Dowd and Aaron Roman Weiner in "The Big Door Prize"
Photo: Apple TV+

As a spirited, suave, high-energy stud with a lush head of hair, walls packed with prized memorabilia, a thriving business, and an indoor gondola, Giorgio seemingly has it all. But the seventh episode, titled “Giorgio,” peels back his layers, allowing viewers to glimpse a lonely man who’s hiding under a wig, trying to suppress unresolved childhood trauma. “It was an honor to know that I was going to have an episode. That was a very cool moment when Dave told me,” Segarra shares. “He said, ‘Alright, look: You’re bald. That’s part of [Giorgio’s] insecurity. His dad left him. That’s part of what makes him who he is. That’s why he’s looking for love so hard.’ My job is to incorporate those things early so that by the time they reveal themselves, they make sense. So I was very much looking forward to sinking into the tub, taking the wig off, and putting it on my bust. I was definitely looking forward to that little joke where Chris is like, ‘Wait, you’re not even Italian?’ and I’m like, ‘Nah, my dad left when I was a kid.'”

When I ask if his dream MORPHO card would read “WRESTLER,” Segarra flashes his contagious smile and says, “You got it.” After reminding him he has all the talents needed to secure a coveted EGOT status, I suggest we amend his life potential to “WRESTLER/EGOT,” which he gets a real kick out of. “Let’s go! Alright, Nicole!” he exclaims. As the weight of that potential starts setting in, he quietly adds, “That’s very kind of you.”

With The Big Door Prize and The Other Two, Segarra has been praised for his remarkable ability to portray himbos with hearts of gold and surprising levels of depth and intelligence. The character type is a thrill for Segarra, who sees limitless potential in these men from the moment he reads their lines. “Honestly, there’s nothing more fun for me. I get to live in these guys for a little bit, crack some jokes, make people laugh,” he says. “I love getting to play them because there’s something very fun about taking something that could be read one way on the page and finding what their heart is.”

“Sure, Lance may be a himbo. But he’s a dreamer. He’s got huge aspirations. And he loves hard. He’s no fool. But he’s pure and he decides to see the best in situations,” he says of The Other Two‘s friendly fashion icon. “And then there’s Giorgio. Same thing. You look at him and you’re like, ‘Oh man, this guy.’ Why is he being like this? Yo, stop hitting on your best friend’s wife, dude! But there’s a reason his friends kept him around. They love him. And they probably see he’s just like the rest of us. He just wants to be told that he’s doing OK. And he’s insecure. And he opens this arcade and Italian restaurant because he’s still a kid and wants people to have a good time and make memories there with their families. I see what Giorgio’s heart is, and that’s what I see in Lance.”

Josh Segarra and Heléne Yorke on 'The Other Two'
Photo: Greg Endries/HBO Max

When The Other Two Season 3 premieres on May 4, fans can expect to see much more of Lance, his hot bod, and Segarra’s range this time around. The series tackles the pandemic from a unique, relatable point of view, honing in on and finding humor in the emotional, introspective impacts lockdown and COVID-19 had on humanity. Though you’ll have to wait and see what that means for Lance and the Dubek family, Segarra took some time to reflect on his personal pandemic insights, mainly the opportunity to settle into fatherhood after his middle son, Hank, was born on January 8, 2020.

“I learned a lot from it. The simple things, like spending time at home and being with my boys, it showed me that the things my parents did naturally are the things that are still with me to this day,” Segarra says, recalling his parents kissing him before bed, and their attendance at soccer games, chorus concerts, and musicals. “They’ve just had my back forever. That’s been my whole life. So it just makes me think, you know?”

Segarra tells me I’m catching him in a sentimental moment because his boys and wife are back home in New York while he’s in Atlanta “missing them like crazy.” He shares plans to FaceTime them when we hop off our call, predicting he’ll be asked to host another virtual apartment tour and reassure his eldest that the Lego he left behind during his visit last week is, in fact, still safe. “[The pandemic] showed me that, man, I am a presence in their life. And I’m gonna rub their head and kiss them and tell them I love them every single day,” Segarra says. “And when they’re old I hope that they love me the same way that I love my mom and dad.”

Josh Segarra as Giorgio in 'The Big Door Prize'

Segarra’s adoration for his family members — the superstars in his life — subconsciously fuels and livens his most popular performances. “I will be honest, I have a lot of really funny people in my life. My mom is really funny. I grew up with my uncles, my dad’s younger brother moved in when I was a kid and he lived with us for 10 years. My cousins are hilarious. My brother makes me laugh really hard,” Segarra reveals when I ask how he finds the charming, career-defining cadence that takes his comedic performances to the next level — heard in Lance’s HELL yeahs or Giorgio’s WAOOows. “Honestly, it’s little things like that where on the page it says ‘wow,’ but I’m thinking of probably my family, and my mom would say that like, ‘WAOOow. Mira que cute!’ Or in my childhood if I was feeling myself, I had my hair gelled, my uncle would be like, ‘Oh WOOOW. Mira que niiiiiice!’ And you get to bring that stuff to the scenes. And it’s always a lot of fun.”

After 30 minutes with the professional dabber, my soul feels energized and my cheeks hurt from relentless grinning. One of the industry’s most modest multi-hyphenates, Segarra makes an active effort to stay grounded, present, and grateful for every opportunity that crosses his path. Though family man is his most sacred role, career-wise, his superstar potential has never been stronger. While we await She-Hulk Season 2 news, Segarra hopes to reprise his role as Pug alongside Charlie Cox in the currently-in-production Daredevil: Born Again. Despite our shared fear of all things horror, he’s also rooting for his boy Danny to return in future Scream movies (or his dream Scream musical). And if he had his way, Segarra would find time to star in one of his favorite reality shows. “If there is a universe in which I can keep acting, but also Survivor called me, I would definitely try my hand at it. Or if I could take a little hiatus and go on The Challenge, or me and my wife could go on The Amazing Race, I’m down,” he said. “I think that’s the role I’m waiting to play. Who knows.” On top of his TV and film aspirations, the “theater kid first and foremost” also vows to return to the stage soon.

But outside all these ambitions, Segarra has his own definition of a superstar. “I want my boys to love hanging out with me. I want my wife to love being my partner. I love when my mom and my sister and my brother and my dad will text me an article that they found or a post on Twitter and Instagram. They keep me up to date on how the socials are doing,” he laughs. “But it’s not lost on me. You know? I’m not the only one that’s on this ride. My whole family is on this ride with me. And if I’m a superstar to them, then I’m a happy camper.”