INTERVIEW: Henri Esteve on FreeForm’s ‘Grown-ish,’ Diversity, Mental Health Advocacy, and More

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Kelsey McNeal / Freeform

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish. Henri recently sat down with Glitter to discuss what pushed him to pursue acting, the performances that inspired him, the most challenging scenes for him to do, his dynamic with Ana (Francia Raisa), and ways that the entertainment industry can work on representation. We also asked him for some teasers for season four, but his lips are sealed. Hey, we tried. We would also love to see him live out further dreams and play Frank Sinatra. Sign us up. Read on to find out more about this up-and-coming talented actor. 

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Kelsey McNeal / Freeform

GLITTER: What pushed you to pursue acting?
HENRI: I was fascinated with stories and movies from childhood. When I was like 12ish, maybe younger, I saw an HBO special of John Leguizamo’s one-person show SEXAHOLIX, and my mom came into the room and instantly made me turn it off, but I was hooked. I knew that that was what I wanted to do. 

GLITTER: Are there any performances in particular that inspired you?
HENRI: So many! I’m a big acting nerd to be honest. Gary Oldman in State of Grace, Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking, Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Benicio Del Toro in Usual Suspects

GLITTER: You originally started your career in theater. What did you learn from this experience? 
HENRI: Theatre is really an actor’s medium, you truly are in control of the audiences’ experience. Past that, it’s a different type of concentration. Film feels like more of a quick performance sprint and then cut, and the next take, you do it again. Theatre is more like a marathon.

GLITTER: You portray Javier in Freeform’s Grown-ish. What attracted you to the series?
HENRI: I love how Grown-ish explores current-day issues, and the writers do such an amazing job of handling heavy material with a very light-handed touch. 

GLITTER: Are you more similar or different from your character in real life, and how so? 
HENRI: Politically, I am the opposite. Personally, Javi is more reserved and serious than I am. That being said, I think there are similarities in where we come from as far as culturally—both Miami-born sons of Cuban Immigrants.

GLITTER: What can fans expect for season 4? 
HENRI: I can’t tell youuuuuu.

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Kelsey McNeal / Freeform

GLITTER: Any favorite on-set memories?
HENRI: Wade Allain-Marcus, a writer on the show, and Nick Wong, who directed I think three episodes in season 3, are all my friends, and we had known each other from before we were really making a living off of this. So us three filming an episode together was a pretty special moment. It’s rare to get to work with your friends. 

GLITTER: What are the most challenging scenes for you to film?
HENRI: The small ones, I always find it a little harder to catch a rhythm in really short scenes. 

GLITTER: Javier is an activist. How do you like to use your voice for change? 
HENRI: I want to lend my voice to the unheard. Or to help people feel a little less alone. Lately, I’ve been talking about Mental Health a lot, just trying to attack the stigma around it.

GLITTER: What is your favorite thing about his dynamic with Ana?
HENRI: There is a lack of judgment there, which I think is necessary for any relationship to work. They accept each other, flaws and all. 

GLITTER: Your TV debut was on ABC’s Revenge. What did it teach you about filming for television?
HENRI: Be prepared and be ready for rewrites. When you’re in the midst of a season, especially something that is airing while you’re filming, everything moves really fast, and you just have to be ready to adjust. I would get a new scene while I was in the make-up chair sometimes. 

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Kelsey McNeal / Freeform

GLITTER: You also played Abel on Amazon Prime’s Homecoming. What drew you to the role? 
HENRI: I was a big fan of the podcast, but more than anything, the opportunity to work with Sam Esmail; he directed the whole season. When you get a chance to work with those types of directors, you have to take it. 

GLITTER: What message do you hope to give people by being an advocate for mental health?
HENRI: You’re not alone. And it’s okay to struggle. 

GLITTER: You are also an advocate for Latino education and arts, can you tell us why this is important to you? 
HENRI: I think our voices are growing, but considering we are 18% of the American population, I don’t think that voice is loud enough. The arts have given me a voice, and I would love for it to give more Latinos that same opportunity to express their experience.

GLITTER: What do you think the entertainment industry needs to work on in terms of representation?
HENRI: I think the industry is trying, and we’re trending in the right direction, but everyone is still learning as we go. Unfortunately, I think there is still some resentment from the old guard, if you will. I’d like to see us dismantle the idea of “diversity hires.” I think it perpetuates an idea of a handout to an inferior candidate due to their ethnicity rather than equal opportunity. It sometimes feels like casting is trying to hit a diversity quota. The more diversity we have within studios at the higher levels, the more they will want to greenlight movies and stories relevant to their own cultural experience. 

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Freeform

GLITTER: How did you spend your free time during social isolation?
HENRI: I feel like I had so many chapters of social isolation! I got a lot of writing done, took A LOT of motorcycle rides, and a whole lotta dog walks. I also played a lot of Fortnite, but shhh. 

GLITTER: Top five favorite films?
HENRI: Hardest question ever. This will probably change if I am asked a day or two from now. In no particular order:
– In Bruges
– Fight Club
– Sin Nombre
– Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
– Amores Perros

GLITTER: Last show you binge-watched and finished?
HENRI: Your Honor

GLITTER: The best piece of advice you’ve received in regards to acting?
HENRI: You have to show up every day and do the work. It’s more about the hours you are putting in than the talent you show up with. 

Henri Esteve is best known for playing Abel on the Amazon Prime show, Homecoming, and can be seen as Javier in the Freeform hit show, Grown-ish.
Kelsey McNeal / Freeform

GLITTER: Are there other parts of the entertainment industry you hope to explore in the future?
HENRI: Writing and Directing. 

GLITTER: Any dream roles or projects?
HENRI: I want to play Frank Sinatra!

GLITTER: Favorite genre to do acting-wise vs. favorite to watch as a viewer? 
HENRI: Drama vs. Drama. Or really dark comedies.

GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
HENRI: Showing up for myself. Whatever it is, if I tell myself I am going to do something, I have to do it. And I mean anything from doing laundry to working on a script or learning to cook. Whatever it is, I just want to show myself love by not letting myself down. 

GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share?
HENRI: Filming season 4 of Grown-ish right now!

GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to follow?
HENRI: Insta : @henrijesteve