This week, the newly launched Disney+ has given its subscribers a golden opportunity to zone out on all sorts of yesteryear's childhood classics. But Disney isn't the only network tapping into the nostalgia market—its cable TV frenemy, Nickelodeon, is striking back with Blue’s Clues and You, a reboot of the beloved early-aughts kids’ show, hosted this time around by the extremely fit (and child-friendly) Joshua Dela Cruz.
Blue’s Clues and You, which premiered on Monday, November 11, features a few tasteful updates to an otherwise faithful reproduction. The characters are now three-dimensional, but are blessedly sans CGI fur and look largely the same as before; the tunes have been reimagined, though their lyrics are unchanged; and a few SFW selfie sessions and FaceTimes have been sprinkled throughout to indicate that it's not the '90s anymore.
Dela Cruz—plucked from a five-year stint on the stage of Broadway’s Aladdin—is the face of this wonderfully pure operation. Unfortunately for Dela Cruz, the existence of social media means that mere moments after the reboot’s trailer first dropped, fully-grown adults on Twitter pointed out the large biceps under his iconic striped shirt.
To obtain said biceps, Dela Cruz maintains a strict vegan diet and squeezes in Crossfit-inspired gym sessions before and after work days. He bounces between New York (where his apartment is located) and Toronto (where the show shoots) with his real-life dog Ollie, who's a maltipoo mix. During off-seasons, Dela Cruz also makes sure to return to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu studio to work off some steam. Back in New York, Dela Cruz chatted about the going-vegan process, which he accomplished with his wife, why he thinks jiu-jitsu is comparable to yoga, and how food can bring people together.
GQ: After the casting for Blue’s Clues and You was announced and the first trailer dropped, there was a lot of thirsting after you on Twitter. Were you expecting that?
Joshua Dela Cruz: That was a huge surprise. When we film, I wake up early and I go to sleep early. So when I woke up, my phone had blown up, and it was a bunch of texts from my sisters. I was like, "I hope everything's okay, what's happening?" and I read a bunch of “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?” and then the link to the Twitter posts. I lost it. It's so flattering, but hilarious at the same time.
Now that you've gone viral and you're a kids’ television show host, what does your average day of work look like?
I’ll generally wake up around 4:30, have my first cup of coffee, go over script stuff, practice some guitar, and then by 5:30 I’m at the gym. My big workout day is Sunday, when I do chest and triceps. Monday is either a break day or cardio and abs. On Tuesday I do half of a Murph [a crossfit workout consisting of 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and a mile run] minus the running, which I sub with elliptical work. Then Wednesday is shoulders and cardio, Thursday is another half-Murph, Friday is cardio and abs, and Saturday is back and triceps.
I imagine your current routine is different from what you did when you were performing on Broadway every night.
Energy-wise, they’re actually very similar, but I developed this routine because I have to sustain energy for many more hours on this current schedule. I'll do cardio at the end of the day because I can veg out on the elliptical, but it takes a little more attention and form when I'm doing weight and bodyweight stuff.
I also do cardio at night to mimic doing a show at night, because that's what my body is used to. For the past five years I would always be doing something active at night. During Aladdin, I also did Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the DL. I never called out because of an injury, but I unfortunately can't practice jiu-jitsu during filming, because I'm the only person that they film, and God forbid I break a finger falling down. In my off time I'll be able to get back into class. Jiu-jitsu is something that I really enjoy. I look at it as yoga, but, you know, people fight back. It's a lot more interesting than the weight room, because the weights are trying to choke you out.
A big part of yoga for a lot of people is the mental health benefits. Does that apply to jiu-jitsu as well?
Absolutely. Being in New York, you're kind of on guard all the time. You need to blow off some steam, and jiu-jitsu does that, because you're exhausted when you're wrestling, but it also teaches you to slow down. You can't muscle your way through a match. You really have to think and be present, and just take things as they come. That's one of the biggest benefits for me as an actor and a New Yorker—jiu-jitsu slows me down in a good way.
What’s your food regimen like?
My wife and I have been vegan for just over three years now. It was mainly for health at the time. There's cancer on both sides of my family and there's a history of neurodegenerative disease on her side of the family, so we just wanted to tune our bodies and be in the best place possible to have a fighting chance for whatever comes our way. And we found that veganism was that change for us. It's become a huge social and activist issue for us as well.
Was that a difficult transition?
We just cut everything out. I went into this whole swirl, like, "What am I gonna eat?" I previously supplemented my workouts with a lot of meat, protein, stuff like that. Being Filipino, you know, we love our pork. So that first day I just went out and ate a really delicious vegan meal somewhere. And I realized, "Oh, I can do this." We got a whole bunch of vegan cookbooks, and it was difficult at first because it's such a different way to cook. But now it's super easy. We're about 99 percent vegan—we still eat honey—but it's been a good three years.
I've never felt better. I definitely have more energy and I feel lighter. Before I went vegan, when I was doing Aladdin and would eat before the show, there were some meals where my body would just feel terrible. I was so slow, my mental acuity was not quite there, and I was sleepy. And when we changed to vegan, I would still eat a lot before the show so I was full, but I felt completely functional.
Any foods you really miss eating?
Thankfully, sugar is vegan. But, you know, meat is delicious. I miss pepperoni pizza and I definitely miss barbecue. Luckily, today, it's so much easier to get things that are similar-tasting if I really have a craving for junk food. My wife and I are cooking a lot more again now that we’re on the same diet. Cooking together or for each other has been really lovely. We make this heavenly butternut squash pizza with Miyoko's cheese. We make our own sauce, and it's such a great comfort food that we also put in the fridge and eat cold.
So veganism started as a health thing, but it became more about activism for you. How did that happen?
The environment and the corruption of the meat industry specifically have just become more and more difficult to ignore from a consumer's standpoint. I used to say that I would have cheat meals whenever there was an opportunity—like, I used to really want to go to Peter Luger's in Brooklyn and have a steak there. But I think that's changed in the last year-and-a-half. I don't think I'd go now.
I guess Pete Wells would say you’re on the right path.
I guess! He once came to our restaurant when I was working on the Lower East Side, at Back Forty. Being in that kitchen was like working at a theater every night.
Do you feel like working in restaurants influenced your relationship with food?
More than food, I think it influenced my relationship with people, because you get people on their good days, you get people on their bad days, and no matter what, everyone can come together for food. I loved Anthony Bourdain and his work, and that even when it came to interviewing and talking to people who clearly had different values and points of view than he did, they could come together over food and find commonality in that everyone is just trying to do their best. That kind of understanding is unfortunately often lost these days.
In addition to Blue, on the show, you also have a real-life dog that seems to be on set a lot when you’re filming. What can you tell me about him?
We've had Ollie for almost four-and-a-half years now. Now that I'm working up in Toronto and my wife Amanda's working in New York, Ollie travels a lot. We split the time together because he's such an important part of our lives as an emotional companion. He gives us a place to put our energy and love outside of our professional lives. So he is the on-set dog, and whenever I come back from New York without him, I can visibly see the disappointment in my coworkers' eyes.
He roams around the studio by himself. I recently found out that he likes to sit at the front door of the building, which is glass, watching people as they walk by. Whenever anybody walks up to the door he backs up, waits for the door to close, and then he goes back and people-watches. I had no idea he was wandering over there! So he pretty much has the run of the entire studio. He's very smart, and also very manipulative. He's like a velociraptor from Jurassic Park—he's figured out the doors.
Is Ollie also vegan?
No, Ollie's not a vegan. It's like living with a murderer.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Real-Life Diet is a series in which GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in-between about their diets and exercise routines: what's worked, what hasn't, and where they're still improving. Keep in mind, what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
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Originally Appeared on GQ