News of the gay character has caused a stir in recent days: In the new movie, LeFou has a crush on his pal, the handsome, self-absorbed villain Gaston (Fast & Furious star Luke Evans) — and LeFou has what Gad calls a “subtle but incredibly effective” scene during the film’s finale that hints at a happily ever after. Gad tells PEOPLE that the moment in the movie teaches an important lesson central to the theme of the film: “Never judging a book by its cover.”
“What I would say is that this film is one of inclusiveness,” the 36-year-old says. “It’s one that has something to offer everyone.”
As news of the twist broke, a theater in Alabama announced it would not screen the movie.
“There is so much fear out there of that which we don’t understand that which we don’t know,” Gad tells PEOPLE.
“And you have a character in Gaston who uses his charm offensive to whip other people into a frenzy to go and attack somebody they’ve never met. Somebody that’s different. Somebody that only represents a danger because [Gaston] says that he represents a danger.”
He adds: “I think that that theme is as relevant today as it was when Beauty and the Beast was first written 300 years ago. So that’s what I hope people take from it.”
Evans weighed in on the controversy at the film’s premiere, saying, “It’s about unity, it’s about never judging a book by its cover.”
“But digging a little deeper and understanding to not be fearful of things you don’t know or people who look a little different to you.”
He added, “Fear is not a good thing to fuel, and Gaston is responsible for that. But he fails — he fails miserably, and everybody finds love. Everyone!”
Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17.