'There is so much fear out there of that which we don't understand that which we don't know,' the actor says

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Josh Gad, who plays LeFou in Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast, is speaking out about the controversy surrounding the movie’s groundbreaking gay moment.

News of LeFou’s sexuality in the Disney film has made headlines in recent weeks, with some for the move and others against it. However, Gad tells PEOPLE that the “gay 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.”

In the film, LeFou’s relationship with the film’s villain Gaston (Fast & Furious star Luke Evans) has a new spin — LeFou has a crush on the obnoxious, self-absorbed villain. As news of the twist broke, a theater in Alabama announced it would not screen the movie due to LeFou’s open flirtation with Gaston and what Gad described as a “subtle but incredibly effective” scene during the film’s finale.

“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.”

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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.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

  • Movie
  • 129 minutes
  • Bill Condon