Meet The Young Stars Of Disney's New 'Lion King'

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Shahadi Wright Joseph, left, and JD McCrary star in Disney's remake of "The Lion King." (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)
Shahadi Wright Joseph, left, and JD McCrary star in Disney's remake of "The Lion King." (Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

Disney’s reimagined live-action version of “The Lion King” is now in theaters.

The film, inspired by the original 1994 animated film and Broadway musical, is the story of the lion cub Simba, whose Uncle Scar conspires to kill Simba and his father to take over the lion pride. The new version uses a combination of live-action filmmaking techniques and computer-generated imagery to retell the story with some very convincing looking animals.

It features a couple of very talented young actors playing the young Simba and the young Nala: JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph.

Prior to “The Lion King,” McCrary performed at the 2018 Grammy Awards with Childish Gambino, the musical moniker for Donald Glover, who also stars in this film as the adult Simba. And Joseph — who also played young Nala on Broadway — was one of the stars of Jordan Peele’s latest horror flick, “Us,” in which she played two versions of the same character.

Both actors, who had never done voice work before “The Lion King,” tell Here & Now’s Eric Westervelt it was an interesting experience playing young Simba and young Nala because they were acting in a black-box theater.

“It's like a little room where you kind of get to interact with your co-worker and you can feel what it's actually like to be young Nala and young Simba, and that brought our relationship to life,” Joseph says.

The actors weren’t born when the original version of the film debuted in 1994, but they both watched the movie before stepping into their roles.

“I wanted to feel prepared for it,” McCrary says. “I wanted to practice just to make sure that I know the character, that I know who Simba is, his family, I know what the movie's about. I wanted to watch it just to refresh my memory.”

“Yeah, definitely story-wise just to refresh your memory and to kind of get the idea of the characters and how you can change that,” Joseph adds.

The two actors have achieved so much success at such a young age, and they say they have their families to thank for keeping them grounded.

“It's really just the way that I've been raised, and the way that I've been growing up with my parents and just my whole family,” Joseph says. “But there isn't like any like trick to stay grounded. I feel like you kind of just have to be humble, or you're not, you know?” 

“As she said, there's no real trick to it,” McCrary says. “If it's there, it's there.”

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt.

This segment aired on July 19, 2019.


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