Everywhere you look, he’s standing in the spotlight! JD McCrary has waited long enough to be king, and now, when The Lion King finally hits theaters on July 19, you’ll see him roar as young Simba. The 11-year-old singing star spoke to HollywoodLife about taking on the role as Simba in the highly-anticipated, live-action Disney film, and how he made the beloved young cub his own. “I wanted him to still feel like the original Simba, but I also wanted to put my own flavor on it, and be me!” JD explained in an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife. “If I were to say ‘Hakuna Matata,’ I would put my own spin on it, where it wasn’t just plain old Simba, it was JD McCrary playing Simba!”
He added that his time in the booth with Billy Eichner (Timon) and Seth Rogan (Pumbaa) were a “dream.” However, his favorite part in the making of The Lion King was using virtual reality to get into character. “When I put on the VR, I was able to see Pride Rock and everything in the savanna. I saw the elephant graveyard and really everything in the movie through the VR,” JD explained. “That was really fun.” JD also recalled his shock when he saw young Simba come to life from the hands of the animators. “It was such a magical moment for me,” he said. “You never really think about seeing yourself in a cartoon, or a realistic cartoon, which is The Lion King, but it was just magical.”
Finally, the young Simba star revealed Donald Glover, who plays the fully grown Simba in the new movie, gave him some touching advice that he’ll use throughout his career (which is sure to be long!) “He didn’t really give me advice about being Simba, but he gave me advice about life, and acting, in general,” the “Keep In Touch” singer admitted. “He told me that when you’re in a role and portraying someone else, never forget to put your little flavor on it… put your own swag on it and be yourself.” So sweet!
Recall, Glover, whose stage name is Childish Gambino, brought JD on stage at the Grammy Awards in 2018 to support him on the song “Terrified.” The 11-year-old went on to become the youngest youngest artist to sign with Disney Music Group’s Hollywood Records, in August 2018. Since, JD has worked with Jermaine Dupri and Bryan-Michael Cox on his debut EP Shine, which was released in April 2019.
Be sure to catch JD as young Simba in The Lion King, hitting theaters this Friday, July 19!