Shahadi Wright Joseph is taking on the role of Nala once again in the live-action version of ‘The Lion King.’ HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Shahadi about coming back to the role, the power of the story, and more.
Shahadi Wright Joseph is no stranger to the role of young Nala in The Lion King. This is the second time Shahadi has appeared as Nala. When she was just 9 years old, she made history as the youngest actress to play the character in The Lion King on Broadway. Now she’s back as the voice of young Nala in the live-action reimagining of the 1994 Disney classic. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Shahadi about returning to the beloved role. “It was a little bit nostalgic because young Nala was one of my favorite characters,” Shahadi told HollywoodLife. “It was great because the role was really recognizable and I could do all these new things now that I couldn’t do in the Broadway version.” She also added, “I was really young then, but now I’m a little bit older so I can really focus on how I want young Nala to be portrayed to other young girls.”
Shahadi is now 14 years old. Even though she’s playing the same character that she did on Broadway when she was 9, she was able to add her own “personal style” in the live-action movie. “My voice has changed since then [playing Nala on Broadway], and I got to add some of my own personal style to young Nala. That was pretty awesome because you never really get to have that much freedom when you’re on the Broadway stage. So it was different, but it was also a lot of fun!”
The characters in the live-action film are completely CGI. Seeing young Nala for the first time was an incredible experience for Shahadi. “It was kind of surreal,” she said. “I had seen some little drawings of her while we were rehearsing and shooting, but I hadn’t actually seen what it would look like in the trailer. So it was really awesome seeing it and I was so excited because I hadn’t seen anything just like everybody else.”
When The Lion King was released in 1994, it became a global phenomenon. Even after 25 years, the movie is still so beloved by people of all ages. Shahadi opened up about why the movie is so timeless. “I think because it’s such a heartwarming story about family and togetherness,” she told HollywoodLife. “I think a lot of people appreciate that because it reminds them of their own families.” The Lion King will be released in theaters on July 19.