Be prepared to fall in love with the talented young stars of Disney’s The Lion King! I had the pleasure of chatting with JD Mcarry (Young Simba) & Shahadi Wright Joseph (Young Nala) and let me tell you, these two are going all the places!
First of all, if you do not have your tickets, run don’t walk. Reserve your seats, see it in IMAX, it is that good! I am a huge fan of The Lion King and I have been forever. I was so happy with how Jon Favreau bought this one to life. You can read my review here.
JD MCCRARY (voice of Young Simba) is the triple threat taking the world by storm. At 12 years old, he has already made history as the youngest male solo artist ever signed to Hollywood Records. He starred in the movie “Little,” which premiered in April 2019, alongside Marsai Martin, Issa Rae and Regina Hall. He released his first official single, “Keep in Touch,” and official video on February 1, 2019, and his first official EP, “Shine,” on April 19. One of the songs, “Stole My Heart,” was produced by hip-hop legend Jermaine Dupri and made its way onto major playlists like Spotify’s New Music Friday and Apple Music Beats of the Week.
At just 14 years old, star on the rise SHAHADI WRIGHT JOSEPH (voice of Young Nala) has quickly become known in the entertainment industry for the diverse and dynamic characters she has brought to life on screen and stage, and she can be seen starring in some of the most anticipated films in theaters in 2019. This will be the second time Wright Joseph has appeared as Nala—at just nine years old, she made history as the youngest actress to play the character in Disney’s “The Lion King” on Broadway.
Upon entering the room, these two talented, young stars exuberant joy. They were happy to sit and chat with a few of us bloggers, and you can really tell they love their jobs. Just from interacting with them both I can see they embody the joy and playfulness as young Simba and Nala.
Living up to Iconic Characters
“It’s a dream come true being in a Disney Movie at all. Being a character that is relatable to me, and being able to naturally act is really awesome.” -JD
“We grew up with the movie as well. It really felt amazing to be in a movie that younger kids can now grow up with.” – Shahadi
Making The Roles Their Own
“We still tried to keep it as authentic as possible with adding our own personalities to it. We did watch the animated version for reference. We did kind of change up our characters a little bit so that it could be new and fresh.” – Shahadi
“Before the audition, I watched the movie three times to get prepared and refresh my memory. We wanted to add our own personalities so that you can tell the difference between the new one and the old one.” – JD
Favorite Part to Record/Favorite Part to Watch
“My favorite part while recording was probably Just Can’t Wait To Be King. I have loved that song for a very long time. Seeing the movie, my favorite was Hakuna Matata.” – Shahadi
“My favorite part to record was the whole stampede scene. After and before. That was really fun to record. I just felt really professional, I cried on the spot! I was really happy, my mom was crying, it was super cool. My favorite part, when watching it was when Timon and Pumbaa meet Simba. Good times!” – JD
Quality In Common With Simba & Nala
“I look up to my dad, just like Simba does with Mufasa. I sing a lot, he sings a lot. I think I’m pretty brave, and he’s a brave guy. I used to get scared of stuff a lot easier than I do now. So I could say I’m brave now.” – JD
“For Nala, I would say she is really spunky and witty and she is really confident. I would say I am those things too.” – Shahadi
Filming & Recording
“For one, the technology is totally new. Mr. Jon Favreau is basically the only one who can explain it. It’s something no one has seen before. It is definitely something the audience will really love.” – Shahadi
“We used a VR headset. We put it on and just looked around. We were able to see Pride Rock, the African Savanna, the watering hole, and the elephant graveyard. Everything looked so real. It was crazy!” – JD
“I came in and recorded some scenes with Mufasa. Then I got to do my scenes with Shahadi, it took a week maybe. It took 2-3 month total to record. I recorded with all the hyenas. I got to record with Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner. It was really cool to record with so many people. ” – JD
Advice to Other Kids
“I think that you should find something that you are really passionate about and just keep striving for it, keep working for it. Keep working hard.” – Shahadi
“I would say never give up. If you give up, you are not going to get anywhere. No one that gave up early ever got anywhere. The people who kept going for it, never gave up, and made it to where they wanted to go. Don’t give up.” – JD
JD Mcarry (Young Simba) and Shahadi Wright Joseph (Young Nala) are so sweet, kind, very humble, and eager to continue following their dreams! I have a feeling you will be seeing a lot more of them. For now you can listen to both of their self titled music online, and of course see them in Disney’s The Lion King! Be prepared to fall in love with this story all over again.