This weekend, his voice will be heard by moviegoers around tge world as Young Simba in Disney’s The Lion King. JD McCrary voices the young lion cub who can’t wait to be king.
Earlier this year, he was seen in Little, and prior to The Lion King, McCrary had already worked with Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, on his single, Terrified. Aside from acting, McCrary has also launched a music career. He’s eleven years old and we’re sitting down at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, McCrary is still excited from attending the world premiere the night before.
Last night you had your first big premiere, what was that like for you?
It was super cool. It was something I’d been waiting on for quite a while, and being there was magical.
What was your first memory of The Lion King?
I don’t remember it that well, but I know I was young. I was with my parents and my brother. I was watching the movie, and I liked it. After it, I went to sleep, and that’s all I know.
I know I’ve always loved it from a really young age.
You had a different experience when it came to auditioning right, it wasn’t your normal audition?
It was pretty different because I didn’t go to a physical audition. It was a self-tape. I did one self-tape. I got a callback. I did that and then did another one. I flew out to LA, and I met with the executive producers and had to do another callback. I got the call, and it was set, and I was Simba.
What was your reaction?
It was something that you’ll never recreate. It was kind of stupid and kind of happy. It was everything and all the emotions. My mom was crying. I know that. My mom cries at everything.
We had these little plates, and we wrote, “We got it” on those plates. I just remember plates, but I don’t know why. [laughs]. We prayed. We watched the movie, and it was a good time.
It was a nice little celebration.
Had you already recorded Terrified at that time?
I had. I had recorded it a year before.
Had he already been cast by then?
You see. I didn’t know about that. The only time I knew was when my parents told me. It was around the time we were going to perform Terrified, and it was such a coincidence.
What a strange colliding of worlds.
At the press conference today, Jon Favreau talked about creating a Virtual reality experience for all of you before shooting.
Yeah. The VR was super cool. It was like seeing your favorite movie in real life, and you’re in it. One thing that would have been cooler was if I was in Aladdin. If I was on a magic carpet ride and that would have been so dope. I would have loved to do that. But, I got The Lion King. That was super dope. I’m downplaying it like it wasn’t the coolest thing ever. It was.
But the magic carpet ride is kind of awesome idea. What did you see in the Lion King VR?
Yes. The VR was so cool. You could see the Savanna, Pride Rock and you saw the grass. You saw everything.
You put it out there, maybe you can do a sequel for Aladdin and ride a carpet.
When I get home, I’m going on my PS4 and I’m going to see if they have an Aladdin experience. That would be so awesome. I just got a scary game on the VR. I finally mastered it where I’m not scared of it. I was scared of the menu screen. I was so disappointed. I’m a dude; I shouldn’t be so terrified of it.
I’m sure there’s something cool out there.
There’s a Spiderman experience.
What was it like singing those iconic songs in The Lion King?
It wasn’t nerve-wracking at all. It was like singing it in the shower. It wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t nervous or anything.
Did you have a favorite song?
Hakuna Matata. Hakuna Matata what a wonderful phrase. That’s my favorite.
What was it like seeing it all come together for you last night?
It’s like getting trailers for anything that you love and waiting decades for them. Then you watch the movie. It feels like I’ve been waiting a really long time. Watching it was the best moment of the year.
You’ve totally made Simba your own. Did you have a favorite moment?
I think my favorite was the stampede.
I really cried on the spot for that, and I was really proud. You see, I felt like such a boss after I did it. I cried on the spot. Everyone was emotional. My mom was crying. As soon as the scene stopped. I stopped. One minute I was like, “Dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen.” I was doing my fake crying. Mr. Favreau was like, “Cut.” I walked to my mom and said, “What’s wrong?”
Was that the first time you’d done a cry like that?
It wasn’t, but it was the first time everyone cried with me. It was super cool. I tried acting oblivious to it, but I knew exactly why.
That’s the most emotional scene.
Yeah. She deserved to cry.
Do you have a favorite off-camera moment?
Seeing all the animators. That was the dopest thing ever! They had all their cubicles set up in a row. You could walk by and see it all. There was one row that was just CGI makers. One time I walked over there, and I got to see a CGI of Coco! It was so cool. That was a cool day. I didn’t do much that day, but I saw Coco in Virtual reality.
The Lion King is released this Friday.