One-On-One With JD McCrary—”Young Simba” On Disney’s The Lion King With Beyoncé Knowles

JD McCraryPhoto Credit: Nick Spanos/Hollywood Records

JD McCrary may be just 12 years old; however, don’t let his age fool you. Though he’s young, he’s already making waves in Hollywood, both for his acting and singing abilities. Earlier this year, the budding superstar released his first EP with a track called “Stole My Heart” produced by Atlanta-based, music producing legend, Jermaine Dupri. He was also in the hit movie Little with another young sensation, Marsai Martin, as well as Regina Hall. But one of his most impressive feats was more recent: he played the voice of “Young Simba” in Disney and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King alongside Beyoncé Knowles Carter and Donald Glover. Here, I sit down with McCrary to discuss his experience on one of the most epic film releases this year, working alongside an iconic cast and what’s next for him in the near future.

What was your experience like on-set/recording for The Lion King?

It was super fun. I laughed a lot and got to do a lot of running around in the Black Box theater. Mr. Favreau even let me say “Action!” My part was different from the original with Jonathan Taylor Thomas because he only did the acting, not the singing. It was really cool that I got to do both and really get into the mindset of Simba.

What was it like working alongside legendary talents like Donald Glover and Beyoncé Knowles Carter?

It’s a blessing and really exciting to work alongside such talented and nice people. At the press conference after the movie and even at the premiere, the whole cast was treating me like we were old friends. It was awesome.

Did you receive any helpful advice from any of your fellow cast mates and if yes, what was that advice?

I had actually met Donald Glover before when he and I performed together at the Grammy Awards, so its as such a coincidence being cast as Simba. One of the best things he told me to do was to make the role my own. And that’s what I tried to do.

JD McCraryPhoto Credit: Nick Spanos/Hollywood Records

How did your experiences prior to The Lion King, including having your song produced by Jermaine Dupri, working with Childish Gambino and on the film Little, help and prepare you for this massive project?

Having other projects and working with Donald Glover at the Grammy Awards prepared me for enjoying a huge moment, like being Simba. I had shot The Lion King before Little, so that actually helped me working on set with my peers like Marsai. And just in general, feeling more confident and getting to know other young ones who are out there doing their thing. It’s pretty special.

What advice would you impart on other young Hollywood hopefuls who wish to lead a similar path to yours?

Definitely to “dream big” and “you’re never too young to pursue your dreams!”

How did you get your start within this industry?

Music has always been something in my family and I knew from an early age that it’s what I wanted to pursue. One time when I was 6 [years old] watching the Disney channel, I just thought to myself, “Wow, I really want to be on the T.V. just like them.” My parents helped get me started and I went from commercials to guest roles, music to films, and here I am. It takes hard work and focus but it’s been so much fun.

Who are some talents that you hope to work with one day and why?

I would love to do a duet with Beyoncé, a film with Will Smith and play Miles Morales in a Marvel film. I really respect a lot of the artists out there today, like Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco doing everything. It is super inspiring and I hope to get a chance to work with those people.

What’s next for you and what are some exciting projects you have coming down the pipeline?

I have a new single that’s coming out soon and I am working on a bunch of other fun projects coming out before the end of the year. So stay tuned! And definitely check out my Instagram and YouTube channel for all the updates on JD!

JD McCraryPhoto Credit: Nick Spanos/Hollywood Records

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