Yesterday, Disney revealed its full cast for the upcoming Lion King live-action remake and while most of the attention rightfully went to the fact that adult Nala will be voiced by none other than Beyonce, the casting of young JD McCrary as Young Simba is also of note. Because this kid’s going to be a big star.
The 9-year-old relative newcomer has but a handful of guest roles on such TV shows. But while McCrary’s acting experience may be limited, he’s already showcased his vocal chops on the last album of Childish Gambino, the hip-hop persona of Donald Glover, the Atlanta and Community star who’s also been cast as the voice of adult Simba.
Last December, Glover as Gambino released the album “Awaken, My Love”Childish. It turned out to be both a critical and commercial hit, selling more than 100,000 units in its first week and receiving rave reviews from critics. One of the most popular and beloved songs off of the album was “Terrified” which features the soaring, chilling vocals of McCrary, who is one of only three guests on the album. The two Simbas connected when McCrary sent Glover a recording of his rendition of Michale Jackson’s “Who’s Loving You?” Glover was so impressed, he invited McCrary to his studio so that he could do some vocals for Glover’s album.
Once he was at the studio, McCrary was encouraged by Glover (who was actually in Europe touring but called in via Skype) to riff as much as possible and see where the music took him. According to McCrary, the entire recording process did not take much time at all, as he and Glover had a natural rapport that made things move along smoothly and efficiently. Hopefully, that natural chemistry will help the two shape the character of Simba in a collaborative and compelling way. And in case you want to hear this kids chops without studio production, here he is singing “Who’s Loving You?”