The 10-Year-Old Playing Simba Alongside Donald Glover Has A Cooler Life Than You

10-year-old actor JD McCrary landed the role of Young Simba in live-action 'The Lion King' remake and discusses his audition process and casting rumors

JD McCrary

Press photos provided via photographer Birdie Thompson

JD McCrary

Disney is looking to add another billion-dollar movie on their mantlepiece. In two years, the long awaited live-action remake of the seminal animated movie, The Lion King, will finally come to life. Details on the film itself have been kept tightly under wraps, until last month when the star-studded cast was revealed. Donald Glover, Beyonce(!!!!), Seth Rogen, and John Oliver were among the notable names announced, but the most interesting might be 10-year-old talent JD McCrary, who will play young Simba.

The actor/singer/dancer may only have a couple of acting gigs under his belt, but he’s cosigned by some of the biggest names in the industry. McCrary has already worked with Lion King co-star Glover on his Grammy nominated Awaken, My Love, and he’s currently starring in Tyler Perry’s upcoming spin-off series, The Paynes. He’s also in line to play royalty of a different kind—on Dr. Dre’s new show, Vital Signs, premiering on Apple Music. This type of big-name recognition could stress out the most dedicated multi-hyphenate, but JD is as cool and professional as any 10-year-old you’d ever meet.

Aiming to become “the youngest Grammy-winning artist” is a high goal, but he’s already on the right path. Complex spoke to JD about landing the Lion King role, possibly collaborating with Beyonce, and if he would love to work with Migos if they were cast in the movie.

How did you find out you got the part for The Lion King?

My mom told me. And a few days later, we went straight to the studio and we started recording

How was the audition process?

It was a self tape, because I was in Atlanta at the time shooting [The Paynes]. Luckily, we had a week off so I went back to LA to go to the studio.

JD McCrary 2

Have you always been into acting/singing?

I’ve been singing since I was about two-years-old and dancing since I was three.

What does The Lion King mean to you?

It means a lot! It shows a lot of [different] things. Simba becoming a man, into a King. It’s a movie that relates to life.

Obviously, you start the story as young Simba and your friend Donald Glover gets to finish the film as adult Simba. What was it like working with him again?

It was very nice! He’s very cool.

Have you seen him during the process of recording The Lion King?

Not yet, I haven’t seen all the special guests [laughs].

So if you meet Beyonce, what are you going to say?

I’m going to say… "It’s a pleasure to meet you!” because she’s like the greatest singer of all time.

What other things are you excited about when it comes to The Lion King?

Going to the premiere, and seeing it on screen. I haven’t seen everything, because they are still in the process of recording.

You’re also working on a few TV shows…

Yes, I’m working on The Paynes, and I’m also working on Vital Signs, which is being created by Dr. Dre. I play the younger Dr. Dre And it’s going to premiere on Apple.

So you get to be two legends—Simba and Dr. Dre! Do you feel any type of pressure?

No, never. It’s just a blessing.

Did Dre give you any free Beats headphones?

Yeah! For my birthday, he gave me some signed ones.

Did you hear about the Migos wanting to be the hyenas in The Lion King?


Yeah, they did. That’d be dope.

Of course! I’d love to work with them [laughs].

Lion King movie poster of cast.


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