Beyonce Inspired 'The Lion King' Cast To Step Up Their Game, According To Young Nala Actor Shahadi Wright Joseph
Simba may be king of the jungle, but Beyoncé is the queen, full stop. So no one in the Beyhive should be surprised to hear how Beyoncé inspired The Lion King cast to bring their best to this film project. Even director Jon Favreau had to bow down.
The latest Entertainment Weekly cover story takes a behind-the-scenes look at the new The Lion King, the live-action remake in which Beyoncé plays adult Nala opposite Donald Glover's grown-up Simba. In this new report, Favreau opened up about how Bey became part of the project, and, no surprise, it had a little something to do with Blue Ivy and the twins, Rumi and Sir.
“I think that part of [her joining the film] is that she’s got young kids," Favreau explained, "part of it is that it’s a story that feels good for this phase of her life and her career, and she really likes the original very much."
While most of us see Beyoncé as an untouchable, otherworldly being — hello, did you see the instantly iconic Homecoming? — Favreau found her to be quite different. “Although her persona onstage is bigger than life," he said, "she’s very down to earth and is very much dedicated to having a life that is human-scale.”
But, as Favreau noted, there's nothing human about that voice of hers. "My God," he said, "she really lives up to her reputation as far as the beauty of her voice and talent.” So, definitely expect to be blown away about her versions of your favorite Lion King jams. Though, let's be honest, you were probably already expecting that.
Working alongside a talent like Beyoncé's isn't always easy, though, just ask Shahadi Wright Joseph, who plays young Nala in The Lion King. “I think I screamed when I found out Beyoncé was going to be in the movie,” the 13-year-old, who also played Lupita Nyong'o's daughter Zora in Us, told EW. “And when I found out she was going to be playing older me, I really had to step my game up and think about what Beyoncé would want.”
Joseph wasn't the only one who felt nervous about Beyoncé's presence in the film. Favreau said he felt pressure to make sure the music was spot-on in the film. After all, Beyoncé's going to be singing it. "Each iteration of The Lion King seems to bring its own spin to the music while still feeling related to what we all connect to as The Lion King," he said. "And so having Donald Glover and Beyoncé involved, not trying to create new songs but trying to build on what people remember and love about the old ones, has been really fun and formative.”
Composer Hans Zimmer, who worked on the original, said he actually went back and changed things about the score that felt like they needed an upgrade. He went to Africa and worked with musicians from all over the world to turn old classics into a new performance. "What I can ultimately do is add that energy, add that passion, and add that nostalgia," Zimmer told EW, "all without changing the notes too much."
It's the circle of life, and these updates won't take away from the feeling fans had while watching the original. In fact, Seth Rogen, who plays Pumbaa, told Entertainment Weekly, that “whenever Jon has shown me [footage], I weep uncontrollably because it does just hit a raw nerve in some ways and taps directly into these feelings from my childhood, but updates them with a scope that is heavily impactful to me as an adult.”
While we'll never get sick of hearing inspiring Beyoncé stories, luckily, we'll soon get to see and hear Bey do her thing in The Lion King for ourselves. And just like Rogen, it'll probably be accompanied by uncontrollable weeping.