'The Lion King': Meet the Actors Behind the Remake

5:00 AM 11/17/2017

by Katherine Schaffstall

The cast includes Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner and more.

Beyonce and Donald Glover - Split - Getty - H 2017
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The 1994 animated film The Lion King was a critical and commercial hit and beloved by families. The Disney movie won two Oscars and has grossed more than $968 million worldwide.

The animated version was directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, with a voice cast that included Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Madge Sinclair, Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin.

In September 2016, it was announced that Disney is doing a CGI remake of the film with Jon Favreau set to direct. The cast of the upcoming remake includes Donald Glover, Beyonce, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, John Kani, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Florence Kasumba, JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph. The remake will also introduce new characters played by Keegan-Michael Key and Eric Andre as revamped versions of two of the hyenas that act as Scar’s henchmen.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the original characters and who will be playing them in 2019 adaptation. 

  • Donald Glover as Simba

    The Atlanta creator and star will voice protagonist Simba, who was originally voiced by Matthew Broderick in the 1994 animated movie. Simba is the son of Mufasa and Sarabi. Following the death of his father at the hands of his uncle Scar, Simba leaves the Pride Lands even though he is next in line to become king. In his absence, Scar takes over the throne that belongs to his nephew. The film follows Simba’s journey back to the Pride Lands to reclaim his title as king.

    Glover has won two Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his acting and directing work on the FX series Atlanta. In May 2017, it was announced that Glover and his brother Stephen Glover will serve as co-showrunners, executive producers and writers for the upcoming FXX animated series Deadpool.  In addition to The Lion King, the actor and musician is set to appear in Solo: A Star Wars Story as Lando Calrissian in 2018. 

  • JD McCrary as Young Simba

    The young version of Simba in the original The Lion King was voiced by child star Jonathon Taylor Thomas, well-known for his role as Randy Taylor on Home Improvement.

    McCrary, who is playing the younger version of Glover’s character, has previously collaborated with the accomplished actor and musician. The 10-year-old previously contributed guest vocals to Glover’s song "Terrified" under his stage name Childish Gambino last year. The up-and-coming actor has previously appeared on the Disney Channel show K.C. Undercover and Starz’s Blunt Talk. McCrary is set to appear on OWN’s House of Paynes

  • Beyonce as Nala

    The superstar singer will take over the role of Nala, who was originally voiced by Moira Kelly. Nala is a childhood friend of Simba and eventually marries him, resulting in her obtaining the status as the Queen of the Pride Lands. As a child, Nala is known for her sass. When she grows up, though, she maintains a certain sense of maturity and responsibility that is lacked by her peers.

    The pop superstar's participation in The Lion King marks her first film role since she voiced Queen Tara in the 2013 animated film Epic. She has also appeared in the films Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Pink Panther and Dreamgirls. The singer has won 20 Grammy awards throughout her career as a solo artist, as well as two Grammys as part of the band Destiny’s Child. 

  • Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala

    Young Nala, Simba's childhood friend, is known for her sass. The original animated character was voiced by Niketa Calame and will be taken over by Shahadi Wright Joseph in the CGI adaptation.

    The role of Nala is close to Joseph’s roots. In 2014, she made history when she was cast as the youngest actress to play Young Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King at just 9-years-old. In 2015, she played the role of Madison in School of Rock on Broadway. Joseph also played Little Inez in NBC’s 2016 production of Hairspray Live!

  • James Earl Jones as Mufasa

    Jones will reprise his role as Mufasa from the original animated film in the 2019 remake. Mufasa is the father of Simba who is murdered by his brother Scar. The character is the reigning king of the Pride Lands up until his untimely death.

    Aside from his role as Mufasa, Jones memorably voiced Darth Vader in the Star Wars film franchise. Other memorable roles include King Jaffe Joffer in Coming to America, Mr. Mertle in The Sandlot and Terence Mann in Field of Dreams. The veteran film, stage and television actor is set to appear in the 2017 film Warning Shot as Pendleton.



  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Scar

    The villain Scar orchestrates Mufasa’s death and makes it appear that Simba is responsible for what happens to his dad. Scar takes over the throne following his nephew’s exile from the Pride Lands. Scar was voiced by Jeremy Irons in the original film and will be played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2019 CGI adaption.

    Ejiofor is known for his roles in films like Love Actually, 12 Years a Slave, The Martian and Doctor Strange. In addition to The Lion King, the actor is set to appear in the 2018 films Mary Magdalene and Come Sunday and lend his voice to Sherlock Gnomes.

  • Seth Rogen as Pumbaa

    Pumbaa is a warthog that is part of a dynamic duo with meerkat Timon and a friend of Simba. After Simba leaves the Pride Lands following his father’s death, he meets up with Timon and Pumbaa and they begin the journey of Simba eventually coming to terms with his deserved status as king. Rogen will voice the role that was originated by Ernie Sabella.

    The actor is known best for his comedic roles in films like Knocked Up and Neighbors. He has starred in and co-written films liked Superbad, Pineapple Express and This Is the End. He also wrote, produced and lent his voice to the R-rated animated film, Sausage Party, delivered a memorable dramatic performance as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs. He also produced and is part of the cast of The Disaster Artist. Rogen is set to appear in the James Franco-directed film Zeroville and the 2019 film Flarsky.

  • Billy Eichner as Timon

    Timon is a meerkat and the best friend of Pumbaa. He acts as Simba’s adopted father and friend. With the help of Timon, Simba ultimately defeats Scar and takes back his title as king. Billy Eichner is set to portray Timon in the 2019 adaptation. The role was originated by film, television and stage actor Nathan Lane.

    Eichner is best known for his television roles, including starring on Hulu’s recently canceled Difficult People. He recently guest starred on American Horror Story: Cult and Friends from College. The comedian also hosts the comedy game show Billy on the Street. Eichner is set to appear in the 2019 film Noelle alongside Anna Kendrick. 

  • Alfre Woodard as Sarabi

    Woodard is set to voice the role of Sarabi, who was originally played by the late Madge Sinclair. Sarabi is the mother of Simba and the wife of Mufasa. As the Queen of the Pride Lands, it is her duty to keep the lionesses and their hunting parties under control.

    Woodard has won four Emmys, one Golden Globe and three Screen Actors Guild awards. Her notable film credits include The Family That Preys, 12 Years a Slave and Annabelle. Woodard can currently be seen as Mariah Dillard in the Netflix series Luke Cage. The actress recently appeared in the 2017 films Juanita as the titular character and Saint Judy as Judge Benton.