What It's Like to Work with Beyoncé: Disney's The Lion King Cast Tells All!
Seth Rogen, Donald Glover and more gush over getting to collaborate with the iconic performer
The cast of Disney’s The Lion King is stacked with A-listers, but one cast member left her costars speechless: Beyoncé, who voices Nala.
While promoting film, the voice cast haven’t been able to avoid questions about working with the performer, 37, or just what it’s like to be in her presence. As director Jon Favreau told Vanity Fair, “She has this persona that is bigger than life.”
Here’s what everyone else in The Lion King has had to say about Beyoncé.
Donald Glover: “I did not want to be looking into Beyoncé’s eyes while doing this”
Donald Glover, who voices Simba, told Jimmy Kimmel he didn’t want to be in the same room as Beyoncé when he recorded their duet, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
“I requested not to be,” Glover, 35, joked. (He was actually working on another movie at the time.) “I did not want to be looking into Beyoncé’s eyes while doing this.”
“Well I would imagine it’s less intimidating if you are not in the same room with Beyoncé,” Kimmel responded.
“I imagine it’s less intimidating playing basketball with Michael Jordan if you’re at home just throwing pieces of paper in the trash,” Glover shot back.
Later in the interview, Glover talked about his son, who doesn’t watch TV or many movies but is “a big, big fan” of The Lion King. Glover said he wanted to take his son to see the movie, but didn’t want to tell him he was in it.
“Just out of nowhere, I was like, ‘You want to see The Lion King? You know, I was kind of thinking,’ just to see if he might notice my voice or whatever,” Glover told Kimmel. “And he was like ‘Oh, sure. Beyonce‘s in it!'”
“And I was like, ‘How did you know that? But also daddy’s in it! I’m in it too!'” Glover said.
Kimmel then asked Glover if he knew how his three-year-old son learned about Beyoncé.
This is not a joke, I do not know,” Glover said. “I was like ‘Did grandma tell you that?’ He’s just like, ‘Beyoncé!'”
Kimmel later asked Glover how well he knows the star, who he said he first met at a JAY-Z concert a few years ago.
“Well enough to be like, ‘Hi Beyoncé,’ and then run away,” Glover joked.
Seth Rogen: “Yeah, we should be celebrating, we made it, we’re all in a room with Beyoncé”
Also appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, comedian Seth Rogen, who voices Pumbaa, talked about what it was like to be at the film’s premiere with Beyoncé, including when Favreau recognized each cast member onstage before the screening.
“Everyone was losing their mind. I’ve never seen this happen before,” Rogen, 37, said. “Beyoncé was called out and the audience stood up and went crazy. And like, and I was like, she’s getting a standing ovation for just existing. Like, her mere presence was a reason to stand and go crazy.”
“And I totally got it!” he continued. “I was like yeah, we should be celebrating, we made it, we’re all in a room with Beyoncé. That’s like, that’s what you want.”
Rogen also mentioned getting to talk to Beyoncé at the premiere.
“I saw her backstage and then she came up to me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go up to her, mostly for fear. But last time I did try to approach her was at the Grammys around 11 years ago, and her security knocked me so hard that I spilled my drink all over myself.”
“So I was wary of going near her because I look like someone who you would want to keep away from Beyoncé in general,” Rogen explained. “And so I waited for her to approach me, which you know, they teach you. And she was very nice, and my beard actually got stuck in her sequins a bit.”
Billy Eichner: “So many years of hard work trying to get to our level”
Neither Billy Eichner, who voices Timon, nor Rogen, are trained singers. So Variety, in a joint interview with the stars, asked what it’s like to sing alongside established vocalists like Glover (who performs music as Childish Gambino) and, of course, Beyoncé.
“It’s about time. This is the culmination for them of so many years of hard work trying to get to our level,” Eichner, 40, joked. “It’s really gratifying that we’ve been able to give them this opportunity.”
Rogen then joined in on the joke.
“Yeah, I feel good for them,” he added. “They deserve this break. I can’t imagine how thrilling it must be for them.”
John Oliver: “Why is your name before Beyoncé’s?”
TV host John Oliver, who voices Zazu, told Jimmy Fallon last year on The Tonight Show about the first time he watched the trailer for The Lion King. He was with his wife’s family at their Thanksgiving, and finally got to see his name alongside Beyoncé’s.
“There’s everyone’s names, and they’re all in the Lion King font, and that’s objectively exciting,” Oliver, 42, said. “I was sitting with my wife’s sister and her cousin, and they got to the end, and I thought ‘Oh, that’s nice,’ and her cousin said, ‘Oh yeah, why’s your name before Beyoncé’s? That seemed pretty f—ed up.'”
“I’m not even disagreeing with that,” Oliver added. “I think it’s just, they saved the atom bomb for the end.”
Keegan-Michael Key: “So, Beyoncé’s in it?”
Also on The Tonight Show, comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who voices one of the hyenas, told Fallon he didn’t get to sing for the movie.
“I offered to sing,” he joked. “I said do you guys, do you want me to do ‘Circle of Life’? [No], we’ve got Beyoncé.”
Key, 48, said he understands, though: “I mean, it’s Beyoncé Knowles!”
“I’m not looking forward to the press for this movie,” he added, “because you’re just going to be on the carpet, and they’re just going to go, ‘So, Lion King — Beyoncé? So, Beyoncé’s in it?”
Shahadi Wright Joseph: “I screamed when I found out Beyoncé was going to be in the movie”
Even though she voices Young Nala, 14-year-old performer Shahadi Wright Joseph (who also played the part on Broadway at age nine) never met Beyoncé while recording the movie. The fact that Beyoncé played the older version of her did motivate her work, though.
“I think I screamed when I found out Beyoncé was going to be in the movie,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “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.”
She later confirmed to E! News that she hadn’t talked to Beyoncé while making the movie, and said she knew she couldn’t try.
RELATED VIDEO: Beyoncé Meets Broadway’s ‘Lion King’ Star Ahead of Her Debut as Nala in Disney Remake
“Even if I did DM her, you know, Beyonce follows like nobody,” Wright Joseph joked. “She wouldn’t even see it.”
However, she did tell E! News that she would try to sit by Beyoncé at the premiere. Although it’s unknown whether she actually did, Wright Joseph did finally meet Beyoncé at the premiere, and posted about the encounter on Instagram.
“Soooooo….this happened,” she wrote. “I’m looking cool on the outside but INSIDE…👀🙀🤯😁😁😁😄🤩🤩🤩”
J.D. McCrary: “I was just shocked, because she knows who I am!”
J.D. McCrary, the 11-year-old actor and singer who voices Young Simba, also didn’t get to meet Beyoncé until after he finished work on the movie. He talked to her at her mother Tina Knowles Lawson’s Wearable Art Gala in Santa Monica at the beginning of June, he told PEOPLE.
“She knew who I was!” McCrary said. “It was like, I went up to her and I tapped her, and she was like, ‘Hi, it’s so nice to meet you.’ And I was just shocked, because she knows who I am!”
Not only that — McCrary also got a compliment from Beyoncé herself.
“She was like, ‘Your voice is so beautiful,'” he said. “‘It was so, such a great moment being able to hear you singing with my kids and my family.’”