And they’re no strangers to the big screen: McCrary recently appeared in the Regina Hall comedy “Little,” while Joseph — who also played Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway — fielded dual roles earlier this year in Jordan Peele’s sociopolitical horror film “Us.” Now, the rising stars can say they were a part of the eighth-best opening weekend in history after “The Lion King” roared to a $192 million domestic bow.
Obviously, this is a remake of a beloved film. How much did you pay homage to the previous voice-over performances while also making the roles your own?
Joseph: We tried to keep it as authentic as possible without trying to perfectly re-create the original. It was really awesome just having the time and having an awesome director in Mr. [Jon] Favreau, just to give us the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
McCrary: Yeah, we didn’t want to clone them. I put my own spin on it, she put her own spin on it — everyone did. I want people to know the difference.
In what ways did you connect with your characters?
McCrary: I can really relate to Simba. I look up to my dad as he looks up to his dad. I think I’m brave, he’s brave. I used to be really scared of stuff, but I guess I grew out of it.
Joseph: Oh yeah, I used to be terrified of everything. I used to be scared of sparkling sodas — the bubbles scared me.
McCrary: That makes me feel a lot better about myself. I thought I was super bad, but you’re scared of sparkling bubbles.
How did you react when you found out that Glover and Beyoncé would be voicing adult Simba and Nala?
Joseph: I was just really excited to meet her, or just be in the same room with her. It’s just fantastic.
McCrary: It’s pretty cool being able to say, “Yo — we’re Simba.”
How much have you relished the opportunity to each show your range in multiple movies this year?
McCrary: It’s a huge blessing just having those things under my belt at such a young age and being able to show that I can act, show that I can do it.
Joseph: I’m really glad that “Us” came out before “The Lion King,” just so people can see me as a serious actor first, and then they can see me as a singing lion.
Going forward, what roles do you have your eyes on?
Joseph: I definitely want to be young Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog.” That was my favorite princess movie growing up.
McCrary: Well, I want to be Miles Morales [from “Spider-Man”]. I do want to be a superhero, and he’s the superhero that I want to be.