How Donald Glover found his inner Simba after losing his father: ‘It wasn’t lost on me’

LOS ANGELES – It may seem odd to find common ground with an animated lion.

But for Donald Glover, his connection to Simba runs deep.

The actor, also known as musician Childish Gambino, is sitting with director Jon Favreau (“The Jungle Book,” “Iron Man,” “Chef”) on a sunny day, reminiscing about the journey of re-creating “The Lion King,” which hits theaters Friday. The remake boasts the voices of Glover as Simba, Beyoncé as Nala, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumbaa, and James Earl Jones returning as King Mufasa.

Late last year, Glover, 35, was technically done with “The Lion King”: His vocals for Simba were recorded. The first trailer was about to come out.

And then life took a turn.

“I lost my father,” Glover says. “The trailer came out the day my father passed. And I called (Jon) and I was like, ‘Can I come back and redo some of the (lines)?’ I had to because I was like, I understand this in such a different way.”

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Donald Glover takes selfies with fans at the world premiere of "The Lion King" on July 9. (Photo: CHARLEY GALLAY/GETTY IMAGES FOR DISNEY)

Glover found a new kinship with Simba, who grapples with who he is after Mufasa is killed by a stampede: “I went through the exact thing: When somebody’s like, ‘You know your father’s always with you, you know that, right?’ And you don’t want to hear that.”

And then one day, Glover caught a glimpse of himself holding one of his young sons in his arms.

There it was. The circle of life.

“You’re walking past the mirror and you’re like, I’m him. I look just like (him) – the way I’m even doing this,” Glover says, mimicking carrying his child. The moment “wasn’t lost on me.”  

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