This week Playbill catches up with Brandon A. McCall, who is currently making his Broadway debut in the Tony-winning Best Musical The Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre.
McCall, a graduate of Alabama State University, stars as Simba in the long-running Disney production, having played the same role in the musical’s North American tour. Directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor, the award-winning musical reopened in September 2021 following the Broadway shutdown.
Checking In With… Company Star Matt Doyle
What is your typical day like now?
A typical day isn’t really a thing for me. If my family was here with me, I would definitely have a typical, routine kind of day. The way life is set up right now, every day is different. My alarm is set for 9:30 AM, but the snooze button somehow finds its way to my fingertips. My goal is to go to the gym around 10:30 AM, but sometimes I’ll go at 2:30 PM. I’m not big on routines. Yes, I plan and prepare a schedule when it’s required. However, if the day doesn’t need a schedule, then the night before I decide what I want to do, but in no particular order. Own the day, don’t let the day own you. My wife is going to cringe when she reads this.
Can you describe how it felt to be back in a rehearsal room on the first day you and The Lion King cast assembled?
Whew! So many emotions. So much to reflect on after being away from the stage for 18 months. My Broadway debut! Anxiety, joy, butterflies. It was a moment of gratitude and conviction. Grateful to be back and continue to do what I love, but also thinking of everything and every moment I might’ve taken for granted that I longed for during the shutdown. Overall, it was a beautiful moment with some very beautiful people. Love my cast and crew!
Are there any parts of your role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
Are there?! I believe a lot of us had a moment of questioning who we are and our journey through life. Some of us saw victory, and others are still seeking. The last two years were traumatic for a lot of people, and they began to lose their way and forget who they are and whose they are. Much like Simba, we went through a space where we were trying to find ourselves and get to the place of self-assurance and resilience.
Do you have a favorite fan or audience reaction to your performance in this role?
This is a fun one. I have two moments. Most recently, there was this kid that owned the theatre this particular night. It’s the scene right before the musical number “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” Simba and Nala, played by Adrienne Walker, are flirting with the idea of being more than friends. I scoot in close to express how much I’ve missed Nala, and this one kid, in the silence of Simba’s already embarrassing moment, exclaims, “Eww!” The audience erupts with laughter. Adrienne and I begin to laugh, but in a way that it works for the scene. Such an organic and precious moment. My all-time favorite is when my oldest daughter saw the show for the first time. After the show she asked me, “Daddy, did you fight Scar?” I replied, “Yes, baby girl.” She whispered, “Scar needs a whoopin’!”
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
We appreciate the efforts and movement towards equality, diversity, and inclusion that have taken place so far. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and I believe more will be done in good faith. Some initiatives or gestures that have taken place are long overdue. Please don’t let the “casting BIPOC in principal roles” just be a marketing or publicity feat. That kind of work is easy. Now it’s time to address the underlying issues and be more direct with our approach. Our talents go beyond the stage. It’s time for more of us to be in the room where it happens—where decisions are made and policies are created. Let’s keep working together and moving forward in making this industry a safe and desirable space.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
That I have the potential of having a dad bod.
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I do have some projects in the works. I’m not sure what they are yet, but God does. Stay tuned…
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I like to tell everyone to support an organization that shares their interest or fills their heart with joy. For me, I’ll take this moment to support my friends and colleagues who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with: The Paige Fraser Foundation (Paige Fraser-Hoffman), The heART Mission (Martina Sykes), and Kyler Cares (Kyle R. Banks). Please visit their websites for more info. Three different missions with one common goal…serving and making life better for others. Much love!
Checking In With… London Cabaret Star Omar Baroud