Interview: Meet THE LION KING's New Simba, Vincent Jamal Hooper

The Lion King is running on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre.

By: Sep. 27, 2023
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Broadway has a new king of Pride Rock! Just last night, Vincent Jamal Hooper took his very first bow in The Lion King as “Simba”. The show marks Hooper’s Broadway and Lion King debut. Below, he's checking in with BroadwayWorld to talk all about the role and his first night on Broadway! 

Congratulations on your Broadway debut! How does it feel to be entrusted with such a beloved character and to now be a part of the Disney family?

It’s such an incredible honor and an enormous responsibility to step into this role. In the stairwell at the Minskoff there are headshots displayed of every cast member who has ever been a part of The Lion King on Broadway. Folks like Christopher Jackson, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Heather Headley (to name a few) — I’m privileged to be in such good company. The Lion King has been and continues to be such a formative piece of art for so many; so for Julie Taymor and her brilliant collaborators to have chosen me to be a part of continuing on that well-deserved legacy — it’s not something I take for granted.

We've heard you have an amazing story about how In the Heights led your break in Hamilton. Can you share?

I try my best to be as intentional as possible, so when the opportunity presented itself to work with the esteemed Michael Balderama on a production of In the Heights in my home state of Texas, I leapt at it. Like many, I had been a fan of Hamilton — obsessing over the cast album with my friends Trey & Q when it was released on NPR — and had some understanding of Michael’s connection to the production. My game plan heading into auditions became: book the role of Benny, prove your work ethic & ability, then open up a conversation about Hamilton. Someone must’ve been looking out for me because that’s exactly what happened.

Now, actually making it to the three appointments I had over the course of that following year was a whole other thing. I lived in Texas at the time so making the trip to NYC each time was not particularly convenient; thankfully I had friends who were gracious enough to lend their dollars and airline miles to the effort. Thankfully, after putting on a few one-man concerts in the audition room, we made it happen.


A post shared by Vincent Jamal Hooper (@_vincentjamalhooper)

You've played just about every role in Hamilton. Is there anything from that experience you learned that you'll bring to this/your future roles?

I think the thing I learned in that experience is that a career in the theatre is difficult and it takes a lot of work to do it well, so invest in ease where you can.

This is such a special musical to so many people around the world. Do you have any kind of special relationship with the show or seeing the film as a young person?

During some of my earliest days exploring my interest in the theatre, my mom took me to see The Lion King when it toured through Texas many years ago. I have such fond and vivid memories of that experience. Currently trying to get my hands on the Playbill from that performance so I can find out who it was I saw.

For so many people, The Lion King is their first experience seeing a Broadway show. What does that mean to you that you will be a part of such a momentous experience for so many audience members? 

It means the world. As a performer, you never know where the show is finding someone on a particular evening; what they’re bringing into the room and hoping to leave with, so there’s a responsibility I feel to honor both my craft and the unspoken contract we have with the audience by keeping my part of that equation honest, alive, and invested. They deserve that much at least.

Is there a moment in The Lion King that you most enjoy as an audience member or specifically can't wait to be a part of onstage?

It’s funny, I feel like my favorite parts of the show are largely ones that Simba’s not involved in at all. The Grasslands Chant and Shadowland being a couple standouts. For a production that has every excuse to be grandiose there are so many moments of subtlety and restraint that really make you lean in.

What was the best part of Tuesday night?

The best part of making my debut was the sheer amount of love. From the cast, crew, and creatives and most especially from my family — blood-related and chosen. There’s something so profoundly special about the people who have been there since the beginning bearing witness to a moment like that and being able to proudly reflect the journey and the growth back at you. I’m overwhelmed and eternally grateful for each and everyone who showed up. It means more than I can articulate.

Vincent has performed around the world in multiple companies of Hamilton (including in Puerto Rico alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda), playing the roles of Hamilton, Burr, Lafayette/Jefferson, George Washington and King George III. Off-Broadway: White Girl in Danger. Regional: Passing Strange, In the Heights, The Great Society, Hairspray. TV/film: “Chicago Med” (NBC), “Shots Fired” (FOX) and “American Crime” (ABC). IG: @_vincentjamalhooper.


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Photos: Get a First Look at THE LION KINGs New Simba, Vincent Jamal Hooper Photo
Photos: Get a First Look at THE LION KING's New Simba, Vincent Jamal Hooper

Get a first look at Vincent Jamal Hooper as Simba in THE LION KING on Broadway. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos and discover the magic of his performance in this iconic role. Don't miss this sneak peek at the talented actor's portrayal of Simba.

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