If JD McCrary has his way, his trajectory in the business will look a lot like that of Denzel Washington’s one day. That’s a lofty goal for anyone to set for themselves as an actor, but McCrary has a good chance to pull it off. With three high profile projects currently set to catapult him into the pop culture stratosphere, the young multi-hyphanate is putting himself in a position to achieve the goals he has set for himself and then some.
McCrary can soon be seen starring in the new Tyler Perry series “The Paynes,” as a young Dr. Dre in Apple Music’s autobiographical “Vital Signs,” and in the highly anticipated live action adaptation of “The Lion King,” where he’ll voice young Simba. If the present is any indication of what’s to come for the 10-year-old in the future, Denzel Washington better watch out!
We recently sat down with McCrary to discuss his career, the road ahead, and his taste in video games.
TrunkSpace: You act. You sing. You dance. What it is that you enjoy most about entertaining people?
McCrary: What I enjoy most about entertaining people is just making people’s day, and making them laugh – making them happy with all of my music, and my performance, and all of the above.
TrunkSpace: Do you think having all of those various outlets allows not only viewers and fans to see you in different ways, but also people within the industry like casting directors and producers?
McCray: Yes. It’s very important because that just means that you can switch up things, and show people different sides of your career, maybe, or even your character and your voice.
TrunkSpace: How do you personally connect with a character when you sit down with a new script?
McCrary: Well, it’s all really about knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. Let’s say I’m a character named Jimmy, and there’s another guy, over there, named Nathan, and we’re just talking. I just have to get really into it, and you have to sync your mind to be the character that you’re playing.
TrunkSpace: So if you were signed on to play this character named Jimmy, would you spend a lot of time trying to sync your mind to him before you actually stepped on set?
McCrary: Yes. Practice and preparation is the key.
TrunkSpace: You’re set to star in Apple Music’s “Vital Signs,” which is an autobiographical telling of Dr. Dre’s own life story. Where does your character fall into things on that particular project?
McCrary: My character plays out as young Dr. Dre, his beforehand story, like when he was a kid, and all of the tough times that he had to go through to make him the man that he is.
TrunkSpace: Did you feel any pressure playing Dr. Dre because he was directly involved in the project?
McCrary: It was an honor to actually do that, and I think there’s no pressure because we’re all human, and he just has a great talent and a lot of people know that he does. That’s why he’s so famous, and that’s why he does a lot of great things. So no, I don’t think that it puts any anxiety on me.
TrunkSpace: Were you able to sit down with him and say, “What were you like at this age? What can I bring to the performance that will be you?”
McCrary: Yes, I was able to do that.
TrunkSpace: And did that help you in terms of finding who he was as a character within the story?
McCrary: Yes, it helped me to understand the things that I was going to do.
TrunkSpace: And for you, what was the most interesting part of getting to play Dr. Dre?
McCrary: The most interesting part of playing young Dre was just getting into everything that he used to do. It’s set back a couple of years before I was born, and a lot of things were very different. I learned a lot just from playing young Dre.
TrunkSpace: It must have been interesting for you just from a wardrobe perspective, getting to wear and see how people dressed during that period?
McCrary: It was very funny, and it was really fun, also.
TrunkSpace: “Vital Signs” is Apple Music’s first original scripted series. What does it feel like being involved in a show that is basically serving to launch this new original content network?
McCrary: It feels like a big honor, and it feels really nice to know that I got to be on a show with Dr. Dre, who has accomplished so many things, and showed the world who he is.
TrunkSpace: And in addition to that, you’re also going to be starring in “The Paynes,” correct?
McCrary: Yes, a Tyler Perry show.
TrunkSpace: Those are two very big, high profile projects for any actor, especially for one so early in his career. Does it feel special knowing that you’re on this great run right now of being cast in such high profile projects?
McCrary: Yes, and I’m very thankful for it, because it’s just God’s blessing helping me out with a lot of things that have gone my way.
TrunkSpace: As you look forward in your career, is there another actor’s path that you’d like to see yours resemble?
McCrary: I look up to Denzel Washington, and a lot of people compare me to him in my facial recognition.
TrunkSpace: He’s somebody who really embodies the idea of having a long career and doing lots of different types of projects and characters. Having your career resemble his seems like a really focused and mature goal to have?
McCrary: Yes, it really is. It’s really inspiring because he’s done a lot of things that have helped me to get through all of the acting things that I’ve done, even some singing things. He helps me out a lot because he’s accomplished many, many blessings.
TrunkSpace: You’re so busy working, but when you’re not on set or on stage, what do you like to do?
McCrary: Well, sometimes I go on the keyboard that my dad bought. I hang out with my brother, he’s really cool, and I play a lot of video games.
TrunkSpace: Nice. What type of video games are you into?
McCrary: I’m into some old school stuff because I have a Nintendo. Also, I’m into a lot of PS4 games.
TrunkSpace: What about stuff that you like to watch that you’re not directly involved with? Any shows?
McCrary: I love to watch “Stranger Things.” Recently they just came out with Season 2, and I can’t wait to watch it with my family.
“The Paynes” premieres January 16 on OWN.
“The Lion King” roars into theaters summer 2019.
A release date has not yet been set for “Vital Signs.”