ASU Welcomes Home ‘Lion King Star’ Brandon McCall
By Hazel Scott/ASU
Birmingham native Brandon McCall (2011) returned to his alma mater, Alabama State University, on Wednesday, May 10, as a celebrity.
McCall plays “Simba” in Broadway’s long-running musical “The Lion King.” McCall is part of a cast that includes another ASU Hornet, Bonita Hamilton Caesar (’97), who has played “Shenzi” for a number of years. ASU welcomed McCall back home during a Meet and Greet Celebration in the Great Hall of Teachers.
“It’s definitely an honor to be here, to be recognized. This is where it all started for me. This is where the dream became a reality. Dreaming of becoming an actor, being on stage performing. I can now touch what I’ve dreamed of,” McCall said. “I used to say I hope to continue to make you proud, but now it’s I’m going to continue to make you proud."
McCall has gone a long way since cutting his dramatic teeth at ASU but he never forgot where he came from or the way back. Today, clearly demonstrates his homing instincts.
McCall came back to a busy itinerary that featured a performance at the Tysons Food-sponsored Black College World Series at the Riverwalk Stadium in downtown Montgomery. But he also made time for an event at his alma mater.
The event included a Q&A session with theater students.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to come back to my University and to speak to students, to tell them my experience and give my testimony,” McCall pointed out. “That allowed me to know that I’m in a good place.”
McCall was asked by one student what’s his favorite part of performing.
“Changing lives,” he said. “At the end of the day, I said I wanted to be a pediatrician to help kids, to change lives. That mission has never changed. I’m just doing it in a different venue. Every Wednesday around springtime we do matinees for kids…The first time I did one of those shows, I said ‘Yeah, this is where I suppose to be.”
McCall said the “Lion King” story is a great vehicle for him to impact adult lives too.
“We look at ‘Lion King’ as a kid’s show. But when you really think about what Simba went through, losing his dad, losing himself, trying to figure out who he is, and conquering all that to become King, that’s someone's story in the world. It’s theater imitating real life…There is a message in ‘Lion King’ for everyone. I have received messages about how my portrayal of Simba has helped them say what they couldn’t say, and deal with tragedy in their lives.”
McCall’s advice to future actors is, “Start honing your skills now and get prepared to go into the real world. It’s people like me and those before me that have blazed the trail for you…show people what we can do at an HBCU. You have the power to do it and let no one tell you that you can’t. You just have to continue to believe in yourself. If you want it, you have to put in the work. Remember, faith (in yourself) and fear cannot live in the same skin.”
McCall is grateful to the ASU Theatre Department for its role in setting the foundation for his successful career as an actor.
“I like to give ‘flowers’ to Dr. (Tommie ‘Tonea’) Stewart, retired dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. When Dr. Stewart took the realm, the game changed… we had the best theater department in the state of Alabama or anywhere in the nation. So, students now and those that follow should continue to give Dr. Stewart ‘flowers.’”
He recalled when Stewart called him her ‘Little Sydney Poitier.’” “So, since day one I have had a lot of pressure: I had to be good. I had to be great. She saw the greatness in me. ”
McCall said he would be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge the COVPA’s staff, especially Brian Martin, who helped him develop his tough skin to be in this industry.
“They have done a lot for you and me…It’s like when you grew up and you finally realized how much your mom has actually done for you. That’s COVPA. That’s ASU. O’ Mother Dear has birthed some greatness and will continue to birth greatness.”