“Mufasa: The Lion King” Director Explains Why Casting Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter ‘Absolutely Worked’ (Exclusive)

Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter play mother-and-daughter lions in Barry Jenkins' 'Mufasa: The Lion King,' in theaters Dec. 20

<p>Francis Specker/CBS via Getty; Courtesy of Disney</p> (Left-right:) Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter on Feb. 4; "Mufasa: The Lion King"

Francis Specker/CBS via Getty; Courtesy of Disney

(Left-right:) Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter on Feb. 4; "Mufasa: The Lion King"

For director Barry Jenkins, Mufasa: The Lion King will be remembered as a “time capsule” for two of its biggest stars.

In casting Blue Ivy Carter opposite her mother Beyoncé in the new prequel (in theaters Dec. 20), he tells PEOPLE, “I thought there was something really lovely about having this mother and daughter get to play together, to work together.”

Beyoncé, 42, will reprise her role as Queen Nala from the 2019 Lion King remake, while Blue Ivy, 12, will voice the character’s daughter Kiara. “The two of them together, the few scenes that they have,” says the Moonlight Oscar winner, “you’ll just see, I think it's going to be really impactful for the two of them.”

Related: Beyoncé and JAY-Z's 3 Kids: All About Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi

Jenkins, 44, adds that the Grammy-winning mother-daughter duo began their voiceover work earlier in the years-long saga of bringing Mufasa to photorealistic-CGI life. “There was such a long process of making this film that the Renaissance tour happened and we started making this film back in 2020 or 2021,” he points out, “long before” the release of Beyoncé’s Renaissance album.

<p>Kevin Mazur/WireImage</p> Blue Ivy Carter (left) and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter in Atlanta on Aug. 11, 2023

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Blue Ivy Carter (left) and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter in Atlanta on Aug. 11, 2023

“I feel like Blue grew quite a bit over the course of that tour,” he says of the actress-singer, who frequently appeared onstage around the world with her mother. “The movie is kind of like this snapshot, this time capsule of a moment in their lives that I think is really beautiful. And it absolutely worked for the film.”

The return of Beyoncé to the Lion King cinematic universe — alongside other voiceover stars from the 2019 movie including Donald Glover, Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen — “was very important” to Jenkins, screenwriter Jeff Nathanson and the filmmaker team. “She is Nala, and she was down to work,” says the director, calling her “the queen.”

The singer-songwriter’s 2020 visual album Black Is King, which was inspired by and coincided with the previous Lion King movie, is “evidence,” Jenkins adds, of Beyoncé’s connection to “this mythic thing, this fictional thing that in some way does reflect something of culture on the continent [of Africa].”

Related: Beyonce (and Blue Ivy!) Dance, Sing and Slay in Empowering New Visual Album Black Is King

“She is a performer and an actor who had been a part of this world,” he continues. “And the biggest thing was framing her in a context of [motherhood] and watching her, both on the screen and behind the screen, get to be a mother.”

It also helped that Blue Ivy’s voice fit Jenkins’ perception of lion cub Kiara perfectly. “The quality of her voice, I just thought it felt like this character,” says Jenkins, who heard her work on the audiobook recording of Matthew Cherry’s Oscar-winning short film Hair Love.

<p>Disney</p> 'Mufasa: The Lion King'


'Mufasa: The Lion King'

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As for Mufasa’s leads — Aaron Pierre in the title role and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Taka a.k.a. Scar — Jenkins recalls the two Genius: MLK/X stars “both understood that what we know of those characters is very rich and interesting, but what they're helping the audience discover about those characters is just as important.”

Mufasa also stars Thandiwe Newton, Mads Mikkelsen, Keith David and Anika Noni Rose. Asked if the latter actress’ casting was meant as a Dreamgirls reunion with Beyoncé, Jenkins laughs. “Not intentional! That was much more about her and Keith David reuniting,” he says of the Princess and the Frog costars.

Rose and David, who play Mufasa’s parents Afia and Masego, respectively, “carry one of the most important moments in the film,” teases Jenkins.

Related: 'Chevalier' Star Kelvin Harrison Jr. Teases Scar Role in 'Lion King' Prequel: 'Still Spicy' (Exclusive)

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Barry Jenkins at the 2017 Academy Awards
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Barry Jenkins at the 2017 Academy Awards

His lips are similarly sealed about composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original songs for the movie, which follow the 1994 animated original's tunes from Elton John, Tim Rice and Lebo M.

“Lin did this really wonderful job of coming in a situation where typically the music comes first, and [instead] figuring out where the music can really elevate the story that we're telling — knowing that the music that we're chasing is iconic,” he explains.

And mum’s the word on any musical contributions from Beyoncé. “I keep saying in these interviews, ‘Do not get me fired!’ ” quips Jenkins. “Because I cannot say much about the songs.”

Mufasa: The Lion King is in theaters on Dec. 20.

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