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Chiwetel Ejiofor talks taking on an iconic Disney villain

POSITIVE IMAGE OF AFRICA: The original movie of The Lion King, released in 1994, was one of the only stories that showed Africa in a positive way – now Chiwetel Ejiofor says he is delighted to be part of a remake that includes a cast where the majority of actors are black

DISNEY’S NEW release, The Lion King, directed by Jon Favreau, journeys to the African savanna where a future king is born.

Simba idolises his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny. But not eve- everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival.

Scar, Mufasa’s brother – and former heir to the throne – has plans of his own. The Voice caught with Chiwetel Ejiofor, the man behind the voice of villainous Scar, to find out why he’s so bitter, his thoughts on a majority-black casting for this blockbuster and what he loved the most about it.

The Voice: How did you go about getting into this role so you delivered not only what people would expect, but in a way that included your own inimitable contribution to the character?

Chiwetel Ejiofor: I wanted to look at the psychology of Scar, to uncover what motivates Scar. Why he is the way he is, why he is so kind of broken and sort of, in his mind, so diseased.

It centered,for me, around this pathological desire and addiction to power and status and that was the jump-off point for me to look at the idea that someone can become obsessed with those things, especially status.

Without it, without being given his proper due, he just can’t rest, he can’t find peace in his life.

The Voice: I love the movie’s message: circle of life, growth, responsibility, coming of age, love. So many positives conveyed, but what resonates most for you?

CE: Watching it this time, I think all of the themes are there from when I watched the original, but something else happened watching it this time that I hadn’t expected of foreseen or hadn’t really thought about, particularly. That was the idea of home and what our relationship is to home and how we have to reconcile our relationship with home before we can really achieve a full maturation.

That’s not Scar’s journey, it’s Simba’s journey, but it’s that returning back and that saying that all roads lead back home in the end. That doesn’t have to be a physical home, but some kind of resolution or some kind of understanding of home has to happen in the end.

The Voice: It’s a majority-black cast, Disney delivered! Talk about the significance of that.

CE: When I first even heard of a film coming out called The Lion King, in my family and in my home when I was 17, I didn’t really remember a film that was set in Africa on such a broad level, on a big platform like that.

So it had an added importance to me, my family and in the community because it was going to be set in Africa, it had positive images of Africa, it had the positive music and sounds of Africa.

It had this energy that was coming and a sense of celebration of the representation of the continent in such a positive way. As little content as there is about Africa, there was nothing that was positive anyway at that period, not that it has improved vastly.

So that was why it was a very important project when I saw it the first time. So, in this iteration of it, it’s a great step. Even though I also think that it’s weird the conversation even happens, in a way, as with any conversation about diversity, especially with a project that is set in Africa, but that also indicates that there is still a process to go through.

Nonetheless I feel that it was a very strong, positive choice from Disney, from Jon Favreau and from all of the filmmakers to ensure that the representation was a strong part of the DNA.

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