The Lion King remake has now been in theaters for weeks, and audiences are still flocking to the theater in droves. If you haven’t yet seen it, there won’t be too many surprises — but almost all of the voices are different this time around. Here’s what voice actor Billy Eichner had to say about the conversation around his character.
Eichner became famous for his on-screen personality
If you ask most people on the internet, they know Eichner from his show Billy on the Street, in which he runs around New York City and asks people questions in a very aggressive manner. As the show became a hit, Eichner was cast in Parks and Recreation as Craig Middlebrooks, who had a similarly abrasive personality.
So it’s not surprising that one question people often ask is whether Eichner is like that in real life. The answer is a resounding “no.” In an “Actually Me” video for GQ, the comedian said, “I always say I would never talk to Billy on the Street. I would never talk to [that version of] myself.”
He portrays Timon in The Lion King remake
After starring in series such as Difficult People and Friends From College, Eichner has been able to branch out a bit, and show off his kinder side. He earned his biggest role to date when he was cast as the voice of Timon the Meerkat in the recent CGI remake of The Lion King.
In the original animated film, Timon was voiced by Broadway star Nathan Lane. During the GQ interview, Eichner read a tweet from a fan who found his casting “personally rewarding.” The user recalled people who questioned whether or not Disney, with Lane and later Eichner’s casting, was “implying that Timon is gay, and does that matter?”
Eichner gives the internet something to ‘chew on’
Addressing the question/comment, Eichner said, “Well I’m gay, Nathan Lane is gay. People keep asking me if Timon is gay.” He then pointed out the hypocrisy, saying, “I did a whole press junket with [co-star] Seth Rogen. No one ever asked him if [his character] Pumbaa was straight. Chew on that, internet!”
Eichner had more to say on the subject. “I don’t know. If Timon is gay that’s fine by me. I just don’t know if he is. I think we need openly gay, LGBT characters in family entertainment so that we don’t have to have annoying, decades-long conversations about whether characters we don’t know are gay, are gay.”
The actor has a unique connection to The Lion King
Long before he was cast as Timon, Eichner was a bartender on Broadway, and specifically worked for the stage production of The Lion King. In fact, he says that he was moved to where that show was being put on “which is not a sign you’re a great bartender… because no one is drinking martinis because it’s all parents and their kids,” he told GQ.
Basically, as Eichner described it, his job was “pouring sodas and selling candy. And I, in a foreshadowing of my later career as someone who shouts a lot, had to shout over the audience every intermission that they can bring the soda into the theater for Act 2.”
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