You’ve probably heard of the expression, “Like attracts like” - nowhere else is that more true than at Studio 27. We have a high-caliber roster of coaches and talent - Jalen Harris being one of those talents. He is truly a star on the rise, having worked in the Broadway national touring production of The Lion King playing Simba, is a singer and model, and has graced your TV sets in shows like Grey’s Anatomy and - spoiler alert - was a contestant on American Idol. Jalen sat down to chat with Studio 27 on his life in the spotlight - read on.
S27: Hi Jalen! Thank you for speaking with us today! Tell us about your career: how did you get started in the music and acting industries?
JH: First, it’s an honor to share with you some of my journey throughout my life as an entertainer. I grew up in a musically-inclined-and-church-involved family in Memphis, TN. I performed my first solo in church at age 4, where my grandfather was the pastor and founder. From that moment on, I knew in my spirit that being on a stage was where I felt safe but also purposed. Performing in many talent shows, town fairs, church plays, and sporting events as a kid, my parents helped cultivate my musical talents, which eventually led me to be a contestant on American Idol Season 10 at age 15. At age 17, I met an angel. Her name was Cheryl Harris. Upon meeting her, and working with her on a few projects, she later became my manager, introduced me to different agents in the business, and the rest is history. Since training and developing my acting skills with her, I’ve appeared in different TV and film projects, and most recently as Simba in Disney’s The Lion King Broadway tour.
S27: That’s phenomenal - you’re a busy guy! What has been your favorite acting role to date?
JH: Definitely playing Simba. Not only is The Lion King the greatest show in the world in every way imaginable, it also taught me that I was much more capable of doing things I never knew I could [be capable of]. It is my favorite, because I grew up always wanting to be a superhero. Simba is a role where the actor sings, dances, and performs stage combat and various stunt work. Thus, singing every night on stage and avenging my father “Mufasa” from my evil uncle “Scar” was the perfect combo!
S27: Okay, dish the deets - what was the most dramatic moment you had while performing with The Lion King on Broadway?
JH: The moment that changed me as a performer due to the intensity of live theater, was my first performance as Simba. I had only rehearsed for 2 weeks, and had been anticipating the next 2 weeks to complete my training for the role. So without a dress rehearsal, or experience doing the show as Simba yet, a stage manager told me after the opening number, “Jalen, you have to go on now. This is not a test”. So the team and crew rushed me to the basement, where I would have to be put into makeup and wardrobe, in time for “Hakuna Matata,” Simba’s first appearance. When I was ready to go to my cue, I waited in the wing, with the entire cast a crew cheering me on, swung out, and began singing, “It means no worriessss……” I’ll never forget that time. I felt so much love and support from my show family.
S27: Outside of The Lion King, what was your favorite performance to date?
JH: My favorite performance to date was singing the National Anthem for the NCAA Football Championship Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. With 60,000 fans watching, and my parents being somewhere in the crowd, I was so proud to open such an incredible event, televised for the nation.
S27: What are some of your biggest musical influences?
JH: Musically, some of my biggest influences include artists from about every genre! [laughs] But most notably, I am most influenced by the styles of Prince, Whitney [Houston], Brandy, and of course, Michael Jackson. But also artists like Chris Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce [are musical influences].
S27: Tell us about your new album - what inspired you to write it?
JH: I am so excited about my new album and collection of songs that will soon be available for everyone to enjoy! Honestly, my life experiences are the true source of depth in what inspires my writing. Whether it’s from memories in my childhood, experiences my siblings or friends have had, or even my own first-hand circumstances, I find that being genuine with my pen and being vulnerable in the music is the best way for me to connect to the listener.
S27: Plug time! Tell us what you have coming up next.
JH: Coming up next from Jalen: Music, music, and more music! I am honestly so grateful for my dream team of management, production, and agents. They work tirelessly everyday for me. You will be seeing me in other projects as well like feature films, television series, and maybe a magazine or two. But I am mostly excited to release my new music and performing live bi-coastally with my band!
We’re excited as well, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for this superstar!