Backstage on Broadway: ‘The Lion King’ helps cast members start new life and find love

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“I call it the United Nations of Broadway," Lindiwe Dlamini smiled.

It's how Lindiwe Dlamini describes The Lion King.

“We have people from South Africa, people from here, you have a mix of races”

A diverse cast she cherishes like family.

“I have so many people that are like my best friends, I can call them my sisters,” she said.

She's joined on stage by Bongi Duma.

“If you take Lion King away, you take half of my life away,” Duma said.

Both of their careers started decades ago, far from New York

“I grew up in South Africa during Apartheid, which was very, very, very hard,” Dlamini remebered. "We didn't really have any rights at that time."

They compare their experiences to Simba's need to get away from home.

“In South Africa it’s a little different," Duma explained. "Here there’s a system of acting and dancing [but] over there it’s not looked upon as a career, it’s looked on as just a hobby.”

With the help of touring shows, they got out. Years later, the musical of a lifetime.

“I found Lion King, or I should say Lion King found me,” Dlamini laughed.

Dlamini has been with the show for 18 years, while Duma was in the original 2001 cast in Germany.

But it's here in NYC, where they eventually found each other.

“He always wants to say I chased him but I think it’s him,” Dlamini joked. "It wasn’t like let’s go on a date, over time it just happened,” Duma responded. "We both come from the same tribe, Zulu Nation, and the culture made it really easy for things to fall into place.”

Not long after, the two were married.

“When I found out I was pregnant with her, it was so exciting for us,” Dlamini said.

“Just can’t wait to be king,” Zikhona answered when asked what her favorite song is in the show.

Say hello to their little cub, Zikhona.

"I said let’s name her Nala, he said 'No! No! No!” Dlamini laughed. "I refused!" Duma responded.

She's been part of the Lion King family her whole life and has seen the show multiple times.

“It’s really fun!” Zikhona smiled. “There’s a lot of characters that do a lot of funny things.”

And this six-year-old is already thinking about which character she wants to play someday.

“Nala,” she said. "Because she’s not scared of anything.”

A stark difference from her parent's childhood.

“I like to see the joy in her when she sees the show, she gets excited,” Dlamini said.

“When I see her sitting in a theater freely, for me, it means that I have accomplished something," Duma added.

The Lion King currently plays at the Minskoff Theatre eight times a week.

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi